Tuesday, 27 December 2016

New pubs for old and a disappointed confectioner

I rather think there must have been something in the air in the early months of 1907.

In the February there were two applications in front of the annual licensing meeting for the city of Manchester for new pubs in Chorlton.  Well I say new but in both cases they were for the demolition of existing buildings and their replacement with new ones.

The licensing records for the city are a wonderful treasure trove and I have to say I have trawled them over the years.  Sadly our own records only appear after 1904 when we were incorporated into Manchester and for the records of 19th century Chorlton you have to look elsewhere.

But for today thinking of the 1907 debate on new pub build the details are all here and it makes fascinating reading.

Now we had plenty of places.  Some like the Greyhound, the Bowling Green Hotel, Horse and Jockey, and Royal Oak could trace their history back to the beginning of the 19th century if not earlier, while  the Beech appeared at the beginning of the last century.  Others like the Travellers Rest and Black Horse along with countless unnamed ones were really just beer houses and surfaced and disappeared during the 19th century. Most had very short lives and more than likely existed as a part of a family strategy to make ends meet, opening when things were tight and closing when the family fortunes improved.

The exception is the Travellers Rest at the bottom of Beech Road which was opened in the late 1830s ran through to the early years of the 20th century and for most of that time was run by the Nixon family who could claim to be one of our well established families.  Samuel Nixon senior ran the Greyhound over the Mersey, his son and daughter in law ran the Travellers Rest and their son and grandson ran the stationers and newsagents on Beech Road.

Beer houses had come into existence with the Beer Act in 1830 and were designed to break the hold of the gin shops by permitting individuals to brew and sell beer for the price of a two guinea license.  In some cases like the Black Horse at Lane End and the beer shop run by Brownhill the wheelwright they were closed down when they continued to flout the license.

All of which brings me back to February of 1907. The Royal Oak had been selling beer since at least the 1830s and was the last beer house on the way out of the township to Manchester.  As such it was well placed to cater for farm labourers and the passing trade to and from the city and in its time had seen its fair share of unruly behaviour and worse from its customers.  But it was just a small house and I guess George Henry Kelsey could see the potential.  After all he had managed to get 800 residents to sign a petition “in favour of the new scheme.”* On top of which he was prepared to close his pub, the Sir Ralph Abercrombie in Great Ancoats-street for a newly built Royal Oak.

But the views of 800 residents were caught light in the balance when set against “several owners of property near the Royal Oak who were against the rebuilding.”  And Mr Kelsey may well have judged the wind when one of the licensing committee referred to the 800 as “the poor deluded people” who “in many cases because they were attracted by the prospect of a new building in place of a tumble down structure.”

There may have been more but it has been lost in time and the application was withdrawn but not after a sarcastic exchange where the committee man remarked that the applicant in withdrawing was “a very wise man” to which the reply was “I am sure I feel very gratified by that statement.”

And the same “tide in the affairs of men” was running equally against the tenant of the Bowling Green who wanted to reduce "from 1,335 feet to 1,126 feet the drinking area of the house and to have three rooms instead of ten” by demolishing the old building and putting up a new one.

It was a proposal which was not met with much enthusiasm, foundering on the official line that “there were too many licenses in old Chorlton already."  So I remain surprised that they decided to “visit the place and form our own conclusions on the spot.”

And equally surprised that within the year the old 18th century building was torn down and replaced by a new one.

The politics and workings of the committee remain a mystery to me and looking at previous decisions by earlier bodies the same holds true.

So back in 1893 when the responsibility for granting a license was with JPs, the session granted an application from a Mr Thomas Barrows of 46 Beech Road for an off wine and spirit license was successful while that of Charles Prince Hill confectioner of 28 Wilbraham Road was turned down.  He had wanted a license “to sell beer not to be consumed on the premises” and it was “not his intention to carry on a jug trade, but merely to serve families bottled beer.  The neighbourhood had increased largely and the license would be a great boon.”**

The opposition was limited to a local resident and another from Manchester Road who represented the British Women’s Temperance Association.  So in all “of the 4,700 persons in Chorlton-cum-Hardy only two had come forward to oppose the application.”  And the application was refused.

Perhaps it was because there were two businesses almost directly opposite selling alcohol or that it would be a change of direction for the 31 year old confectioner who had been on Wilbraham Road from at least 1891.

 Now in time I might pursue Mr Hill who was still there in his confectioners in 1903 but had moved on by 1909 and it might be that he was successful elsewhere.

*Manchester Guardian February 8 1907
**Manchester Guardian August 23 1893

Pictures; from the collection of Tony Walker

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