Jackson's Boat ( Bridge Inn ) at Sale

Jackson's Boat, Rifle Road, Sale

Figure 1. Jackson's Boat (Bridge Inn) 1977. Trafford Local Studies Collection TL4298

Jackson’s Boat, also known as the Bridge Inn (Figure 1), is a historic public house situated on the banks of the River Mersey at the end of Rifle Road ( originally known as Rifle Butt Road) in Sale.

The River Mersey is the traditional boundary between Cheshire and Lancashire. However, due to natural changes in the course of the river over many centuries, Jackson’s Boat was in the unusual position of being located in Lancashire (within the boundary of Manchester city) in spite of sitting on the Cheshire side of the river ( Figure 2). Jackson Boat's location was Chorlton-cum-Hardy until 1987, when the Local Government Boundary Commission for England revised the Manchester and Trafford boundary, resulting in the pub now being in Sale. 

Ordnance Survey map; Cheshire sheet IX.12 ; Lancashire sheet CX1. ( parts of) dated 1910 showing the location of Jackson's Boat.

Figure 2. Ordnance Survey map; Cheshire sheet IX.12 ; Lancashire sheet CX1. ( parts of) dated 1910 showing the location of Jackson's Boat and the Cheshire/Lancashire boundary. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. 80510728

The original inn was constructed in 1663 and called the Old Greyhound. The building stood on the edge of a desolate moor and was visited by the occasional stagecoach and traders on their way to market to sell their wares.

Due to the Inn’s quiet location, it became an illegal meeting place of the Jacobites during the uprisings of the eighteenth century. Here they would dine and at the end of each meal, raise a toast to the health of the Pretender, Prince Charles, when glasses would be raised over a bowl of water placed in the middle of the table. John Alldridge described the Inn as:

The perfect spot, indeed, for hatching plots and counterplots. So it became in these troubled times a rendezvous for discontented Jacobites who would meet there at furtive dinner parties to toast the “King across the water”. Among them was the celebrated Dr John Byrom, author of the celebrated Christmas hymn ‘Christians Awake’. It was here in 1745 that “Colonel” Towneley, a rough-tongued Jacobite recruiting agent, came to drum up volunteers for Bonnie Prince Charlie, already on his way south to claim his throne. Among the hot-heads he enrolled was a parson – a Dr Deacon and his three sons, Tom Coppock, curate of Manchester Parish Church and Tom Sydall, a barber. They marched off to join Prince Charlie, but very few of them ever saw their favourite pub again.

Battle of Culloden  - oil on canvas

Battle of Culloden, oil on canvas, painted in 1746 by David Morier (1705 - 1770) courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Battle_of_Culloden.jpg. This image is in the public domain.

The Manchester Regiment was a Jacobite unit of soldiers raised in Manchester during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, supporting Charles Edward Stewart in his attempt to overthrow George II. The three hundred volunteers, commanded by Francis Towneley reached Carlisle Castle, but they fell to government forces and most of the Manchester regiment were captured, imprisoned, transported or executed. A small detachment from the Manchester Regiment made it to the Battle of Culloden, where they met similar fates.

In the late 1700s, a local farmer named Jackson, had the clever idea of supplementing his income by running a ferry boat across the river to the Old Greyhound. By the end of the century, two boats were running a shuttle service, but traffic had become so heavy, they couldn’t satisfy the demand. The ferry was discontinued in 1816, when a wooden bridge was built at a cost of £200 by Samuel Wilton, landlord of the Inn. A half penny toll was collected from everyone who crossed over on foot; while a penny, was charged to those who had a bicycle. The fee was waived if the person concerned, had business at the inn. To mark the occasion, the Old Greyhound was renamed the 'Bridge Inn’. Grateful locals, however, never forgot Farmer Jackson and his ferry, and the pub has always been affectionately known as ‘Jackson’s Boat’.

The present brick building was constructed at the end of the 18th century, and replaced the old wooden house on the site. It had a barn and stable, as well as a brew house for producing ale on the premises. In December 1814, the grounds and property were put up for auction at the Bay Horse Hotel, in Chorlton village, and the inn was advertised as ‘Jacksons of the Boat’ or the ‘Boat House’.

In 1860, the Manchester Rifle Club consisting of 160 members, succeeded in obtaining an excellent practice ground for rifle shooting. The butts were situated at Jackson’s Boat and allowed a range of 500 yards. 

City dwellers often took a trip out to the countryside at weekends, to enjoy the fresh air and a pint or two at Jackson’s Boat. Andrew Simpson writes: 'some were families escaping for a few hours from those dismal narrow streets and closed courts hedged in by mills, timber yards and iron works'.

The pub's remoteness often attracted gangs of men who assembled in the surrounding fields to watch illegal cock fighting.

When the Mersey flooded its banks, part of the inn was often under water, and landlord and staff had to wade through the flooding to save their beer barrels. Barrels were often kept upstairs, so that during floods, alcohol could be sold out of the bedroom window. Eventually, arrangements were put in place to elevate the building by two feet. While there have been many floods over the years, extensive raising of the riverbanks themselves and use of artificial reservoirs as overflow areas has eased the problem dramatically. Down the river from the iron bridge, there are two sluice gates which form part of the Mersey's flood defences.

Jackson's Bridge by Jackson's Boat, Sale

Figure 2. Jackson’s Boat iron footbridge c.1901. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL1493

Jackson's Boat, (the Bridge Inn), Sale

Jackson's Boat and Jackson's Bridge 1906. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL4297

The wooden bridge was eventually swept away in a storm in 1880 and, the following year, a new wrought iron bridge was constructed by the engineering and iron foundry firm, E. T. Bellhouse and Company (Figure 2). There was a gate on the bridge near the pub side. Edward Taylor Bellhouse was one of Manchester’s leading engineers and today the bridge is considered to be of great architectural interest, as well as a much - loved local landmark. Now a Grade II listed structure, Historic England describes the bridge as:

'a daring design, producing an unusually long and light single-span, wrought-iron footbridge situated at an important and well established historic crossing point of the River Mersey’.

Tolls continued to be collected until after the Second World War, when Manchester Corporation purchased the bridge and abolished the charges.

At the 1851 census, Samuel Nixon was listed as 'innkeeper of the 'Jackson's Bridge Inn', and occupier of land of 5 acres'. By 1861, Joseph and Mary Cordingley had taken over the running of the inn, and when Joseph died in 1869, Mary remained there until her death in 1902.

Mary Cordingley was a well respected landlady although this was called into question when, in June 1876, she was charged with 'selling beer during prohibited hours on a Sunday' to two men who weren't travellers. A 'bona fide traveller' was someone who was travelling for business or work. They had to be at least three statute miles from the place where they had slept the previous night. However Mary was able to prove that she had done everything in her power to try to prevent this happening by having a man stationed at her front door to ascertain whether people were 'bona fide travellers'. The two men who had maintained they had travelled from Manchester, were in fact local residents from Chorlton and Stretford who had fancied a few pints of beer. They were both fined 5 shillings plus costs for falsely representing themselves as travellers and the charge against Mary was dropped.

In July 1902, the Manchester Evening News reported Mary's death and provided an insight into her character:

Mary Cordingley was occupier of the Bridge Inn, more familiarly known as Jackson’s Boat for over forty years. A familiar figure on the toll bridge connecting Chorlton with Sale, her cheery presence and wonderful vitality won the admiration of all. She belonged to the old school so rapidly disappearing from our midst and was strictly honest in all her dealings. Though rather conservative and shy with strangers, to anyone who she knew, and could ‘draw her in a little’, her reminiscences and stories were very entertaining. Her opinion on the weather was invariably correct.

Jackson's Boat iron footbridge

Jackson's Boat iron footbridge c1900. Trafford Local Studies cat. ref. TL1493  

In 1901, the formation of a bowling club at Jackson’s Boat proved to be a great success and the bowling-green was considered to be one of the best in the area with many championship matches taking place there. 

Years later, John Alldridge recalled his visit to Jackson’s Boat in August 1971:

The local bowling club take their game very seriously indeed and cherish their acre of fine Cumberland turf as if it were covered with priceless Gobelins tapestry at least. I carried my shandy out into the garden and sat down by the edge of the green. Along the banks of the river and in the meadows, lovers laughed, or walked, wordless. Hand in hand, as they have done for generations and it was very peaceful.

Sale Water Park

Sale Water Park in 1989 courtesy of A. Smith. Trafford Local Studies cat. ref. TL7212.

Jackson’s Boat is a short walk from Sale Water Park, a man-made lake and former gravel quarry. In the 1970s, material was dug from this site to construct the M60 motorway embankment.Previously the site belonged to Sale Old Hall which stood close to the site of Junction 6.

Jackson's Boat ( The Bridge Inn) showing Rifle Road, Sale

Jackson's Boat ( The Bridge Inn) showing Rifle Road c1960. Trafford Local Studies cat. ref. TL4926

Jackson's Boat showing Rifle Road, Sale

Jackson's Boat and Rifle Road. Photograph by M. Bradshaw, January 2021. 

There have been a number of ghostly goings on at Jackson’s Boat over the years. The pub is said to be the home of a Scottish ghost named ‘George’, who is dressed in Highland attire. The same figure has been seen riding along the canal bank on a half-visible horse. Some have heard the sound of a child laughing when the pub is empty and there have been reports of a dark shadow moving through the bar area. In the dead of night, the noise of someone hammering on the front door has been heard, yet there is no one outside. 

Jackson's Boat and Jackson's footbridge

Jackson's Boat and footbridge. Photograph by S.Llewellyn, February 2021.



Manchester Evening News dated 23 July 1902

Steven Dickens: Sale through time

F. Byron & M. Partington: Sale in Times Past

Vivien Hainsworth: Looking back at Sale

Phil Page & Ian Littlechilds: River Mersey: From source to sea

John Alldrige: The Alldrige File 1972


Andrew Simpson: https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/2015/06/mrs-cordingley-at-jacksons-boat-up-in.html

Manchester Mercury dated 15 November 1814 



Trafford Lifetimes




British Newspaper Archive


Jackson's Boat ( Bridge Inn ) at Sale