Saturday, 13 May 2017

Stags Head, 200 St Helens Road, Bolton

stags head st helens road bolton circa 1974
The Stags Head, St Helens Road in an image taken as part of a set for Tetley Walker around 1974, Image Gerard Fagan, Bolton Lancs Bygone Days Facebook group.

The Stags Head at 200 St Helens Road was one of two pubs less than three-quarters of a mile apart to bear that name. The name itself is derived from the crest of the Hulton family who owned Hulton Park on Newbrook Road from 1167 (some say 1353) until 1993. [1]

The Stags Head on Daubhill was the younger of the two pubs by over 30 years. The first mention of the pub was in 1836 when Peter Boardman (1785-1858) the owner. Mr Boardman was previously at the Hulton Arms at Four Lane Ends. Indeed, the Boardman family remained in control of the Hulton Arms and were farmers in the area between the pub and Hulton Park.

The Bolton to Leigh railway line - the second-oldest in the world - was opened in 1828 with Daubhill station at the junction of St Helens Road and Deane Church Lane opening in 1831. With no other pubs in the area the Stags Head was an opportunity to cash in on passenger traffic coming to and from the station. It was also a sizeable building and would have offered accomodation to railway travellers arriving from outside the area. 

As the 19th century progressed the pub gained a local clientele as the previously rural Daubhill area became industrialised. The giant Sunnyside Mills complex was built in 1865 and streets of terraced houses were built on both sides of St Helens Road.

Although there has been speculation that the current building was the second Stags Head a map from 1846 shows the building looking much the same shape as it still does today. [2] The railway ran behind the pub and then across St Helens Road before heading on to Great Moor Street station. Although the line was diverted in the 1880s this small branch line carried goods wagons across the main road to sidings at Sunnyside Mills as late as 1969. The map also shows a tramline on the other side of the pub running from the railway line, across what is now the Asda car park and across St Helens Road to stone quarries on the other side of the road.

The pub was known in some local directories as the Antelopes Head. In the days when most people were illiterate and pubs were known locally by their signs rather than any lettering it was an easy mistake to make. An inquest held at the pub in 1841 into the death of Christopher Ince on the Bolton to Leigh railway made reference to the pub as “the house of Mr Peter Boardman at the sign of the Antelope”. [3] But by 1843, newspaper references were referring to the pub as the Stags Head.

In 1865 a subscription bowling green opened close to the pub. Known at the time as the Stags Head bowling green it was situated on the other side of the railway line on land now occupied by the offices of the Park Cakes bakery. Access to the green was via Wilton Street or Bertwine Street which ran down the side of some early-nineteenth century cottages that stood raised up from St Helens Road until they were demolished around 1969. This small hill was the original 'Daub Hill' from where the area got its name.

The bowling green lasted until around 1953. Warburton’s Soreen malt loaf bakery, which later became Park Cakes, was built on the site. The Bakewell Tin and Metal works were right next to the green with the Daubhill Brick Works (opened 1883) not far away. Another bowling club, the Beaumont ,stood off Deane Church Lane until the late-sixties. 

A tollgate was in operation near the Stags Head. The toll allowed traffic to travel along the road between various gates on payment of a fee. It closed in the 1870s.

Tong's Brewery took over the Stags Head in the early part of the twentieth century. Prior to that the pub had brewed its own beer. It became a Walker's pub in 1923 and a Tetley Walker house in 1960.

The pub was refurbished in the 1960s though it kept its revolving doors until another refurbishment in 1986.

Tetley Walker had been part of the Allied Breweries (later Allied Lyons) group since 1961. The brewery had the idea in the early eighties of transferring pubs into a new subsidiary called Peter Walker Ltd. The pubs were done up in a 'traditional' style and in 1986 the Stags Head's became a Walkers pub. [4]. Other examples included the Howcroft on Pool Street, the Ainsworth Arms on Halliwell Road, the Sally UpSteps (Stanley Arms)  on Chorley Old Road, the Cross Guns on Deane Road and the Church in New Bury. In the autumn of that year £100,000 was spent and the range of Walker's ales introduced.

By 1995, the Peter Walker concept was being put out to grass and the Stags Head gained an alternative identity as Mr Q's, a sort of sports bar aimed at drinkers aged 18-25. However, it retained the Stags Head name on the front of the building.

Allied Lyons got out of the pub business and in 1999 its chain of Mr Q's pubs was sold to Punch Taverns. Punch owned the Stags Head for just ten years and presided over its decline. One day in 2009 landlady Jackie Heyes looked out of the window and saw a 'For Sale' sign outside the pub. Ms Heyes had signed a five-year lease with Punch only a few months earlier after it had been closed for six months. Although she had her partner Ian Matthews managed to raise £200,000 it was well short of the £295,000 asking price. [5] 

The pub was sold to a local firm Mayble Ltd, based at the Gibbon Street Garage further down Daubhill. It closed at the beginning of September 2009.

But while that may have signalled the end of the Stags Head as a pub it wasn't the end of the building. Mayble Ltd converted the former pub in to the Manor House, seemingly a suite of offices. A local business, the retail chemist chain Freshphase Ltd claimed on its March 2016 accounts to be using 200 St Helens Road – the former Stags Head pub – as its head office. The Manor House has also been hauled over the coals for using the premises as a wedding/conference centre, despite not having applied for planning permission. An application (95030/15) was made by a Mr Ali, based at 177 St Helens Road in 2015.

But despite the Manor House being used as offices and as a wedding reception centre, by April 2017 it was still appearing on Bolton Council's list of empty properties. It was said to have been an empty building since it closed as a pub in September 2009. As anyone living in the area will testify, that simply isn't true.

The Stags Head pictured around 1970. The signage over the top of the pub contains its old Walkers livery which pre-dated that company's merger with Tetley's in 1960.

The Manor House, as the Stags Head now is, pictured in July 2016 (copyright Google Street View).

[1] Historic England.  Accessed 25 April 2017.
[2] National Library of Scotland. Accessed 26 April 2017. 
[3) Manchester Courier, 18 December 1841.
[4] What's Doing, the Greater Manchester beer-drinkers' monthly magazine. September 1986.
[5] Bolton News, 23 July 2009. Accessed 26 April 2017. 
JimSant's piece for Bolton Revisited about the Daubhill area is well worth a read. Accessed 26 April 2017.