Harley Young chats with Ashley Morley, owner of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall
“In the 1800s, alcohol was very much known as the demonic drink,” said Ashley Morley, owner of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar. “It was causing money issues, fights, it was very cheap so everyone was drinking it.”
Ashley described how the temperance movement was “very much a methodist one” created in Preston by a man called Joseph Livesey.
We’re really proud to be keeping our heritage alive.
The Mr Fitzpatrick’s brand was born when the Fitzpatrick family, who moved over from Ireland with their own non-alcoholic cordial recipes, decided to set up their own business running a Temperance bar.
“It basically became the place for people to be able to go out and have a social scene that didn’t involve getting drunk. It really took off and, at the peak of the movement, they had 40 temperance bars in the North West alone,” explained Ashley.
“We’re the last place in Britain to still have a temperance bar. We’re really proud to be keeping our heritage alive.”
Ashley says that business is going well, with the obvious influx at certain times of year like October (Sober October) and January (Dry January) when people are looking to curb their alcohol consumption.
“There’s always times of year where people decide not to drink as much. We’ve noticed a really big influx of customers since COVID, actually. I think because people were drinking a lot at the beginning of the pandemic and then they realised they’d had enough of it,” said Ashley.
“After the second lockdown we noticed people looking for something different to enjoy that’s not just what they’ll find on their generic highstreet shelves. That was really good for us.”
The brand still uses original recipes from 1836 to create four of the traditional vintage tonics the brand is known for. Each is made with roots, herbs and spices. It’s believed that the ingredients used were chosen as they were beneficial to the body in some way or another.
“With our products, the belief back then, when the recipes were originally made, was that the ingredients had a lot of health benefits. For example, sarsaparilla was believed to be good for the blood, and our blood tonic is made with raspberries, nettles and roses being good for the immune system and digestive tract,” explained Ashley.
“Fast forward to today and people come in asking ‘What can I take for this? What can I take for that?’. We’ve also introduced a low and no added sugar range for people who can’t have or don’t want much sugar in their diet for whatever reason.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone can enjoy our products, including those who are coeliac, gluten-intolerant and vegan. It’s nice that everybody can be included in that.”
It’s not just the locals of Rawtenstall who are keeping this historic business alive, though. Due to its quirky nature and welcome atmosphere, Ashley has noticed customers coming from far and wide to visit her unique bar.
“We have a lot of people travelling to us, because of our history and because we’re offering something a bit different. We have a family who travelled three hours just to come see us because they’d visited years ago and loved the bar for what it is. Spending six hours in a car, just to come see us. How lovely.”
Since taking over the bar seven and a half years ago, Ashley has worked hard to continue the social element of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar, making it a place that anyone and everyone is welcome.
“When I took the bar over, I wanted to make it somewhere that all generations want to go,” said Ashley, who added “I used to visit the bar myself as a child, so I sat at home thinking ‘What can we do?’ and we ended up incorporating food and other things into our offering.”
Despite still being the only temperance bar in England, the brand isn’t showing any signs of slowing down and still has a loyal customer base.
“Now, we dispatch our cordials to six different countries, we serve hot and cold mocktails and we’ve even started making milkshakes with our cordials, too. It’s a nice option for younger kids, but we get a lot of adults ordering them as well.
“We have a real mix of people coming in, from toddlers to the older generation who enjoy the nostalgia from their childhood, like my grandma who’s in her 90s. We host baby showers, kids birthday parties, we have families coming in to celebrate milestone birthdays, and sober groups that meet up here. We cater for a lot of occasions and for all different ages.
“When I took over the bar seven and a half years ago, I remember a gentleman came in. He’d come to celebrate with a pint of our sarsaparilla drink as he’d given up drinking 50 years to the day. He’d visited our bar all that time ago and decided to give up drinking there and then, so that was a nice full-circle moment.”
For Ashley, and seemingly most people in Rawtenstall, the temperance bar was a fond piece of her childhood.
“I’ve always lived here. I remember going to the temperance bar when I was little. My dad actually worked on the production side, making and distributing the cordials, but the bar kind of fell along the wayside. We said ‘We can’t let that go.’ It’d be such a shame,” she said.
“So I decided to see if I could get it going, and I’m really blessed because the people in our town got behind me. They didn’t want to lose a piece of their childhood so they’d come in and talk about when they were younger and how they hadn’t been in for 60 years and so on. Even people my age would talk about how they’d come in with their grandad after football on a Saturday.”
Ashley had such great support from her community that, during the pandemic when the bar couldn’t operate as normal, she became a ‘pop man’ serving drinks from a hatch to provide some joy for the neighbourhood.
“The first weekend we did it we had a queue around the block. People reminisced on those good times they had at Mr Fitzpatrick’s and wanted to come show their support,” she smiled.
Ashley believes that Mr Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar is proof that not every social outing has to revolve around alcohol.
“Our bar is somewhere you can enjoy alcohol free drinks and not feel awkward. Maybe you’re not currently sober but you fancy trying it. Maybe you’re supporting a loved one who is. Or perhaps you just want to try something different like one of our traditional cordials.”
Despite temperance bars dwindling over the past two centuries, making plenty of room for drunken bar brawls and money mishaps thanks to the 'devils drink', Mr Fitzpatrick's is one Victorian venture that has stood the test of time.
Mr. Fitzpatrick's, 5 Bank Street, Rawtenstall, Rossendale BB4 6QS, UK
Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young
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