April's Pub of the Month
The Blue Bell - Levenshulme, Manchester

Thursday 27th April 2017

Barlow Road, Levenshulme , Manchester, M99 9XX Map


The Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA Pub of the Month for April is the Blue Bell on Barlow Road in Levenshulme. Margaret O'Brien has been along.

The Blue Bell is an imposing pub tucked away a short walk from the A6, in Levenshulme. While Levenshulme is slowly recovering from its "real ale desert" role, the Blue Bell has been a cask ale outlet for some years now with well-kept Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter on handpump.

The pub is managed by Mark and Mary Dunn, who has worked for the Samuel Smiths for well over 20 years now. Not all Sam Smith's pubs sell cask beer and that was the case with the Blue Bell until Mark pushed the company to install cask beer seven years ago.

The pub itself is very smart, having undergone one of Sam Smiths classy refurbishments a few years back. On the right is a spacious vault and to the left three additional rooms - a large lounge with parquet wraps itself around the bar counter and off this is a smaller carpeted lounge and also a small snug.

It's really at the heart of the community with a variety of groups using the pub. Events are held to raise funds for community projects to improve local sites and walkways, there are other regular events, a quiz night, a knitting club and trips out. There's always a warm welcome from Mark, Mary and their staff.

This well deserved award will be presented on the night of Thursday 27 April. We hope to see a good crowd along to celebrate the success of a pub in an area where so many others have failed. It's easy to get to on the 192 - just walk down Cromwell Grove to its junction with Barlow Road and the pub is there on your right.


The Pub of the Month award is sponsored by Stephensons, a local family firm that has been supplying the local pub and catering trade for over 140 years. Check out their web site by clicking on their logo.

Northenden Walkabout

Friday 23rd June 2017

This month's walkabout sounds a little like a small child playing with their train set, namely too, too, too, tooooo! And why do I describe it this way? It is a meander of two traditional pubs, two modern bars, two without cask ale, two closed and [sorry to spoil the thread] one licenced restaurant actually selling real ale!

Tonight's meander Northenden is around what is an ancient settlement which has now been subsumed into the bounds of Manchester. The City Council used the Local Government Act 1929 to extend its boundaries to encompass Northenden in 1931. This was as part of their plan to build the garden city of Wythenshaw(!) to house people from the inner city inter war slum clearances.

There are two theories of where the name Northenden comes from. A settlement called Norwordine was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086; its name deriving from Anglo-Saxon Norþ-worþign or "north enclosure". Another theory is that the name means "northern dale or valley", presumably because it was near the River Mersey. This begs the question whether there was a corresponding Southenden somewhere in the Style Ringway area - any suggestions. At times Northenden has be referred to as Northen causing difficulty in tracing its history.

We start our meander this evening at Modern photo of Farmers Arms Old photo of Farmers Arms 26 Longley Road, where we will find the Farmers Arms. A longstanding hostelry where the front three low-ceilinged rooms still have the feel of a traditional pub, while towards the rear a large room is mainly for dining which is popular with families. Being owned by John Barras, it offers beers from national suppliers. Cask ale sales have gone up and down, being dropped altogether in 2015, but re-instated in 2016 and currently supplied by Marston's.

It is but a short walk Photo of Lounge About back towards Palatine Road and our 8:30pm meeting place. At 424 Palatine Road we find Lounge About, a bar of two halves, well two shops really. The left-hand half is set out with tables for drinking or dining, whilst through the wall to the right the ambiance changes markedly. Three huge tables, constructed from wooden sleepers, with accompanying benches create a more rustic feel. Decor is very much cafe-like with lots of mono photos and some individual paintings. Meanwhile at the rear is a beautiful little, secluded beer garden where, if the weather permits, get away from the bustle of Palatine Road. Whoever tends this garden does so with great care as it's a real picture. There is a constantly changing supply of real ale thus keeping the range an ongoing surprise to customers.

We now start a long trek Photo of Bar Bibo north along Palatine Road where we will encounter a variety of bars. First up, at 387 Palatine Road, we will be pressing our noses against the windows of Bar Bibo. Having been converted from shop premises, it was opened around 2005 and is decorated in a modern spartan style. Unfortunately it is a keg-only bar having never been known to have served real ale over its twelve year life.

Continuing north, our next encounter is with Photo of Escape 2 Escape 2 located at 377 Palatine Road. Opened around 2005 it was, like Bar Bibo, converted from former shop premises. Having been re-named from Escape after its 2013 refurbishment it is again devoid of real ale. Oh dear! Onwards we go.

A little to the north we find Photo of Vikz Bar & Restaurant Vikz Bar & Restaurant at 351-359 Palatine Road. It was converted from shop premises in 2004, opening as Rafters Bar before changing name to Palatine Bar & Restaurant. From opening it was keg-only, that was until they joined the LWC Cask Club around Christmas 2012, so it now has two changing cask beers. As the name implies, there is an adjoining eatery which is in fact an Indian restaurant. At last somewhere that you are able to have a pint of cask beer together with a curry. Well done, why can't more places take up this idea, or at least offer real ale in a bottle as an alternative to keg offerings.

Continuing travelling north we reach Grapes Lounge Bar Photo of Grapes Lounge Bar located at 297 Palatine Road, approximatly where the gent with parcel is in the 1971 picture at the top left of this page. Opened in 2015 as the Grape Escape Lounge Bar having been converted from a former Chinese take-away. Two or three cask ales are on offer in the long, mood-lit bar area, complemented by an outside drinking area on the street frontage. Will the weather be clement enough to allow alfresco drinking this evening?

Our next task will be to look through the windows of 273 Palatine Road, which, when open, was Bonito's (with former names being Bar Mono and Mill). Listed as closed, possibly awaiting conversion to residential use, we will be verifying its current status.

We round the corner Mill Lane in 1971 - Tatton Arms at far end Tatton Arms today onto Mill Lane. Why Mill Lane when Northenden escaped industrialisation, the nearest it came to having factories was a cottage industry in flax spinning. Back in the 14th century, however, a weir was created on the Mersey and a mill (demolished in the 1960s) set up to grind corn. A ferry boat for crossing the River Mersey was also instigated giving rise to the Boathouse pub. The mill originally belonged to the Tatton family of Wythenshawe Hall, hence the pubs name being changed to Tatton Arms.

There is some confusion over the status of the establishment as CAMRA's WhatPub website shows the Tatton Arms as open whereas a recent Manchester Evening News article has it closed and due to be converted into flats! The application would see the historic Tatton Arms building retained and converted into nine apartments, with 14 family homes built within the grounds. The word on the street is, it's already knocked down! Answers will be gained tonight.

Moving around the The Crown, or Corner Pin in 1959 The Crown today corner and up the rise we progress towards the Crown Inn located at 19 Ford Lane. This is probably the oldest (and smallest) pub in Northenden and is/was often called the Corner Pin. A former Boddingtons house, now owned by Punch Taverns, that had not sold any cask ale for some years. That is until 2016 when an entrepreneurial couple took on the lease. Back came cask ale, and the place was given a smart and very thorough make-over. Two small yet traditionally decorated rooms flank the central bar and a small outside drinking area beyond this completes the accommodation. Unless the weather is very summery I doubt we will be sampling the delights of the latter tonight.

As this is the final point so we can River Mersey, the southern end of the ford was approximatly where the railings are here on Ford Lane. 1957 linger as long as we like and perhaps contemplate the name of the road outside, Ford Lane. Northenden was on a major (and very old) "Salt Road" from Cheshire towards Manchester and thence into the West Riding of Yorkshire. Unfortunately there was no bridge over the Mersey between Sale and Stockport, until Bonnie Prince Charlie's army built a temporary bridge over the Mersey in 1745 (approximatly where Manchester Road now crosses into Didsbury). The ford at Northenden was unusual because its northern and southern ends were not opposite each other, so people using the ford had to wade about 500 feet along the riverbed. In 1901 pedestrians got a better deal when the Simon's Bridge was built at the northen end of the ford. Unfortunately users of the ford got a worse deal in the 1980s when the flood prevention work carried out all along the Mersey made the crossing a thing of the past.

 

Northenden

Timing

Pub Name

Address

Bus

Notes

7.30pm Start point:
Farmers Arms
26 Longley Lane,
M22 4JR
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
 
8.30pm Mid point:
Lounge About
424 Palatine Road,
M22 4JT
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
 
Followed by
Bar Bibo
387 Palatine Road,
M22 4FY
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
No Real Ale
Escape 2
377 Palatine Road,
M22 4FY
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
No Real Ale
Vikz Bar & Restaurant
351-359 Palatine Road,
M22 4FY
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
 
Grapes Lounge Bar
297 Palatine Road,
M22 4HH
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
 
Bonito's
273 Palatine Road,
M22 4ET
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
Closed
Tatton Arms
Boat Lane,
M22 4HR
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
Closed
Finishing at:
Crown Inn
19 Ford Lane,
M22 4WE
41, 43, 101, 104, 105, 178, 370
 

 

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Updated 7th April 2017