By common consensus the most popular pub name in the country is ‘Red Lion’. Not in Bolton. So far we’ve found three different examples of the Bradford Arms [two of them are here and here] and that’s not counting the one still trading in Farnworth. There have been four Bowling Greens – one still exists, in Horwich. But surprisingly, there have been no fewer than five pubs named the Union Arms and all of them have gone.
The Union Arms we’re dealing with on this occasion stood in Halliwell at 56-58 Eskrick Street, on the corner of Mort Street and – perhaps handy for the pupils – right next to Brownlow Fold Secondary School. Halliwell Reform Club was just a few doors away down Mort Street. The pub was known locally as the Pincop, after a type of fabric used in local textile mills.
This part of Halliwell was developed in the 1870s and 1880s and the Union was a typical street-corner local which served the streets between Eskrick Street, Tennyson Street and Darley Street.
Towards the end of the 19th century the Union fell into the hands of the Whitefield Brewery Company. This short-lived enterprise merged in 1899 with the Stamford Brewery of Ashton-under-Lyne and the Lee Home Brewing Company Ltd, to form Whitefield Breweries Ltd but within five years the company had gone bust.
All the Whitefield Brewery pubs, including its three in Bolton, were sold to J W Lees of Middleton Junction, which still exists today. Of the three, the Hare and Hounds on Bank Street was closed in 1911 for being ‘ill conducted’. It became a lodging house until 1963 when it opened as a nightclub (the Beachcomber, Placemate, Maxwell’s Plum, etc). The other two, the Union and the Victoria on Hotel Street, remained in Lees’ hands until 1929 when they were sold to Hamer’s brewery of Bromley Cross. They were the last Lees pubs in Bolton until the brewery bought the Lodge Bank Tavern in 1979.
The Union remained in Hamer’s hands until the brewery sold out to Dutton’s of Blackburn in 1951. Dutton’s sold out to Whitbread in 1964 and it was as a Whitbread pub that the Union ended its days in 1979. Many of the properties in the area that were built at the same time as the pub were demolished at the same time as well. An area bordered by Eskrick Street, Tennyson Street, Carlyle Street and Darley Street – including the Union and the Brownlow Fold school - was cleared.
The site of the pub is now occupied by the Brownlow Fold Community Learning Centre.