Friday, 13 November 2015

Walking Chorlton’s history ................ Sunday November 22

Now of all the ways of learning about Chorlton’s past visiting each of our pubs has to be a pretty neat way of having a history lesson.

And we have the lot from an 18th century beer house catering for farm workers to grand hotels built for the new middling sort of people with pots of money and a keen sense of respectability.

Between them they reflect how Chorlton changed from a small rural community to a well do suburb of Manchester.

All of which is a trailer for next week’s history walk when we will walk a bit of Chorlton’s History.

Starting on Chorlton Green with the Horse and Jockey, and the Bowling Green we will end up at the Lloyd’s built in 1870 and the even more impressive Royal Oak which replaced an earlier drinking den.

Each has a set of stories to tell from the inquests held at the Horse and Jockey along with the arrest of a prize fighter to the murky tales of how the Methodists were cheated of their Sunday school in what is now the Beech and the Home Office inquiry in to the Great Burial Scandal in the Lloyds.

Nor is that all for there are also those pubs which have long since vanished, like the Black Horse notorious for after hours drinking and badger baiting, the “superior beer shop of Mrs Leach” where young Francis Deakin was murdered in 1847 leaving a wife and six children and the Greyhound over the river which strictly speaking didn’t vanish just changed its name.

Now given a choice most people would opt for the Horse and Jockey as our oldest pub with its low ceilings, stone floor and wooden beams.

But the beams on the exterior only date from the 1920s and for much of its history the serious businesses of drinking was confined to the two rooms on either side of the door.  The rest of the block was given over to residential accommodation and even the pub bit only dates from around 1800. That said the actual building is probably early 16th century and a few years back a bit of internal wall turned out to be made of wattle and daub.

Our oldest existing pubs will be the Bowling Green which dates from the 1780s and that pub over the water.

Then as now running a pub was a precarious business and many of our landlords were tenant farmers who served up beer as a side line.

Some like the Bowling Green and Jockey also offered up other attractions.  Both had bowling greens and one rented out its pond to discerning gentleman who fished its waters while the Greyhound now Jackson’s Boat still reserved its ancient right to charge for ferrying people across the Mersey long after Samuel Wilton built his bridge in 1818.

They were joined after 1830 by a new breed of pub owners who started up beer shops and owed their existence to the Beer Act which allowed anyone who could afford the price of a licence to make and sell beer from their own home.

Most lasted just a few years and were designed to help families over a lean time, but others like the Travellers Rest on Beech Road lasted for over 70 years.

What they all had in common was that they were rough and ready places catering mainly for our agricultural workers and tradesmen and were part of the rural landscape.

In the early 19th century before it was banned bull baiting on the green would no doubt have been encouraged by the landlords whose pubs faced each other and both would have welcomed the annual pace egging ceremonies where villagers acted out the story of Saint George every Easter to an appreciative crowd who then fell across the pub threshold.

Sadly only the Jockey and Jackson’s Boat have survived, the remaining pubs were rebuilt during the 20th century.

By then Chorlton had moved from a rural community to a suburb of Manchester and the new pubs like the Trevor, the Lloyds and the Royal Oak reflect that change.

All three along with the Bowling Green are much grander places and in their time offered small discrete rooms with waiter service where the good and polite of New Chorlton could sip their beer discuss the new amateur dramatics’ production at the Public Hall or disagree about the relative merits of the fast train service to Manchester over the new Corporation tram service.

Walking Chorlton’s past is in collaboration with Manchester Libraries and is an event during Chorlton Book Festival.

The walk will start at the Horse and Jockey at 2pm on Sunday November 22 and finish at 3 at the Edge on Manchester Road where you can enjoy a bowl of soup, bread roll and a muled beverage in the Dressing Room Cafe and talk about the walk which with the food is a mere snip at £4.75

 Tickets available fron Chorlton Library and rebooking is advisable for this ever popular event.
Chorlton Library, 0161 227 3700

Pictures; the Bowling Green circa 1890 and the Traveller’s Rest circa 1900 from the collection of Tony Walker

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