Visited on: Wednesday 22nd January 2020
Whilst in Greater Manchester I wanted to check out the flourishing micropub scene to see how it had developed since I had last been there.
During my researches I had noticed there were several to be found in the large covered markets that exist in all the towns in the area. So today was my first of these, in Oldham.
There are two market buildings in the town. My destination was the Tommyfield Market. Rather a strange name really, please read on.
Oldham’s first market was established in 1788. In the 19th Century it was held on land owned by Thomas Whittaker, so the name of it morphed into Tommyfield.
A Market Hall was built in the latter part of the 1800s. It was destroyed by fire in 1974.
For a while a temporary structure sufficed until a new permanent structure opened in the early 1990s.
It was (for me) a long walk uphill from the Oldham Central tram stop of the Metrolink. I eventually found the micro bar in the top right hand corner from the entrance. Outside were six tall tables for outside drinking, outside the bar that is, as it was still under a roof.
Immediately I entered it felt right. Unusually the lady behind the bar was not Michelle Riley, the landlady, as she was visiting the Manchester Beer Festival as it was the Trade Day.
I bought a pint and settled by a shelf in the middle of the room and took a look around. Left from the entrance door is the seating area. This consisted of two bench type seats facing each other, one facing in from and the other facing out to the market. They had large foam cushions covered by mock leather.
At the far end a fireplace has been created with a fairly realistic yet fake fire. All around the “fireplace” the wall is covered by wallpaper depicting old spirit bottle labels and above was a semi-circular mirror.
The bench seats had loose cushions and between them are low circular tables and red cushioned triangular shaped stools. These were acquired from a former Oldham Brewery’s pub and were a distinctive feature of their pubs, a real link with the past.
The wall facing the market displays photographs. On the wall just where I was standing was a framed ode to the old Market Hall, penned in 1980, after it was destroyed. It lists many of the stalls that existed before the fire.
The beer choice was very good. On offer was Millstone (Mossley, Greater Manchester) Stout (4.5%); Moorhouse’s (Burnley, Lancashire) Pendle Witches Brew (5.1%) and White Witch (3.9%, a blonde ale; Rat Brewery (Rat and Ratchet pub in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) Ratberry Porter (4.6%), flavoured with blackberries and White Rat (4.8%), a hoppy pale ale and finally Fernandes (Wakefield, West Yorkshire) Red Neck (4.4%) a ruby ale. The last two breweries are owned by Ossett Brewery of Horbury, West Yorkshire.)
The list rolls on with Heck’s (Street, Somerset) Farmhouse Medium Cider (6.5%); Ross on Wye Cider (Peterstow, Somerset) Michelin Norman Sharps Cider (6.5%), a single varietal cider; Broadoak (Clutton, Somerset) Sloe Gin Cider (4.0%) and Newton Court (Newton, Herefordshire) Gasping Goose (5.8%), an organic cider. Now, that’s a very good selection.
Michelle Riley opened the bar in late August 2019. She had previous experience as the landlady of the White Lion in Delph and also as a duty manager for Wetherspoons. Her husband Chris is the manager at the Regal Moon in Rochdale, a Wetherspoons’ pub in the old Regal Cinema. Her experience is deep and it shows, as the bar cannot be faulted.
Finally we get to the name. It recalls a tradition, that died only recently and that was Cob Coaling. Once prevalent in this part of what was formerly Lancashire, it was performed prior to Guy Fawkes Day, 5th November.
Children sang (often badly) outside homes with a specific song that basically begged for coal and wood along with a small amount of money. The combustible materials were made to form a bonfire and the money used to buy fireworks. It finished about the time of “Penny for the Guy” in other places.
Don’t forget that the market has many food stalls and you can have a “take-in”. This is a wonderful little bar and I commend it wholeheartedly to you. Note the opening times are based on market hours.
Cob & Coal Tap, Units 12-14, Tommyfield Market, Albion Street, Oldham OL1 3BG. Tel: 0161 624 0446.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 11.00-17.00; Saturday: 10.00-17.00; Sunday: Closed.
From Oldham Central tram stop you need walk in the direction of the tram (coming from Manchester).
At the end of the platform turn left into Clegg Street. Continue into the pedestrianised part of the street.
At the top turn left into Yorkshire Street. Continue until you see Curzon Street on the right. Turn into it.
This is an arcade type of street. At the end is the entrance into Tommyfield Market.
Once inside turn right and continue as far as you can go. The turn left and you will find the bar at the end.
Total walking time is around fifteen minutes.
From the Bus Station go to the top end (North). Turn right into Henshaw Street.
At the end you will be outside the Tommyfield pub. On your right you will see the back of the Market Hall.
Cross the road and walk along the outside wall with the open market on your left.
Turn right into the Market Hall (North entrance), turn left inside and you will see the bar on the left.