Saturday, 12 April 2014

Sir Sidney Smith, Bridgeman Street


The approximate site of the Sir Sidney Smith, pictured in 2011 (copyright Lost Pubs Of Bolton). The pub was situated on Bridgeman Street at its corner with York Street in between Coe Street and Nile Street. York Street no longer exists. The street in the background is Coe Street.

The Sir Sidney Smith opened in 1808 on the corner of Bridgeman Street and York Street in a part of the town only just being developed.

At the end of the 18th century the area from Crook Street over as far as Green Lane was known as the Sweet Green orchard while the area from the lower end of Fletcher Street towards what was once Hick, Hargreaves & Co and is now the Sainsbury’s supermarket was the site of a large encampment where gypsies would traditionally stay for a number of years.

The Sir Sidney Smith was the first pub in the area and it took its name from a navy admiral who was active in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century. 

Fast forward 40 years or so from the opening of the pub and the 1849 map shows that the bottom end of Bridgeman Street had now been fully developed. Housing had been built on York Street, Coe Street, Nile Street, Sidney Street and Foundry Street, while Benjamin Hick’s Soho Ironworks was already in production. But there was also competition: the Bridgeman Arms had opened further down Bridgeman Street around 1825, while the Farmers Arms had just opened on the corner of Bridgeman Street and Fletcher Street. Plus there were a number of beerhouses in Coe Street, Sidney Street and Foundry Street.

By 1927 the Sir Sidney Smith was one of 58 pubs owned by the Bolton company of Joseph Sharman & Sons Ltd, whose Mere Hall Brewery was built in 1874 on Mere Hall Street. [1] Joseph Sharman died in 1916 and the company was taken over by George Shaw & Son Ltd of Leigh in 1927. In 1931, Shaw’s was taken over by Walkers of Warrington who immediately began a review of their enlarged tied estate.

About three-quarters of a mile away from the Sir Sidney Smith stood the Ninehouse Tavern on Ninehouse Lane, just off Grecian Crescent. Whereas the Sir Sidney Smith stood in the middle of a heavily-pubbed area, the Ninehouse Tavern was the first pub you came to as you walked down Rishton Lane. As such, it was the nearest pub to housing developments in the area bounded by Settle Street, Rupert Street and Weston Street. Those homes were of a better quality than those at the bottom end of Bridgeman Street, which by then was becoming quite run down with some of the houses approaching 100 years old.Rishton Lane was therefore home to a wealthier class of patron such as skilled workers, artisans and office workers. 

But the Sir Sidney Smith had something that the area managers at Walkers of Warrington decided would be more useful to the Ninehouse Tavern: a full licence. The Ninehouse was a beer house whereas the Sir Sidney Smith was also licensed to serve wines and spirits. It therefore made sense for Walkers to close the Sir Sidney Smith and transfer its full licence to the Ninehouse. [2]

The Sir Sidney Smith closed in 1934. The building was demolished along with the rest of the area in the early sixties before redeveloped as the industrial estate that still stands today. Coe Street is still there but York Street – just after the bend in Bridgeman Street as you go out of town – no longer exists.

[1] Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough. Published by Neil Richardson (2000).

[2] Moving pub licences is still practised today. In 1998 Thwaites closed the Ancient Shepherd and transferred its licence to a new development named Red On The Square. The venture lasted only a few years and the premises have been sold on two more occasions (it is now home to Blind Tiger). While tales abound of the Ancient Shepherd, in contrast Red On The Square has left little or no mark on Bolton’s collective memory.

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