Thursday, 17 April 2014

Gibraltar Rock, Deane Road


Two views of the Gibraltar Rock. The image on the left was taken around 1975. The pub still advertises Magee's Ales despite there also being a Greenall's pub sign on the outer wall. This was around five years after the Magee's brewery was closed. The Pikes Lane school can be sign on the right of the pub. Image from the Bolton Library And Museums Service collection. Copyright Bolton Council.  


On the right, the forlorn sight of the Gibraltar Rock as captured by Google Street View in 2009, some months after its closure (Copyright Google Street View). To the right of the pub can be seen the Pikes Lane Health Centre built on the site of the former primary school. The health centre opened in 1999, the school was rebuilt on a new site in Gibraltar Street behind the pub.




The Gibraltar Rock dates back to 1806 when it was known as the Gibraltar Tavern. [1]

By 1812 it was known as the Gibraltar Rock. Some time between the end of February and the beginning of March 1812 a small meeting of up to eight local weavers was held at the pub. The meeting was joined by two weavers from Stockport who urged the Bolton men to take up an “oath of engagement.” Unemployment was high among weavers and this was being blamed on increasing industrialisation. In the end only one of the Bolton weavers, Samuel Kay, swore the oath in front of the Stockport men. A fuller account of this meeting can be seen here at the Luddite Bicentenary blog from 2012  which commemorates key events in Luddite history in a series of blog entries dated to coincide exactly with the events of 200 years previous. [2] The blog also includes the Google Street View photograph at the top of the page and the image below of the Gibraltar Rock in its current use.

Several Bolton pubs had bowling greens at the start of the nineteenth century and the Gibraltar Rock seems to have been one of them. Robert Poole trawled through old copies of the Bolton Chronicle from the 1820s and unearthed a report concerning a green at the Gibralter Rock [sic] [3].

A green can be seen behind the pub in an 1849 map of the area.  That end of Deane was quite sparsely populated in 1849, at least when compared to the centre of Bolton. Gilnow Lane had a row of 11 houses named Cobden Terrace close to its junction with the main road, while behind the pub, on land now occupied by Gibraltar Street, was another row of 11 houses named Bright Terrace. The area directly opposite the pub was largely undeveloped though there were houses further up and down Pikes Lane (Deane Road). A few hundred yards down from the Gibraltar Rock and heading towards town, stood Chamber Hall and its grounds. At one time this was the home to the Ormrod family of cotton spinners whose firm of Ormrod and Hardcastle was prominent in the town.

By 1880, the pub was owned by Elizabeth Rostron, who also owned the Founders Arms - which still stands on St George’s Street - as well as the Bridge Inn on Bridge Street

GIBRALTAR ROCK BOWLING GREEN BOLTON AUGUST 1937
The bowling green was central to the Gibraltar Rock’s existence for many years. In August 1937, Humphrey Spender took a superb set of 13 photographs that can still be viewed at the Bolton Worktown website. (Image copyright Bolton Council). [4] With smart-looking park benches around the outside of the green and even a small covered terrace this was serious business and big events could attract hundreds of spectators.

The competitions weren’t trifling affairs, either. When the formidable local professional bowler Tom Mayor reached the semi-final of the Bolton Infirmary Handicap at the Gibraltar Rock in 1924 he was in the last four of a tournament that had begun with no fewer than 1024 entrants, meaning he had had to get through eight rounds just to get to that stage. [5] The competition was held at greens all over the town but the final was regularly contested at the Gibraltar Rock cementing its reputation as Bolton’s premier bowling venue.

Click here for an image from the Railway Club on Green Lane showing a packed Gibraltar Rock for the 1926 Bolton Infirmary Handicap final. 

Tom Mayor was unsuccessful in the 1924 competition but triumphed ten years later in 1934 out of an initial field of 880 entrants defeating Jack Martin in the final of a competition designed to raise funds for the infirmary.

The Gibraltar Rock became a Magee’s tied house followed by Greenall Whitley when they bought Magee’s in 1958.

In 1987, the local beer drinkers’ monthly magazine reported that landlord Jim Hunter was leaving the Gibraltar Rock after 19 years (further down Deane Road and at the same time, Fred Croft was leaving the Gilnow after 25 years). [6]

Greenalls got out of the brewing industry themselves in 1991 and they also sold off their entire tied estate – including the Gibraltar Rock - to Scottish & Newcastle in 1999.

The Gibraltar Rock lost its bowling green, which was bought by the NHS in the early part of this century. Anyone parking their car next to Pikes Lane health centre will be treading the place where local heroes Tom Mayor, Jack Martin as well as thousands of amateur bowlers played over a period of almost 200 years.

The end for the Gibraltar Rock came in 2008 by which time it was owned by Enterprise Inns. The pub closed and was put up for sale – as seen here in June 2009, captured by Terry Whalebone.   



The pub was bought by a Spar franchise and can be seen here in 2011. In a nod to the pub’s past – or perhaps by way of saving money – the new owners have left the pub’s lettering on the outside of the building.

(photo credit Mike Faherty under a Creative Commons License)





[1] Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough, published by Neil Richardson (2000).
[2] Luddite Bicentenary. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
[3] Leisure In Bolton, 1750-1900, Robert Poole, 1982. Mr Poole accessed copies of the Bolton Chronicle dated 14 April 1827, 5 May 1827, 6 October 1827, 23 May 1829, 27 June 1829, 15 August 1829, 8 October 1831.
[4] Bolton Worktown project. Retrieved 16 April 2014. There are a total of 13 images in the set.  
[5] Tom May genealogy. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
[6] What’s Doing, the Greater Manchester beer drinkers’ monthly magazine. September 1987 issue.




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