I was asked to write this piece for Manchester Beer Week and figured whereas most of the focus will generally and inevitably be towards the city centre of Manchester, there is a whole metropolitan county
erroneously formed in 1974 to focus on and whereas I’ve visited some great pubs in Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and the cities of Manchester and Salford my drinking life began and very much remains in the borough of Wigan.
So as the evil claws of Wigan council look to stick their crest on every street sign and strip away any semblance of history and independent identity from those towns unfortunate enough to fall into their dark embrace I’d first like to make some honourable mentions:
The White Lion in Leigh and the Jolly Nailor in Atherton are excellent pubs. Also of note is now the sadly lost Dog and Partridge in Bolton. All have/had a fine range of beers and a warm welcome.
There are many others too but this is written as a piece of history; an ode to the first pubs I drank in and more importantly, still do to this day.
Union Arms, Tyldesley
I find this pub to be quite an unorthodox shape. It is a largish pub, though deceptively so as a central bar (with 2 main bars and a smaller one) services 5 distinct rooms but all are open plan so as not to be cut-off from each other.
Entrance through the main door generally takes me through to the right-hand side of the pub, up a couple of stairs to one of the main bars and a large room with an additional raised seated section, where bands sometimes play. It used to house the pool table (now strangely absent) and a jukebox. When I first started going in the main barmaid (who curiously still does some shifts there) used to whack on 20 free credits, select 3 songs and then leave the rest for myself and my comrades.
From this side of the pub you could then go up another small step to another area of about 4 tables where the toilets are located along with the smallest bar and the staircase up to the landlords accommodation.
Down a couple of stairs and you would be greeted by a small room that kept the table football and lots of football (mainly Manchester United) memorabilia.
This opens up into the other main bar which had a lot more tables and a dart board. Some gamblers and quiz machines were dotted around the pub.
As you can see, bench seating is prevalent in this pub.
The pub served (and still serves) a range of keg Thwaites products and Warsteiner can be counted amongst its lager offerings. After a change of ownership there are now 6 cask lines available, along with the “usual” international suspects.
The Pendle Witch, Atherton
Tucked down an alley from the main town centre, the Pendle is a rather small pub, though a few large alterations opened the pub out while also brightening it up and, along with the ban of 2006, made it less smoky (oddly something I seldom noticed in the Union).
There is a beer garden to the back while the pub consists of one large room, a conservatory and a slightly smaller room where you’ll find a pool table.
There is a jukebox, which due to the nature of most of the regulars will play heavy metal on very heavy rotation. It is a Moorhouse’s brewery pub and their beers make up 5 of the 10 casks on offer.
There is a wide, wide selection of international bottled beers at stupidly cheap prices and these go hand-in-hand with the regularly held bottle tasting events.
The pubs mentioned here are all great example of a public house with a good beer selection, cheap prices, welcoming atmosphere and a wide mix of drinkers; young, old, regular and passing trade but above all they are actually proper pubs.
What does that mean?
For me it is just a place I’d feel as comfortably in as I would my own home. A place for both solitude and friendship and above all, a decent drink. In writing about these pubs I could never possibly sum up just how important they are to me because pubs are more than just a place to that serves beer; they are part of the fabric of my life, integral to communities and they are worth fighting to keep because they are always more than just bricks and mortar.
Thanks for reading.