Reddish & The HeatonsThis Stagger comes from the April 1989 issue of Opening Times and is a marathon route march (I remember this one myself and it was a right old trudge). The evening wasn't helped by the fact that it rained intermittently as well.
It was written by Angela Walker who now lives in Whaley Bridge - I still have a few beers with Angela and her husband Alastair from time to time. So, here we go...
A fast and furious pace was set on this rally around the pubs of Reddish and the Heatons.
Our first stop was at Chesters' Railway on Gorton Road. This large, rambling pub had typical early 1980s Whitbread decor (plastic plants growing out of the concrete?) and we were told that it is due for refurbishment shortly. The pub obviously tries to cater for many tastes as there were not only two large pool rooms but also a separate children's room, complete with comics. Beers sold were Chesters' Bitter, which was below average and also good condition mild (which had to be asked for as there was no pumpclip advertising it).
Moving down to the Fir Tree (Tetley Mild and Bitter, Ind Coope Burton Ale), we found a comfortable seat on sofas surrounded by a library, standard lamps, reproduction works of art and genteel decor. Although some of us liked this, others felt uncomfortable, saying it was more like a stately home than a pub. What we did agree on was the quality of the beer - both mild and bitter were good. The Burton Ale was not on at the time as it is only a slow seller and landlord John Sullivan is trying to get it supplied in small 9-gallon containers, rather than the 18s currently in use.
Next came the Houldsworth Hotel, a pleasant pub selling Chesters' Mild and Bitter, and which looked to have been recently decorated. It was interesting to note that one of the side rooms was music free, a feature it would be nice to see in more pubs. Although the bitter was no more than average, the mild was very good. Indeed it's worth noting that Chesters' beers have in no way suffered from being brewed in Sheffield, in fact the mild seems to have improved!
Around the corner now to the Thatched Tavern on Stanhope St. Until quite recently, this pub sold only keg beers but now sells Tetley mild and bitter on handpump. This excellent pub is a classic multi-roomed local, cosy with a friendly atmosphere and lively conversation. A photograph in the vault shows that it really was a thatched tavern at one time. The beer matched the pub with both rating good.
The Union on Broadstone Rd (Robinsons Best Mild and Best Bitter) was a disappointment to those who remembered the 'old style' Union. Those opposed to the refurbishment of the pub several years ago criticised the design at the time, and now looking at the 'modernisation' those criticisms were justified. The style we have come to refer to as 'Robinsonisation' is evident, there is no real character in the decor of the pub any more, indeed it fits in well with the identikit design of many Robinsons houses. The beers matched the decor, neither being thought better than average.
The Grey Horse next door (Boddingtons Mild and Bitter) has a very imposing exterior dating from 1909. Although at one time it was multi-roomed the pub has been opened out into one huge lounge with a bar in the corner. There is also a large vault at the back. The overall impression was very easy on the eye. The bitter was judged to be good but the mild was no better than average, the bar staff were quite happy to change it for us but explained that the pub in fact sold very little mild.
Further down was the George & Dragon, another Boddies pub with mild and bitter on handpump. This is a large, rambling and obviously very popular pub. It did seem rather dark and gloomy inside but whether this was due to dark decor or bad lighting, we couldn't tell. No doubts about the beer though with both mild and bitter rating from above average to good.
We had visited several old pubs with modern interiors over the evening but the next pub was quite the reverse. The Hinds Head on Manchester Road is a new pub built by Whitbread and only opened about 18 months ago. The pseudo-Victorian decor is quite effective with dried flowers, old prints, wooden beams and fireplaces. There is also a restaurant area at one end of the pub. As well as Chesters' mild and bitter, Castle Eden Ale is also available which we all chose and found it was in good condition.
Crossing the railway bridge we came to the Ash, a large Wilsons pub which is impressive outside, but inside has been altered over the years and gave a general impression of red plush seating and dim red lights - the best feature, an unusual hexagonal handpump stand, was unfortunately removed a couple of years ago. The Wilsons bitter was considered above average while opinions were divided on the mild. Nobody tried the Websters bitter.
The Three Crowns (Boddingtons mild and bitter) could be described as a 'bland 1960s' pub with a large noisy disco lounge (on Fridays anyway) and a more basic vault. Very much a locals pub with a down to earth atmosphere. Both mild and bitter were above average though.
We finished the night at the Navigation. This pub has been virtually rebuilt but the interior still has a good traditional feel. Again there were no takers for the Websters bitter but the Wilsons mild and bitter were both judged above average.
As usual the views in the article are simply what we found on the night and are not intended to be once and for all judgement.
What happened nextWhat a trek! Eleven pubs with 13 different cask beers between them - and every one selling mild as well. The history of the pubs on this Stagger isn't quite the usual carnage - and there's been a newcomer too. The choice of beer has probably increased as well, although not everyone will necessarily agree that it a good thing.
I think the only time I went in the Railway was when taking part on this Stagger. The pub closed around July 2006 and the December 2008 issue of Opening Times records its demolition. Almost inevitably, flats now occupy the site.
The Fir Tree is a recent loss, only closing in August last year. It's still there closed, boarded and awaiting its fate which, apparently, is demolition and replacement by a Lidl. It sold cask beer until the end (Wells Bombardier, I think) but it had gained an unfortunate reputation, shall we say.
The Houldsworth Arms (not Hotel) is an imposing building in the centre of Reddish but hasn't sold cask beer for several years (it flirted with Greene King IPA in 2012). It's still trading though, although 'for sale' or 'to let' signs appear from time to time.
Somewhere else that's flirted with cask beer more than once in recent years is the Thatched Tavern. Pre-lockdown it had abandoned it again - the pub was still a good community local, though.
The same can be said for the Union. The years seem to have worn the edge off the 'Robinsonisation' and there has been further work on the pub. It's still a Robinsons house selling Unicorn (or Best Bitter as it was known back in 1989) and Trooper.
Of course Boddingtons has more or less slipped into history now, and the Grey Horse was bought by Holt's in 2007. The pub has had some money spent on it but it's still basically two huge rooms. Nonetheless it seems to be a popular community pub and while you won't find Holt's mild on cask you will find the bitter plus a 'guest', sometimes from Holt's Bootleg range.
So as you may expect there's no sign of Boddingtons at the George & Dragon either. Having passed through more than one pub company ownership (I admit to having lost track) it's now ended up in the Greene King stable, having undergone several refurbishments in the process. It's still a rambling affair with various areas and still with cask beers - Marston's Lancaster Bomber, Sharp's Doom Bar and a guest when last checked out.
Almost across the road on School Lane is excellent newcomer Heaton Hops. Essentially a 'shop with seats' it has managed to generate a real pub atmosphere with a good crowd of regulars who see it as their local. You can read more about it here.
The Hinds Head is now part of Ei Group (our old friends Enterprise Inns) but nevertheless is also a popular community local. There's still a significant food operation (largely based in a conservatory that was added after 1989) but the beer side of things isn't neglected. Taylor's Landlord and Marston's Pedigree seem to be the regulars along with two guest beers.
A couple of casualties now. The Ash closed in early 2011 and is now used for various commercial purposes (part of it was a tea room for a while). The Three Crowns had various closings and opening. It finally shut up shop around April 2009. Last year a planning application to demolish it was lodged.
And so we come to the Navigation. It is so named as it was once adjacent to a canal basin which served the (still operational) Nelstrop's flour mill which towers over the pub. In fact Nelstrop's own the pub these days although it's operated by Congleton's Beartown Brewery - which wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye back in 1989. The pub usually sells four Beartown beers and a guest. It's been a huge success over the years and at one time was a local CAMRA Pub of the Year. If you want to know more about Nelstrop's then you can do that here.