|The Lions Paw next to the District Bank c.1903.|
The Horse Shoe on Deansgate was one of Bolton’s oldest pubs. It was listed as one of Great Bolton’s Ale Houses in 1778 and by that time it had already been in business for some time  at the corner of Old Hall Street South and Deansgate. The landlord at that time was Henry Wilkinson and the Wilkinson family were in control of the pub under two of its various guises for much of its existence.
The Horse Shoe changed its name towards the end of the 18th century. The pub was the headquarters at various times of the freemasons’ St John’s Lodge. The lodge led something of a nomadic existence changing its headquarters on no fewer than 17 occasions in the century following its establishment in 1797. On four of those occasions it moved to the Four Horseshoes and we know that the pub had adopted its new name by the time of the lodge’s initial move there in 1802.
The Wilkinsons sold the Four Horse Shoes in the 1870s thus ending an association going back around a hundred years. By 1899, the pub was one of a number of tied houses belonging to a local brewery, Wingfield’s Silverwell Brewery Ltd of Nelson Square. Wingfield’s sold out to the rapidly-expanding Manchester Brewery Company Ltd of 1899. [More on Wingfield's here].
The Four Horse Shoes became the Lion’s Paw in the early years of the twentieth-century, but MBC decided in 1907 to knock down the original 18th-century pub and rebuild it as a much grander affair. The new building was done almost in a mock-Tudor style and there was yet another change of name, this time to the Silver Vat. At that time, the Manchester Brewery Company was heavily marketing its “Silver Vatted Ales” although it has been claimed they inherited the trademark when they took over Wingfield’s.
|Lions Paw shortly before demolition in 1907|
But MBC were in trouble. A few years before the Lion’s Paw was rebuilt a shareholders’ committee discovered that a number of the firm’s pubs had been neglected for many years and that a number of takeovers in the name of expansion had left the company strapped for cash. In 1912, the Salford brewer, Walker & Homfray’s, bought the Manchester Brewery Company and although MBC remained in existence until 1956 its brewery closed in 1924.
In 1929, just 22 years after it was built, the Silver Vat was sold to its next-door neighbour, the District Bank. While it seems odd that a building should be demolished after such a short period of time it is likely that District Bank offered Walker & Homfray’s a good enough price to warrant its sale. The Silver Vat was demolished and District Bank expanded into the former pub.
District Bank formed part of the newly-formed National Westminster in 1970. After a spell as a KFC franchise during the first decade of the 21st century the building is now a branch of the Nationwide Building Society.
 Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough (2000)