Withington

Friday 17 March 2023

The area now called Withington was described as 'waste' in the Doomsday Book. This does not mean it was barren land, just that no lord of the manor was making money out of it so it was 'worthless'. A 'withy' is an old term for a willow branch and 'ton' meant a farm or homestead. An establishment fitting this "house in the willow woodland" description was first recorded in around 1186. Nothing much changed, with the population being only 743 as late as 1801. The 19th century, however, saw Withington transformed into a genteel suburb whose population had rocketed to 30,000 plus by 1901. It was 1904 before Withington was finally subsumed into the city of Manchester.

Manchester Photo Archive - Orion, Withington CAMRA Image - Orion, Withington

Our perambulation tonight starts on Burton Road just up from the centre of Withington at the ever reliable Orion. On December 18th 1867, John Hamnet Norbury, a stonemason and builder, bought the plot on which the Orion stands for an apportioned chief rent of £16/18/6d and built two houses on it, one of which became a public house called the Orion with John Norbury the first landlord and licensee. On 22nd June 1875, John Norbury sold the plot with the two houses to Broadbents the brewers (exactly 143 years to the day before our visit!) Who knows whose hands it passed through until, as the picture left shows, the Orion was owned by Threlfall's. So when was it acquired by Holt's, the current owners? This is a good example of that oft-mentioned, street-corner boozer, where its clientele sup the one real ale on offer and demand no more frills than good beer and good company. Contrast this with the ever-fickle customers in some of the café bars mentioned previously where it is hip one day and closed and boarded the next.

Travelling around the corner on to Wilmslow Road, the main street through the centre of Withington, we come to the Albert. We will be popping in to establish whether any real ale is on offer here; sadly it was the only "proper" pub on this stagger not selling any cask ale the last time we investigated - shame.

Arriving at the Victoria, our 8:30pm meeting point. Externally there is little difference between the 1959 Manchester Photo Archive - Victoria Inn, Withington CAMRA Image - Victoria Inn, Withington view left and the current view right; it is probably only the attire of the people caught on the photos which gives the date away (and the lack of colour). Internally, however, the Victoria has changed over the last few years, from an identikit Hyde's pub serving only mild and bitter, into a multi-ale house. Apart from the three or four Hydes beers on offer (depends on whether you count Beer Studio as a Hydes beer), there can be three guest beers on the bar. But good pubs are not just about a plethora of ales, but about what else is on offer. The Victoria comes up trumps on this measure as well, with some event happening on almost every evening, so what will we find tonight, a quiz, karaoke, a live band/artist?   Who knows? Come along and find out.

We now have two more premises to check out for real ale. Firstly we have Fuel Bar a few doors along at 448 Wilmslow Road. Backtracking slightly we will call into Southside at 445-447 Wilmslow Road, reviously known as Solomon's Cafe Bar and before that Solomon Grundy, when it did serve real ale, until a refurbishment in 2012 swept it all away. Having been closed for a period of time, it reopened and the handpumps were re-connected, but not for long. The latest news on the street is that there is no real ale available, but you never know . . .

Manchester Photo Archive - Scala in 1959

As we travel south, to the junction of Wilmslow Road and Palatine Road, take a moment to gaze to your right. The imposing building on the corner of Wilmslow Road and Burton Road is the former White Lion — more on this later. Next door, the new building with SCALA picked out in brick towards the top was the site of the Scala Cinema, opened in 1912 and only the third cinema to open in Britain. Sadly cinema-going declined until, in 2001, it closed, but it still qualified as the third-longest running cinema in Britain. Apparently the actor Robert Donat (who was born in Withington) used to frequently visit the Scala, I wonder if he watched himself there appearing in Goodbye Mr Chips or even The Inn of the Sixth Happiness? Finally in 2008 it was demolished and this new building constructed. It is nice to see the nod to the sites past history.

 Manchester Photo Archive  Withington Hall

We now need to pop around the corner of Burton Road to number two - yes I know we passed here earlier, but that was in the haste to get to the Victoria. Here we will find the Withington Public Hall & Institute, also known as Lock Inn [I'm not commenting on why!] The building was donated to the community by Lord Egerton having been built, as proudly proclaimed in the exterior brickwork, in 1861. From then until 1911 it housed a lending library for Withington and also a members' club since 1906. It is being run as a "more-than-profit" social enterprise, with all profits reinvested in the building and used for community initiatives, the 'Whippy' is a welcome addition to the Withington area. A variety of events, workshops and exhibitions are held here with the aim of becoming a focal point for the whole local community. Apart from the cask beers, there are four guest kegs and a variety of cans from local craft breweries.   Now that you've had time to appreciate what is on offer, will you forgive us for rushing past earlier?

Manchester Photo Archive - Turnpike, Withington Samuel Smiths uses oak casks for all its naturally conditional ale.

Returning to and continuing south along Wilmslow Road we find Samuel Smith's Turnpike. The outside visage masks the iconic 60s interior, with lots of light wood panelling on the walls. Once entered you understand why the Turnpike is on CAMRA's Inventory of Nationally Important Interiors. Not only is the decor stuck in the 60s, but the attitude of the brewery is likewise, there being a ban on modern electronic gadgetry. Make sure your mobile phone is turned off or chance suffering a lifetime ban from the pub. Being a canny Yorkshire firm, Sam Smiths keep a tight rein on costs and offer competitively priced beer, sadly they only offer one cask ale. On the bright side, the beer is still delivered in wooden casks as shown above.

Dragging ourselves away we have to travel several yards along Wilmslow Road to the Manchester Photo Archive - Red Lion, Withington CAMRA Image - Turnpike, Withington white Red Lion - a pub with 'olde worlde charm' in buckets. Unfortunately, this also means loads of low beams and doors, so watch your heads. This is Withington's oldest building at over 200 years old and is deservedly Grade II listed. It was, until 1841, the site of the Withington Court Leet and also the focus of the Withington Rush Cart procession, both now long gone. For many a long year the Red Lion served beers from Marston's, but that all changed when local brewer JW Lees took on the mantle in February 2020. Little has change except for the beer miles as it now comes from Middleton Junction and not Burton-upon-Trent. I wonder what will we find tonight?

Three Lions Stagger
In previous years we would have continued along Wilmslow Road to the junction with Ferndene Road where stood the Golden Lion. Alas the Golden Lion is now closed and was demolished in 2009 so the Red Lion forms the termination of the tonight's stagger. This confusion of coloured lions, White, Red and Golden, was often the source of muddle in days gone by. Unfortunately the colour of the pub didn't help — the White Lion was white (ground floor) but red [brick] on the upper two floors, but the Red Lion is also white. The one which was wholly red (brick) was the Golden Lion. None of them was ever golden, except for any well polished brass nameplates.     So a bit like the English rugby and football teams, the once-proud Three Lions find themselves much reduced.


**** ADDED EXTRA ****

Finding gaps in our busy diary has meant that some awards having to be postponed to a convenient time. This is the case with the 2022 Pub Of The Year Runner-Up plaque which we still need to present to the Fletcher Moss. Since this stagger isn't exactly taxing in either number of real ale pubs, nor the distance to be covered, we are tagging the presentation on to the end of this stagger as an added bonus. For anybody attending just for the presentation, depending on the speed of drinking in Withington, it is likely we will be at the Fletcher Moss 9:30pm onwards. Please feel welcome to turn up for this only if the stagger is not to your liking.

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.

 

Withington Stagger

Timing

Pub Name

Address

Bus and Metro

Notes

7:30pm start:

Orion
8 Burton Road
M20 3ED
Map
Burton Road
 

Then

Albert
454 Wilmslow Road
M20 3BG
Map
No real ale
Libertine
437 Wilmslow Road
M20 4AF
Map
No real ale

8:30pm Mid point:

Victoria
438 Wilmslow Road
M20 3BW
Map
 

Then

Fuel Bar
448 Wilmslow Road
M20 3BW
Map
No real ale
Southside
445-447 Wilmslow Road
M20 4AN
Map
No real ale
Withington Public Hall & Institute
2 Burton Road
M20 3ED
Map
 
Turnpike
520-522 Wilmslow Road
M20 4BT
Map
West Didsbury
Temporaryly closed

Finishing at:

Red Lion
532 Wilmslow Road
M20 4BT
Map
West Didsbury
 

Additional extra

Fletcher Moss
1 William Street
Didsbury
M20 6RQ
Map
Didsbury
 

 

View Withington Stagger in a separate window.

 

Updated February 2023



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