Over 250 of the closed pubs of Bolton. Lost but not forgotten.
Monday, 28 March 2011
Prince Rupert, Holmeswood Road
The Prince Rupert pictured in March 2011. Image copyright, Lost Pubs Of Bolton, 2011.
Lever Edge Lane was a small country lane that appears on maps in the mid-nineteenth century and probably existed before that. At the end of the 18th-century it is shown running all the way down to Manchester Road from Morris Green before part of it was named Green Lane (originally George Green Lane) during the 19th century.
Like most of the south side of Bolton, there were a number of mine workings in the area in the 19th century, with Lever Edge Colliery situated no more than about 100 yards away to the south of where the Prince Rupert was eventually built.
By the mid-thirties a row of terraced houses ran down one side of Lever Edge Lane from the Morris Green Lane end, but beyond that there were few houses other than the top of a row that ran back down Higher Swan Lane and Auberson Road, although the area towards Rishton Lane was a little more heavily populated.
The area between Morris Green Lane and Great Lever began to be populated from the 1930s onwards. By 1936 more houses were being built along Lever Edge Lane, effectively joining up developments at each end of the mile-long lane. A number of pre-fabricated houses were built on part of Lever Edge Lane and in the fifties the area to the south of the lane was heavily developed with the construction of the Orlit estate, and then Hayward Schools (now the Essa Academy).
Walker's brewery secured a plot for a new pub on Holmeswood Road which, although set back from what is now Lever Edge Lane, was part of the original trajectory of the road as this map shows. Walker's built and completed the pub in 1960 and named it the Prince Rupert. Although obtaining a licence to sell just beer was a little easier, all new pubs were obtaining full licences which meant they were able to sell wines and spirits as well. These were more difficult to obtain unless an existing licence was transferred from another pub. As a result the Prince Rupert obtained its licence from the Roebuck Hotel on Kay Street, which closed as the Prince Rupert opened.
The name itself probably came from a farm which stood in the area and which was named Prince Rupert Farm, although it appears as Lever Edge Farm on some maps. The farm stood next to where the pub was built on the site where Windsor Court now stands., although it was demolished in 1949 before the whole area was redeveloped.
Given Prince Rupert of the Rhine's part in the Storming of Bolton in 1644 in which at least 1000 Boltonians were massacred, it's hard to see why he should be commemorated in the naming of a farm, then a pub and also a street (the nearby Rupert Street). It's possible that detachments of Rupert's 3,000 men were camped in the Lever Edge area, though it is commonly held that they were camped on the site of the current Cannon Street, about a mile away. Although given that 3,000 men take up some considerable space it is entirely likely that on the night before the Storming of Bolton they were all over the moors to the south of the town. However, it is believed that the night before the storming, Prince Rupert lodged at the farm which subsequently took his name. 
The Rupert was a typical estate pub and, to be fair, it wasn't that bad for much of its existence. Architecturally, it was very much of its time and quite similar in some regards to the Morris Dancers, which was built the following year. Bizarrely, after previously being pub-free the Morris Green/Lever Edge area found itself with two new pubs opening in the space of 12 months.
A vestibule at the front offered access to toilets with a games room to the left and a smart lounge to the right. As there were no off-licences in the area at the time the pub was built there was also a room with a separate entrance that acted as the pub's 'off-sales' section. (Yates's Wine Lodge in town had something similar until a refurbishment in the early eighties). The pub was serviced by one long bar covering the lounge, the games room and the off-sales area.
Beer-wise the pub was typical of estate pubs in that it offered only keg beer – Double Diamond (remember that?) was the keg brand of Tetley's, who took Walker's shortly after the Prince Rupert opened. Not that real ale didn’t make an appearance – there were some enterprising landlords who gave it a go – I seem to remember Walkers Bitter appearing on hand pumps, it just didn't last long.
In effect this was a typical locals' pub, the centre of the community, with football teams and a number of ladies rounders teams based at the pub, but just as many estate communities have fallen on hard times, then so did the Prince Rupert. Towards the end it endured at least one period of closure in between licensees and despite the best efforts of some of those who took over the pub – leaflet drops, karaoke nights, discos – it fell a victim to changing social norms, cheap supermarket booze and the smoking ban. The final licensee saw out Christmas 2008 and a couple of days into 2009 the Prince Rupert closed its doors for the last time.
The pub was put up for sale but the chances of it ever re-opening as a pub again must be close to zero. In the two years since it closed it has been broken into on a number of occasions and the lead has apparently been stripped from the roof. It will be a surprise if the property is used again for any purpose, which is sad.
UPDATE: 28 March 2014. The Prince Rupert was bought for use as an Islamic education centre and opened as such in 2013 after a refurbishment.
 St Michael's Parish Church centenary pamphlet. 1951.
The Prince Rupert pictured in March 2011, two years after its closure. The small extension on the left-hand side was originally the off-sales counter with a separate entrance from the rest of the pub.