Now you might be thinking this is just other pub guide, but it isn’t anything of the sort, because Deborah Woodman, who wrote the book, is Research Development Officer at the University of Salford, the seat of learning where I obtained my degree, back in the mid 1970’s. She has also taught history at the same university, as well as the University of Huddersfield and Manchester Metropolitan University.
The latter establishment was formerly known as Manchester Polytechnic, which was where I did a one-year, post-grad course. This was after spending three years at Salford University, studying for my BSc Honours Degree in Biology. If this shared commonality was not enough, I am familiar with many of the pubs listed in Deborah’s book, having spent four and a half years living in the Greater Manchester area.
Upon receiving my review copy of the book, my intention was to just dip in and out of the various entries, but after turning I few pages, I realised I had to read it from cover to cover. And for those wondering which parts of the city constitutes Central Manchester, the book encompasses the Northern Quarter, the Cathedral Gates to Albert Square, Piccadilly to St Peters Square, Castlefield to All Saints, with a chapter devoted to each area.First, the three pubs in Portland Street, two of which qualify as the smallest pubs in the city. The Circus Tavern, a former Tetley’s pub, takes first prize in that contest, whilst the Grey Horse Inn, just a few doors away, takes second place. The latter is a Hyde’s pub and is one of the few pubs in the city centre belonging to the smallest of Manchester’s surviving family brewers. Completing the trio, is the Old Monkey, a relatively recent new-build pub, owned by Holt’s Brewery, on the corner of Portland Street and Princess Street.
We then move on to a couple of pubs with attractive and rather striking, tiled exteriors. The Peveril of the Peak, in Great Bridgewater Street, has an unusual triangular shape, alongside its green-tiled frontage, which has managed to survive despite the redevelopment work going on all around. It has been run by the same family for the past 50 years and is well worth a visit.For a while, the pub had its own micro-brewery in the cellar, but I understand this is no longer there. It may have been removed when the pub was refurbished in 2014, or possibly before, but the Lass is still well worth a visit.
Fortunately, no one was killed by the bomb’s massive blast, but 200 people were injured, many by flying glass. The reconstruction that followed, allowed for two historic pubs that had previously been incorporated into the Arndale development, to be move to a more appropriate location. The Wellington Inn and Sinclair’s Oyster Bar now overlook Shambles Square, in the shadow of Manchester Cathedral, with the Wellington dating back to the late 16th Century and Sinclair’s to the early 1700’s.
Despite all the re-development Central Manchester had managed to retain a surprising number of historic pubs, and these have been joined in recent years by the conversion of former retail or office buildings into licensed premises. During the early 19th Century, Manchester was known as "Cottonopolis," due to its position as the epicentre of the UK’s cotton industry. The city was also a noted centre of radicalism, and many pubs acted as venues for trades unions, friendly societies plus some of the emerging building societies.Fifteen people were killed, and hundreds more were injured, some seriously, when cavalry, armed with swords, charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people.
The crowd had gathered for a peaceful demonstration, in support of parliamentary reform, and occurred at a time when less than 2% of the population had the right to vote. The term “Peterloo,” was intended to mock the soldiers who attacked unarmed civilians by echoing the battle of “Waterloo,” where their action had been viewed as heroic. A series of murals, inside the pub, depicts the horrific scenes that occurred that day. It is somewhat ironic then that the Britons Protection should have stated life as a recruiting centre for locals wanting to sign up and fight Napoleon a couple of decades previously.When I lived in the area, the Sawyers was a Schooner Inn (remember them?), but under its current owners - Nicholson’s, has been tastefully restored. The Rising Sun remains a charming little back-street pub, with front and rear entrances on two different streets. The Wilson’s beers may have gone, but the Rising Sun continues to serve a fine pint from a number of different breweries.
The Hare & Hounds has an interior that features on CAMRA’s National Heritage List, and now has the Shudehill transport interchange nearby. It was a little more tucked away, when I knew it, and also served a fine pint of Tetley’s. Today, it is thriving free house. Other former favourites listed, include the Castle on Oldham Street, which remains a Robinson’s house, plus the Unicorn, on Church Street, which always served the best pint of Draught Bass in the city!
As mentioned earlier, I have only been back to Manchester a few times, since my departure in the spring of 1978, but Deborah Woodman’s book is sufficient to entice me back. For those who don’t know Manchester that well, “Central Manchester Pubs” is the perfect introduction to the city’s pubs, whilst for a returning former inhabitant, such as me, it will act as the perfect guide.
Background and disclosure:
Central Manchester Pubs, by Deborah
Woodman, is available from Amberley Publishing, priced at £15.99.
The book consists of 96 pages and contains 100 colour and black
& white illustrations. The publishers have kindly allowed me to use a
selection of the photos, to illustrate this review. https://www.amberley-books.
I received a complimentary copy of the book, in respect of providing a review, and the thoughts and observations contained therein, are my own, and to the best of my knowledge remain unbiased and uninfluenced by my receipt of the review copy.