Saturday, 17 March 2012

Lodge Bank Tavern, Bridgeman Street


Lodge Bank Tavern pictured on 29 March 2011.
Copyright: Lost Pubs Of Bolton 2012

Every pub closure is disappointing as the fabric of our social history is wrapped up in these places. But one of the most disappointing came in August 2010 when the Lodge Bank Tavern closed its doors for the final time.

The Lodge Bank presumably took its name from the Great Bolton Reservoir No. 1 owned by the Bolton Free Waterworks which some 170 years ago occupied the area close to the pub from what is now Rothwell Street up towards the old railway line - part of which can still be seen – and up as far as Gregson Field. In other words a ‘lodge’ with a pub near the corner of one of its banks. Later in the nineteenth century the reservoir was filled in and the Bolton-Leigh railway re-routed from Daubhill into town to run under Heywood Park and land once occupied by the reservoir.

The Lodge Bank Tavern had its own brewery in the nineteenth century and was later owned by Samuel Smith whose brewery at the Dog and Snipe on Folds Road served a number of other of his pubs in Bolton (but who shouldn’t be confused with the Yorkshire brewery of the same name). [1]

Samuel Smith ceased trading in the thirties and the Lodge Bank was then bought by Swales Brewery of Manchester. That perhaps wasn’t so good for drinkers as Swales' beers didn't have a good name amongst many of its customers who nicknamed the brewery's products as ‘Swales Swill’ so it was perhaps a step in the right direction when Swales were taken over by another Manchester brewery, Boddington’s, in 1971.

Boddies in the seventies was the stuff of legend. It was an ‘acquired taste,’ somebody once said, which meant that it tasted different to Tetley Bitter, Double Diamond and Watney’s Red Barrel -it had a discernible taste for one thing - and the beers were as popular as Swales were reviled. It was certainly a far cry from the stuff Boddington’s subsequently brewed in the eighties and nineties which they dubbed ‘the cream of Manchester’. One tale often told was that in the seventies the brewery refused to supply their beers to a customer in the south of England on the grounds that it “didn’t travel well.”

In 1979 the Lodge Bank Tavern closed down and was sold to another family-owned brewer, John Willie Lees of Middleton Junction, to become their first pub in Bolton since the turn of the 20th century. Before the sale went through and the pub could re-open Lees had to get a compulsory purchase order rescinded [2]. The local authority were redeveloping the area and the adjoining properties up to Dalton's newsagent near old railway bridge on Bridgeman Street were all bought and torn down. The railways cuttings were subsequently filled in and Lees also bought some of the land next to the pub to build a beer garden.

By February 1980 the sale had gone through but it was another six months before the Lodge Bank re-opened as Lees decided to completely refurbish it. The re-fit wasn’t to everyone’s liking with one correspondent bemoaning the fact that the old Victorian bar had been ripped out along with windows displaying the pub’s name. When it reopened Mild was on sale at 37p a pint with Bitter at 38p. [3] It also opened with a full licence having been Bolton's last beerhouse. Beer houses were created in 1830 by an Act of Parliament which aimed to make the supply of beer easier and to bring down its price in an attempt to wean the populace off much stronger spirits, particularly gin. For the price of two guineas - £2.10 in today's money - anyone could open a beerhouse and Slater's Bolton Directory of 1843 lists over 300 such establishments in Bolton and district.

New toilets were fitted at the time of the 1980 refurb and a car park was added in 1988 [4]. By then the Lodge Bank was one of three pubs and a club within a hundred yards of each other on Bridgeman Street but first the Victoria went then Bradford Ward Labour Club went the way of so many of the politically-affiliated clubs when it was sold off for housing and finally the Lodge Bank itself closed in August 2010.

Shortly after its closure the pub was sold to Bolton Council and although furniture and bar fittings were stripped the building remained pretty much intact for the next four years. The reason the council bought the pub was as part of an extension to the nearby Clarendon Street school. All the land outside the old school down to the pub was to be bought and the school would either be extended or completely rebuilt. Included in the redevelopment was the old railway cutting right next to the school. But council officials reported in early 2011 that the cutting is full of contaminated material which would have to be treated before the land was built upon. Presumably because of the increased costs the purchase of other land and property was put on hold.

Eventually, the new Clarendon school was built on part of Bobby Heywood's Park across Bridgeman Street and opened in the summer of 2014. The old school burned down in mysterious circumstances shortly after, on 21 July that year.

Meanwhile, the Lodge Bank Tavern building was sold at auction in 2013. In 2014, planning permission was obtained to turn the former pub into two dwellings.

Directly opposite the Lodge Bank Tavern stands the Park Hotel,a 150-year-old pub that is now the great survivor of Bridgeman Street. The Railway, the Victoria, the Forge, the White House, the Farmers, the Lord Napier, the Oliver Cromwell, the Sir Sidney Smith, the Pineapple, the Oxnoble - this small, local’s boozer has seen them all off. It's the last of its kind on what was once a street of pubs.

[1] Bolton Pubs 1800 - 2000, Gordon Readyhough (published by Neil Richardson, 2000)
[2] What’s Doing, the Greater Manchester beer drinkers’ monthly magazine. February 1980.
[3] What's Doing. October 1980
[4] Bolton Beer Break. Summer 1988.


The former Lodge Bank Tavern pictured on 10 November 2014 (copyright Lost Pubs Of Bolton). The  pub building had just been gutted prior to its conversion into two dwellings.

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