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Monday, 18 May 2020

From the Archives

Up and Down Hyde Road

Continuing the theme of featuring Staggers from the May issues of Opening Times we return to Hyde Road in May 1987. A thoroughfare once thick with pubs, Hyde Road has already featured twice in these archive posts. The Stagger from the November 1984 edition of Opening Times  was published on 21 November 2018 and that from the January 1989 issue was reproduced on 30 March this year.

This third Stagger completes the set in a way, covering as it does the western end of Hyde Road and working outwards. There is also a vintage Stagger covering part of this area in the August 1976 issue and you can read that here.

This Stagger was written by me - and obviously I'm still alive and kicking. Here we go....

This month we return to sample the delights of East Manchester and that part of Hyde Road starting at the Manchester end and finishing up near Belle Vue. An area of much demolition and redevelopment in recent years, for much of the way all that remain standing are the pubs - and if long term plans come to fruition virtually all of those will be swept away in a road widening scheme. As usual what follows is simply our opinion of what we found on the night and should not be taken as a once and for all judgement of either the pubs or the beers.

The Star today
First call was the Star in Ardwick, a Wilsons house run by Pennine Hosts - as so often the case with Hosts no cask mild is available. The handpumped Wilsons Bitter was on fine form however being cited very good to excellent by all bar one. The pub itself has a pleasant 1930s exterior although the inside has been partially knocked through.

Next stop was the City Gates, revamped a couple of years ago to celebrate its close links with Manchester City FC whose original ground was nearby. As theme pubs go, this wasn't too bad at the time but sadly is now becoming a bit tatty round the edges and, sad to say the barmaids no longer wear football strip! The only cask beer available is handpumped Chesters Bitter, not an inspiring beer at the best of times, this was considered a poor pint from all present, in fat it turned out to be the worst beer of the night.

A walk now to the Horseshoe and the first Robinsons of the night. Much improved following a change of licensee a couple of years ago, this pleasant two-roomed pub presents a welcoming, subdued Brewers-Tudor interior. One of the pumpclips indicates the rare standard bitter but in fact it's the 'Best' which together with the mild was enjoyed by all present.

Next one up is the Unicorn, a good, old-fashioned multi-roomed boozer which was spoiled somewhat by a slight 'atmosphere' and a performing drunk. Despite this the handpumped Boddingtons Bitter (no mild I'm afraid) was considered to be at least good by all bar one of our party.

On now to the Travellers Call, a small Hydes pub hidden next to a taxi office. This is an excellent old-fashioned pub, with a thriving vault and a quieter back room which on our visit came alive with impromptu folk music which was so good that some stayed to listen and caught up later. The electrically pumped mild and bitter were equally well thought of by all as well, both citing above average to good.

A slight detour off Hyde Road to the Imperial on Birch Street. For many years a run-down Wilsons pub, with ironically some of the best beer around. It seemed that it had closed for ever when licensee Wilf Harvey retired. Now in new hands it has been completely revamped and though lacking the character of the 'old' Imperial appears to be doing a thriving trade and boasts handpumped bitters from Tetley, Boddingtons and Banks's. We all chose Banks's and as is usual with this consistent beer, weren't disappointed rating it good to very good.

Back on Hyde Road to the Nags Head, the second Boddingtons pub of the night and again no cask mild. This is still essentially a multi-roomed pub despite some opening out and we certainly found the atmosphere better than the Unicorn but unfortunately couldn't say the same about the beer which was not more than just above average.

Tetleys now in the shape of the Rock and again bitter only although we understand the mild was due to go on at the start of the speedway season! More impromptu music, this time with an Irish flavour which was complemented by the handpumped bitter considered good by everybody.

The Victoria next which Chesters at one time applied for permission to extend into a railway carriage which it intended to site next door. Fortunately this bizarre scheme has not yet materialised and the pub remains a pleasant, traditional local. Both Mild and Bitter are available on handpump and while both unexceptional, the bitter was considered better than the mild.

A sad Coach & Horses in its later years
We then proceeded to the Coach & Horses, the second Robinsons pub of the night. A fine pub inside with a particularly unspoilt vault. The lounge boasts an electric organ however and on our visit one of the customers was destroying a Frank Sinatra number. The handpumped Best Mild and Best Bitter was rather better than the singing however, both being rated above average.

Last stop of the night was the Cheshire Hunt, another ex-Wilsons pub, now a free house. Despite the fact that the sign proclaims 'this is a Free House' there is evidently an exclusive tie with Sam Smiths, so that to all intents and purposes it is a Sams tied house. Surely the time is ripe for legislation to prevent the abuse of the Free House name in this way? The pub itself, however, was thriving with excellent live Rock'n'roll music. The only beer is handpumped Old Brewery Bitter and opinions varied between way below average  to good, although judgements at this stage of any crawl must be of doubtful value. All in all a good night, memorable above all else for the excellent live music encountered en route.

FOOTNOTE: On a historical point - visitors to the Imperial will notice next door a collection of buildings signed as the Imperial Trading Estate.  They are the remains of Stopfords Imperial Brewery, taken over by Walker & Homfray in 1927 and merged with Wilsons in 1949.

What happened next

Hyde Road has of course now been done to death here at JC's Beer Blog and it will come as no surprise to learn that none (well perhaps one) of the pubs mentioned remains trading. A couple did fall victim to a road scheme but not the Hyde Road widening mentioned in the Stagger (and which in fact has never taken place).

The Star was subsequently bought by Banks's as part of their ill-fated foray into Greater Manchester which was documented here. In August 2006, Opening Times reported that it has been converted into a members' club and a year later recorded a conversion to offices. It's still there and now functions as a nursery. The distinctive Wilsons chequerboard can still be seen on the building.

Site of the City Gates
Before arriving at the City Gates, our Staggerers would have passed the keg-only Wellington which you can see here in its days as a Threlfalls house. The Wellington closed around 1992 and for years remained increasingly derelict until it was demolished in Autumn 2002. A similar fate befell the City Gates which started life as the Hyde Road Hotel. In April 1990 Opening Times reported it as closed and boarded and in January 2002 as a 'rubble strewn croft'.

Walking towards the Horseshoe, another keg-only Chesters pub would have been passed. This was the Junction  on the corner of Clowes Street (which did in fact sell cask at one time). This finally closed in around May 1995 and was demolished in 2001. It was in fact the Horse Shoe and closed in March 1999 with demolition following in May. Its site is hard to locate such has been the scale of redevelopment in this area but it's probably under some flats.

The Unicorn has similarly vanished. Opening Times reported that demolition was due to begin in March 1990 so it's fate may have been tied up with the Horse Shoe - both pubs fell victim to the Pottery Lane dual carriage way scheme I think. One notable feature of the Unicorn was that it kept its sky boards until almost the end. They can been seen here  in this archive photo.

The Travellers Call in 2018
The Travellers Call was a terrific little pub and in its unaltered state would have been a shoe-inn for CAMRA's National Inventory. It was knocked around a bit before Hydes sold it off but still remained a very characterful pub. Whether it's still open or not is a moot point. It has a live entry on WhatPub here  but I have to say it's looked firmly closed whenever I've been past. The building is still clearly occupied and maintained so if it really has survived that is something of a minor miracle.

In its day the Imperial was a wonderful pub. Wilf Harvey and his wife had moved there from another pub, the Red Fox or Fox in Longsight, I think he told me, which had been a rather bigger pub that the Imperial. His Wilsons beers were some if the best I ever had - which was odd as the pub always seemed to be very quite. That is until I learned that it tended to fill up around official closing time...... The pub closed in September 2014 but hadn't sold cask beer for several years.

Across the road from the Imperial was a former cinema which became the Mayflower Club, a famous music, and particularly, punk venue. There's an interesting Manchester Evening News piece  here. I first went to the Imperial around 1981 and remember Wilf telling me how the club's customers had got his dog glue sniffing.

The closed Nags Head prior to conversion into a shop
The Nags Head closed in May 2011 (after selling Burtonwood beers for a while) and is now a shop. There is no trace of the Rock which didn't long outlive the Stagger, closing in August 1987. It was knocked down in October 1989. The Victoria closed around August 1993, due to poor trade according to Opening Times, and was demolished in May 1994. The Coach & Horses had a real purple patch under licencee Beryl Lavelle, who hailed from Kent I think. The pub won a couple of Pub of the Month awards and appeared in the national Good Beer Guide. Inevitably, Beryl retired, Robinsons sold the pub into the free trade (as Brodies) whereupon it crashed and burned. It was closed and boarded in late 2006 and demolished the following year.

And finally the Cheshire Hunt. I have to admit I can't remember it as a Sam Smith's free house, and I was obviously there on the night. It was closed and boarded by early 1993 but still remains as a fast food takeaway.

Let's also just mention the footnote. There's an excellent 1987 photo of the Imperial Trading Estate on the Brewery History Society website  here which shows the old brewery buildings. Stopford's had quite an extensive local estate as you can see from this list. You'll see that one of them was the Mersey Hotel in Stockport. It's still with us as the Chestergate Tavern at right at the top is and intertwined 'SBC' - one of the few tangible remains of this long-gone brewery. Here's a photo.


Matt said...

Interesting that you mentioned in the 1987 article that one of the pubs was near Manchester City's former Hyde Road ground. When City moved back to east Manchester from Moss Side in 2003, a few pubs opened or reopened in the area to cater for fans on match days, but none lasted very long, mainly I think because most City fans prefer to drink in town and then walk or hop on a tram/into a taxi to the ground. The only pubs that I know of anywhere near it are the Bradford Inn, Miles Platting, and the Grove, Clayton.

Curmudgeon said...

Wasn't it reported that the Victoria behind the Grove in Clayton was opening solely for City home games?


John Clarke said...

Quite a few of the East Manchester pubs that reinvented themselves when City moved to the Etihad Stadium have bitten the dust. The bespoke approach taken by the Victoria seems to have paid off.

The nearby Bridge Inn operates in a similar way:


Phil said...

Random thoughts...

What an extraordinary number of pubs had some form of live music - mostly courtesy of the punters rather than 'acts', by the sound of it. I guess it's a by-product of a (really) thriving pub trade - which in turn is a product of there being bugger-all else to do in 1976...!

Never heard the term "sky boards", although of course I recognise the thing. Definitely one for the I-Spy book if you saw a pub with them now. (Sits back and waits for reminders that, actually, half the pubs in south Manchester have 'em...)

On a really tangential note, I noticed that the list of former Stopford BC pubs included my old (and not very much missed) local, the Seymour - but they've located it in Chorlton-on-Medlock. Can that possibly be right? I've often wondered exactly what this bit of M16 should be called (Whalley Range? Firswood?), but never thought of C.-on-M., which I'd have put in between All Saints and Hulme. Is this a southern extension - or were they confusing it with C.-cum-H. down the road?

John Clarke said...

Hi Phil

Yes - the Staggers back then were rather pub-heavy. Nowadays they tend to be half a dozen pubs at most. This Stagger is from 1987 though, so not quite as ancient as some (I have a couple of additional Staggers from 1976 in the pipeline).

Lots of pubs used to have sky boards although they were quite a rarity even in 1987 - the Griffin, Heaton Mersey certainly had them around that time but that was one of a tiny number.

Chorlton-on-Medlock seems to have sprawled all over the place back in the day but I have found some quite imaginative locations for pub in various brewery histories

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