Saturday 23rd January 2016
I had hoped to present a decent history of this pub, after all it dates from 1905. Yet, as is often the case I have met with a brick wall. Some towns and their Historical Societies have easy-to-access information, along with the reminiscences of local people. Bury doesn’t seem to be one of those, pity.
So, what do we know? As mentioned the pub dates from 1905 and was almost certainly erected by a local brewery in the region. It might well have been a hotel in the past. It was known up to the 2000s as the Duke of Clarence and it seems safe to assume that was its name from the start. 1905 was quite late to build a new pub, so I wonder if there was an older establishment on the site?
We also know that its last owner was Enterprise Inns, one of the monolithic pub-owning companies created after the Beer Orders act. That company started with pubs that were owned by Bass. They later acquired a large number of former Whitbread pubs.
Bass had a few pubs scattered through the Greater Manchester area. Whitbread pubs were very common north of the city as they had taken over Threlfall’s of Salford and Chester’s of Ardwick. They later acquired Boddington’s, but their pubs.
Whatever the providence of the pub we know that it was closed by Enterprise in 2009 and remained empty for a few years afterwards. Its saviour was local businessman Lee Hollinsworth who already operated the Malt bar and Automatic Café in the town centre. He purchased the old pub in June 2011 and embarked on what he thought was a restoration. However, the amount of work needed turned it into an internal rebuilding.
The work took almost three years but the result is quite remarkable. Sometimes, when a pub attempts to attract more than one clientèle it doesn’t always work. Here, it appears to be very successful.
In the basement there is a brewery. On the ground floor is a traditional pub. The first floor is a restaurant which is of gastro-pub standard with a chef who has trained under Gary Rhodes in London. The whole ensemble is rounded off with a cocktail bar on the second floor.
Entering the pub through the main corner door you are presented with a small dilemma, go left or right? On the left is a bar counter with a few stools. I went right passing first a small table and then an antique desk used in an office capacity. On my left was the back wall of the service are, no counter here. I went left and entered the main part of the room.
In this area I came across the curved bar counter with the most important items in the pub, hand pumps. There were separate drinking areas around me, once I would think, separate rooms. The stairs to the upper level were behind me and the next to them, I saw the corridor to the back yard, full of casks, and the steps down to the toilets and the brewery. This can be seen on the way to the facilities.
I had a look at the cask beer offerings and these were three guest ales: Deeply Vale (Bury) Deeply Blonde (4.5%); Pennine Brewing (Well, near Masham, North Yorkshire) Winter Warmer (4.1%) and Brightside Brewing (Radcliffe, Greater Manchester) Darkside (4.6%).
Produced ten feet or so below me there was, from the Silver Street Brewery, the following: Heavy (5.5%), Session (3.9%) and “103” (4.2%). The name of the latter beer has relevance. The pub is little more than 100 yards (metres) from the Bolton Street Station of the East Lancs Railway.
At the time of my visit to Bury the “Flying Scotsman” locomotive was undergoing trials on the ELR following an overhaul that has lasted forever. It was carrying the number 103 at time, hence the name of the beer.
The Silver Street Brewery actually began brewing a considerable time before the pub reopened, commencing operations in January 2014, so I had already come across their beers well before visiting the Clarence.
The brewing plant is of four barrels (4 bbls) capacity and run by Craig Adams and he normally brews twice a week. It was designed and installed by Dave Porter, who is based in Bury. In fact, Craig partially learned his trade at Dave’s Outstanding Brewery. Porter Fabrications supply breweries throughout the country with equipment.
So there’s a lot going on in this pub. Artisan beer with gourmet food, or maybe not as the choice is yours. Although the pub has established a very good name for its quality of dining there is no pressure to eat when you are in the ground floor bar.
It’s an excellent addition to the real beer scene in Bury and should be visited.
The Clarence, 2 Silver Street, Bury BL9 0EX. Tel: 01706 464 7404
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-23.00
Bury is extremely well served by public transport, being at the end of a tram line from Manchester. Trams run at a minimum of every 12 minutes, sometimes that frequency is every 6 minutes.
To get to the pub exit the station via the stairs / escalator and go out of the building to the bus station. Use the indicated crossings to pass through it to Market Street. Keep on up to the road intersection. You will see the pub on Bolton Street a little way down on the left.
The very best way to get to and from the pub is via a steam train on the East Lancs Railway. This connects Bury with Heywood, Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall.
Buses connect Bury with all the neighbouring towns, such as Bolton, Blackburn,
Oldham and Rochdale.