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Buck Inn, Ashton-upon-Mersey
The Buck Inn is situated on the corner of Buck Lane and Green Lane in Ashton-upon-Mersey (Figure 1). It was built in the early eighteenth century and was, for a time, known as ‘The Dog and Buck’. The inn was run by the Davis family for many years from the mid to late 1700s.
During the 1800s, the Buck was used as a courthouse, and one of the cellars became the village gaol. The stocks were originally located on the forecourt of the Buck, but they were later moved to St Martin’s Church on nearby Church Lane. It is alleged that an underground tunnel ran from the gaol to the Church, and through this, prisoners were led to the stocks.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the stocks (Figure 2) were found in the rectory stables by the Reverend Abraham Mendel Hertzberg and he presented them to Ashton-upon-Mersey Urban District Council. According to Dr Charles J. Renshaw, these stocks were built in 1836 and had taken the place of some old worn out ones. There is a record in the township account books that the constables paid for stocks to be made in 1810.
The annual Ashton-upon-Mersey wakes was a time of great excitement in the village, and people gathered from miles around to enjoy feasting, races, and games of strength and skill. Pedlars, hawkers and salesmen came from afar to sell their wares. As a rule, the wakes began with a service at St Martin’s Church, followed by a daily programme of entertainment, which took place in the area around the two village inns, the Buck and the Old Plough. Games such as ‘grinning through a horse collar’, ‘foot race for a hat’, ‘drinking gin for ladies of all ages’ and ‘walking in patterns by ladies’ were very popular, together with donkey racing, wheelbarrow races, sack races and apple bobbing. The barbaric ‘ancient sport’ of bull baiting attracted large audiences, and due to its popularity, was held every day throughout the festival.
According to Dr Charles J. Renshaw, not all Ashton’s villagers enjoyed the wakes:
The fine old lady, Mrs Hunter of Ashton Hall, was much interested in the well-being of the villagers, but lost her interest in the wakes as the population of Ashton-upon-Mersey increased. Her lands shady and pleasant, were visited by too many of the lads and lasses, and invaded by visitors from the town, taking, besides wild flowers her primroses and anemones, white-scented violets and cowslips, and the beautiful kingfishers were either destroyed or frightened away from their haunts, until for some time none were left.
George Morris in Lore and legends of the old Village, refers to the Buck when he states ‘History records that a murderer was once apprehended in the Inn’. Dr Renshaw throws more light on this subject in his account of an incident that occurred during the Ashton-upon-Mersey wakes, when a man from Staffordshire was brutally attacked in the village and left for dead:
Acting, not exactly on information received, but from his own conviction that a man named Weston was responsible, an Altrincham constable known as ‘Natty’ Pass, proceeded to Ashton-on-Mersey. He watched the bull baits which took place amid the shouts of the crowd, and afterwards entered a public house, which was occupied by a disorderly rabble, gathered from all parts of the country. He was a man of portly form and had a pistol ready for use in case of emergency. Seizing Weston he informed him that he was his prisoner. The very suddenness of the act seemed to paralyse the onlookers, and before they could recover from their surprise, he had his man outside and carefully manacled. On the way he (Weston) made a confession to the crime and was removed to Staffordshire to be tried. This little incident while importing flavour to Ashton wakes, at the same time records the bravery of an old-fashioned constable.
In 1841, most of Ashton-upon-Mersey village consisted of gardens and orchards. One exception was the junction of Buck Lane and Green Lane, where there were a number of buildings. As well as cottages occupied by market gardeners and agricultural labourers, there was a bootmaker and a blacksmith. In the yard of the Buck inn was a wheelwright’s shop and across the way was a grocer, a joiner and the Old Plough Inn.
The census of 1841 indicates that the licensee of the Buck was Elizabeth Watson. She lived at the inn with her two sons, James and John, two servants, three farm labourers and a lodger, who worked in the wheelwright shop. Elizabeth died in 1842, and her son John took over the running of the Buck and remained the licensee for over twenty years. In addition to running the inn, he also worked as a blacksmith and wheelwright. The Buck was also utilised as an auction house for the selling of property and land.
Samuel Brooks was a prominent financier and banker (Figure 3). By 1846, he owned a vast area of land in Sale and in 1852, he bought the Earl of Stamford’s land in Ashton-upon-Mersey. A shrewd man, he was aware that Manchester’s wealthy manufacturers and factory owners desired to live in attractive areas away from the city, yet still remain within easy travelling distance. As a result, he sold large plots of land in Sale and Ashton, for redevelopment. Samuel was lord of the manor of Ashton-upon-Mersey and he revived the ancient Court Leet. On 6 November 1858, the following notice appeared in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire Advertiser:
The Court Baron of Samuel Brooks Esquire, for his Manor of Ashton-upon-Mersey will be held and kept at the dwelling house of Mr John Watson, the sign of the Buck, in Ashton-upon-Mersey, within the said manor, on Thursday, the 18th day of November, by eleven of the clock in the forenoon of the same day, and all persons who owe suit and service at the said court are then and there to appear and do the same and at the same time the tenants are to pay their reserved rents as usual; and the tenants in the townships of Sale, Baguley and Timperley, are also requested to pay their chief rents at the same time.
By 1871, John Wolstencroft had taken over the Buck and was living there with his wife Elizabeth and her two sisters.
From 1890 onwards, the licensees of the Buck changed many times; they included Charles Leah, Margaret Parkinson, John Henry Atkinson, William Midwinter, James Longworth, William Pointing, Hannah Pointing and George William Bowen.
The Chester Courant dated 21 October 1896 reported:
The tenancy of the Buck Inn had changed very frequently because they found it impossible to carry on in a satisfactory way, owing to the number of rowdy people – poachers, thieves and others – who frequented it in considerable numbers. The tenants up to September 1895, did their best to carry on the house satisfactorily, but they failed. A Mrs Parkinson became tenant at that time and her management was of a different character.
Margaret Parkinson’s management of the Buck left a great deal to be desired. In 1895, she introduced a system of free drinks on Sunday evenings, allowing customers to have a free tipple. However, many customers abused the system and had more than their fair share of free drinks, resulting in a great deal of drunkenness and nuisance to the neighbourhood. Police had made a number of visits to try to obtain reliable evidence of drunkenness, but owing to a system of look outs placed on the door, the constables had found it impossible to obtain that evidence. However, one Sunday evening they found six men drinking in the tap room and one of them was ‘perfectly drunk’. Mrs Parkinson was fined £1 and the man, 3 shillings. Margaret also supplied drinks to people who regularly gathered in the afternoons at a nearby meadow, causing more mayhem in the area, and as a result, the Buck’s licence was withdrawn and the inn was closed down.
In October 1896, following a successful appeal, Altrincham magistrates renewed the licence of the Buck, and John Harry Atkinson took over the running of the inn. However, it wasn’t long until he was charged with allowing drunkenness on his premises and was fined 40 shillings plus costs. A new licensee, William Midwinter took over in 1898. He held a number of auctions at the Buck and amongst the items on sale were a motorcycle sidecar, a wagonette, landau and Hansom cab. William also ran a horse- drawn omnibus service between Sale Station and the Buck.
In later years, an annual pot fair visited Ashton-upon-Mersey village, and the Buck was decorated with pots and other crockery. The pub has been extended over the years, and the windows and entrance door have been altered from their original state.
Dr Charles J. Renshaw: History of St Martins Church, Ashton-upon-Mersey
John Newhill: Sale, Cheshire in 1841. Its people and their lives
Steven Dickens: Sale Through Time
Cliff Hayes: Bygone Sale and Ashton on Mersey
Ashton and Sale History Society Journal No 2
George W. Morris: Lore and legends of the Old Village
Sale Guardian 7 February 1958
The Chester Courant dated 21 October 1896
British Newspaper Archive