Saturday, 30 January 2016

Founders Arms, 30-32 Ashburner Street, Bolton

Founders Arms Robin Hood Ashburner Street Bolton 1928

The block between Spring Gardens and Howell Croft South pictured in 1928 with properties boarded up and ready to be demolished. The Robin Hood can be seen in the foreground with the Founders Arms at the other end of the block. 

The Founders Arms on Ashburner Street dated back to 1806 when it was known as the Founders Inn.  It became the Founders Arms before 1818. There were a number of foundries in the area. Wardle’s directory for 1815 shows Blankley and Elton on King Street; James Kirkman and Co on Howell Croft and the much larger Union Foundry owned by Smalley, Thwaits and Co located on the site of the current market This final foundry gave Ashburner Street its name.  

One of the Founders’ early landlords, Robert Roberts, came to an unfortunate end while on a trip to London to watch the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. The Bolton Chronicle takes up the story:

“Immediately on his arrival in London, Mr. Roberts hired a cab to his destination, but had not been sat above a minute, before he was struck with the hand of death, and fell off his seat a corpse.” [1]

By 1876 the landlord was Richard Beckett who had previously been at the Farmers Arms on Derby Street. Beckett had moved to the Crofters Arms at Bradshaw by 1882, but the following year he filed for bankruptcy with debts of £1050 – the equivalent of £115,000 today!

The Founders was situated on the corner of Ashburner Street and Howell Croft – next to where the pelican crossing leads to the Octagon Theatre. At the other end of that block and on the corner of Spring Gardens, was the Robin Hood which was run by the  Ashton family for a number of years. By 1890 their daughter Rachel Briercliffe was the landlady of the Founders Arms so the family had both corners covered in what was a competitive part of town. Rachel had married a solicitor, Robert Briercliffe, in 1885 and the couple took over the pub a few years later. Robert continued in his work as a solicitor while Rachel’s background in the pub business meant that was the licensee. By 1901 they had retired to 2 Derby Road, Southport. Rachel died in 1917.

The Briefcliffes were succeeded at the Founders by Thomas Albert Ashton Tong who spent over 25 years at the pub. Tong was born in Ashburner Street at the end of 1869, the son of James Ashton Tong, an iron moulder in one of the local foundries. He married in 1895 and took over the Founders – by now a Magees pub - shortly afterwards. Thomas’s wife Sarah died in 1917. Thomas himself died in January 1925. His daughter Nellie was living in Oakwood on Chorley New Road by the time she married in 1940.

The Founders closed soon after Thomas Ashton Tong’s death. The pub’s full licence was transferred in 1926 to the Brooklyn Hotel on Green Lane. The building was demolished in 1928 along with its neighbour the Robin Hood. The civic centre was built on the site. The children’s library is situated on the site of the former Founders Arms.

[1] Bolton Chronicle, 30 June 1838.
[2] Manchester Courier, 29 June 1883.

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