historic pub trail: manchester

head to the northwest of england and experience the history of manchester through these incredible British pubs.

The Castle Hotel

According to records, there has been a dwelling on the site of The Castle Hotel since the 1400’s, but this pub was actually established in 1776. Over the course of a century, this establishment has undergone substantial change. It first traded as The Crown and Sceptre, then The Crown and Anchor and later The Clock Face. Fast forward to the late 19th century, Kay’s Atlas Brewery acquired the watering hole and started a new chapter as The Castle Hotel, and it is thought that this is when the current tiled facade and bar were added. For the music fanatics, this pub was the stopping off point for people on their way to the Band on the Wall and in 1979, a now legendary John Peel interview with Ian Curtis took place in this historic building. Today they offer a selection of hand pull pumps, a handful of craft taps, premium lagers, and an abundance of bottled beers.

The Crown and Kettle

The Crown & Kettle dates back to the 19th century, though records show that other pubs occupied this site as far back as 1734. As you approach this watering hole, this Grade II listed building does well to create a striking impression, and is only continued with the interior thanks to its spectacular ceiling. There is some suggestion that the building was originally going to start life as a law court - we definitely prefer its current usage! The Crown & Kettle has proudly kept all its original features, and today provides a blend of Old and New World beers through a selection of around 15 kegs and taps that range from familiar to new. There’s also 30 types of bottled craft beers, so there’s truly something for everyone here.

The Smithfield Market Tavern

In 1829, The Smithfield Market Tavern consisted of a grocer’s shop on the Swan Street corner, which was likely originally occupied by loom-maker Thomas Coop, and the adjoining tavern and brewhouse in Coop Street. Licensee Isaac Middleton converted the shop into a vault and installed a bar counter. However, this expansion might not have been entirely successful, as by 1850, the Smithfield Tavern shared the address with a fishmonger, presumably trading from the front shop. The historic Northern Quarter pub was taken over by Manchester brewery Blackjack in June 2015, and the venue houses the core range of Blackjack beers on tap, as well as a wonderful selection of craft and cask ales that are regularly rotated.

The Marble Arch

Tucked away in the historic Angel Meadow district, this grade II listed pub provides an escape for residents of the city and explorers alike. Inside you’ll find a spectacular mosaic floor that encourages beer lovers to make their way back to the bar due to its sloping nature. It’s also just a stone’s throw away from the brewery, which was moved to railway arches on Williamson street in 2009. The bar boasts nine hand pulls, eight carefully selected keg lines and a range of small batch ciders. You’ll be happy to know that there is a selection of bottles and craft beer cans available to drink in or takeaway, so there’s no judging here if you can’t finish your beer quite in time!

The Old Wellington Inn

Established in 1552, The Old Wellington proudly stands as the oldest building of its kind in Manchester. Originally built next to the Market Square on what is now Market Street, the half-timbered and traditional building was moved 100m from its original site in a redevelopment programme in 1998. Nicknamed the “Old Welly”, this pub became part of Draper’s shop in 1554 and was the home of the Byrom family  - born here in 1692, John Byrom invented an early form of shorthand. The building has a versatile history to explore, because it also housed Ye Olde Fishing Tackle Shop and a Mathematical and Optical Instruments supplier. When it comes to beers, the bar offers around 5 hand pull ales on rotation with local brewers such as Thornbridge alongside of the pubs own Nicholson Pale.

Sam’s Chop House

Sam’s Chop House was established in 1872 by local business man Samuel Studd and is one of Manchester’s most celebrated bars. This below street level pub and restaurant achieves an “old school” feel thanks to its tiled floors and large open fire. Considered as a local for Lowry, a life-sized statue sits at the bar and welcomes you into this watering hole steeped in history. Take a look around the walls at the quirky beer mats that adorn them whilst choosing from a selection of J W Lees Ales, several taps, and the familiar range of premium lagers. We also recommend that you make this your stop for food, as the Manchester Plate provides an incredible hot and cold selection of bar food with a Manchester twist. Finish this feast off with an Eccles cake and a pint to hand.

The Circus Tavern

The Circus’ building dates back to 1790, but it was not until 1842 that a brewery took over to make it The Circus Tavern pub. Interestingly, it was named after the circus that used to be based in the city centre, on the fields just over the road from the pub on Portland Street. However, if you were to ask regular punter’s why it was called The Circus, they would tell you that the previous landlord always gave the answer of “because you get a lot of clowns in here”. As the smallest pub in Manchester, this watering hole holds the smallest bar in the country that stands at less than a metre long. Despite its size, this pub is great at heart and considered to be favoured by the football legend George Best. As you might imagine, the range of ales is limited due to the width of the bar, with two hand pulls cask ales and a couple of premium lagers and beers.

The Temple

This pub certainly stands out from the crowd, having undertaken an unusual renovation from its previous life as a Victorian public toilet. It stands as one of Manchester’s smallest bars, and this strange little establishment boasts a fantastic atmosphere with a jukebox packed with some amazing Manchester bands (many of whom frequent The Temple) to really celebrate this vibrant city’s heritage. The narrow basement level bar offers some premium lagers, as well as a fully stocked fridge of world beers - its German selection is particularly impressive!

The Britons Protection

The Briton’s Protection has stood tall as a symbol of British culture on the corner of Great Bridgewater Street and Lower Moseley Street since 1806. This pub has defied the bulldozers and city redevelopment on a number of occasions, and its name recalls its use as an army recruiting venue. Now famed for its enormous whisky collection (over 200 to choose from!) and its extensive range of Local Real Ales, The Britons Protection is a must visit for whisky connoisseurs and real ale fans. Inside you’ll find six large rooms, connected through ornate tiled flooring, and you’ll see that the walls are adorned with murals that acknowledge the Peterloo Massacre which took place not too far away from its doors.

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