Tuesday 22nd January 2013
Some pubs have fascinating early histories yet the story of the Crown & Kettle is more to do with its more recent past than its early life and we are very lucky to have it with us today. There are some differences in the estimates of its building dates. One source says early 19th century, another 1840 or 1850, and a third gives it late 19th century. I think the latter is wrong as the style is not compatible with that era. I think it is about fifty years older than that, making 1840 a reasonable stab. All the sources agree that there was a pub on the site before the present building. Some say it was built as a courthouse, which could explain the rather grandiose interior design and the tall windows.
It was a Wilson's pub and this is evidenced by and old hanging sign displayed inside. It seems to have led a relatively unscathed life having a number of journalists and other workers from the Daily Express as customers. It was listed as Grade 11 in October 1974. Its sheltered existence was shattered in 1989 when it was the scene of a pitched battle between Manchester United and City supporters and it was closed. This is where the story really becomes bizarre as it remained shuttered and boarded for sixteen whole years. I suppose it was its listed status that kept it from being knocked down.
It reopened in 2005 and has gone on to establishing itself as one of the premier outlets for beer in the city, no small achievement in Manchester, home to so many good pubs.
It stands sentinel as the first building in Oldham Road and it was here, sometime in the late 1970s, I set out with a small group of friends on an attempt to do the infamous "Oldham Road Crawl". This involved having a half in every pub that sold cask beer. I seem to remember there were 88 on the way to Oldham, about seven miles, but not all sold real ale, but an awful lot did! We also counted pubs just off the road itself. In those days they closed in the afternoons so starting on Friday evening, we had the two Saturday sessions and the two hour Sunday lunch period to complete the task. We failed of course, but it was great fun.
As you walk in you can't help but be impressed by main bar room with its pseudo-gothic windows. Apart from the main room there are two smaller drinking areas off the main bar, a Snug with modern furniture and a Vault. Apparently these divisions were new in 2005 as it is said that the pub originally had a central bar.
Look at the photograph of the chandelier hanging from the un-restored ceiling which is covered with a mesh presumably to prevent bits of flaking paint from falling in to the glasses of unsuspecting drinkers.
No doubt this will be dealt with in the fullness of time as the remainder of the pub has been refurbished to a high standard and the ceiling in the Vault has been dealt with, so gives an idea of what the main room will look like eventually. In the evening candles are put on the tables and it looks especially good.
As always, there was a good range of beers on offer when I called in: Pennine Brewery (Batley, West Yorks) Morning Mist (4.2%); Peerless (Birkenhead, Merseyside) Triple Blonde (4.0%); Dunham Massey (Dunham Massey, Cheshire) Little Bollington Bitter (3.7%); Ossett (Ossett, West Yorks) Treacle Stout (5.0%) and also their Silver King (4.3%). This latter beer always seems to be available here so I think it is a regular.
There is also a cider on hand pump and this was Gwynt y ddraig (Pontypridd, South Wales) Dogdancer (6.5%). Later that week they extended their range to hold a mini-beer festival that ran in parallel with the CAMRA National Winter Ales Festival that was held in the city.
Food is offered and includes several pies. I am not sure whether this is only lunchtimes or all day. In essence a great pub to call into, should you be visiting Manchester's well-known Northern Quarter.
The Crown & Kettle, 2 Oldham Road, Manchester M4 5FE. (Great Ancoats St. corner)
Tel: 0161 236 2923
Open: Sunday to Thursday 12.00-23.00; Friday and Saturday 12.00-24.00
The pub is close to the stops of the many bus routes that operate to and from the city centre along Oldham Road. It is about fives walk to Piccadilly Gardens where there are more buses and about the same to Shude Hill bus station where the long distance services call, along with those to the northern suburbs. Five minutes is also the time it takes to get to the Piccadilly Gardens and Market Street stops on the Metrolink Tram. The pub is ten minutes from Victoria Railway station and just under fifteen from Piccadilly station.