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c1866 Bolton Archives picture


There appear to be barricades around the Parish Church and this picture is almost certainly immediately prior to its demolition and rebuilding.


Bradshawgate on the right is 40 odd years off being widened and the building on the near corner no longer exists, but the building which became Hope Brothers, later amalgamated into the Swan still remains.


Beyond that we see the Churchgate frontage of the Swan and the Man and Scythe.


The carriages appear to be for public hire rather that private vehicles. The Swan was still an important coaching inn and passengers alighting here would need transport to their final destinations. We do not yet have the cabbies' hut.

picture posted on Facebook by David Whenlock


Note that the Princess Cinema is where we expect to see the Theatre Royal.


It was originally next door to the Theatre Royal.


In 1928 the Theatre Royal was reopened but seems to have been extended and taken over the Princess Cinema. I assume that the Princess Cinema ceased to exist as an entity from 1928 and certainly this is the only photo I've seen with it on.


So the photo must be at least earlier than 1928.It would appear that the Princess Cinema was there from 1913 when the defunct Victoria Buffet pub was incorporated into it.            (Peter Lodge)

1920s before the Capitol Cinema


A quiet day on Churchgate



Churchgate, from the Swan Hotel corner towards the Parish Church, note the tram lines and the cabbies’ shelter which was removed around 1909. Theatre Royal canopy is visible. No market cross which was erected in 1909. Hope Bros shop still occupies the corner. At this time the corner was known as Hope corner rather than the Swan corner or Preston’s corner. Note that there are no exposed beams and no real or fake half timbered effects on the buildings on the left. Note the fourth frontage along with the sign board on the roof, which will be mentioned later.

c1912 Bolton Archives picture


This seems to be when the new Market Cross had just been erected.



This is the year the Capitol Cinema opened, the white building on the left. The flags are unlikely to be for that.


Quite a traffic jam.

probably 1930s


Churchgate - Golden Lion on the left, though half of its frontage is occupied by Booth's Music, Capitol cinema though no name is visible, look at that chimney! Sabini's, On the right the Theatre Royal.

The cabin has now gone and the market cross has appeared so somewhat after 1910. The Capitol cinema has an obvious sign. The Theatre Royal can be seen. The corner is now the Swan.


The Market Cross was erected at the expense of George Harwood, MP for Bolton from 1895 until 1912. The present cross rises twenty feet above its ten-feet diameter base and was unveiled on 16th October 1909. The stone came from Merrivale Quarries, near Princetown, Devon. It replaced an earlier cross erected in 1486 which was removed in 1786. Coachmen claimed that it caused congestion.

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A clearer view of the modern buildings on the right.


The Capitol on the left is now the ABC. The modern buildings on this side have not yet been built.


Churchgate is still a through road to Bury.

September 2009 (C) WDC above, left and right


Similar view but with bland modern buildings on the right and an insensitive red blob on the left. Capitol and Theatre Royal long gone.

         We will now take a closer look at the two sides of Churchgate.

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 Plaques on the four sides of the Market Cross plinth give some details of the history of Bolton.

Click on a photo to see it at a larger size. You may then navigate through the gallery. Click the X at the top right of the photo to return to this page.


Above pictures:


1. Date not known. We see the fake black and white on the first four premises and over the Gaskell Court entrance then Booth's Music to the left of the Golden Lion. The posters in the windows are not clear but suggest that Booth's are about to move a few doors to the right (from number 11 to number 17) - which happened in 1962.


2. Similar picture but date is May 1953 and we see decorations being put up for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.


3. The main feature of this picture is a rather fine building with ornate balconies which in 1890 had a sign board above the gutters proclaiming “ Taylor, Builder” but now indicated “Derby Building”  The centre of the sign board depicts the elephant and castle which has been for many years a symbol of Bolton. One occupant of this building is Bolton's Temperance bar. Gaskell Court is at the bottom right of this building. The shop on the corner is UCP, then note that we have Beswick's which survived into the 1960s.


4. 2015. The building to the left replaces the Derby Building. Gaskell Court still exists. The Brass Cat, more officially the Golden Lion and at some time in the past the Bear's Paw, has extended considerably from its original size.


5. Gaskell Court. Although the black and white half timber on some of the frontages is fake, dating from the early 20th Century, these beams very likely date back to the sixteenth. TheMusic Tavern was situated on Gaskell’s Court and although it was only a pub for perhaps 20 years or so in the nineteenth century it became one of the town’s most notorious beerhouses. It grew out of a lodging house on this, one of the many courts that led down tiny alleyways off the main streets of Bolton. By the 1860s the pub was known as the Music Tavern and it was being run by one of Bolton’s most notorious characters – Isabella Dewhurst. (see also the next set of pictures)


6. c1890


The fine building on the left is at this time signed "Taylor, Builder".  The shop to the left says,"OPEN - Cigar Stores". Upstairs towards the right we have "Ladies and Childrens...." and Gaskell Court is surmounted by a sign "Mrs Davis's Good Lodgings".


To the right we have "Booth's Musical Instrument Depot". We note James Booth late. Presumably the business was already long established by the date of the photograph.


Then the Golden Lion Hotel, E Hamer, licensed retailer of foreign and British spirits, wines, ale porter. She (Elizabeth, a widow born in Lincoln) also sold tobacco.


Next on the right we have an ancient building housing W. Mandy(?) Fashionable ? & Hatter(?) (Outfitter?). This had been the shop of Richard Arkwright, Peruke (wig) maker and barber from 1755.  Note on Arkwright at foot of page.


The two buildings to the right of the Golden Lion were replaced by the striking terra-cotta building which still stands.

1. Gaskell Court


2. Booths and the Golden Lion. Although the two businesses are separate the pair of premises are part of the same building which has been rebuilt or at least refaced. The terra-cotta building to the right has already replaced Arkwright's shop at this time (mid 1920s?).  Booth’s moved from here, number 11 to number 17 in 1962. The pub extended into the shop premises shortly afterwards. Picture from Gordon Readyhough’s book.


3. Poster for Arkwright's Peruke (wig) making business.


4. 1959-62 The sign above Booths Music and the Red Lion has been removed but was there in 1959; Booths is in its traditional place but it moved in 1962. We see Gaskell Court; Booths Music, Golden Lion with a single frontage; the terra-cotta building; Capitol Cinema but it may have an ABC sign and has a much more sensible chimney than on a previous picture; Pasty Shop; Sabini’s with a line of icecream vans; Boar’s Head etc.


5. 1986 The Golden Lion now extended to the left into what were the Booth's Music premises.


The Golden Lion, which closed down for a complete re-fit, opened again at the start of December (2012), under the title of The Bear's Paw, a decision which took the historic town centre hostelry right back to its roots, as Chef and Brewer district manager Chris Dale explained. "The Bear's Paw is the name it was originally known by from 1772 to 1778, when it was changed to the Crown and Thistle by a new landlord, a Scotsman named David McGuffie who adopted The Crown and Thistle to celebrate the union of England and Scotland.


In 1806, it became The Golden Lion. Why this change was made is not known.  Of course, in 2012, the pub is better known as the Brass Cat. In the picture It proudly proclaims itself as “The Golden Lion”. (Bolton News report)


Sometime around 2010 the name on the front wall became “The Brass Cat” a name that people had known it by since at least the 1960s, although it is likely that legally it is still the Golden Lion. 2017 the pub was closed for an extended period.

1. Google Street view


What has been referred to above as the terra-cotta building. This appears to be half a building, the arch at the left hand end should be the centre, and even this arch is not quite complete. It seems that the instigators of the terra-cotta building built in anticipation of completing the left hand side in place of the Golden Lion and Booth’s Music, but were then unable to do so. The Golden Lion later extended in the other direction to take over Booth’s Music in 1962 which moved to its position in this picture.


2 The terra-cotta building. The newsagents in the small shop under the "central" arch has a plaque commemorating Arkwright's barber's shop on that site. The building has the Golden Lion on the left and the Capitol cinema on the right. This building still stands but the cinema does not. This picture is from the Bolton Museum collection. c1975


3. Another picture from the Museum Archives which completes the previous picture c1975. Then we have Maxwell School of dancing and Hilary Ann's ladies' fashions (which later moved onto Deansgate). The cinema and these two buildings were replaced by the new large red brick building Stone Cross House which is imaginative and not too ugly but is quite out of place on Churchgate.


4. Antelope Court stood more or less where the Capitol was built.


5. Apparently this is the Antelope pub in Antelope Court.

1. A glance back along this side of Churchgate in 1959. The wooden boarding on the roof of the Golden Lion is there and stretches over the double frontage though the building to the left is a shop at street level. The sign over the shop includes the word “school”. The picture is not clear enough to see but Booth’s is still to the left of the Golden Lion at this time.


2. We continue past Hilary Ann's to the two samll cottages the right hand one of which is Walsh's Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe. Bolton Archives c1975. To its right is the Sandwich Inn which was previously Sabini's. The two cottages still stand as also do the two premises which were combined as the Sandwich Inn. The buildings further to the right (east) have all been replaced.


3. Bolton Archives c1975


4.Sabini’s was here on Churchgate from the 1930s until it became the Sandwich Inn in 1970 which continued in business until 2002 The Sabini Brothers came to Bolton before WWI and started an icecream business in Little Lever. They moved to 33 Churchgate in the 1930s running an “American Temperance Bar”. There is no evidence of that on this picture the shop being Sabini Brothers selling Ices, Tobacco and Cigarettes but also sweets and chocolates. We do not know the reason for the queue. We note that next door at number 35 is the Pen Hospital. After the war Sabini Brothers expanded into number 35 and became Sabini’s without the Bro as which they traded until the business became the Sandwich Inn in 1970 which continued in business until 2002.


5. A view onwards probably early 1960s. note the Pasty Shop, Sabini’s, x, Boar’s Head, y, z, National Benzole garage. Churchgate was of course the main road to Bury.

1. between 1992 and 1998

Churchgate, Stone Cross House has replaced the Capitol Cinema, Pastie Shop just out of sight, Sandwich Inn, Boar’s Head now closed, the Gatehouse Cafe which has a sign advertising the new office block development opportunity. The Sandwich Inn building (along with the Pasty Shop and the shop to the left if it) still stand on Churchgate. Everything to the right has been replaced.


2. c1975 Bolton Archives

Fish and Chips, Boars Head, Gatehouse snacks from Paley Street alongside Newspaper House. The Boar’s Head was built in 1721 and demolished 1998 (closed as a pub 1992).


3. 1997 (1998?)

Churchgate, We move a little further east, we see the end of the new building(Stone Cross), the Pasty Shop, then the site of Sabini’s – now the Sandwich Inn, fish and chip shop, the now closed Boar’s Head (behind the lorry cab), Gatehouse Cafe.  Gary Sykes notes that the Boar’s Head (and the rest of the block I guess) was beyond saving. It had been slipping towards the river Croal for years and on the upper floors there were large gaps between floors and walls. Nevertheless the distance from the back of the pub to the top of the bank above the Croal was quite large so there may be some little doubt about "beyond saving". The scaffolding is probably to assist with the demolition of this block.


4. August 1998.

Demolition complete, hoardings surround the empty site. The main sign board advertises The Varsity expected to open 1995 not offices.


5. September 2009  

The Pasty Shop is still alive and well, Sandwich Inn has become a Letting Agent, The Varsity is up and running – this is another reasonably acceptable building and its bulk is somewhat more in keeping with its neighbours than the monstrosity to its left. Perhaps it is out of place on Churchgate, but it is the age old problem, how can you modernise in keeping with the older surroundings. In this case perhaps the Boar’s Head should have been retained then there would have been no need to “modernise”.

1. We return to the Market Cross and start our look at the other side of Churchgate, dominated, sadly, by the modern Churchgate House.


2. The Market Cross looks newly installed, the cabmen’s cabin has been removed. Picture almost certainly 1909.


3. 1953 -  Man and Scythe; Smokey Joe’s on the other side of the ginnel from the Man and Scythe, with Capstan sign, tobacco and sweets at the front, a Temperance Bar behind; pub - The Bush Hotel, 14 Churchgate, formerly the Star which in 1840 had a bagatelle room and one of the most popular and attractive concert rooms in the country. After a fire the Concert Room was rebuilt as the Victoria Theatre  opening in January 1885 but the Hotel retained its name as the Star. It was sold, along with the nearby Theatre Royal in August 1877.

The Star was rebuilt again in 1886 but by 1900 it had reverted back to being a public house and was renamed the Bush Hotel.



Further away is the Theatre Royal; The Theatre Royal was destroyed by fire 4.30am 4th January 1888. The fire was deliberately set. Cattle were rescued from the shippon at the rear of the premises but sadly some were badly injured. (posting by Denis McCann)

Then the Derby Arms and the Legs o' Man.


4. Man and Scythe – the black and white “half-timbered” look is painted on though that is more obvious on the next picture. A pub was apparently built on this site in 1251 and rebuilt in 1636. The notice says that The Earl of Derby spent his last three hours in this pub  before being beheaded for being on the wrong side in the English civil war and for his part in the massacre, 28th May 1644, of possibly 1500 people after  Bolton fell to the Royalists under Prince Rupert on the third attack. The Earl of Derby spoke from the scaffold and denied any part in the massacre. The notice was later amended to read "last FEW hours". It is sometimes believed that he spent his last night, 14-15 October 1651, here but that is almost certainly not the case.


5. A later view with a different arrangement of painted beams, 1910/20

1. Man and Scythe with Olympus Grill to the left of the alleyway replacing the Regent Temperance Bar usually known as Smokey Joe’s .


2. 27 Sep 2009 the alleyway still exists. Olympus Grill has now been replaced by “The Olde Wench and Trinkets” jewellery shop. We see the familiar black beams and white infill which were added early in the twentieth century.


3. The sign as it was around 1950/60. In 2009 the lettering was in gold.


4. 1951, looking back, the Swan overwhelms the Man and Scythe.


5. And one more view, showing the Swan, the Man and Scythe, the Bush and the facade of the Theatre Royal. The Bush closed in 1963 and that, the Derby Arms and the Theatre Royal were all demolished for the redevelopment of Churchgate. On the site of the Bush and Theatre Royal was built Lennon's Supermarket, later Kwik Save then Foodsave.

1. Churchgate 1960s? Golden Lion, Capitol Cinema, Legs of Man , Derby Arms, Theatre Royal where the play is "A Taste of Love", Bush Hotel  (formerly the Star Inn, demolished 1963), Man and Scythe with Olympus chippy.


2. The roof of the Theatre Royal canopy has been removed and the poster indicates that the theatre is to be sold by auction.


3. December 1970. Churchgate is still open to traffic though it looks as if it is no longer a through road. What are people doing in the road? There is also a man up a ladder on the zig-zag roof and a couple standing on the roof of the building. All the buildings on the right have now been replaced by new "modern" buildings, Churchgate House, which at this time houses Lennon's supermarket.


4. Presumably the same time as the previous picture.


5. A last look back at the Theatre Royal with the Bush and Smokey Joe's. Picture from Lesley Gent book.

Next page: a last look back along the way we have come, then around the Parish Church, Church Bank and Church Wharf.

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Thank you to Lesley J Leslie for correction re E Hamer one time licensee of the Golden Lion, who noted her while researching his own ancestor who had lived on Churchgate.