Great Moor Street looking towards the Flag Hotel circa 1962. This image taken from the Bolton Archive collection and is copyright Bolton Council. The row of shops on the right of the image were built just a few years earlier and are still there. In the near distance – in front of the Flag – is Howell Croft bus station.
The Flag Hotel stood on Great Moor Street just in front of where Elizabeth House is now situated.
The pub dates from the early-1820s and apparently got its name from a huge flagstone 15 feet square and weighing over six tons that was transported from a local quarry to Great Moor Street.  Eight dray horses using chains and rollers were deployed in the operation and the flagstone was used to cover part of the floor. Only a small part. Fifteen feet square is equal to less than four feet long by four feet wide.
The pub first appears in the local directory for 1824 when the licensee was Robert Warr. By the time the 1836 record was published Warr had been succeeded by John Eglin who also ran the Bay Horse on Deansgate. Eglin was briefly succeeded by David Morris before James Lowe began a long tenureship around 1842.
From the late-1850s the Flag was run by the Harrison family. Robert Harrison hailed from Liverpool, his wife Ellen was a Bolton girl. By 1871 Robert was off the scene - the Duke Of Clarence on Bath Street was owned at the same time by a Robert Harrison who may have been the same person. Meanwhile, Ellen Harrison was running the Flag alongside her mother, Elizabeth Ratcliffe. Indeed, the 1871 Bolton Directory gives Mrs Ratcliffe as the licensee. But it was Ellen Harrison who was not only the proprietor but was also the brewer as the Flag produced its own ales in a small brewery at the back of the pub.
Ellen Harrison died in 1888 at the early age of just 51. The Flag was eventually bought by Magee, Marshall and Co and remained a Magee’s house until their takeover by Greenall Whitley in 1958. Many Magee’s pubs retained their livery until the brewery was closed by Greenall’s in 1970.
The Flag was eventually bought by Magee, Marshall and Co and remained a Magee's house until their takeover by Greenall Whitley in 1958. Many Magee’s pubs retained their livery until the brewery was closed by Greenall’s in 1970.
It’s hard to believe but in those days the Flag was in the middle of a residential area. Howell Croft ran from Deansgate to Great Moor Street and right behind the pub – on the site of what is now Elizabeth House – was a row of houses. Houses were also situated at the side of the pub on land that for many years was Bolton Wholesale Market but which is now the Octagon Car Park. When the market moved to Ashburner Street in 1932 the site became Howell Croft bus station until 1969. A post office and the Railway Hotel stood on the opposite side of Great Moor Street to the Flag.
In the end, the needs of the motor car and, to a lesser degree, of local government marked the end for the Flag. The closure of Howell Croft bus station in 1969 robbed the pub of some of its passing trade, but in any case its days were already numbered. The construction of local government offices at Elizabeth House meant the pub was to be cleared to make way for parking. This photograph from the Bolton News archive shows the Flag in 1970. Elizabeth House can be seen rising in the background.
The Flag closed in November 1970 and was demolished three months later in February 1971. The exact spot of the pub is by the pelican crossing in front of Elizabeth House.
This image of the Flag comes from 1937 and comes from the Bolton Worktown collection (copyright Bolton Council). It is one of only three shots taken by photographer Humphrey Spender using flash photography. The image depicts the Flag with its customers leaving at last orders, which in those days were at 10pm every night of the week.