This is a picture of the Ye Old Blue Bell Inn on Moston Lane in its original incarnation around the late 19th – early 20th century.
It is unclear when the original Ye Old Blue Bell was built, but by the design which is similar to the traditional 2-storey plan, grade II listed stone-brick Pack Horse Inn 3 miles away in Failsworth, which has parts of the building dating from as the early 1700s, we can estimate it was around the same period.
The Pack Horse was originally a coaching inn, located just off one of the main trading routes, Oldham Road, between Manchester and Oldham and although much altered inside, externally it retains much of its original design including the horse mounting steps, which if legend be true, infamous Essex-born highwayman Dick Turpin would have dismounted his trusty steed, Black Bess as he lodged at the inn.
It is also unclear when the Ye Old Blue Bell was demolished and what the circumstances were surrounding its move into the later building (c1890) pictured at the back and when it dropped the Ye Old to simply become the Blue Bell. It was possibly due to road expansion or perhaps due to the state that the original building found itself in. If anyone as any further information or photos on this please get in touch below, we would love to hear from you.
The Blue Bell, owned by Manchester family brewer, Joseph Holt is thankfully still standing and very much open for business, unlike many of pubs along Moston Lane, such as the Thatched House just down from the Blue Bell, having been converted into housing in 2011. In the same year the Ben Brierley pub on the corner of Moston Lane/ Kenyon Lane , named after the famous Failsworth born writer and journalist, also had a change of use and became the Citizens Advice Bureau and a centre for the community to get assistance and help.
At least these two pubs and historic buildings are serving the community as they previously did as public houses.
However, further down Moston Lane, other pubs faired far worse. Notably the historic Bricklayers Arms, which sadly was demolished in 2011 and evidence of what happens when weak central councils allow unscrupulous speculators with no interest in serving the community, buy up the very foundations of the community and its heritage, in its buildings and then purposely neglect them to the point where they have to be demolished.
Further evidence of poor and costly decision making by the Council is also sadly all too familiar just a couple of hundred yards down from the where the Bricklayers Arms once served the community, in the the space where the Golden Tavern once stood in nearby Harpurhey.
Bought by the Council for £200,000 in early 2012 from Britain’s biggest pub landlord and pub company (Pubco) Enterprise Inns, only to be demolished shortly after at not only a cost to the local built heritage, the aesthetic street scene and cultural history of the area, but also to the tax payer and the effects the demolition of buildings has on the local environment in terms of pollution.
The pub was originally supposed to wrap around the new Factory Youth Zone, a modern charitable youth club, but was later decided that this was not feasible. However, it was alleged that the Council attempted to buy the Golden Tavern three years prior to its demolition, which if true raises serious questions about how much the Council respects and is concerned about preserving local heritage and culture.
However, with the general but misguided bad reputation of public houses throughout the UK, for which all the ills of the binge drinking society have over the last 10 years been aimed at and away from the root cause, large multi national supermarkets, the Council in its wisdom, saw a small patch of grass would be better suited to meet it’s none existent policy on the beauty and aesthetics of our built environment. For evidence of which, just walk anywhere around the “regenerated” City Centre of Manchester, notably the monstrosity that is the imposing, oppressive and formulaic Beetham Tower on Deansgate, built by Ian Simpson Architects in 2006.
What the Council has and will always misunderstand is that communities have deep rooted foundations and they are undermined by what appears to be seemingly constant transitory and unsubtle nature of its policies, notably continual demolition.
You cannot manufacture community, you have to nurture it. You can support it, but it must be organic and not artificially created because as the brutalistic post-war architecture that sprang up between 1950 -1970 throughout Manchester and Britain should have shown us, it just doesn’t work. There is no grand Le Corbusier solution, no grand utopian vision.
Build and improve where necessary, but support and listen, understand and give guidance if necessary, but don’t believe ripping up and trampling over the pages of history, whilst throwing huge sums of public money at large publicity driven projects solve anything. History has told us the that it simply doesn’t work. If you keep one eye on the past, you are blind in one eye. If you ignore the past, you are blind in both eyes as the old Russian saying goes.
The strength of community at the Blue Bell continues to endure and is all too evident in two of the societies that have their roots at the pub. The Blue Bell Golf Society – “one of the longest running golf societies in Manchester”, was founded at the Blue Bell in 1973, although it is now based at the Blackley Golf Club. Another example of the strength of community at the Bluebell and Moston in general, is the famous running club the Salford Harriers who have their home at the Blue Bell and are one of the oldest clubs of their kind in the country and with its Olympic pedigree has become one of the most famous.
The Blue Bell is testament to both the endurance of fine architecture and loyal and strong community ties that exist throughout Moston to this day (Please also see Moston Miners Club). Whilst many pubs have succumb to changing local economies and markets, poor management, crippling pub ties and aggressive Government and Council endorsed and supported supermarket giants, the Blue Bell not only gives us a glimpse into our past, it is window into how the future can be and to use Government and Council rhetoric “social cohesion” is something that has always existed in places like the Blue Bell and Moston, but its not something they feel the need to get on the soapbox about, because they know somethings don’t need to be talked about and are often best left untouched. Speak low if you speak love as Shakesphere said.
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