The Hyde Road HikeThis Stagger appeared in the January 1989 issue of Opening Times and is likely to have taken place in October 1988. The author is the late Rhys Jones who died in 2015. A true eccentric in the very best sense of the word, he was a great wordsmith, a friend to many, a long-time campaigner for traditional cider and perry, and is still sorely missed.
Here we go...
Hyde Road is one of the most interesting roads in town for the beer drinker, providing a fine selection of the various brews available locally. We decided to split it up and cover the outer section from about Belle Vue eastwards - as well as cutting down the legwork, this enable us to fit in one or two interesting diversions.
We started at the Longsight on Kirkmanshulme Lane. On its completion in 1985, this Banks's house was bizarrely described by one commentator as "gloomy" - this description never made any sense unless you like floodlit airport lounges, and today the pub is wearing well. The vault and lounge are well contrasted and there's also a family room. The real ales are mild and bitter on electric pumps (Hansons is keg). The bitter was rated good, the mild not quite so good but still well above average.
Next was the Victoria on Hyde Road. This Chesters pub has mild and bitter on handpump. It's good to see that the keg mild which at one time shared the bar with the handpumps has been removed. It's a one-room pub, but the layout of the former separate rooms can still be made out - no airport lounge this. Bitter was above average, mild was good.
A little further out on Hyde Road is Robinson's Coach & Horses, serving best mild and best bitter. This is a plain but pleasant two-roomer where the beer seems to be on the upgrade - both mild and bitter were judged good with the mild marginally preferred, and though I was less enthusiastic about the bitter than most other people, it was still the best pint I've ever had in that pub!
We passed the Cheshire Hunt, which was in the middle of what seems to be an extremely lengthy closure for renovation, and proceeded to the Pineapple, a modern Hydes pub set back from Hyde Road. The beers are dark mild and bitter on electric pump. The mild was no more than average but the bitter was considerably better. The pub consists of one room with lounge and vault areas defined by use than any physical division. The "lounge" has an attractive wooden ceiling and interesting photographs of the area decorate the whole pub.
Not far away is the Suburban, with Lees mild and bitter on handpump. The Suburban has always seen itself as the local social centre - witness its hosting of the September Gorton Rushcart celebrations - and nowadays the beer and the atmosphere fully live up to these aspirations. The bitter was very good and the mild was above average. However we did think that the external piped music was a bit unnecessary.
Up to Gorton Cross now, and the Angel on Wellington St. This busy Greenalls pub has a vault and a lounge with two distinct areas - formerly no doubt separate rooms. The bitter was well above average but the mild was keg, previous attempts to sell cask having come to nought.
Next call was the Plough, back on Hyde Road. This is a very fine example of an unrenovated Robinsons pub, with a big vault - clearly the heart of the pub - complemented by three other separate rooms; good tile work and a splendid wooden gantry complete the traditional picture. Best mild and best bitter are served from electric pumps. On our visit, while the bitter was OK, the mild was sadly below average - it's a great pity that Robinsons still seem to be falling down on quality control when the beer at its best is so good and there are classic pubs like the Plough to drink it in.
Further out on Hyde Road now, to the Lord Nelson. We covered this Wilsons managed house in the recent Abbey Hey Stagger, and were, it seems, thought by some to have been unduly harsh - so this was an ideal opportunity to reconsider. Well, we can certainly acknowledge that at least some of the beams looked as if they might be real wood (editor's note - the licensee tells us that some are a couple of hundred years old). Overall however the impression was of over-loud music unsuccessfully attempting to mask the essential characterlessness of the place. The unhelpful absence of pumpclips (we saw, too late, draught mild being served) meant that everybody drank Wilsons bitter which was above average.
Ever onward to the Friendship (Marston's) on the opposite side of Hyde Road. Retaining separate rooms, the pub was well thought of. The Burton Bitter, on electric pumps, was above average but unfortunately the Mercian Mild tasted of TCP. This wasn't too bad it you could get it changed, which was done without demur, but staffing levels were such that one mild drinker failed to get his beer changed, and another of us never managed to get served at all despite waiting some minutes in a pub that was not over busy.
Readers who know Hyde Rd. will have realised that between the last two pubs, we missed one out. We knew Holt's Waggon & Horses would have the cheapest beer of the night, and we suspected that it might well have the best, so we decided to finish there. And yes, it was the night's best pint. The well modernised pub was its usual bustling self and made for a pleasant end to the evening.
All in all the Hyde Road Hike can be highly recommended. You might not agree with all our comments (after all, though written with some background knowledge, they're essentially just a record of a dozen people's reactions on one particular evening, but you're guaranteed to have a good time.
What happened next?Well that was a marathon wasn't it? No fewer than ten pubs visited and between them selling 17 cask beers from 9 breweries - back then that was quite something.
It's worth recording that if this Stagger had started at Belle Vue and proceeded westwards then not one single pub would have survived (with one possible exception). However as far as pub survival goes this Stagger is very much a crawl of two halves.
Despite being a new-build, Banks's Longsight closed in late 2006 with demolition following in mid-December 2007. You'll read more about this in the next Stagger to appear here.
The Victoria didn't last so long. The September 1993 issue of Opening Times records that the pub had closed due to poor trade and it was demolished in May 1994. It's now a vacant site.
The Coach & Horses subsequently entered something of a purple patch under licensee Beryl Lavelle. Pub of the Month awards followed in May 1990 and December 1996. It was a Good Beer Guide regular, too. Inevitably Beryl retired and the pub lurched along with periods of closure. Robinsons sold it and in autumn 2005 it reopened as Brodies, a free house selling some of the worst beer I've ever been served. A Stagger in the November 2006 issue of Opening Times reported that the pub was boarded up and looking forlorn. It was demolished in March 2008 and remains a vacant site.
The Cheshire Hunt finally closed down in early 1993. The building remains as a fast food take away.
The Pineapple lasted longer than most. Hydes disposed of the pub in January 2014 and shortly afterwards it was converted to the Dribble Drabble Day Care children's nursery. There's a great article about the Pineapple and the surrounding area over at Modern Mooch here.
The Suburban is the most recent casualty. It was an interesting pub, comprising, at heart, and old building with lots of modern bits tacked on and was in a long slow decline for many years. It stopped selling Lees cask beers in 2014 and finally closed down in March last year with demolition following in July.
You can read about the Gorton Rushcart here - after its relaunch in 1980 it stopped again in 1991but was resurrected for one last time in 2009 to mark the centenary of Gorton becoming part of Manchester.
After that tale of woe it's good to report that the rest of the pubs are still with us. The Angel is an independent free house and hasn't sold cask beer in years.
The Plough was threatened with demolition at one point. The campaign to save it revealed there has been a put on the site since at least the last 18th century - the room on the left as you enter seems to have been a pub room all that time. It's now listed Grade II and appears on CAMRA's National Inventory. You can read all about it here.
Despite being the oldest pub in the area, dating back around 300 years, the Lord Nelson has been knocked around and opened up significantly over the years. It's flirted with cask ale from time to time but in recent times has been keg only.
The Friendship is also still open (but was 'to let' the last time I passed so whether is reopens post-lockdown is perhaps a moot point). This pub also had a brief flowering, getting a Pub of the Month award in November 1994 and appearing in the 1996 Good Beer Guide (at which point it was also selling Bateman's Mild). Subsequent frequent changes of licensee and the disappearance of cask beer from the bar seem to have signalled a long decline.
And finally - the Waggon & Horses is still doing the business as a thriving Holt's local. There's only bitter sold now (well that was the case when I last called) but it remains essentially unchanged.