Visited on: Thursday 23rd January 2020
There are a number of ancient pubs in Britain and most of them are well known, such as Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham and the George Inn, Southwalk. Yet this one has eluded me until now.
It is located in Churchgate in Bolton. Even the street it is in has an ancient name. Its first mention is in 1251 when it received its initial charter. Although it was obviously in existence before then.
Around the time of its Royal Charter being granted it changed hands from the Earl of Derby to the Pilkington family because of marriage. As the Pilkington’s coat of arms showed a man mowing with a scythe this is origin of the inn’s name and is depicted on its sign.
It is thought that the image in the arms refers to an ancestor who disguised himself as a farm labourer to evade the Normans when they invaded. Now that takes the pub’s history although not physically, back to the 11th Century, if true.
Leonard Pilkington was executed at Leicester because he fought for King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485 during the War of the Roses. The Pilkington estate was passed by King Henry VII to Thomas Lord Stanley who became the Earl of Derby after the Earldom was reinstated.
During the English Civil War on 28th May 1644 Royalists led by Prince Rupert of the Rhine backed by James Stanley the seventh Earl of Derby entered Bolton. There followed a bloodbath when one thousand, five hundred Roundhead soldiers and a large number of inhabitants were slaughtered in the immediate surroundings of the Man and Scythe.
The Earl retreated to the Isle of Man, where he was when his home, Latham Manor in Lancashire was under siege from the Parliamentarian army.
After the Royalists’ defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor he escaped back to the Isle of Man.
Eventually he was caught and returned to Bolton. He was executed outside the inn on 15th October 1651 at 3pm (15.00) for his part in the massacre.
It is recorded that he had his last meal in the Man & Scythe with landlord James Cockrell, sitting in a chair of Flemish design which was made in 1590. This chair is in the museum at the pub, which sadly I didn’t see simply because I didn’t know it was there! At the time of his death he owned the pub, just as it was when its charter was granted.
To rewind a few years in the fifteenth Century, fifteen years before the execution, the inn was substantially rebuilt although some of the ceiling timbers were retained.
In one of the rooms there is a date-stone for 1636 that confirms this, please see the photograph below left.
What makes this exiting, to me anyway, is that the pub today looks almost the same as when the Earl of Derby had his last meal.
The pub is timber framed throughout and the trinket shop to left is also part of the same building separated by the yard where coaches would once draw into, conveying passengers who would be staying there. The fascia of the pub has changed a bit as the ground floor window frames and leaded lights date from the early 20th Century. The shop front (on the left) was installed in the early 19th Century. By the way the “Ye Olde” is an affectation added in the modern age.
There are gabled sections at each end, the shop on the left and the pub on the right. The latter has a bay window on each floor. The roof is slates.
The entrance door is quite old, but by how much, who knows? I think that is probably enough of the history and architecture for now.
I have to add that it was very important as far as this pub in concerned because it played such a pivotal part of England’s history.
Inside you immediately see and feel the antiquity. There’s a central corridor and the first thing to notice is the bar counter in a room on the left facing towards the street, with a few seats near the window. When I use the word “room” I mean that’s what they were. All of the doors have been removed and it is more open plan than when it was when built.
On the right is a nice small room which looks out to the street through leaded stained glass windows. It has a red upholstered fitted bench seat the goes in a semi-circle under the bay window and continues along the wall. It has a fireplace with a tiled front. Three small round tables complete the picture.
Next along is another historic room where I settled. It too has red padded bench seats on all sides, with loose tables and chairs in front. There is also another leaded stained glass window which must look out to a yard.
In front of this is a rather classy wooden dresser with a glass front and next to that is a piano. But the most important feature is the 1636 date-stone on the wall when the present pub was completed and opened, please see photograph, above left. At the back of the pub is another room used for games with a pool table.
There are five hand pumps, four for beer and one for cider. Two beers are regular. Hop Back (Downton, Wiltshire) Summer Lightning (5.0%) and Bank Top (Bolton) Flat Cap (4.0%). The two guest beers were Black Sheep (Masham, North Yorkshire) Blitzen (4.2%), a Christmas ruby ale and Bedlam (East Sussex) Benchmark Best Bitter (4.0%).
The regular cider is Thatcher’s (Sandford, Somerset) Stan’s Trad. (6.2%). EI (formerly Enterprise Inns) own the pub and beers are from their list.
Looking at an historic photograph I can see that it was a Dutton’s of Blackburn house. This brewery started in 1789 and in 1964 it was taken over by Whitbread and was known as Whitbread West Pennines.
The brewery continued in operation until 1978 when it closed. Up to then they probably didn’t change the recipes of the Mild and Bitter, just selling them under the Whitbread Trophy name. This happened with most breweries that were taken over by Whitbread.
This is a smashing pub to visit, not only for its story, but for a good beer list considering it comes from a national pub company.
Ye Olde Man & Scythe, 6-8 Churchgate, Bolton BL1 1HL. Tel: 01926_499968
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday: 11.00-00.30; Sunday: 12.00-23.00
As the pub is in Bolton town centre there are a large number of bus routes passing close by.
They all start from the Bus Station which is around a half mile south from the town centre.
I used free bus 500 Metro Shuttle, which makes a circular journey around the town, alighting at Deansgate.
The Bus station is connected to the Railway Station by a footbridge.
There are many trains to Manchester, Wigan, Preston and further north, right up to Scotland.