Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Levers Arms Hotel, Nelson Square/Bowkers Row

A shot of the north side of Nelson Square, probably taken in the 1920s. The row in the background, behind Samuel Crompton’s statue, contained the Levers Arms Hotel at the top end and the Pack Horse at the bottom end and appears to have had a number of other properties in between, probably shops. Compare it to the April 2012 image below (2012 image copyright Google Street View):

The Levers Arms Hotel – not to be confused with the Lever Arms in Darcy Lever - was situated at the top end of Nelson Square on the corner of Bowker’s Row and was demolished in 1949 to make way for an extension to the Pack Horse Hotel.

The pub was built in the early part of the nineteenth century, though exactly when is open to question. In Leisure In Bolton, 1750-1900, Robert Poole claims the Lever Arms was the scene of balls for ‘tradesmen and bachelors’ which were organised by the landlord ‘circa 1824’[1]. In Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, Gordon Readyhough claims the pub was built around 1830 [2]. Mr Readyhough appears to be closer to the mark as there is no reference to the Levers Arms Hotel in the Bolton directory of 1828/9. [3]

Even so, during the early part of the nineteenth century, as with so many of the old-established pubs in Bolton, the Levers Arms Hotel played host to numerous political discussion groups [1].

The pub was also known as the Cock and Trumpet, a nickname derived from the ancient cock and bugle crest used by the Lever families of Great Lever, Little Lever and Darcy Lever since the Middle Ages.

In May 1873, the long-standing landlord of the Levers Arms, Alfred Bird, died at the age of 55. Mr Bird had been the landlord of the hotel for upwards of 20 years and his death was of sufficient importance some years after the event to be included in the Annals Of Bolton. [4] He was listed in the 1853 Bolton directory as the proprietor of the Levers Arms, which by then was fulfilling the role of a hotel as well as that of a pub. Prior to taking over at the Levers he was the landlord of the Old Bulls Head on Bradshawgate. [5]

By the beginning of the twentieth century there were two hotels at opposite ends of the north side of Nelson Square: the Levers Arms Hotel and the Pack Horse. Sadly for the Levers it was at the wrong end of the block. The Pack Horse, an eighteenth-century inn, was situated on Bradshawgate, the main road in and out of Bolton and gradually expanded along the row. It also had the eventual advantage of being owned by Magee, Marshall & Co, which eventually became a substantial local concern with some financial clout.

In 1949 Magee’s bought the Levers Arms Hotel and demolished it in December of that year as part of an extensive remodelling of the Pack Horse Hotel that gave the building the structure that is still pretty much recognisable today. The extended Pack Horse was opened in August 1952. In the eighties and nineties that part of the Hotel formerly occupied by the Levers Arms became the Regency Lounge and later the Shawgates CafĂ© Bar [6]. The Pack Horse closed as a hotel in 2009 and was converted into student accommodation which opened in September 2012.

[1] Leisure In Bolton, 1750-1900, Robert Poole, 1982
[2] Bolton Pubs 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough, published by Neil Richardson (2000).
[3] Pigot’s National Commercial Directory 1828-9. Extract here: Retrieved 15 April 2014.
[4] Annals Of Bolton, James Clegg, 1888.
[5] Four Bolton Directories: 1821/2, 1836, 1843, 1853. Reprinted by Neil Richardson (1982).
[6] Bolton Town Centre, A Modern History. Part Two: Bradshawgate, Great Moor Street and Newport Street, 1900-1998. Published by Neil Richardson (1998).

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