Further Reading #3: Boddies and Opening Times at Manchester Library

Map with marker pen: "PH" (public house)

Researching 20th Century Pub we spent time in some great libraries and archives with rich collections of pub- and beer-related material. This is the third in a series of blog posts intended to highlight great resources we hope you’ll go an look up yourself.

Manchester’s Cen­tral Library feat. Archives+, as we think it is for­mal­ly called, is on St Peter’s Square oppo­site the famous Mid­land Hotel. It’s a grand build­ing con­struct­ed in the 1930s but in clas­si­cal style and is round with a dome. You’ll find most of the impor­tant stuff on the ground floor – not only ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al on open access but also the archive read­ing room.

We found access­ing the archives a bit of a bureau­crat­ic ordeal, if we’re hon­est. News­pa­pers on micro­fiche are avail­able on site along with a cer­tain num­ber of ref­er­ence texts but the stuff we were after – brew­ery records, local plan­ning doc­u­ments – had to be ordered well in advance, a few at at ime. That’s fine if you hap­pen to live in Man­ches­ter but trav­el­ling from Pen­zance as we were at the time it was rather lim­it­ing. Still, the library staff could not have been more help­ful, not least in point­ing us to alter­na­tive sources for some doc­u­ments such as this online archive of his­toric plan­ning pub­li­ca­tions.

City of Manchester Plan, 1945

Via those off-site stacks we did man­age to get access to some beau­ti­ful hand-drawn and coloured city plan­ning maps the size of bed­spreads, their text applied with sten­cils or rub-down let­ter­ing. They were a night­mare to han­dle and not actu­al­ly all that much use in the end though there was cer­tain­ly a thrill attached to see­ing PUBLIC HOUSE or PH marked here or there. (See main pic­ture, above.)

The best things we looked at – again, not much of which actu­al­ly informed 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub – were records from Boddington’s Brew­ery. Of course we looked up recipes in the brew­ing logs, though Ron Pat­tin­son has done a much more thor­ough job of pro­cess­ing those since we tipped him off to their renewed avail­abil­i­ty. We also ploughed through board minute books which were crammed with fas­ci­nat­ing details – notes on spe­cif­ic pubs and pub­li­cans, indus­tri­al acci­dents, local pol­i­tick­ing and the birth of the nation­al Beer is Best cam­paign in the 1930s, to name but a few. There are also lots of inserts like this:

Report on the 1966 hop crop.

Out­side in the main ref­er­ence library, into which you can wan­der from the street more or less when­ev­er you like, for as long as you like, and help your­self to mate­r­i­al from the shelves, there is a real trea­sure trove of use­ful stuff.

First there’s what would seem to be a com­plete set of the beer and pub his­to­ry pam­phlets pub­lished by Neil Richard­son. Most are about the size and weight of a stan­dard mag­a­zine and have the appear­ance of fanzines with coloured card cov­ers, rough­ly repro­duced pho­tographs and word-proces­sor-for­mat­ted text. The qual­i­ty of the con­tents varies too but the best among them, e.g. The Old Pubs of Chorl­ton-upon-Med­lock, are trea­sure troves of oral his­to­ry and for­aged fact. (Some are now avail­able for Kin­dle at rea­son­able prices if you fan­cy a quick taster with­out trav­el­ling to Man­ches­ter.)

The Old Pubs of Ancoats

Then there’s the bound set of edi­tions of the local Cam­paign for Real Ale mag­a­zine Open­ing Times run­ning from 1994 to (we think) the present day. Man­ches­ter was an inter­est­ing place on the beer front in the 1990s with Bren­dan Dobbin’s pio­neer­ing exper­i­ments with New World hops, the birth and evo­lu­tion of Mar­ble, the com­ing of Mash & Air, and the arrival of the biggest pub in Britain. Open­ing Times record­ed all this as it unfold­ed so that over the course of a few issues you can see, for exam­ple, adver­tise­ments for Dobbin’s ales fol­lowed by wor­ry­ing reports of the health of the busi­ness and, final­ly, a notice of its clo­sure. It was also rather star­tling to come across the arti­cle below among the pub crawl reports and tast­ing notes:

Headline: "THE BOMB".

Final­ly, there are numer­ous local his­to­ry books and mem­oirs which, though not exclu­sive­ly about pubs or beer, touch upon them at var­i­ous points, often at length. We were par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed to dis­cov­er Jere­my Seabrook’s 1971 book City Close Up which was based on inter­views and con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple in Black­burn, Lan­cashire, dur­ing the sum­mer of 1969. There are sev­er­al sec­tions touch­ing on pubs and drink includ­ing one chap­ter called ‘Evening in the Wheat­sheaf’ in which three young men, engi­neer­ing appren­tices, dis­cuss ‘going out’:

ALAN: You start drink­ing when you’re about fif­teen, pubs around [the cen­tre of Black­burn], nobody stops you. There’s nowt else to do. When you first start drink­ing, you sup a right lot of shit, you don’t know what a good pint is. They’ll serve you any­thing, they’re just mak­ing their mon­ey out of you when you start.

And once you’re done with Man­ches­ter there’s always Bolton a short train ride away where you can find copies of the raw notes from the Mass Obser­va­tion pub obser­va­tion project of the late 1930s, or the Greenall Whit­ley papers at Chester.

4 thoughts on “Further Reading #3: Boddies and Opening Times at Manchester Library”

  1. As I’ve been edit­ing Open­ing Time since May 1988 I have quite an archive (which dates back to before my time in the edi­to­r­i­al seat). Pleased you found it use­ful although I have no idea where the library sources its copies as we cer­tain­ly don’t drop them off (as far as I know).

    I remem­ber writ­ing “The Bomb” piece – it was hard­ly some­thing we could ignore but not sure how best to tack­le it. I always thought it iron­ic hat it was a Mag­ic Pub­Co (very) fake Irish pub that took the brunt of the blast. By the way did you ever look into the activ­i­ties of the Mag­ic Pub Co? Open­ing Times once gave then a “Plas­tic Lep­rechaun Award” in our (then) annu­al Pub Van­dal­ism Awards for their ter­ri­ble and tacky con­ver­sions. I seem to recall that made the nation­al press (well, parts of it).

    1. No, we’ve nev­er got round to look­ing much into Mag­ic. I remem­ber they came up a few years ago when we wrote about Newquay Steam because that’s what Michael Can­non went on to do next. The name did come up a few times while we were research­ing the Irish pubs chap­ter of 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, though.

  2. I think if you were to do a crossover study of great library with [x] num­ber of great pubs with­in a five minute walk, Mcr Cen­tral would prob­a­bly win.

  3. Shouldn’t be quite as excit­ed as I am at that hop list, notably at the sight of com­mer­cial sales from Wye Col­lege, as that means there will be analy­sis of same in the Annu­al Review. But it allows cor­re­la­tion of hops in the 1968 recipe – Meakin is Mid-Kent Bram­lings (these days lumped in with Gold­ings, unless they mean the Cross which I doubt) from by Blue­wa­ter, Bax­ter is EKG and Wye sup­plied North­ern Brew­er.

    If only we had the old Bod­dies’ yeast.…

    Ron’s lat­est post is the recipe for 1901 Bod­dies, not so very dif­fer­ent oth­er than a high­er grav­i­ty. Good pale, hop­py stuff from when Vic­to­ria was on the throne.

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