What became of the eleven pubs that Dave Hale visited on a Dukinfield pub crawl in 1982?

In 1982, the Campaign for Real Ale in Greater Manchester printed a monthly magazine called What’s Doing It started out as a typewritten newsletter in 1975 with five A5 pages. It was published till 2006 by Neil Richardson, who was known for his local history books. Though Manchester and Salford focused, it gave some coverage to the Rochdale Oldham and Bury, and High Peak and North East Cheshire CAMRA branches.

Occasionally, What’s Doing published details of pub crawls, many of which in Greater Manchester of course. In the magazine’s 80th edition (June 1982), there was one for a Dukinfield pub crawl. Back then, the town had lost some pubs due to new housing development, as the town nudged eastward towards Hough Hill and Stalybridge.

Back in 1982, there was a choice of sixteen brews from nine breweries in eighteen pubs that sold cask conditioned ales. The Commercial did Tetley and Ind Coope ales; the Top Astley (The Astley Arms next to Old Chapel) served Robinson’s Best Bitter and Mild. The Black Knight was popular as ever with its Bass beers, as was The Friendship – both bringing extra custom to George’s Chippy after last orders.

Dukinfield public houses, 1982:

  1. The Globe Inn, Globe Square (free house, serving Tetley Mild and Bitter);
  2. The Astley Arms, Astley Street (‘Bottom Astley’, Wilsons);
  3. The Chapel House, Astley Street (Greenall Whitley);
  4. The Gardeners’ Arms, Astley Street (Robinson’s Brewery);
  5. The Commercial, King Street/Astley Street (Tetley/Ind Coope);
  6. The Newborough, Astley Street (Hydes Anvil);
  7. The North Star, Queen Street (Bass);
  8. Old General, Crescent Road/Astley Street (Whitbread);
  9. The Lamb Hotel, Crescent Road (Boddingtons);
  10. The Park, Crescent Road (Bass);
  11. The Brunswick, Park Road (Wilsons);
  12. The Tame Valley Hotel, Park Road (Wilsons);
  13. The Albion Hotel, Birch Lane (Robinson’s Brewery);
  14. The Black Knight, Concord Way (Bass);
  15. The Friendship, Concord Way (Greenall Whitley);
  16. The Astley Arms, Old Road (‘Top Astley’, Robinson’s Brewery);
  17. The Wheatsheaf, Birch Lane (Marston’s);
  18. The Angel, King Street (Courage/John Smiths);
  19. The Mason’s Arms, Oxford Street (Courage/John Smiths);
  20. The Norman, Oxford Street (Wilsons);
  21. The New Inn, Birch Lane (Robinson’s Brewery);
  22. The Dukinfield Arms, Cheetham Hill Road/Birch Lane (Whitbread-Chesters);
  23. The Victoria, Victoria Road (Robinson’s Brewery);
  24. The Listons, Cheetham Hill Road (Greenall Whitley);
  25. The Lodge Hotel, Cheetham Hill Road/Lodge Lane (Boddingtons);
  26. The Snipe, Birch Lane (Wilsons);
  27. The Forester, Fir Tree Lane (Wilsons).

Back in 1982, there was quite a lot of choice. Fast-forwarding our way to 2021, here’s how the picture looks today.

Dukinfield public houses, 2021:

  1. The Astley Arms, Astley Street (‘Bottom Astley’);
  2. The Chapel House, Astley Street;
  3. The Commercial, King Street/Astley Street;
  4. The Tame Valley Hotel, Park Road;
  5. The Albion Hotel, Birch Lane (Robinson’s Brewery);
  6. The Astley Arms, Old Road (‘Top Astley’, Robinson’s Brewery);
  7. The Wheatsheaf, Birch Lane;
  8. The Angel, King Street;
  9. The Mason’s Arms, Oxford Street;
  10. The Victoria, Victoria Road (Robinson’s Brewery);
  11. The Lodge Hotel, Cheetham Hill Road/Lodge Lane (Boddingtons);
  12. The Forester, Fir Tree Lane.

In the last 39 years, the number of pubs has fallen by 55.6%. Most of them were closed in the last fifteen years. Of the eleven pubs that Mr Hale popped into on his crawl, only three survive as public houses. The Snipe is the only one of that eleven to be demolished, whereas seven see post-pub use as houses, off-licences and nurseries.

In the last five years, some of Dukinfield’s twelve pubs have had uncertain futures. The Victoria came close to serving its last pints in 2020, as had The Chapel House. On the other hand, The Top Astley, The Forester and The Wheatsheaf have benefited from refurbishment work. The Top Astley and The Forester saw extensive investment in the kitchen department, but the pandemic couldn’t have come at a worst time for the two pubs.

Another marked difference in Hale’s 1982 crawl could be seen in his opening sentence: “Collect the 220 or 221 bus from Manchester City Centre and disembark at Globe Square (just over the canal bridge).”

This option is no longer available. Since April 2015, the 220 lost its evening journeys from Dukinfield to Manchester. In 2014, Dukinfield lost its off-peak daytime link with Manchester City Centre when the 217 reverted to being a Manchester – Ashton bus via Clayton and Droylsden. The 218, its sister route was discontinued. Today’s 220 route only has five journeys a week in one direction, from Manchester to Stalybridge – as a positioning journey for a peak-hour 219 bus.

If you were to take Hale’s crawl on public transport today (from Manchester as described in What’s Doing issue 80), you are better off catching a 201 to Denton [Crown Point] before changing for a 335 or 345 to Globe Square.

Hale’s XI

The first pub on his crawl was The Globe Inn. At the time, it sold Tetley’s Mild and Tetley’s Bitter on cask hand pump. It was previously a John Smiths tied house. Today, it is now a café known as The Globe Café. Instead of real ales, it is noted for breakfasts.

Skipping The Bottom Astley, his next pub was the Chapel House. Back then, it was a two-roomed Greenall Whitley pub selling Greenall Whitley’s Mild and Bitter on electric pumps. 40 years ago, it was listed in CAMRA’s 1982 edition of The Good Beer Guide. Despite the odd close shave with closure and depubification, it remains open today. This time as a free house selling Joseph Holt’s ales and lagers.

The Gardeners pub adjacent didn’t fair as well as the Chapel House. It closed in 2008, shortly after Robinson’s Brewery changed the pub’s lettering to its then-new standard style. Back in ’82, it served Robbies’ Best Bitter and Mild on electric pumps. Unlike “a lot of Robinsized pubs” in his words, recent renovation work was “tastefully done”. It is now a private house.

Taking a slight detour from Astley Street, Hale called in to The Newmarket. Purpose-built by the Openshaw Brewery Company, it transferred to Bass’ hands via Sheffield’s Hope and Anchor Breweries. Openshaw Brewery Company was acquired by the Sheffield brewery in 1957, which later became part of United Breweries and Bass Charrington. At the time, it sold hand-drawn Toby Light and – according to his observations – escaped the worst excesses of Bass Breweries’ refurbishment schemes.

By the noughties, that wasn’t enough to ensure the pub’s survival. It was converted into flats though, mercifully, the stone Openshaw Brewery Company lettering is intact. Back to Astley Street, he continued his crawl to The Newborough, skipping the joys of The Commercial Hotel. Back then, he praised John Lomas’ cellarship due to its “excellent pint of Hydes Mild and Bitter”. Also of note was its “unusual layout”, quoted in its entry in the 1983 Good Beer Guide. Today, part of the pub with its distinctive layout is a takeaway with the bulk of it being a convenience store.

Further down Cressie Brow, he reached The Lamb. Quoted as “another excellent locals’ pub”, it served Boddies Mild and Bitter and electric pumps. The pub had two rooms on the ground floor: a taproom and a lounge, and a function room on the first floor. The quality of its Boddingtons beers was a decisive factor at the time. Sadly, four years after Boddingtons left the Strangeways Brewery, The Lamb followed suit, becoming a nursery.

The Park was noted in slightly perfunctory tones with no reference to the pub itself. Only the fact it sold Toby Light on hand pump, which would have gone down a storm after a shift at Dixons. After a brief stint as a Jennings Free Trade house, it became The River Bank and closed in 2015. After his ‘move along, there’s nothing to see’ stance, he suggested calling in the Tame Valley Hotel, one of two pubs on Park Road at the time.

Whereas the previous two on his route have succumbed to depubification, the Tame Valley Hotel is a thriving pub. It is known for proper English food and cask conditioned ales – especially its Sunday dinners and pensioners’ specials. During the first lockdown, it built on its recent reputation for fine food at honest prices by offering a delivery service. Today, it is still popular with Sunday dinner orders being booked up two days before the Sabbath day. From our experience, the portions are generous, the food is great, and the price is a lot cheaper than you might expect.

In 1982, the Tame Valley Hotel sold Wilsons Bitter on electric pumps. Today, there are two cask conditioned ales on at a time with regular guests. The next pub he visited on Park Road, The Brunswick, also sold Wilsons. This time on hand pump, and in later years it sold Banks’ Brewery ales. In April 2012, it closed for good and became flats.

His last two pubs were a fair yomp away, stating that “the energetic may wish to continue the crawl by finishing off with some Marstons and even more Wilsons.” Less energetic drinkers could have continued to the next pub in a taxi. Or take the 351 to The Park Hotel and a 346 up to The Albion Hotel.

Via Sandy Lane or Pantomime Steps, The Wheatsheaf is ten minutes walk away according to Hale’s account. According to Google Maps, it takes twelve strenuous minutes, so his ten minutes might have been via Pantomime Steps instead of Sandy Lane. Back in 1982, The Wheatsheaf was a preserve of the “dedicated drinker” with its Marstons Mild and Bitter on electric pumps.

In the last four decades, The Wheatsheaf has continued to hold its own in the Dukinfield pub scene. By 1991, its lounge doubled in size with a single storey extension. Under Stuart and Angela Whittaker in the late-noughties and 2010s, it became the place to go to for live music. With present licensee Claire, the pub has been attractively refurbished inside and outside. There is an emphasis on live entertainment, some televised sports events, and three cask conditioned ales. Since the first lockdown, the beer garden has also been upgraded.

The final pub on his crawl was The Snipe on Birch Lane. In 1982, the “modern(ish) Wilsons pub” sold mild and bitter on electric pumps. Overlooked by Hale was the fact it was the second incarnation of The Snipe. An earlier one was on the corner of Boyd’s Walk and Birch Lane, which is now the site of the Ainley Wood housing development. The second version opened in 1960, originally with an off-sales hatch on the northerly side of the pub.

Like its predecessor, demolition was the ultimate fate of its successor. After a brief period of selling cask ales by Copper Dragon and Sunday dinners, The Snipe lost ground. It could be argued that the straw which broke the camel’s back was a previous landlord’s purchase of an AVRO Vulcan which stood in the pub’s beer garden. Within a year, he tried to sell it – after he found it was in such bad condition.

On the other hand, the size of The Snipe’s beer garden was rich pickings for profiteering PubCos that saw greater potential in property than pints. After standing empty and a few ‘temporary closures’, The Snipe was eventually demolished with the Birch View housing development in its place.

Where next?

From his walk, Dave Hale had plenty of pubs to choose from besides his eleven with 27 in all. If you counted St. Marks’ Club, Dukinfield Central (Lime Street) WMC, the bars of Dukinfield and Stalybridge Cricket Clubs, the Liberal Club on King Street, and the Conservative Club on Jeffreys Drive, more than enough licensed premises for a good night out.

Today’s wannabe Dukinfield pub crawlers do not have the same choice Dave had in 1982. Trying to get from The Bottom Astley to The Forester now requires three buses, on a route that would have only needed an hourly 221 and (if you couldn’t walk up Gorse Hall Road) a 339. There is no 351 to whisk you from The Tame Valley to Ashton or Stalybridge either.

Today’s crawl, using 2021 bus routes could be as follows:

  • 216, 217, 219, 230, 231, or tram from Manchester City Centre to Ashton-under-Lyne followed by a 345 to Astley Street for the Bottom Astley (The Astley Arms), then a walk towards Chapel House;
  • From there, the next pub could be The Commercial, which has benefited from a recent internal and external refurbishment.
  • As the Newmarket has long closed, the next pub could be The Angel. In recent times, it has reinvented itself as Dukinfield’s top real ale pub.
  • From there, we could choose to walk to The Victoria for a pint of Robinson’s Unicorn and walk towards Dewsnap Lane via Wood Street and the railway bridge for Little Gem’s 335 to The Top Astley stop (and call in The Astley Arms for more Robbies ales).
  • Walking downhill past Morrisons on Foundry Street, The Albion Hotel is in full view – for Robbies’ Unicorn on hand pump.
  • Only a short walk away is The Wheatsheaf, well worth calling in for a choice of three cask conditioned ales.
  • After calling in for one for The Wheatsheaf or The Albion Hotel, take a modest walk towards The Mason’s Arms. Then, via St. John’s Street, Westmorland Avenue, Cumberland Avenue and Lodge Lane, call in to The Lodge Hotel, which has raised its game in terms of real ale and food offerings.
  • A short, slightly hilly walk away on Fir Tree Lane (how we miss those 41s, 339s and 340s!) will take you up to The Forester. This pub has benefited from extensive investment in its kitchen. Unluckily for the landlord, the works were done by Mother’s Day 2020 – a day before the first lockdown meant the closure of our public houses.

After equalling Dave Hale’s 11 pubs – albeit in different parts of Dukinfield these day, getting from The Forester to The Tame Valley Hotel is a mammoth undertaking by bus. Even in 1982 it was, with a need to change at Stalybridge for a 351, never mind 2021 where a taxi is a necessity.

Nevertheless, a taxi fare between the points should be less than a tenner (or a fiver if you’re lucky). Anyone interested in Dukinfield’s pubs cannot afford to miss The Tame Valley Hotel based on what we said about it earlier.

Oh, and how does one get back to Manchester? The only way is on foot along Park Road to Crescent Road for our 346 to Ashton-under-Lyne. Then a choice of the 216, 217, 219, 230, 231, or tram into Manchester City Centre. Yes, that 351 route is sorely missed too, as well as The Lamb.

S.V., 03 August 2021.

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