Pubs in Openshaw

There were an amazing number of pubs in Openshaw. Looking at the pictures posted on the Openshaw Facebook page, it appears that there is a pub every fifty yards or so.

List of pubs in Openshaw

List of pubs on Ashton Old Rd



Thanks to Antony Broughton for the list.

The image here names 45, and that isn’t all of them, because there were two on  Cornwall St, where I lived, that are not listed. Those were the Napoleon and the Jenny Lind.

As an aside, I always thought that calling a pub after a major British enemy (Napoleon, not Jenny Lind) was odd, a bit like calling a pub the Hitler. But there you go.

There were also at least two Working Men’s Clubs, one on Cornwall St, one on Stanley St.

Two questions come to mind; why so  many, and how did they all make a living.

Most of them would have been built in the late 19th century, following closely the building of Openshaw and the influx of workers for the engineering factories. Factory hours were long, and there was no evening entertainment. Cinema didn’t get going until the 1920s, newspaper readership was low, and the growth of free lending libraries had only just started. Home was  not necessarily a comfortable environment, often poorly furnished and crowded. The pub offered some relief to the worker. But ale had to be paid for out of meagre wages, and feeding and clothing the kids must have suffered at times.

How the pubs made a living is difficult to compute. The ratio of men to pubs had to be low, judging from the number of houses and number of pubs. The customers would have been almost entirely men, women never visited pubs alone, and not often with their husbands. The pub was a serious drinking establishment, frequented by men, and unless the men spent a significant proportion of their wages on drink, it’s hard to see how the pubs could survive. It gets more difficult to understand the economics when we get to the 1940s and 50s, as there were many other things to do in the evening, and home was a much more welcoming environment. By then wages would have increased substantially and there was more discretionary spending money around, but there remained a lot of pubs in relation to the population, and I don’t recall any  pubs going out of business until Openshaw was pulled down and “improved”.

Halfway House

Halfway House

Most pubs were owned by breweries, and were tied houses, that is, they sold only the drinks made by the brewery owners. The landlord would have been a tenant, paying a rent, and keeping the profits from the sales. Keeping a single supply chain presumably meant that costs could be kept lower with profits shared between tenant and brewer, but even so, there were an extraordinary number of pubs.

Pubs were very different places in the 1950s. They were for drinking and sold alcohol or  minerals only, if you had asked for a coffee you would have got a very curious look. Food was restricted to packets of nuts and crisps (plain with a twist of salt), and it as rare to find one selling sandwiches or pies.  An occasional vendor might come round on Friday or Saturday selling packets of cockles or shrimps. They all had brown ceilings from years of heavy smoking. Most had darts boards, a few had shove ha’penny boards. Most pubs had two bars, the public for most of the drinkers, and the saloon for the more refined, or those looking for a quieter time. Drinks were a penny or two more expensive in the saloon. Children were not allowed, and when dad and mum were out together it was common to see kids sitting on the pub doorstep, kept quiet with a bottle of lemonade and a packet of crisps.

Opening hours were strictly controlled by law, and all pubs closed, theoretically, at 10.30 pm through the week and 10 pm on Sundays. Most localities had a few pubs that were flexible about closing, but a wary eye had to be kept open for patrolling policemen, and the noise had to be kept down. A landlord could lose his licence for persistent offending.

I have the impression that the difference in price between the off-licences and pubs then was not as high as it is now, with supermarkets using alcohol often as a loss leader. This kept the pubs busy, and a night’s drinking was not as heavy on the wallet as it is now. My first drinks would have been occasional pints of bitter in the mid-fifties at 1/6 a pint-that’s 7.5 pence in new money, which would be about £1.75 now. Which is about a half what you would pay in most pubs today, so the relative cost of drinks has increased dramatically. This helps, I suppose, to explain the large number of pubs, but still leaves the puzzle about how profitable they were.

Legh Arms One of the earliest pubs in Openshaw

Legh Arms
One of the earliest pubs in Openshaw

The working men’s clubs were very popular for several reasons, not the least being that they were cheaper than the pubs, by reason of not making profits. They were always busy and were more sociable, with many more women drinking there. They organised dances, social evenings, and outings to the panto, Belle Vue, maybe even the seaside. My parents used the Gorton & Openshaw Working Men’s club almost exclusively, because if its friendly atmosphere, and it was just a few yards across the street. The Locomotive pub was on the corner of our street, even nearer than the club, but I have no recollection of dad ever drinking there. If he did, it was a very rare occasion.

My own drinking history of Openshaw was very limited. I left Openshaw for good when I was 24, and most of my socialising in my early twenties was in central Manchester, a lot of it in jazz clubs, with workmates and ex-school mates who were spread around Manchester. I think I went into the Loco twice, and not much more into the club. Which is why this piece is mainly about pubs in general, and not Openshaw pubs in particular.

Pubs in the 21st century are very different places. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t sell food, coffee and wines, and many of them look more like restaurants than pubs. Many reasons why this is, a major one being the very strict enforcement of drink/drive regulations. Selling less alcohol means that revenue has to be made somewhere else, and factory supplied food has meant that it’s easier to provide a varied  menu at reasonable prices. A lot of this change is for the better, but along the way the pub has lost a lot of its character in trying to be something more than a drinking establishment.

Loco pub

Loco pub


Ogden Lane Pubs

A post by Herbert Morell on 1/1/2022 asked for the names of the pubs on Ogden Lane. Apart from the Lord Raglan and the Halfway House, which were on the corner of Ogden Lane and AOR, I had no idea, so I asked the question on the “Memories of Openshaw and Surrounding Areas” Facebook page, and got a very lively response.


Apart from the Raglan and Halfway, there were the Mechanics Arms, the Royal Oak, the Dog and Partridge, the Commercial, the High Bank and the Flower Pot. So in the space of  not much more than a quarter of a mile, six pubs, and that doesn’t include the Raglan and Halfway.  How did they all manage to survive? Very high density of housing admittedly, but people must have spent a higher proportion of their disposable income on alcohol. Even so, given that incomes were a lot less in those days, a lot of those pubs must have been scratching a living.

Images from Kevin Heydon

This map, from Malcolm Butcher, shows Ogedn Lane with the pubs marked.

From the left they are:

High Bank Inn, Flower Pot, Royal Oak, Mechanics Arms, Commercial Inn, amnd at the junction with AOR, Lord Raglan on the left and Halfway House on the right.



Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. Does anyone remember the Pop Inn, a no alcohol pub used by under 18/21s. Possibly on Ashton Old Road?

    • Pat,
      I posted your request on the Openshaw Facebook page and got a lot of responses, 38 at the last count.
      The Pop inn was originally the Openshaw pub and apparently became a place for youngsters, whether this was when it was still a pub, or afterwards, I’m not sure.
      It was down Ashton Old Road towards Beswick.
      It’s worth going to the Openshaw page of FB to read all the comments; if you’re not on FB, it’s very easy to join, and then search for “Openshaw”. You might then have to scroll down the posts until you get to the one I posted.
      I’ll email this post to you.

  2. Anyone remember the name of the Whitbread pub, on the road opposite Fergies office, on the bend on Edge lane, which led via the canal bridge to Copperas Lane/Buxton road? I recall it being Leigh Arms (or Legh Arms) but can’t reconcile that with there then being 2 Legh Arms, the other on Ashton Old Road near Whitworth baths.

  3. What about The White Horse on Wood Street just behind the Lord Wolseley, I used to go in when I was an apprentice at English Steel in the early 1970s. I think it was a Bass Charrington pub.

    • My mother and father had the White Horse. He was the licencee until 70/71. It was either Chesters or Threlfalls.

      • Hi Anne was you parents Stan and Edie Cookson? My Dad worked for your dad in the White Horse and also the pub in Gorton (cannot remember the name) My parents was Arthur and Lily Jones if you are who i think you are i was a bridesmaid at yours and Tonys wedding. My name was then Ann Jones now Ann Smith

      • Hi Ann was your parents Stan and Edie Cookson? If so my dad worked for them at the White Horse his name was Arthur Jones and my mam was Lily Jones, if you are who i think you are i was your bridesmaid when your parents had the The Nags Head. My name was Ann Jones now Ann Smith

  4. I waited on in the Albion pub in 1979. I was 17. Was that legal? The pub was roughly half way between St Clements rectory and the lights at the Halfway. John and Norma Sharrock ran the place then. The barmaid, Brenda seriously disliked me but eventually became a friend (of sorts). John and Norma moved to a pub in Droylsden. I t was on Market Street about 300 yards on the right. I can’t remember its name but it was fairly big. John kicked me out one night for sneaking in a bottle of pernod!

  5. My name is Paul, I lived in the General Birch from August 1966 until December 1968, at which point we moved to the Upton on Mornington street, Chorlton on medlock.
    We only stayed there for 5 months before moving to the Poplar on Gorton road opposite the Monastery, about 18 months later we moved to Crewe and the Prince of Wales, West street.
    Then in November 1973 we moved back to Manchester and the Half way House, Ashton old road.
    My Parents, the Landlord and Landlady were Eric and Joan Taylor, maybe somebody remembers them, I was 7yrs old when we moved into the General Birch and I have 2 older sisters Lynda and Christine.

    • Hi Paul,
      I too lived at the Half Way House, where my parents ran the pub from around 1962 to 1965.
      I was 10 years old. The top floor was scary as anything, I remember our alsatian would not go up the final flight of stairs. Extremely haunted lol. I went to St Clements c of e school before starting at Spurley Hey. 1965 we moved to Cheshire and a new pub not haunted!

    • Hi Paul. Funny enough, I was born and bred in Higher Openshaw. I was too young to drink in most of the pubs round there, but started when I was 15, in the Bluebell (Hydes Anvil) , the Pack Horse, the Wrexham, and Half Way. I can’t recall going in any below Packhorse bridge except a few times in the Legh arms when I was in the tech college, and the 7 Stars, and the Openshaw Arms a few times. At least I think that is all, but missed my chance and regret it now!. And now, I live in Crewe (Leighton actually) and supped in the Monkey (Wolverton Arms) in the late 90’s. It is now the only pub left on West st, all the others demolished and the Brunel made into flats. I also went to secondary school with a lad who lived in the General Birch too in the late 60’s until I don’t know when, David Mather. Small world isn’t it?

  6. Hi
    My parents owned the off licence just by the lights on Ashton Old Rd, and further along the tailors shop – Wilkinsons. At that time there was a decorating shop on the corner. Next to the tailors was a bakery. – A little later than most of the entries on here – probably late 60’s – early 70’s.
    Anybody remember?

  7. my great uncle was the landlord of the Vulcan, the Monkey, in the 50’s. his name was George Murray. i have very little information about him. i believe he had a son and daughter but i only went to the the pub once as a very young boy. does anyone know of him and his family?

    • I don’t know your great uncle and his family, but I recently found out my great great grandfather was the landlord of the Vulcan for a few years in the 1860’s!

  8. Hi, I was born 1969 in the commercial on Ogden lane. My parents, Alan and Audrey used to run it until the early 1970’s. When it was knocked down they moved to Stanley Street across from the working men’s could and still live their to this day. My dad still drinks in the oddies each day, every day. Old habits are hard to kick lol

  9. I think my uncle Derek held the record for being banned from the most pubs in Openshaw! A feat he was strangely proud of.

  10. Hi did anybody go to ST Barnabas primary school? In the 60s it was situated at the bottom of south street, my teacher was Mr Wade his nick name was pop Wade totally loved that school many happy days there.

    • I went to that school also Mr Wade was my teacher. He was a good teacher i left the school after Mr Wade killed his wife. Maybe late 70:s for me. Gave the headteacher Mr Boycott hard time!!

      • oh my god believe pop wade did that totally shocked!! i remember mr boycott he was an odd ball, Mr Chad was the headmaster when i attended Barneys …. Best school ever even some of the dinner ladies was amazing!

  11. The list was compiled by myself. My original list clearly said Pubs on Ashton Old Road. Someone has used my list and renamed it, wrongly, Pubs in Openshaw

  12. I lived in Louisa street went. To Whelar street. School until 1949 then went on to Ardwick central

  13. l remember the midland pub on gorton road we lived at 24 gorton rd about six doors down from pub.
    We left the area in 1961.

  14. Does anyone remember George’s chippy on south street? It was over the road from jacks spares ( motor cycle repair garage )

    • I do, was my job to run there every Friday night to get the Tea. 3 Cod, 3 Chips, and peas, for four of us. They didn’t call them mushy peas in those days, they were just peas.

  15. Hi Kevin, yes it was a service line for the English steel, I just loved living around there as a kid

  16. I remember going to the Napoleon on Cornwall street in openshaw on Friday nights, where they had fantastic acts with the likes of wee willie Harris, jess Conrad, Heinz, screaming lord sutch ect, sometimes these all appeared together on the same nights.
    Many good nights, & happy memories we had there.

    • This will have been when my mother had the pub in the 80s different acts each night she always said it was lovely pub.

  17. I lived in openshaw in 1960s the pub in question was defiantly the white horse my dad was a barman there for many years in the 60s the landlord at the time was Stan Cookson and the landlady was called Edie, I to remember the little railway that ran up and down wood street

  18. I lived in openshaw church field st I remember the tran that used to go in front off the pub

  19. I used to be friends with the White Horse Landlords son he was called Lance Lucas.

    • Hi Steve– so you’re still around then, lol! Are you still on the bt email address? I wondered when a name I recognised would show up on here. Reading the posts gives the impression that most seem a bit older than us- still a good website, and a sign that we ourselves are knocking on a bit now, is the fact that we are looking at it too.

      Seasons Greetings mate, ‘tek it easy’!

      • Good God, Hello Dave.
        Sorry only end up here by accident looking up old memories, have lived in London for 30 years, hence the nickname steve the manc. How the devil are you and how’s that truant playing twin brother of yours Nigel?

  20. The original list of Pubs was compiled by myself and posted as Pubs on Ashton Old Road, not as Pubs in Openshaw. Peter Brown, your friend is correct the Pub on Wood street was called the White Horse.

  21. Hi
    Not sure if you can help, a friend of mine used to work at the English steel and can remember a pub on Wood Street which was directly behind the Lord Wolesly and he thinks it may have been called the White Horse or White House. I grew up in Openshaw from 1965 ish but can’t recall the pub so would like to know if you could throw some light on the subject.


    • It was the White Horse. I was mates with the Landlords son his name was Lance Lucas (the son not the dad) I lived and was born in Bartlett Street (not the street, a house, No 16) .

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