The Alexandra Hotel was situated on the corner of Mount Street and Stewart Street quite close to what is now Brownlow Way.
The first record of the pub comes in 1868 when John Halliwell is listed as a beerseller at 14 Mount Street.
In his book Bolton Pubs 1800-2000, Gordon Readyhough tells us that Halliwell began his brewing business in 1856. Prior to that he had lived in Sharples where he worked as a bleacher. It is possible that he opened the pub that became Alexandra at the same time he began the brewing business as that part of Halliwell was in the process of being built up around that time. The name Alexandra comes from Princess Alexandra of Denmark who married Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales in 1863. That also gives us a possible date for the pub. She became Queen Alexandra when her husband King Edward VII acceded to the throne on Victoria’s death in 1901.
By 1871, the address of the Alexandra pub is given at 14 Stewart Street. John Halliwell is there. He is 39-years-old and his occupation is given as a brewer. His wife Martha is 41 and there are six children including Edward, 16, who worked for his father as a brewer, and John, aged 10. By this stage Halliwell had built a brewery next to the pub.
The business expanded and by 1876 John had left the pub and was living at 77 Chorley Old Road. Edward Buckley had taken over as licensee of the Alexandra and in 1881 he applied for a spirit licence. Up to then the pub had sold only beer. The application was refused along with similar applications for the Rock House Hotel and for Mere Hall, then owned by Richard Haworth. Mr Haworth said in his particular application that he had purchased Mere Hall ten years previously and had laid out the grounds surrounding the mansion. He had also built 317 houses in the vicinity. No matter, one of the occupants of those 317 homes complained, as did a Mr Bradbury who got up a petition to object to the granting of the licence. Like the Alexandra and the Rock, the Mere Hall didn’t get its spirit licence.
John Halliwell’s wife, Martha (nee Whittaker) died in 1879. The couple had married at St Paul’s in Astley Bridge in 1853. John remarried the following year this time to Jane Fielding, a provision dealer from Blackburn Road. However, he died in 1885 and the business was taken over by his eldest son, Edward.
It was under Edward Halliwell that the business grew. In 1881 he was living at 85 Hampden Street, just a few yards away from the brewery. But his influence within the business was already such that he was described on the census form for that year as a master brewer employing 11 men. He was 26 at the time and living with his 22-year-old wife Ann and their one-year-old daughter Florence. But by 1891 the family were living in much more salubrious surroundings at 108 Chorley New Road, a large semi-detached house which still stands opposite Bolton School.
Back at the Alexandra, George Hamilton took over in 1885. A former joiner from nearby Brougham Street he was at the pub for well over 25 years. George was at the Alexandra when it changed ownership for the first time. Edward Halliwell took a back seat in the running of the brewery and by 1901 he was living on Westcliffe Road, Birkdale, near Southport along with his wife and daughter Florence. The family had been hit by tragedy with the death of Edward’s brother, John Halliwell, in 1891. John had worked for the brewery as a salesman and could claim some credit for the business’s growth. He was just 30 years old when he died.
Edward also died at a young age. He was 49 when he died while on a visit to Merionethshire in Wales. Edward left an estate valued an estate valued at £16584 – the equivalent of £1.8million today – split between his wife, his daughter and his brother, James Halliwell, who eschewed a life in the brewing industry to become a vet.
J Halliwell and Son carried on for a few more years, but in December 1910, another local brewer, Magee, Marshall and Co, made an offer to buy the brewery and its small tied estate of pubs, including the Alexandra. The brewery closed and was demolished in the 1920s. For many years its site was a wasteland colloquially known to local children as ‘the brewery’.
The Alexandra carried on into the 1930s. It gained a full licence in the early part of 1935 when the wine and spirits licence of the Four Factories on Turton Street was transferred to the Alexandra. But rather than being the start of better days it was more like a ‘last hurrah’. The pub lasted until the 1960s when it closed and was demolished as part of the clearance of that part of the Halliwell area.
Stewart Street can be seen in the distance on the other side of this car park off Back Grantham Close. But the building in the foreground is actually the site of the Alexandra Hotel.