A Homage to Holts
This Stagger was actually written by me so re-running it now is perhaps a little bit self-indulgent. But what's the point of having a blog if you can't do that? Anyway, here we go....
Earlier in the year the Centenary of the death of Joseph Holt was reached and to mark this solemn occasion members of the Stockport & South Manchester Branch visited all nine pubs in the branch area. (There's now 10 since the Grafton is now open). What follows is our impression of each on the night and as ever our comments should not be taken as definitive. You'll see that there are no comments on beer quality which, for the record, was pretty good in every pub visited.
handpumped mild and bitter cost 62p and 64p respectively. A typical large Holts pub which has sadly become pretty run down in recent years, the former billiard room having been partitioned up into a concert room and a corridor to the gents.
Next stop was the Griffin, Heald Green. Holts rebuilt this pub in 1967 and, in common with many pubs of the period the end result has proved pretty characterless. This pub also had the distinction, it that's the word, of being one of the few outlets for Holts short-lived keg bitter. The mild (59p) and Bitter (61p) were dispensed through free-flow electric pumps.
Onto another Griffin, this time in Heaton Mersey, a classic pub by anyone's standards, and now saved from its threatened demolition. Well deserving its Pub of the Year award in 1983, the handpumped mild and bitter were 62p and 64p.
seller for beer. The two ladies in our party reported that the scrubbed wooden seats in the ladies would be a comfort in cold weather! The handpumped mild and bitter were again 62p and 64p.
Halfway stage was reached at the Garratt on Pink Bank Lane, Longsight. Built in 1960 this is agin a pretty characterless pub consisting basically of a large vault and a lounge-cum-concert room which was hosting a 'talent' (if that's the word) night on our visit. We sat in a small room off, where a group of youths were amusing themselves raising clouds of dust out of the carpet. Again wooden seats in the ladies but the overflowing trough in the gents was less than pleasant. The mild and bitter (handpumped) came in at 59p and 61p.
On the home straight now and to the Railway on Manshaw Road, Fairfield. An older pub this time (1894), one of the main features is the superb lamp over the entrance which must be one of the few surviving examples in Manchester. A previous licensee here is reputed to have stabbed his wife just prior to opening time. cleaned up, opened the pub and served through lunchtime then closed the pub and phoned the police! (A more lurid version has him stringing up the unfortunate lady from the lamp outside). No mild was available but the handpumped bitter, which was probably the least cold of the night, was 64p.
Last, but not least, came the Seven Stars on Ashton Old Road. An excellent pub, both inside and out, with a lot of good glasswork and where the tenancy has recently changed hands again. The beer was the dearest of the night - mild and bitter 63p and 65p!
To sum up, a terrific night with an incredible range of pubs. Some were classic examples of tat and grot that only Holts can produce (no names, no writs!) but all had one thing in common - excellent, value for money beers. Here's to the next hundred year!
What Happened Next
Only two of these pubs have disappeared and all of the rest, none can be classed as an example of 'tat and grot'. It's worth saying, I think, that while it's very easy to get nostalgic about the pub scene from years gone by, the overall standard of pubs today is far higher than it was back then.
Holts then had a rush of blood to the head and splashed the cash again. It was run in some sort of arms-length operation and became the very food-focussed Platform 5 (or P5 as it's now known), which reflects the pub's proximity to the neighbouring Cheadle Hulme station. I don't think this was the runaway success Holts had been hoping for as it was subsequently taken back 'in house' and made a bit more pub-like (albeit still with a major food offer). It's rather a shame Holts didn't leave well alone and keep it as the Cheadle Hulme - I suspect it would have been no less successful and they'd have saved themselves an awful lot of money.
In Moss Side, the Claremont carries on while all around it have given up the ghost. There were numerous pubs in its vicinity back in 1986 and all have bitten the dust. Like all the other pubs visited, it's been spruced up by Holts since 1986, but not unrecognisably so, and continues to serve its community well.
Moving on we come to the first pub loss. While I described the Garratt as 'pretty characterless' it did have some interesting features- not least the superb etched windows depicting Garratt locomotives made by the nearby (and long-gone) Beyer Peacock works. You can get a hint of them in this archive photo here. Over the years these disappeared, either as a result of vandalism or accidental breakage. The clouds of dust coming out of the carpet are also one of my enduring memories of this night, too. Sadly the Garratt closed in May 2013 and has now become a mosque, I think.
Despite the two losses, the number of Holts houses in the Stockport & South Manchester branch area has increased over the years. As the Stagger mentions, the re-built Grafton (Grafton Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock) had just opened and the same issue records the granting of planning permission for what is now the Sidings on Broom Lane in Levenshulme. In addition Holts have acquired pubs from Tetley (the Sun & Castle, Hillgate, Stockport), John Smiths (the Railway, Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury), Boddingtons (the Grey Horse, Broadstone Road, Reddish) and Greenalls (Fiveways, Macclesfield Road, Hazel Grove).