Stockport & South Manchester

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale

Weekday Wander - The Western Approaches

Friday 5 January 2024 11:30

After all the mayhem and frivolity over the Christmas/New Year period, this is a gentle stroll around a few pubs to the west of Manchester. The title is inspired by the Ministry of Information film of 1944, Western Approaches, watch here with an excerpt of the soundtrack here. Unlike the bleak, dangerous, cold and wave lashed outing implied by the film, we should at least avoid the waves!

We meet in the Paramount on Oxford Street at 11:30 to try and beet the dinnertime rush for food. Being a Wetherspoon outlet you will know what to expect with beer range and decor. For any among us who are Wetherspoon Carpet Tickers, the dedicated website is lacking a photo, so get your camera out and get clicking!

On leaving we will travel south down Oxford Street to check on the Bundobust as there was uncertainty on whether they would be open earlier in the week or taking a rest after the hectic festive season. Cunningly created out of a previous service area, this is the site of their brewery. Vegetarian Indian street food is served all day. Only two cask ales are available, along with a myriad of fonts. Please note: The address is 61-69 Oxford Street and not as given by WhatPub, 61-69 Oxford Road, which is much further south near to the Mancunian Way.

Now a complete change from the modern, new and shiny to a historic Manchester outlet. Before crossing the road take note of the magnificent Victorian(?) buildings either side of Oxford Street, from the St James's Building you have just exited to the Tootal Building across the way. Site seeing over, we head down Great Bridgewater Street, passing the Temple, housed in a former gentlemen's toilet (but no real ale) bringing us to the Peveril Of The Peak.

There is much discussion of the Peveril Of The Peak name. Some say it commemorates a horse-drawn stagecoach that departed from the Peacock Coach Office on Market Street when the pub opened back in 1830. Others say it references the 1823 Sir Walter Scott novel of the same name, which references Peveril Castle near Castleton. Discuss. On approaching, note the frieze depicting the name over the windows, along with the glorious yellow/green tiles which can't be missed. These are echoed internally, but defiantly in green. Were both originally the same shade, with those outside having subsequently faded in the intense Manchester sunshine! Internally it is a warren of little rooms, little altered from its Victorian original, most still retaining their original bell pushes. No wonder it is Grade II listed.

Across the road we enter JW Lees' Rain Bar, named, most likely, because the premise was formally an umbrella factory, but with a passing nod to Manchester's (reputed) weather. A large bar face you on entry, which offers the full range of JW Lees beers along with a range of foods. There is also an excellent patio and a canal side garden, neither if which we are likely to frequent today! Of further interest is its address; the buildings' numbers are descending as we head away from the town hall. The convention is to start with the lowest number nearest the town hall, which can cause some confusion in Manchester as the town hall has changed location, but all well to the east so that doesn't answer the question.

Leaving this dilemma we progress to 50 Great Bridgewater Street, or as we know it, the Britons Protection. Grade II listed because of many features, but the tiled floor and corridor, 1930s urinals and moulded ceiling shouldn't be missed. Nor should the two back rooms be overlooked, still served via a hatch in the back of the bar. This hatch service often had a door, and to be served you had to rap on the woodwork, hence the name Tap Room. Eight handpumps are available, but the usual range is five or six beers, with occasionally a cider. Food is served at the Britons Protection, but finishes at 2pm so no last minute sustenance can be undertaken. For those of us of a certain age, we will remember having a swift half in the Britons Protection while awaiting our connection from across the road in the Lower Mosley Street Bus Station. My acquaintance is awaiting the X12 service, especially in winter. This was a joint service run by North Western and Yorkshire Woollen District, so the last bus, being run from the Yorkshire end, would get home over the hills no matter what the weather or route — though often it wouldn't turn up at all!

This is the intended end of the Wander as a separate visit to the Castlefield area is envisioned (but not yet planned!) Should we be early, or if we want to avoid the rush hour, just the other side of the Bridgewater Hall there is the Vocation & Co where we can partake of that 'One for the road' (or rail or tram!)

11:3013:00Paramount 33-35 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 4BHFood
13:0014:00Bundobust61-69 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6EJVegitarian
14:0015:00Peveril Of The Peak127 Great Bridgewater Street, Manchester, M1 5JQ 
15:0016:00Rain Bar80 Great Bridgewater Street, Manchester, M1 5JGFood
16:0017:00Britons Protection50 Great Bridgewater Street, Manchester, M1 5LE 

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