The origins of Cheshire Pub names
PUBLISHED: 23:16 24 September 2012 | UPDATED: 12:34 19 January 2016
n the first of a new series, we investigate the meaning of some of Cheshire's more unusual pub names WORDS BY IAN RODGERS MAIN PHOTOGRAPHY JOHN COCKS
The Rovers Return, the Nags Head, the Dog and Duck are pub names we can all relate to. But the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn? Shurely shome mishtake, as an over-zealous hostelry regular may declare.
Our region has some outstanding landmarks and names to glory in but the humble public house moniker has never been viewed as a potential tourist attraction.
However, throughout Cheshire a sprinkling of the unexpected can lighten the mood and entice drinkers. None more so than the aforementioned Rifleman - annotated here for a rather obvious reason. Proudly boasting the title of longest-named public house in the United Kingdom, the pub stands on the very edge of Cheshire in the town of Stalybridge. To be precise, the Guinness Book of Records holder resides in Astley Street, within walking distance of the train station.
The story of the pub’s ascent into the British history books stems from the vision of one man in the middle of the 19th century, as Rifleman owner, Sarah Gregory explains. ‘In 1855, Stephen Cliffe left the Union Inn on Brierley Street and opened a new beer house at Spring Bank, which he called the New Inn,’ says Sarah.
‘Spring Bank Cottage and Spring Bank Terrace were nearby and so the street in front of the New Inn was called New Spring Bank Street. By 1880, the 13th Cheshire Rifle Volunteer Corps Drill Hall had been built between Walmsley Street and Spring Bank Street and New Spring Bank Street was renamed Astley Street. The name of the beer house was probably changed at this time, certainly by 1902 it was The Thirteenth Mounted Cheshire Rifleman Inn.
The beer house was owned by Ann Crofts in 1890, then by Frederick Crofts, whose executors sold it to Wilson’s Brewery some time before 1920. The Rifleman was originally numbered 48 Astley Street; it had expanded into number 50 by 1890 and Wilson’s also owned numbers 52, 54, 56 and 58 Astley Street.
A wine licence was granted on 6th March 1950 and on 25th May 1956 The Rifleman became a public house when the full licence was transferred from the Floating Light on Bridge Street.
The first edition of the Guinness Book of Records acknowledged that The Thirteenth Mounted Cheshire Rifleman Inn was the longest public house name in the UK.
However, the Rifleman has had to fight to cling onto its place in the history books with other hostelries intent on stealing its crown in recent years.
‘The 13th edition of the Guinness Book of Records in 1966 mentions the fact that “Mounted” was omitted from the pub’s name, but came up with no alternative pub. Then, the 20th edition in 1973 also mentioned the omission and declared the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Tavern the record holder. However, the 27th edition in 1980 reinstated the Stalybridge pub - presumably the word “mounted” had been put back in!’
The Rifleman again lost its title later in the 1980s, so Webster and Wilson’s Brewery decided to do something about it and added three more words.
Today the pub holds the record with the name comprising 55 letters.
There is also a fascinating backstory to the Rifleman’s more recent history with the freehold of the pub being bought by Sarah and her partner, Steven McCarthy, in July 2010 when its former owners were looking to sell.
Further west along the M56, another long-standing real ale pub survived the ravages of the Second World War to continue its long history.
A Nazi bomb struck Park Lane in Little Bollington in 1940 during a minor blitz of the Altrincham area, but the nearby pub, The Swan With Two Nicks, which takes its name from royal protocol and patronage, remained stoically defiant.
The pub’s name has its links with the Vintners Company in the 14th Century as owner Ann Amphlett explains.
‘By ancient custom, the Sovereign owns the swans on the Royal River Thames, but additionally the Vintners and Dyers Companies each have the right to a game. From 1878 to 1996, when the young cygnets were born, they were marked with one nick or two nicks in the beak, according to the markings of their parents. One nick denotes ownership by the Dyers and two nicks by The Vintners. These marks gradually grew out and disappeared as they grew.’
The Hough Green-based Hammer and Pincers dates back to the 1760s although its early days saw it called The Horsehoe.
The pub was situated next to a blacksmiths, creating the obvious title for the hostelry. The smithy, apparently, crafted spikes for the nearby railway line.
However, in 1899, the pub was bought by Greenall and Whitley’s brewery and they switched the name to the Hammer & Pincers in further honour of its heritage.
Industry and sport collide in Comerbach, near Northwich, where the Spinner & Bergamot Inn has been a regular fixture since its construction in 1746.
The inn was previously owned by the Smith Barry family of Marbury Hall and was originally titled The Spinner in recognition of the spinning loom between Pickmere and Wincham.
Land owner Sir Hugh Smith Barry favoured the inn as his local to such an extent that he named one of his racehorses, The Spinner, after it. The highlight of the filly‘s career came in 1764 when she won the Ladies’ Plate at Scarborough.
So delighted with the success of the horse, Smith Barry bought the inn himself and added a new name - Bergamot - to the pub‘s title.
The Bergamot was an even more successful horse for Smith Barry, clinching the Chester Cup in 1794 - a win which would make Smith Barry‘s fortune.
Robert and Anita Southerton took over the pub two years ago and recognise the role it has played in the community through the years.
‘We are local ourselves and know places such as Marbury Park and Marbury Hall (demolished in 1968) and the pub has always been there,’ says Anita.
‘The name is really important and is steeped in the history of the area and we are often asked about it by visitors. It‘s a nice old-fashioned place for the community.’
Frequented by BBC radio presenter Mark Radcliffe, the pub was bought by Robinsons Brewery two years ago.