Skip to main content

Final Chapter for The Jolly Angler....

Lockdown has been bad for all of those of us that like to visit pubs. But spare a thought for the regulars of The Jolly Angler, a pub tucked away amongst the towering developments and industrial units behind Manchester's Piccadilly Station. When the pubs do finally get to open up again, the Jolly Angler will sadly not be amongst them, the pub having become yet another victim of the city's rapacious development. And so there goes another traditional pub and a part of the city's glorious pub history. Here are my thoughts, plus a few other bits and pieces....

I first visited the Jolly Angler when I lived in Manchester in the 1970's. A basic Hyde's tied house situated on a street-corner between Piccadilly Station and Great Ancoats Street, it had a real Irish atmosphere to it. Steered by a long-disappeared guide to all of the pubs in and around the city centre, we had stumbled upon it one evening, a group of long-haired students well away from the regular haunts around Oxford Road. The reaction from the red-faced guys stood around the bar to these unlikely visitors was one of curiosity rather than hostility, greetings in a Manc/Irish accent with nods and toothless smiles as we ordered our pints of bitter and slunk off to a corner in one of the two rooms of the tiny boozer. A burly guy came round with a football card. "Would you like a go, lads?" he asked, delivered more as an instruction so as to ensure that even though passing strangers in their local we would be unlikely to refuse to have a go. As the coins clattered into the glass, we were thanked most kindly, and with a wink, he said "the draw's on Saturday." And of course we didn't go back to see if any of us had won....

The pub's name popped up quite often for a while as new Good Beer Guides came out, but as new and trendy bars opened up in the Northern Quarter and other parts of the city, it became harder for a traditional boozer like the Jolly Angler, isolated from the main circuits, to make the final selection and it was left to its own devices. However, a couple of years ago, I had landed at Piccadilly Station one early summer's evening for a night in the city, and grabbing a swift half at the Piccadilly Tap, I suddenly thought of this back-street boozer I had visited all those years ago. Was it still there? A quick check on Google seemed to suggest it was. And as it was more-or-less on the way to the Travelodge in Ancoats, I decided to see if it was open and check it out after all these years. It was a warm day, and a pint would have been most welcome, but sadly, whilst I found it easily enough, looking very similar to how I remembered it and it was clearly still operating, it wasn't open. Never mind.

A few weeks later, it was the annual get together with a group of lads who I used to work with. We usually meet up in the city, and for some reason I am always - despite being the one who lives the most distance away from Manchester - the one designated to come up with the route. Having discovered Cask Ancoats not long before, I decided we should pay that wonderful bar a visit. As we sat in the sunshine beside the canal enjoying a pint and reminiscing, I thought of The Jolly Angler. Why not go next? Perks of the job. And that's what we did.

We entered, the small bar facing us, a bank of hand pumps with Hydes Original clips. The guy behind the bar greeted us cheerfully, and we ordered our pints. I looked around, the pub had been opened out since I'd last been in, so that rather than separate rooms there were separate areas to the left and right of the entrance. Photos of old City teams lined the walls. It was still reminiscent of the place I had visited many years ago. We always like to get a snap of us pulling a pint behind a bar somewhere whenever we meet up, and when we asked, the guy behind the bar kindly obliged, taking the picture below on my phone.

Bar takeover at The Jolly Angler

We finished our pints, bade farewell to our friendly host, and headed out into the still-warm sunshine, not realising it would be the last time I would visit. Indeed, a few months later, as I sat in another Hydes house in the city centre, the tiny Grey Horse on Portland Street, before going to see Fontaines DC at the Ritz, I even had the thought of a mini-Hydes crawl, taking in the Grey Horse, the Jolly Angler, and the Abel Heyward, the company's flagship venture in the Northern Quarter, and then blog about it, but it never came to pass. And so back to the Jolly Angler; it has been sold, to be swallowed up as part of the ongoing development of the city, an increasingly rare example of a true street-corner local in the city, an anachronism amidst the gleaming and shiny new edifices. Whilst I can't really claim any long-term affiliation to the place as I only ever went in a few times, this all-too familiar story strikes a chord for so many of us who appreciate and care about our pub heritage. A pub since 1854, and still a popular local and City home match watering hole as lockdown struck judging by the pub's lively Twitter feed. The landlord has been there 30-odd years, which is almost as long as it is since I paid my first visit. And sadly, another important part of the city's life lost to so-called progress.

The Grey Horse is, by the way, a pub I always enjoy visiting, good beer and another warm welcome in a pub that has the atmosphere of a local despite its central location. Hopefully Hydes will keep on supporting it....

The Grey Horse, Manchester

Incidentally, Hydes get a chapter in Roger Protz's latest book, The Family Brewers of Britain. The brewery used to be based in Moss Side in an old brewhouse, and I remember going there a couple of times to pick up polypins of beer when we were hosting student parties. They moved several years ago though into a site in Salford's Media City which apparently was a distribution depot for former Warrington brewers, Greenall Whitley. This modern brewery has enabled Hydes to keep up with new trends, and they are not afraid to introduce new beers, although they haven't as yet gone down the keg route, cask being very much their priority. Roger's book, which features another 30 or so current family-run breweries including such as Shepherd Neame, Hook Norton, and Batemans, is a delight as he takes us through the history and introduces us to characters in the development of this key part of our brewing history, describing how they have managed to survive and adapt over the years to a range of challenges. Beautifully illustrated and presented, it is a fascinating and entertaining read, and I thoroughly recommend you check it out.

Meanwhile, lockdown has enabled many of us to get on with those jobs around the house that never get done under normal circumstances. In and amongst these I have sorted out some of my books and in and amongst these I have discovered a few that I had forgotten/never knew I had. One is The Dictionary of Pub Names, which is literally what it says on the cover. Published in 2006, it lists over 5,000 pub names and variants, with a potted history of their origins, which of course reflects a lot of this country's history. The most popular name in the country is The Red Lion, but there are some unusual ones; Dog and Bacon, Petrol Station Pub, Pink Domino, and Bull and Spectacles caught my attention, but there are many more. One of those books that once you get started you just carry on wandering off through its pages! Another book I re-discovered was Licensed to Sell, by Geoff Brandwood, Andrew Davison, and Michael Slaughter. This was published by English Heritage, first in 2004, although this is the 2011 version, and tells of the history and heritage of the Public House. Another fascinating read if you can find a copy, with some brilliant photography.

I didn't though manage to find that old Manchester beer guide that had first directed me to The Jolly Angler all those years ago....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


  1. All three of these Hydes pubs are great in their own way. Grey Horse is a personal favorite. Had a great mild in there. My wife and I stayed seven nights at the Abel Heywood and just loved the staff there. Sad to see the JA go since it was truly pubby.

    1. I meant to say the Abel had enjoyed esteemed visitors ! The staff were lovely when I popped in there for a pint when I met you there. Very different to the other 2 !

  2. Lovely tribute, Chris. The Jolly Angler and Grey Horse are part of what makes Manchester what it is.

    And we shouldn't assume the charms of a Proper Pub are reserved for the old.

    Last time in the Horse with the Old Codgers we met a lovely young couple who were visiting from Merseyside, and in the Angler Florian the German (not that one) told me why he'd popped in here between planes rather than the Port St Beer House;

  3. I also have fond memories of the Jolly Angler Chris, and after reading your tribute, it looks like they were from around the same time. I was a student at Salford University from 1973-76 and followed this up with a one-year post-graduate course at Manchester Polytechnic.

    It was a friend who first introduced me to the Jolly, after he’d been made aware of the pub by a group of mutual acquaintances. We too were long-haired students, but the individual who first stumbled upon the pub was rather more conservative in appearance and ended up becoming a regular there.

    Because we were acquaintances of George, we soon became accepted, although my friend frequented the pub rather more often than I did. It was, after all, on the opposite side of town for us. I seem to recall the landlord was called Dave, and from memory he was probably Irish as well.

    The Jolly was one of the few Hyde’s pubs that used hand-pumps, as most of their outlets used electric ones instead. We were always made welcome but had the sense to keep our heads down and behave ourselves, as I’m sure there was the odd bit of dodgy business going on from time to time.

    My last visit would have been in the early 1980’s, when I led a couple of friends from Maidstone – where I was living at the time, on a pub crawl of Manchester. Sadly, that was my last time inside the Jolly, and now we learn it is to make room for yet another “development.”

    Great photo, btw of you and your friends behind the bar.

    1. Thanks, Paul, for your kind words. It has been amazing to discover how many people have fond memories of the Jolly Angler, such a shame it is having to close.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Calder Valley Ale Trail - UPDATE June 2022

T he definitive guide to the pubs and bars that line the railways in the towns and villages of the beautiful Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. After a break in updates with all the disruption of lockdowns over the  last couple of years, here's the latest, updated version.... The original Rail Ale Trail heads through the Pennines from Dewsbury through Huddersfield to Stalybridge, or vice versa, depending on your standpoint. Made famous by Oz Clarke and James May on a TV drinking trip around Britain several years ago, it reached saturation point on weekends to such an extent that lager and shorts were banned by some pubs and plastic glasses introduced to the hordes of stag dos, hen parties, and fancy-dressed revellers that invaded the trans-Pennine towns and villages. There are some great pubs en route but you ventured to them on a summer Saturday at your peril. However, only a few miles away to the north, there is another trail possible which takes in some great pubs and travels thr

New Team Breathing Fire Into Elland Brewery....

I paid a visit to Elland Brewery recently to meet the new team there who are aiming to build on the brewery's heritage and develop the business. Based in the West Yorkshire town of the same name, here's what I found..... There is a buzz about Elland Brewery these days. That was evident when I called in to see the team recently to find out some of their ideas for moving the brewery forward over the coming months and beyond. The brewery, much loved both in the local area and beyond, had been the subject of speculation over recent months as added to the fact that the erstwhile owners had gone their separate ways, other members of the team had left, consequently setting off rumours about the business's future.  The roots of Elland Brewery can be traced back to the Barge and Barrel pub, across town by the side of the canal. In the 1990's a brewery had been set up by the avuncular John Eastwood in the former children's playroom, where he developed beers such as Nettle Thr

Catching The Train To Stalybridge....

I re-visited a favourite haunt last week for the first time in over two years, and it brought home to me just how the best pubs and bars have that ability to become more than just a place for a pint .... After over two years, I finally made a return to the Buffet Bar at Stalybridge Railway Station. And it was a big deal, as f or over 14 years it was where I went for a pint after work, to chill out, let off steam, chat, laugh, and put the pressures of the working day behind me. A plac e of faces who I began to recognise when I first went in who became friends over the years. And then there were the familiar faces that I would see regularly, maybe exchange pleasantries, but never really got to know, and those that the US sociologist Mark Granovetter would call  the weak ties  that made up the frequent arrivals and departures, our routines often coinciding, influenced but not dictated by the happenings on the tracks outside. Stalybridge Buffet Bar is one of the few remaining Victorian rai