Thursday 28th March 2013
The City Arms has a most unusual situation as it is in a pub "sandwich" with the properties either side also being pubs. Delving into history one discovers an even stranger fact; none of the three were built as pubs! The Waterhouse is easy to explain. It is on the corner of Kennedy Street and Cooper Street, although mostly the latter. It's a Wetherspoon's house and they take over existing buildings and convert them to pubs. This particular example was once an office building.
The other side of the City Arms is the Vine. The original pub adjoins the City Arms and was once a town house. Its larger and later extension further along Kennedy Street was once offices. Although a much bigger pub than the City Arms, its beer range is not good enough to get it a mention in BeerVisits. Finally to our subject pub; it was also built as a town house, around about the late 18th Century, it is believed. In 1973 the pub became a listed building at Grade 11. It is thought that the conversion to pub occurred around 1900. Some of the internal fitments could date from this time.
It has the usual, unusual layout of a Manchester pub. That is to say it is unique along with many other of the city's pubs. The main double doors lead into a room with the bar on the left. From here there are a couple of steps down to another small room on the right.
There is however, another way to enter the pub. A little closer to Cooper Street there is another entrance. This leads directly into a corridor which runs behind the bar and has a small hatch where standing drinkers cam obtain a drink without going to the main bar. The corridor leads to the Gent's toilet so you make a right turn before and enter the lower room. I firmly believe that the steps between the two rooms did not once exist and the hatch served the lower room. Of course you have to visit to appreciate all this.
The pub is reported to have displayed an Empress Brewery sign in the early thirties and this is entirely consistent with the research I have made. This brewery of Old Trafford was known to be in existence by 1880. It was incorporated as a limited company in 1896. In 1929 the Empress Brewery was taken over by Walker & Cain of Warrington so the sign is very likely to have still been on the building in the 1930s.
It is not known when the old Empress brewery ceased production. In 1946 the name of the parent company was changed to Peter Walker and Sons. In 1960 they merged with Joshua Tetley of Leeds to form Tetley-Walker Breweries.
When Ind Coope in 1961 joined the group it was renamed Allied Breweries. In 1967 the Dallam Lane Brewery in Warrington was replaced by a complete new one. Carlsberg took over in 1992 to form Carlsberg-Tetley and the Warrington brewery was closed in 1996 after less than thirty years service. Under the Beer Orders the City Arms was sold to Punch Taverns. It seems that the pub has flourished under their ownership, especially in recent years, not a very common story.
The beer range was certainly impressive when I called in that afternoon. It consisted of: Thwaites (Blackburn, Lancs) Original Best Bitter (3.6%); Young's (Bedford) Bitter 3.7%); Tatton (Knutsford) Blonde (4.0%); Hornbeam (Denton, Gtr Manchester) Voyager Ale (3.9%); Navigation (Nottingham) Pale Ale (3.9%); Titanic (Burslem, Staffs.) Mild 3.4%) and Cappuccino (4.5%), a coffee stout. For aficionados of cider there's Weston's (Much Marcle, Herefordshire) Traditional Scrumpy (6.0%).
Food is served between 12.00 and 14.00 from Monday to Friday. It is located very close to the magnificent edifice of Manchester Town Hall and it is said that many a major decision has been made within its walls as it is frequented by Councillors. The pub can get very full at times. I had to stand on this mid-afternoon visit and it was wedged out when I left. Don't let that put you off though, as it is a historic pub with a great selection of beer.
The City Arms, 46-48 Kennedy Street, Manchester M2 4BQ. Tel: 0161 236 4610
Open: Monday-Thursday 12.00-23.00; Friday and Saturday 12.00-24.00; Sunday 12.00-20.00
The pub is a few minutes away from the St Peter's Square station on the Metrolink tram and it's less than ten minutes from Piccadilly Gardens and the multitude of bus services that start there. It is just under ten minutes from Salford Central railway station, about 10 from Oxford Road, 15 from Manchester Victoria and around 20 from Manchester Piccadilly.