Cale Green and Higher Hillgate Stagger

Friday 20 July 2018

Tonight's Cale Green Stagger starts, of all places in Heaviley at CAMRA image - Blossoms the Blossoms (photo right). The Blossoms is somehow shoehorned into a triangular site between Bramhall Lane and Buxton Road (the name of the A6 at this point). Having been given a makeover by Robinsons, and being one of their multi-ale outlets means it serves several beers, including occasional non-Robinsons ones. Some of you music aficionados may be aware there is a band called Blossom — did you also know they are named after this establishment?

On leaving the Blossoms we need to turn left on to Bramhall Lane, where after a hundred yards Adswood Lane East will be spied on the right. Turn here and continue until Shaw Heath (this is a road as well as a district) is reached at some traffic lights. Turning right yet again brings you quickly to our next port of call.

The Plough. Stockport Image Archive - Plough Shaw Heath from Adswood Lane - 1966 can just be glimpsed in this 1966 photo left, taken from Adswood Lane looking north (your direction of travel). If your eyes need assistance, clicking on any photo and you will see a larger version. For many years the Plough was a real ale free establishment but it returned to the fold. Its current status is unknown, but it used to keep a cask conditioned ale, chosen from Enterprise Inns' list, the last time we visited.
— What will we find tonight? —
The Plough is located in an end terrace and is a former Wilsons house which is constrained in size, but boasts a bar area, lounge and pool room which houses not one but two pool tables. This may be because the landlord is a keen pool player and the Plough hosts three teams. Not to be missed is the beer garden out the back, described as "probably the most picturesque beer garden in the Borough of Stockport" by

On leaving the Plough we have to re-trace our steps back to the A6 adjacent to the Blossoms (backwards above route the read). As you cross the road, pause at the central reservation,  Stockport Image Archive - Wellington Theatre - 1963 and take a look at the building on the other side of the road (picture left). This historic building is the Wellington Cinema (though some have it listed as Wellington Theatre). It opened on 11th July 1921 as the Wellington Picture House with Hay Foxhall in "Only a Mill Girl". The corner entrance has a dome, which was originally topped by a cupola. The Wellington Picture House also contained a 13-table billiard hall and a cafe. Independently operated, its last operator was the Essoldo Cinemas chain who took over in 1948. Bingo was introduced for one day a week in 1961, and the Wellington Cinema was closed on 31st August 1963 with Hayley Mills in "Pollyanna". After many years of being a bingo club, then a Riley's snooker hall, it closed in 2012. Local campaigners are trying to raise £500 to have a Blue Plaque placed on the building.

Finish crossing the traffic lights and enter the Wheatsheaf which, after many years as a real ale desert, has returned to the fold. Things got off to a wobbly start a couple of years ago, with the availability of cask ale varying from week to week. No sooner had the landlord who introduced real ale moved in, than we understand the pub-owning company exercised their option and ousted him! Now, however, real ale is enthusiastically supported by the current regime, within the limitation of the ales available to them. Please call in and form your own opinion.

Travelling down Hillgate (Higher at this point) a short detour can be made down Charles Street to confirm the Bowling Green is no more. A sad loss to real ale as it kept a good pint up until a few years back. [For the real anoraks among you, even further down Charles Street is the North Western Road Car Company's bus garage. North Western, as they were usually called, were taken over by SELNEC and now, after many other privatisations/mergers/acquisitions the depot is in the hands of Stagecoach.]

On the corner of Hillgate  Stockport Image Archive - Shakespeare Hotel with The Flying Dutchman in the background - 1973 (still Higher) and Longshut Lane stood the Fairway, a recently opened free house. This was not a new gain to real ale in Stockport as it was formerely Robinsons' Flying Dutchman. Having done some re-building from the structure seen behind the bus stop in the photo right, Robinsons then closed and sold on the premises. The current decor and food menu gave it the feel of a café bar, but the handpumps confirm this was an ale house. First impressions were that the Fairway was a compact two roomed pub, but further exploration revealed several nooks and crannies (including Wetherspoon-esque toilets up-stairs). Much as you may be tempted pop-in, we can't due to the sudden announcement of closure once the current beer stock ran out [highly likely by tonight]. So we had better drag ourselves away as there is some distance yet to travel.

Cross Longshut Lane and pause on the traffic island. Bell & Co, Hempshaw Brook Brewery, Hempshaw Lane - 1986 From here until October 2012 an important piece of Stockport's brewing heritage could be espied. Look along Longshut Lane away from the A6, and to the right of the next set of traffic lights is the former site of Bell & Co. Brewery. In 1947 Robinsons took over the business and used the site for a number of years for brewery-related activities. The main contribution of Bell & Co to Robinsons was, however, the injection of pubs to their estate, including the Alexandra and Blossoms. This helps explain their distinct flamboyant style of architecture, including in a few examples a mosaic showing a bell in the entrance such as in the Dane Bank. At what date Robinsons disposed of the site I'm not sure, but by 1978 it had passed into the hands of European Colour Pigments Ltd. who used the site to "brew" dyestuffs. Until demolished the words "Bell & Co Limited Hempshaw Brook Brewery" could be read on the wall above the entrance. For further information and an interesting historic appraisal the Centre for Applied Archaeology's report "Hempshaw Brook Brewery, Stockport: Archaeological DBA, July 2011" is well worth reading.

Continue along Hillgate for a further 50 metres and pause again for another piece of Stockport

brewing history, this time still extant. Look across the road (towards the A6) and incorporated into a new apartment complex you will espy the moniker Royal Oak Brewery. This was owned by Daniel Clifton & Co Ltd. until 1923, at which time they were acquired by the Manchester Brewery Co. Ltd., then a subsidiary of Walker & Homfrays Ltd. of Salford. In about 1940 the brewery was leased to the Cornbrook Brewery Co. Ltd. and was further leased to Whitbread in April 1943 before they bought the site outright in March 1946. Whitbread continued to use it until the brewery was closed in 1957. Much more about the site courtesy of the Brewery History Society's Wiki page. If you wish to purchase one of the apartments, here is the sales brochure.

Enough of history (for now) and on with the stagger. Carrying along Hillgate (again Higher, but rapidly running out), as the road does a dog-leg {I wonder why Hillgate does a dog-leg here?} we arrive at the Star and Garter on your right. This fine solid Robinsons house has an interesting but friendly crowd. Now ostensibly a single room, it is easy to see it was originally a multi-room layout. The bar is to the back left but unfortunatly it does not dispense any Robinsons cask ales.

Hurrying on from the Star and Garter St Thomas's Church, Marriott Street  1974 take note of the intriguing spire espied over the roofs to the left (and later on down the side of the Crown). This belongs to St. Thomas' Church, which is a parish church in Stockport within the diocese of Chester. The clock tower (which also houses its bells) is attached at the west end and a massive portico graces the east, its pediment supported by six Ionic columns. The church was built between 1822 and 1825 and constructed from Runcorn sandstone, and is of such architectural significance it is Grade 1 Listed. When built it fronted onto Hillgate which was then the main route from London to Manchester and Carlisle - hence the grand portico at the East end. The church's own website interestingly says Wellington Road (A6) and Wellington Road Bridge were opened soon after the church was built and became the main thoroughfare into Stockport. The Manchester and Buxton Turnpike road, which is essentially the current A6, received royal assent in 1753, so Wellington Roads North and South must be a later improvement to the A6 and this date fits with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Before rushing on, Christy factory  1973 cast your eyes to the right at the new(ish) housing estate, Hatters Close. Until 1997 this marked the position of Christy's Hat Factory (there is an interesting film clip on their website showing how to construct a hat), once among the largest employers in Stockport. Look back at any crowd photo from the mid-20th Century and everyone is wearing a hat (or flat 'at for the working man). Question - In those crowds, how did you find your own hat after joyously throwing it into the air? Nowadays nobody wears anything on their head (other than the notorious hoody) except at weddings and Ascot. The history and techniques of hat making can be further investigated at The Hat Museum.

Continuing towards Stockport we seamlessly pass from Higher to Middle Hillgate; you will need to watch the street signs to find out exactly where. We will also effortlessly pass the Crown (or Corner Cupboard as it is/was known to the locals) as there is now no real ale available there.

 Golden Lion  1980 Stockport Image Archive

Look to the right (and picture left) upon passing the Crown and gaze upon the former Golden Lion. Now closed as a pub and used as offices but once owned by Burtonwood Brewery.

The Sun and Castle is our next port of call. This very large house is all that is expected of a Holts establishment. An occasional venue for live music it can be noisy at times, but at others it is a pleasant place to stop and savour your pint.

On leaving the Sun and Castle, as you approach the traffic lights, take note of the building on your right. Stockport Image Archive This is the former Black Lion (photo right), a Boddington's pub in its heyday, now sadly having found new use as yet another office. If you look around the corner, you will easily see the sculpture of the aforesaid lion, now in sandstone colour, but painted black in the picture left. Also noticeable in the photo is a building which occupies the site of what is now an expanse of grass. Question: How did people see the carving of the black lion when this building stood? One explanation could be that there was a street here, and the Black Lion stood on a street corner. Why do I say this? Look behind and note the short cobbled (actually they are setts, but that is another story) street which cuts the corner. This is the original alignment of Edwards Street, so maybe there was a continuation down the side of the Black Lion.

On the move for the last time it is worth turning right at the lights to take note of Strawberry Studios (photo below left) on the left which in its heyday from 1968 to 1993 played host to many famous recording artists. This is where local lads 10cc (I'm Not in Love among many) as well as major artists including Joy Division, Neil Sedaka, Barclay James Harvest, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Paul McCartney, the Syd Lawrence Orchestra and Stockport's own St Winifred's School Choir all recorded their hits. Strawberry Studio In a 1976 interview the studio's early days were described thus: "It was a very tiny studio with some stereo equipment and the walls lined with egg boxes to provide sound insulation. There was a makeshift sort of control desk tied together with sellotape and string, but it was good enough for what was wanted, and it was the only studio near Manchester."

The original terminus to this stagger, some twenty yards down Waterloo Street and the obviously-named Waterloo (previously Waterloo Hotel). Originally a Bell & Co. public house (remember them from Hempshaw Lane) as shown by the old photo (below right) showing it with dual signage. When this area of Stockport was full of houses and factories this would have been a typical locals corner boozer. Stockport Image Archive - Waterloo Hotel with Bells andobinsons signage Of course the various artists from Strawberry Studios were also known to pop in for a swift half - to whet the whistle. It had a well-furnished lounge which contained the bar, a vault, games room and snug. With the loss of houses in the area it was well supported by a dedicated clientele of imbibers and had a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. From the photo it appears as only the lefthand half of the current building constitutes the original premises, but why were two entrances needed? Was one to the pub and the other to the hotel, or maybe the off sales department? Unfortunately when the management team decided to move on, the customers also moved on causing Robinsons to decide to close and de-list the Waterloo.

Final bit of history, the site of the Stockport air disaster. The plane, a Canadair C-4 Argonaut aircraft owned by British Midland Airways, registration G-ALHG left Palma de Mallorca at 5:00 am. The aircraft had had to overshoot the runway on a first attempt to land. As the aircraft was making a second approach to the airport, the Nos. 3 and 4 engines suddenly cut out and the No. 4 propeller began to windmill causing it to crash at 10:09 am local time. It came down in Hopes Carr, an area thankfully devoid of people at that time of day. The pilot, Captain Harry Marlow, averted even greater disaster by steering the plane away from a block of flats and a gasometer (approximately where the Peel Centre is today). Unfortunately 72 people lost their lives, but miraculously 12 survived. It currently stands as the fourth worst disaster in British aviation history. Manchester Evening News - Stockport air crash A stone memorial on the corner of Hopes Carr commemorates the event.
Fuller story here.

Also of note, to the side of the former Waterloo, take a minute to ponder the name of the side road - Canal Street! But the canal was over on Lancashire Hill behind Nelstrops Flour Mill. So why call this thoroughfare Canal Street? In the late 18th Century the Tin Brook/Carr Brook was dammed somewhere near here, and a channel (canal) was cut to supply the now demolished mills which stood on the site of the new apartments on Hopes Carr.

For the really adventurous, Stockport Image Archive travel down Canal Street and take note of the building on the corner of Welcroft Street (next street along). This would have been our final destination had we been doing this stagger many years ago, because this is a former public house, name unknown.

To make up for the loss of the Waterloo this stagger has been extended to now include the Red Bull located 100 yards past the traffic lights on Middle Hillgate. Robinsons splashed Stockport Image Archive - Red Bull 1890 Stockport Image Archive - Red Bull 1920 out some money on the Red Bull a couple or so years ago and extended this ancient hostelry into the house next door. It still retains a lot of its old fabric, but the purists will be able to spot the join. Beware of the floor as it is on multiple levels and some of the steps are easy to miss if the place is crowded. Also nice to see the retention of (the original?) stone flags as floor covering. Interestingly between these two photos, the entrance was altered from three steps straight into the pub, to the "side saddle" arrangement of today - why?


In an interesting 1905 traders guide I discovered on the internet I found the following pubs (and landlords) on our route tonight. Note of caution, this is within the tenacity of the character recognition software, if you would like to peruse it yourself (and possibly find others) go to (warning 18Mb file).

          Plough Inn, James F. Kelly, 197 Shaw Heath, Stockport
          Blossoms Hotel, Jn. Fredrick. Fletcher, 2 Buxton Road, Stockport
          Bowling Green Inn, J. Unsworth, 5 Charles Street Stockport
          Shakespeare Vaults, Jn. H. Moss, 131 Higher Hillgate, Stockport
          Old Ram's Head, Robert Henry Riley, 106 Higher Hillgate, Stockport
          Star & Garter, J. H. Young, 61 Higher Hillgate, Stockport
          Royal Oak, T. J. Brocklehurst, 1 Higher Hillgate, Stockport
          Golden Lion, J. T. Cooke, 89 Middle Hillgate, Stockport
          Higher Packhouse, Jas. Hopkins, 64 Middle Hillgate, Stockport
          Southern Castle, J. Dronsfield, 60 Middle Hillgate, Stockport (presumably the Sun & Castle)
          Land o' Cakes, Rd. Price, 48 Middle Hillgate, Stockport
          Black Lion, John Jeffries, 41 Middle Hillgate, Stockport
          Old Admiral, Leonard Allsop, 34 Middle Hillgate, Stockport
          Waterloo Inn, Peter Hickson, 10 Waterloo Road, Stockport
          Red Bull, Thos. Heywood, 14 Middle Hillgate, Stockport

Giving pubs unusual names is not just a recent phenomenon as shown by the
Pig & Whistle, Charles Garside, Rood Hill, Congleton.


Below, clicking on Map will call up a Google travel map with that location automatically set as the destination. Insert your current location (post code?) as the start and choose a travel mode (public, car, cycle or foot) and discover your travel options.

Following THIS LINK will take you to the Transport for Greater Manchester website for current travel information.


Cale Green and Higher Hillgate


Pub Name


Bus & Rail


Start point:

2 Buxton Road


197 Shaw Heath

8.30pm Mid-point:

205-209 Higher Hillgate


137 Higher Hillgate
Star & Garter
61 Higher Hillgate
No real ale
14 Higher Hillgate
No real ale
Sun & Castle
54 Middle Hillgate
8-10 Waterloo Road

Finishing at:

Red Bull
14 Middle Hillgate


View Cale Green and Higher Hillgate stagger in a larger map

Updated 1 May 2018