Withington - 8:00pm start

Friday 22nd June 2018

The area now called Withington was described as 'waste' in the Doomsday Book. This does not mean it was barren land, just that no lord of the manor was making money out of it so it was 'worthless'. A 'withy' is an old term for a willow branch and 'ton' meant a farm or homestead. An establishment fitting this "house in the willow woodland" description was first recorded in around 1186. Nothing much changed, with the population being only 743 as late as 1801. The 19th century, however, saw Withington transformed into a genteel suburb whose population had rocketed to 30,000 plus by 1901. It was 1904 before Withington was finally subsumed into the city of Manchester.

Our perambulation tonight Manchester Photo Archive - Orion, Withington CAMRA Image - Orion, Withington starts at 8:00pm on Burton Road just up from the centre of Withington at the ever reliable Orion. On December 18th 1867, John Hamnet Norbury, a stonemason and builder, bought the plot on which the Orion stands for an apportioned chief rent of £16/18/6d and built two houses on it, one of which became a public house called the Orion with John Norbury the first landlord and licensee. On 22nd June 1875, John Norbury sold the plot with the two houses to Broadbents the brewers (exactly 143 years to the day before our visit!) Who knows whose hands it passed through until, as the picture left shows, the Orion was owned by Threlfall's. So when was it acquired by Holt's, the current owners? This is a good example of that oft-mentioned, street-corner boozer, where its clientele sup the one real ale on offer and demand no more frills than good beer and good company. Contrast this with the ever-fickle customers in some of the café bars mentioned previously where it is hip one day and closed and boarded the next.

Travelling around the corner on to Wilmslow Road, the main street through the centre of Withington, we come to the Albert. We will be popping in to establish whether any real ale is on offer here; sadly it was the only "proper" pub on this stagger not selling any cask ale the last time we investigated - shame.

We also need to confirm Manchester Photo Archive - Victoria Inn, Withington CAMRA Image - Victoria Inn, Withington that the Ram, further along Wilmslow Road, is still without real ale before arriving at the Victoria, our 8:30pm meeting point. Externally there is little difference between the 1959 view left and the current view right; it is probably only the attire of the people caught on the photos which gives the date away (and the lack of colour). Internally, however, the Victoria has changed over the last few years, from an identikit Hyde's pub serving only mild and bitter, into a multi-ale house. Apart from the three or four Hydes beers on offer (depends on whether you count Beer Studio as a Hydes beer), there can be three guest beers on the bar. But good pubs are not just about a plethora of ales, but about what else is on offer. The Victoria comes up trumps on this measure as well, with some event happening on almost every evening, so what will we find tonight, a quiz, karaoke, a live band/artist?
Who knows? Come along and find out.

We now have two more premises to check out for real ale. Firstly we have Fuel Bar a few doors along at 448 Wilmslow Road. Backtracking slightly we will call into Solomon's at 445-447 Wilmslow Road, reviously known as Solomon Grundy, when it did serve real ale, until a refurbishment in 2012 swept it all away. Having been closed for a period of time, it reopened and the handpumps were re-connected, but not for long. The latest news on the street is that there is no real ale available, but you never know . . .

As we travel south, to the junction of Wilmslow Road and Palatine Road, take a moment to gaze to your right. The imposing building on the corner of Wilmslow Road and Burton Road is the former White Lion — more on this later. Next door, the vacant lot was the site of the Scala Cinema, opened in 1912 and only the third cinema to open in Britain. Sadly cinema-going declined until in 2001 it closed, but it still qualified as the third-longest running cinema in Britain. Apparently the actor Robert Donat (who was born in Withington) used to frequently visit the Scala, I wonder if he watched himself there appearing in Goodbye Mr Chips or even The Inn of the Sixth Happiness? Finally in 2008 it was demolished and the site is currently under development (or at least it was in Google's Street view dated August 2017).

Continuing south Manchester Photo Archive - Turnpike, Withington Samuel Smith’s uses oak casks for all its naturally conditional ale. along Wilmslow Road, around the corner we find Samuel Smith's Turnpike. The outside visage masks the iconic 60s interior, with lots of light wood panelling on the walls. Once entered you understand why the Turnpike is on CAMRA's Inventory of Nationally Important Interiors. Not only is the decor stuck in the 60s but the prices are almost there, now around £2, then 2/- (to those who have forgotten pre-decimal pricing that is 2 shillings [10p!]), okay not quite the same price, but certainly not extortionate!

Dragging Manchester Photo Archive - Turnpike, Withington CAMRA Image - Turnpike, Withington ourselves away we have to travel several yards along Wilmslow Road to the white Red Lion - a pub with 'olde worlde charm' in buckets. Unfortunately, this also means loads of low beams and doors, so watch your heads. This is Withington's oldest building at over 200 years old and is deservedly Grade II listed. It was also the site of the Withington Court Leet until 1841 and also the focus of the Withington Rush Cart procession, both now long gone. Long has the Red Lion served beers from Marston's, these are now accompanied by beers from the extended Banks range supplied by Jennings, Marstons, Banks or Wychwood, so what will we find tonight?

In previous years we would have continued along Wilmslow Road to the junction with Ferndene Road where stood the Golden Lion. Alas the Golden Lion is now closed and was demolished in 2009 so the Red Lion forms the termination of the tonight's stagger. This confusion of coloured lions, White, Red and Golden, was often the source of muddle in days gone by. Unfortunately the colour of the pub didn't help — yes the White Lion was (partially) white but so was the Red Lion. The one which was red (brick) was the Golden Lion. So a bit like the English rugby and football teams, the once-proud Three Lions find themselves much reduced.

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Withington Stagger

Timing

Pub Name

Address

Bus and Metro

Notes

8:00pm start:

Orion
8 Burton Road
M20 3ED
Map
Burton Road
 

Then

Albert
454 Wilmslow Road
M20 3BG
Map
No real ale
Ram
393 Wilmslow Road
M20 4WA
Map
No real ale

8:30pm Mid point:

Victoria
438 Wilmslow Road
M20 3BW
Map
 

Then

Fuel Bar
448 Wilmslow Road
M20 3BW
Map
No real ale
Solomon's Café Bar
445-447 Wilmslow Road
M20 4AN
Map
No real ale
Turnpike
520-522 Wilmslow Road
M20 4BT
Map
West Didsbury
 

Finishing at:

Red Lion
532 Wilmslow Road
M20 4BT
Map
West Didsbury
 

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Updated 27th April 2018