THERE'S a wealth of good pub material out there. Here we’re going to look at some of the best traditional pubs outside the magic circle of Mancunian Way, Trinity Way and Great Ancoats Street. In otherwords outside the city centre.
The ones we’ve included here all carry that quality of bonhomie but with the added joy of cracking décor
This story was prompted by a visit to The Lamb Hotel in Eccles. And a gasp of astonishment. This place has it all, down to the full size snooker table and traditional accessories from 1906.
While in the pub I snapped a picture of two old timers who said hello to each other and then occupied opposite sides of the room reading papers. A tweeter responded to the picture with the words: ‘I bet they’ve never talked to one another properly for thirty years’. Thus completely missing the point of a pub.
The old fellas probably join in the pub's evening knees-ups, but even if they don’t it doesn’t matter. That social element of leaving the house and being in a public place and the interaction that must of necessity come from visiting ‘the local’ remains important.
Pubs are, after all, ecumenical, inviting young and old, rich and poor inside. That is why they are so important. When a suburb or town centre loses its pubs then it’s a big sign the whole place is on the slide. Going out and meeting other people, laughing and living, is what boozers are about. A good pub is a celebration of what binds a society. The ones we’ve included here all carry that quality of bonhomie but with the added joy of cracking décor.
And this is just a start, there are many more to reveal. So expect us to publish another eight glorious pubs outside the city centre very soon.
(City centre treasures such as the Briton’s, The Pev, Tom’s, the Circus, the Marble and so on are included in our various city centre pub crawls.)
1. The Lamb Hotel - Eccles
There is a lot of Eccles in this list and Eccles is all about the brewer Joseph Holt’s pubs. The Lamb Hotel is just about perfect in its details. From 1906 by one Mr Newton of Hartley, Hacking & Co, there’s red brick and terracotta on the outside but all the goodies are on the inside: mahogany entrance screen and bar; a Jacobean style staircase and chimney piece; original fixed seating everywhere; and Art Nouveau tiling to add to the effect. The billiard room has raised fixed seating so you can watch the action on the table, while the full-size snooker table is by Burrough & Watts and was installed when the boozer opened. As the Lamb is next to the tram stop there is no excuse for not visiting.
33 Regent Street, Eccles, M30 0BP
2. The Nursery Inn - Heaton Moor
If we’re talking wooden panelling then the Nursery is exceptional. The 1939 pub feels like an extra in a wartime movie during a scene in which dashing RAF fighter pilots are relaxing with elegant ladies in mink stoles. The wooden panelling is light oak and supremely attractive. The glass is a winner too, especially the lovely stained glass pictures of farming and gardening references – the garden nursery of the name – such as watering cans and spades. There are silk glass panels in the lounge and the vault with paintings of drink related items such as beer glasses and bottles of wine. Outside there is an immaculately kept bowling green. This is a Hydes pub, thus completing in this list the representation of all four major Greater Manchester family breweries.
258 Green Lane, Heaton Moor, SK4 2NA
3. Cemetery Hotel - Rochdale
This writer, when watching the British Barcelona (Rochdale AFC), still frequents this attractive Edwardian pub with a grim name. The main Rochdale Cemetery is over the road, while Spotland Stadium (is stadium the right word?), a graveyard of hope, lies just down Sandy Lane. Details in this multi-roomed pub include Art Nouveau tiles and glass and richly coloured friezes in orange, blue and green. The best room is the left front parlour with mahogany partitions and miniature Classical columns. The fireplace in this room is an eye-opener with a startling blue ceramic surround. Don’t let the humble end terrace appearance of the pub fool you, inside it’s very different.
470 Bury Road, Rochdale, OL11 5EU
4. The Olde Boar’s Head - Middleton
The oldest of the buildings (from 1587) hosting a pub on this list. This is a dream of a rambling medieval building, a higgledy-piggledy heaven, as denoted by the use of the terminal ‘e’ in ‘Old’ on the name. The pub belongs to JW Lees brewery from just up the road at Middleton Junction. There is plenty of live music and plenty of jolly locals together with ghosts, of course. Aside from banging your head on low slung beams there’s also the attached grandeur of the Sessions Room on the north side which once served as a local courtroom. Middleton Radical Sam Bamford would meet here in the early nineteenth century, and it is said Bonnie Prince Charlie and Dick Turpin popped in too, along with all the other pubs they were supposed to frequent. Big boozers those two - clearly.
111 Long St, Middleton, Manchester M24 6UE
5. Royal Oak - Eccles
Another Hartley, Hacking & Co wonder, this time from 1904, and another feast of red brick and terracotta on the outside and original detail on the inside. Once more, drinkers will find Art Nouveau tiles and lovely glass, this time including a screened server with some surviving sliding hatches, plus more mahogany and terrazzo details. Even the former stables and yard remain. The reason for this feast of Holt’s grandeur in Eccles is the expansion of the company under Edward Holt who would also be Lord Mayor of Manchester. Teddy had good taste, the astonishing Blackwell Arts & Craft House at Bowness in the Lake District (Ted's summer home), dates from a similar period as the Eccles’ pubs.
34 Barton Lane, Eccles M30 0EN
6. Station Buffet - Stalybridge
Apparently, this is one of only two more-or-less complete licensed buffets that predate WWII on the national rail network, along with that at Bridlington in benighted Yorkshire. The original bit, from a station reconstruction in 1885, is the Buffet Bar with a fireplace, a marble-topped counter and lots of original fixtures and fittings on the back bar. Twenty years ago the pub was extended into other parts of the station building with considerable charm. Outside the refurbished station clock is perfect should you wish to take a date and re-enact Brief Encounter (after all where is more romantic that Stalybridge?). On our last visit there was a Laurel & Hardy Club meeting in one of the rooms, sadly the two eponymous individuals weren’t present as were running Network Rail. Oh and you get afternoon tea as well. See, it's a romantic spot.
Stalybridge Station, Rassbottom Street, SK15 1 RF
7. Swan With Two Necks - Stockport
An absolute town centre charmer, and for those who haven’t been an enchantment that is easily missed. This is because the Swan has a shallow façade hiding a long, narrow set of rooms. A real bonus is the use of wall panelling which adds warmth and character. The entrance lobby is tiled, the vault is intimate, but it is the smoking room which really comes up trumps with its faux-Tudor fireplace. The pub is a Robinsons’ house and reveals a truth about many of these Greater Manchester survivals, namely that the local brewers have often been the ones to ensure their survival – although they are not blameless either.
36 Princes Street, Stockport, SK1 1RY
8. The Grapes - Eccles
The third of the Holt’s triumvirate of pubs, again by Hartley, Hacking & Co, for Joseph Holt pubs in Eccles from the same date as the Lamb. This one is more spacious than the latter with forests of mahogany details, broad terrazzo flooring and a splendid array of decorative glass. The multi-room character of the pub exudes intimacy where needed and grandeur elsewhere. As one of the reference books describes ‘ the drinking passage is as impressive as any in the country’. A drinking passage is the hall-space that sinuously links all the rooms. There’s a billiard room here with many of the same features as the Lamb, except instead of snooker there is pool.
439 Liverpool Road, Peel Green, Eccles, M30 7HD
The 8 Best Heritage Pubs Outside Manchester: Part Two... coming soon
(Image credits: The Grapes, Barrie Price; Royal Oak, Nick Harrison; The Cemetary, David Ingham; Swan With Two Necks, Robinsons Brewery; the rest, Jonathan Schofield)