The ABC Crawl - Ardwick, Brunswick & Chorlton-on-Medlock
This one was written by the late Rhys Jones and involves quite a walk across a varied inner-city area. Here we go....
Our crawl this month deviates from our usual pattern whereby we follow main roads or explore a particular district - instead we take a cross-section through three neighbouring districts just off the City Centre.
As usual, the comments on the pubs and the beer relate simply to what we found on the night and are not to be taken as definitive.
We started at the Seven Stars, Ashton Old Road, a typical large Holts pub selling Mild & Bitter on handpumps with a real coal fire in the lounge. Mild (63p) was very good, the Bitter was not quite so highly thought of (65p) but still well above average. Next came the Old House at Home, a few doors on the Manchester side of the Seven Stars, a Wilsons house with both Newton Heath beers (64p/67p) and also Websters Bitter (69p). We noted an interesting collection of coins above the bar, plus a draught peanut dispenser. There was also an interesting selection of questions on the Trivia Quiz Machine!! Nobody tried Websters Bitter, but Wilsons Bitter was good, and mild clearly above average.
Next call was the King's Head on Chancellor Lane, a Greenalls pub with Bitter (69p) and recently introduced cask mild (67p). Unfortunately the mild was not on when we called, but the Bitter - even in the landlord's absence on holiday - weighed in well above average.
A short stroll across the road now, to Chesters Steam Engine, with handpumped Mild (not on tonight though) and bitter (70p) in what was universally agreed to be the least welcoming pub atmosphere of the night. The bitter was only average as well, but it should be recorded that the toilets were officially opened by Johnny Briggs, and there's a plaque to prove it - I'm assured that this will mean something to some of our readers! Avoiding Temperance Street, we next found the Union, Higher Ardwick, a street-corner Wilsons pub. This came across as an excellent busy and friendly local. Particularly praiseworthy were the real flowers - a rarity nowadays. Sadly, though, both mild (68p) & bitter (70p) were rated below average; both beers were handpumped.
Across waste ground now to Banks's Falcon, an estate pub build by Wilsons on the 70s and sold to Banks's last year. On electric pumps it sells mild (64p), Black Country Bitter(66p) and Bitter (69p) - the mild and bitter were both very good (the mild marginally preferred), and even Black Country Bitter, a slow seller in most Banks's pubs, was above average. As we entered the second pub pianist of the night was belting out 'The Wild Rover'!
So ended another excellent night, which while starting and finishing on Manchester's finest brew had included plenty of quality and variety in between.
What happened next
As I mentioned in the introduction, the pubs on the Stagger have not fared well.
Nearby, the Old House at Home was quite an early closure. Opening Times in July 1993 reported the pub as for sale at £75,000 and its closure was recorded in the December 1996 issue. Last time I was in the area the building was still standing as a car rental offices. The Pubs of Manchester blog has a piece on it here. For completeness I should record that between the Seven Stars and the Old House at Home stood the General Birch, a Whitbread house that closed in March 1992 with demolition following in September that year. You can see an archive image of the impressive building here.
|Site of the Kings Head|
Back in 1986 if you had told those on the Stagger that 34 years later this area would be home to nine new breweries they'd have stared in disbelief but, just a few minutes' walk away, you'll find Squawk Brewing, Manchester Brewing, Chorlton Brewing, Beer Nouveau, Manchester Union, Alphabet Brewing, Wander Beyond Brewing, Track Brewing and Cloudwater Brew Co (although Chorlton plan to have their beers contract brewed in Belgium, of course).
Swiftly moving on, the Union became a Burtonwood house which closed in April 2008 and it is now the Spicy Grill. En route to the Church, our Staggerers may have passed the, then keg-only, Park Inn on Cotter Street. This also became a Burtonwood house and was notably well-run by a long-serving landlady and did a good cask ale trade. After her retirement the pub closed in March 2008 and is now a martial arts centre. The Church was a smart and well-run pub so I was rather surprised when it closed in April 2011. It was demolished two years later and flats now occupy the site.
The Cleveland, which was boarded up at the time of the Stagger did live to fight another day. However it was up for sale for £45,000 by July 1993 and finally closed four years later, when it was again advertised for sale, this time at £30,000. The building remains converted to other use. The externally impressive Plymouth Grove closed in 2002 and remained derelict for the next 11 years. In 2013 work started to convert it into a 128-seat Chinese restaurant which opened a couple of year later. The Falcon was one of the unwise Banks's acquisitions I documented a few weeks ago. Suffice it to say the pub closed in May 2008 and was demolished shortly afterwards to be replaced by housing.
And so we come to the Grafton. I'm pleased to say this is still with us and trading well as a Holts house. The sole survivor of the 10 pubs covered on this Stagger.
One more thing
Committee meetings are still held at the Plough which has been sensitively refurbished by Robinsons and has a well-earned place on CAMRA's National Inventory - see here. The Castlewood closed in August 2003 and was converted into a shop. The Crown on Hillgate is still with us but hasn't sold cask beer for years. Shipstones Brewery was closed by Greenalls in 1990. The Waggon & Horses which was on the main road in Longsight near the junction with Kirkmanshulme Lane, was large Wilsons house also selling handpumped Bulmers cider (the editor's 40th birthday crawl mentioned here was the one and only time I visited the pub). It closed in 1990, was knocked down in 1994 and flats now occupy the site.
The New Inn is also still with us but again sells no cask beer. The monolithic Duke of Edninburgh on Mill Street was demolished for a road scheme in 1992 while the Forresters was finally closed by Robinsons in 2014.