Monday, 4 January 2016

A pub by another name .............. the English Lounge on High Street

Now my old friend Walter was forever complaining about the way that some pubs seemed to change their name with regularity which both confused and annoyed him.

The English Lounge, 2015
It wasn’t so much that the new name bore no relation to the original but more that it marked the passing of a bit of his youth and on occasion left him wondering where his old haunt had been.

And I was reminded of this when Peter sent me his painting of the English Lounge on High Street.

Like Walter I had to think twice before I could place the pub and while I have yet to fall over the doorstep I remember it as the Hogshead, while there will be many more who knew it as the Wheat sheaf.

In time I will go looking for how far back I can track the Wheatsheaf.  There was a pub by that name on High Street by 1844 although I rather think Peter’s building will date from later in the century.

And that will offer up a lot of nerdy fun crawling over the rate books, census material and old pictures to get an exact date for the building that now stands at 64-66 High Street.

The Wheatsheaf, 1885
That said I can confidently assert it was offering up pints, food and good company by 1885 when this advert for the “Wheatsheaf Commercial and Family Hotel, replete with every modern convenience” appeared in the directories.

In time we may also be able to discover who owned the hotel because back in 1911 Mrs Sarah Harris is listed as the manageress supervising a team of eight staff including a barmaid, two waitresses, a cook, chambermaid, general servant and two who were listed as “Boots.”

Sadly the census return for that April day in 1911 does not include the name of any residents who may have been staying in the eight roomed hotel.

Nor have I unearthed any pictures of what they would have seen from their bedroom windows of the buildings opposite.

The Hogshead, 1996
Today of course the view is taken up by the tiled exterior of the Arndale but back in the early 20th century there would have a row of Victorian buildings housing a range of businesses from Fred Isherwood’s boot and shoe company to Misses Francis and Alice Dickens, dealers in fent and a clutch of tailors and blouse makers.

I never asked Walter if the Wheatsheaf was one of his favoured haunts and I doubt that he would have visited the building next door which is now Tea 42, was Oska Menswear but which I remember as one of those fabulous old fashioned fabric emporiums which the Northern Quarter was famous for.

The Wheatsheaf, 1959
It closed sometime around 2008-09 but was a magic place full of bales of different materials laid out on the long cutting tables in the centre of the shop and stacked high on makeshift shelves which disappeared towards the ceiling.

If I am honest I always groaned when I was told that was one of our Saturday destinations but quickly became mesmerized by all that was on offer and came away with lingering smell of cotton which pervaded the place.

Added to which there was something to admire in the old ironwork which fronted the shop

The Wheatsheaf, 1970
All of which may seem a long way from Peter’s painting of the English Lounge, but I think not, because it is part of a series which aims to record how the city is changing, and that just leaves me wondering if he will paint Tea 42 resplendent in its new livery of grey, with its restored delicate iron frontage offering tea in the place of calico.

We shall see.

Painting; The English Lounge, High Street, © 2015 Peter Topping,
Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Pictures, The Wheatsheaf, 1885, m50781, The Hoggshead, 1996, m81278 and the Wheatsheaf in 1959, H W Beaumont, m50783 and in 1970, A Dawson, m50784 , courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

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