Friday, 27 May 2016

A pub, a message of love and a club ........... on Cooper Street

Now this is Cooper Street and this impressive stone building has stood on this spot since 1863.

Waldorf House, 2015
Once a long time ago Cooper Street ran all the way from Booth Street across Princess Street down to Peter’s Street but that all changed with the construction of Central Ref which swept away a mix of interesting and not so impressive buildings.

And in the process cut short Cooper Street at its junction with Princess Street.

For me it has always been an alternative route across town which avoids the busier main thoroughfares and if the time is right allows you to turn off on to Kennedy Street to visit the Vine or the City Arms.

A century ago I could have just stayed on Cooper Street and slid in to the City Hotel at number 9.  It was offering up a selection of fine wines, beers and much else from 1879 and may have been there from the start when our building was opened.

The Waldorf, 1950
Back then the remainder of the building was home to the Free Masons and included a Hall and their club.

Look closely and above the main entrance is the symbol of the masons carved on the key stone.

And there generations of Masons did whatever Masons do from 1863 till they moved to that other present home on Bridge Street which is still where they are today.*

Now by one of the odd little twists of history my grandfather, great grandfather and at least some of my uncles were all Masons but dad would have nothing of them and so there the link finished.

All of which has taken me away from the City Hotel which I first came across on postcard sent from an army camp in 1911 to Miss Johnson at the City Hotel on Cooper Street.**

I will never know what she made of it, but the sender wrote, “You will be surprised to receive this.  Hearing you say your Yeomanry friend had disappointed you, I thought I would endeavour to rectify it.”

The Waldorf, 1973
The romantic in me wonders whether this was the start of a bid for Miss Johnston’s interest.

Sadly I couldn’t find her in the 1911 census and so far the landlord of the City Hotel who was a Bertie Holroyd and has also proved elusive.

In time I will find out something about both of them along with when the Hotel closed which is best done by a slow and patient trawl of the street directories which might also reveal exactly when the Waldorf Restaurant opened for business in the Mason’s old club.

It was there well into the 1970s and the name above the main door is a reminder of what is now Waldorf House was the Waldorf Restaurant which at one time was owned by the Wilsons brewery.

And this where the nerdy side kicks in because originally the Waldorf had occupied the plot where Cooper Street and Peter Street met.

The Waldorf, 1940
There is even a fine photograph of the building from the City Engineers Department dated 1940, showing not only the large sign in the window announcing that it offered a Dining and Tea room but shows the pub next door which offered Walker and Homfray’s Special Invalid Port at 4 shillings and 9d a bottle.

Which I am sure was a snip if you were an invalid or in need of a snip of port.  Walker and Homfray were “brewers & wine & spirit merchants” who were in 1911 based at the Woodside Brewery on Wilmslow Street, Eccles New Road.

All of which in time will offer up a whole set of new lines of research as well as some intriguing stories, not least of which may be why the City Engineers Department got the date of 1940 so wrong, because by then the Central Ref had been built and this little bit of our eating history had vanished.

That said I may have missed something and as ever the devil is always in the detail which is why I had at first some trouble locating the City Hotel in that building on Copper Street.

The Waldorf, 1970
What should be number 9 is a bay with a window, which mirrors perfectly another on the other side of themain entrance.

This bay was the way into number 9 but had ceased to be a doorway by 1950 which may mean that the City Hotel had gone by then.

By then the Waldorf may have extended in to our hotel.  In their time Walker and Homfray who may have owned the restaurant had been an enterprising and interesting company.

They had in 1905 bought out a smaller brewery which ran the Band on the Wall and supported Newton Heath FC which even I know became Man United.

They merged with Wilson’s Brewery in 1949 which explains the sign outside the Waldorf in the 1970s and nicely brings me back to Peter’s painting and one of those neat bits of continuity because occupying part of the building is the Tiger Lounge which advertises itself as “a basement venue with regular events including quiz nights, open mic/acoustic sessions and live gigs.”

I wonder what Miss Johnson would have made of that.

Location; Cooper Street, Manchester

Paintings; Waldorf House, Cooper Street, © 2015, Peter Topping,
Facebook; Paintings from Pictures, Web:

Pictures; Copper Street, 1950, H Milligan, m68238, Cooper Street, 1973, D Wildgoose, m01061, Waldorf Restaurant, Peter Street Cooper Street, 1940, City Engineers Department, m38892, Cooper Street, 1970, A Dawson m50748, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,


**"Dear Miss J".............. a message from the 8th Manchester’s at Garstang Camp to the City Hotel on Cooper Street ...... June 1911,

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