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Manchester Classics Resisting The Tide....

I returned to Manchester the other day with the intention of revisiting a number of traditional pubs that for various reasons I have overlooked somewhat in recent years. And despite the ongoing building projects and massive changes in the city around them, I found them all to be busily resisting the tide and carrying on in their own individual ways....

It had been a good few weeks since I had last visited Manchester, and on a lethargic, humid afternoon with the prospect of thunder very much in the air, I took myself over to Huddersfield and caught the train from there, my usual route via the Calder Valley blighted by the dreaded replacement buses. It was very busy when I arrived at Piccadilly after just over half an hour on the journey from Huddersfield, and likewise on the walk up to Piccadilly Gardens where it appeared some festival or other was in full swing. I braced myself for the hordes on Market Street, and then did a left on to the quieter Brown Street, where I dived into Fopp Records, emerging sometime later with a copy of the brand new PJ Harvey album I Inside The Old Year Dying.

A restorative pint ensued at a relatively quiet Cafe Beermoth, which as usual had an impressive range of beers on cask and keg, with the likes of Rivington, Donzoko, Buxton, Blackjack, Newbarns, and a Cloudwater/Beak collab of which I had enjoyed a sample of out of a can at the Crafty Fox in Brighouse during the week, but I decided against starting my afternoon with an 8.5% DIPA, instead opting for the much more sensible 4.5% Pale Ale from Rivington, Another Night in a Row, also on tap, which was a typical enjoyable hazy number from the Lancashire outfit. One thing I found out here  today was that they have QR codes along the bar which if you scan will bring up details of the beers on offer, which is very useful for those of us who struggle to make out the details of the beers from the boards at the back of the bar due to the somewhat subdued lighting. I enjoyed drinking my beer at one of the tables opposite the bar as people came and went for their drinks, while a decent soundtrack was coming out of the speakers. And I have to say that a visit here never disappoints.

Cafe Beermoth, Manchester

Incidentally, not far from Cafe Beermoth, Salford brewers Pomona Island are due at some point this year to open a new bar on Chapel Walks following their escape from Freight Island. The bar will be called North Westward Ho!, after a ship that was moored in Pomona Dock in Salford which became a popular floating nightclub in the 1970's. I will keep my eye on developments here and let you know.

As I said earlier, I had decided I was going to revisit a few pubs that I'd called in many times over the years but hadn't recently, so I headed along to Kennedy Street to call at the first of them. Mind you, for those who want a little pub crawl with very limited walking, this is an ideal spot. I was heading to the City Arms, but as it is flanked on either side by a pub - The Waterhouse, which is a Wetherspoons, and The Vine - you could if you so wished visit all of them.

The City Arms, flanked by its neighbours on Kennedy Street

Whilst the other two have their own loyal following, it is the City Arms to which I have always been attracted. A two-room pub, it is small and compact, but not on the same scale as the Grey Horse and Circus Tavern a short distance away on Portland Street. Entry is normally through the door to the left of the pub, which takes you down a corridor at the back of the bar and into the larger room, effectively the lounge, whilst the wooden-floored room containing the bar is up a step, and whilst there is some seating, it is more of a space for vertical drinking and standing at the bar. Today, in deference to the humid conditions, the door by the bar was open and that was how I entered. The pub is almost 200 years old and contains many traditional features, and includes several quotations painted on the walls as you can see in this picture which I have borrowed with many thanks to my friend, pub ticker, completist, and fellow blogger Retired Martin, who has written about the City Arms (and a myriad of other pubs) most eloquently over the past few years.

The bar has 8 hand pumps on it which today featured beers from the likes of Brightside, Saltaire, Titanic, Neptune, Thornbridge, and Redwillow. I ordered a pint of Odin from Brightside first, a clean and refreshing NBSS 3, but then I went for Iron Ore, a 4.8% collab between Thornbridge and Derby Brewery, a most enjoyable and well-flavoured pale (NBSS 4). I spent my time stood by this small, compact bar, chatting to the friendly lads behind the bar. It was impossible not to strike up a conversation with anyone who came to the bar, but that is what I have always found in the City Arms, it is very much like a local pub in the heart of the city, and one that attracts a wide variety of different people. A wonderful pub, highly recommended, and it was great to call in once again after what had been too long an absence.

I finished my pint, and set off walking. It had started raining whilst I'd been in the City Arms, but St Peters Square still looked impressive in the grey dampness as I walked towards the next pub I'd earmarked for a visit. I walked past the striking neoclassical Central Library, where recently I'd been to an exhibition showcasing the work of renowned rock music photographer, Jill Furmansky. Meanwhile, beyond the rotunda atop the Library building, the back of the Town Hall was visible, this 19th century gothic masterpiece currently undergoing a major refurbishment.

Manchester in the rain

A few minutes later I turned on to Great Bridgewater Street where I soon came to the tiled beauty that is the Peveril Of The Peak, which may be named after the novel by Sir Walter Scott or after the castle on the hill above the town of Castleton in Derbyshire. Now this is a classic Manchester pub which I visited back in the 1970's when I was a student, although there were others in the area like the long-gone Tommy Ducks that, despite the Greenall Whitley beers, had more to recommend it. The problem with the Pev in those days was that it served Wilsons beers, which were well down the pecking order compared to Boddies, Robbies, Holts, Hydes, and even Tetley Walker. Greenalls were not themselves particularly good, but having experienced several pints of Wilsons that were to me reminiscent of a cross between cold Bovril and stewed tea they hit the bottom of the rankings in those long-gone days. I have been in to the pub a time or two over the intervening years but probably as a result of those early experiences it has never been a regular haunt.

The pub still bears the distinctive Wilsons livery these days, but with that brewery long consigned to history, it is now a very popular free house serving a varying range of beers from far and wide. Plenty of folk were stood outside when I arrived, not surprisingly because when I went in I found that everywhere in this multi-roomed pub was full. I managed to squeeze into a corner in one of the rooms where I was soon approached by one of the friendly staff behind the bar who took my order for a pint of Millstone Tiger Rut. I then decided to head outside to get a photo of this iconic building, which stands as an island beside a car park and a turn in the main road. It is up there as one of the most attractive pubs in Manchester, and returning inside to enjoy my pint (NBSS 3.5) everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. The Pev as it is now is an excellent pub; I know that going back over the years the student version of me would no doubt be jealous that it has turned out like it has so that the latest version of me can enjoy it....

Iconic: Peveril Of the Peak

It was only a couple of minutes to the final pub I had on my list. I passed on the Rain Bar, which whilst being an old building has only been a JW Lees house for a relatively short time, and hitting a road junction, I was then opposite the Briton's Protection. It stands as an isolated outpost of bygone Manchester: surrounded by an increasing number of modern tower blocks, flanked by a busy road, with the tramlines just beyond, with Bridgewater Hall and the exhibition complex of Manchester Central a short hop away. And with Manchester's development continuing apace, the Brit and its unexpectedly large beer garden to the rear are under threat, though although the risk of being engulfed by a sea of steel, glass, and concrete remains, there is a more pertinent danger to this iconic pub which came when the building's owners, Heineken-owned Star Pubs and Bars, announced last year that they wanted to take the pub back into their managed portfolio and consequently refused to renew the lease of the current owners. That sprung them into action, fearing the BP would become just another anonymous gastropub, and they started a petition to save the pub and keep it as is.

And what is it makes the Briton's Protection so special? Well, for a start, it is one of the city's oldest pubs, dating back to 1806. It was originally an army recruitment centre as its name suggests, and is was virtually outside its doors where around 18 people died and several hundred more injured in a crowd of up to 80,000 campaigning in 1819 for parliamentary reform in what came to be known as the Peterloo Massacre, on one of the city's darkest days. The events of that tragic episode in Manchester's history are depicted in a series of murals on the walls of the pub, the only such memorial in the city. The pub, which has a timeless look and feel, sprawls over six traditional rooms with many traditional features including tiling, dark wood, and stained glass, a couple of the rooms featuring fireplaces with roaring fires on cold winter days. And I haven't even mentioned the drinks yet!

Tiling and murals: The Briton's Protection

Well, the pub is renowned for its collection of whiskies for a start with over 300 of them available. And whilst going back to my student days, the BP, as we called it, was a Tetley Walker house, it now offers a range of different beers on hand pump from local independent breweries, who on this visit included Cloudwater, Beartown, Big Trip, Blackjack, and Brightside. I went for a half of the Glacier, the 3.6% blonde ale from Beartown, whose beers I'd not had for a while (NBSS 3). It was great to make a return to this excellent place which we often frequented as students. Unlike the other pubs I'd visited this afternoon, the BP is not in the Good Beer Guide but don't let that deter you from making a visit. 

I'd earmarked which train I was going to catch back while I was drinking my half, and I was just going out of the door when I bumped into a couple of beer-loving friends from Huddersfield who had just got back from a tour of the bars of Chorlton. And so I stayed for another half, this time of the Cloudwater So-Cal, their 4.8% West Coast IPA, which was better than the Glacier (NBSS 3.5), and had a good natter with the two brothers before I walked up to St Peter's Square, where given the weather, I decided to catch a tram to Victoria before getting my train home.

Unfortunately I had to stand all the way back to Huddersfield, but with the train not stopping before then it took barely half an hour to get back. And I'd had an excellent afternoon re-visiting three of Manchester's classic traditional pubs as well as a great modern bar. And despite the spread of all the new developments and massive changes that have taken place over recent years, it is great that these icons of the city's history are still in rude health and resisting the tide that threatens to overwhelm them. And long may that continue....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


  1. You must have been visiting Manchester at a similar time to me, Chris. For me, that was Friday 30th June, and like you I was revisiting a few old haunts (pubs mainly), from my student days in the city.

    I called in at the Peveril and the City Arms - meeting up with Retired Martin, in the latter. I also visited the adjacent Vine Inn, before heading back to Piccadilly. Earlier in the day, Martin and I visited Sinclair’s, the Hare & Hounds, plus the Marble Arch, although H&H was the only one of those pubs I remember from my time as a student.

    This was Oct 1973 – June 1976, when I attended the University of Salford. The following year I took a post-graduate course at Manchester Polytechnic – now renamed, Manchester Metropolitan University. Happy days, as I expect your time as a student was too, and who knows, our paths might even have crossed at some stage, without either of us knowing!

    1. Thanks, Paul, always good to hear from you. It's quite possible our paths may have crossed as it seems we visited many of the same pubs!

  2. Really interesting read, Chris. Good to hear Pomona getting their own tap, after Squawk, Track and Cloudwater (and othrs).

    The new PJ Harvey impresses me more than recent LPs of hers (particularly "Let England Shake".).

  3. As Blackpool Jane just tweeted, that top photo of the Briton is great. Unlike most people, I really like the way it stands out alongside the relentless development. The Kelham Island Tavern in Sheffield is getting similar (if less high-rise) treatment.

    1. Thanks, Martin, that's what struck me when I saw the view and inspired the title of the blog. Not listened to the album yet, on my list for the weekend!


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