Lord Nelson Hotel at Urmston

Lord Nelson Hotel, Stretford Road, Urmston

Figure 1. The Lord Nelson Hotel on Stretford Road, Urmston in 1880. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TRA4828

The Lord Nelson is a grand, three-storey building, located on Stretford Road, Urmston (Figure 1). It was originally built by George Royle in 1805, to honour the death of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) and was rebuilt in 1877 by George Royle's grandson, Thomas. The Royle family were one of a number of prominent families in the Urmston area.

The Lord Nelson consisted of fifteen acres of land and farm buildings. It was utilised as a courthouse, and an auction house for the selling of land, farms, and cattle (Figure 2).

Poster advertising auction to be held at the Lord Nelson Hotel

Figure 2. Advertisement for an auction held at the Lord Nelson Hotel on 9 February 1831. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TRA1781

The Lord Nelson stands on the site of the old court baron, where the Lord of the Manor, who resided at nearby Urmston Hall (Figure 3) would sit in judgement and enforce the law of the land. The building that housed the court on Stretford Road, was removed to accommodate the Lord Nelson.

Hotels across the district, including the Lord Nelson, became the venues for future courthouses. In later years, Colonel Ridehalgh held a twice yearly manorial court at the Lord Nelson to settle local matters relating to the residents of the manor – such as those involving land boundaries or agrarian pursuits. The court baron continued to be held until around the time of Colonel Ridehalgh's death in 1892, but by then, it had degenerated into an annual dinner. 

Urmston Hall, Manor Avenue, Urmston

Figure 3. Urmston Hall, Manor Avenue, Urmston c1900, was the seat of the ancient families of Urmston. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat, ref. TL4620

Across the road from the Lord Nelson stands a red bricked building, which is believed to have originally been a prisoner’s holding house, linked by underground tunnel ( through the cellars) to the court at the Lord Nelson Hotel. It is thought the building then became Urmston Post Office, and later, Trafalgar House, when it was once again linked to the Lord Nelson, as the hotel's servant quarters were located there.

The Lord Nelson, along with other ale houses in the area, staged the ‘sport’ of bull and bear baiting. This was held on the cobbled courtyard at the front of the hotel, and was particuarly popular during the Flixton and Urmston Wakes. However, in 1816, the alehouse keepers, despite benefiting the most from its existence, decided to put a stop to the cruelty, and banned such blood sports from their premises. Handbills were distributed to inform the locals that they would no longer support the savage and brutal practices ( Figure 4).

Such practices were abolished throughout the United Kingdom when the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed by Parliament in 1835.

A bowling green was later added to the Lord Nelson, and offered more respectable forms of entertainment.

Handbill dated 18 August 1816, stating that ale keepers from Flixton and Urmston will no longer support the barbaric practice of bull and bear baiting.

Figure 4. Handbill dated 7th August 1816, stating that ale keepers from Flixton and Urmston, will no longer allow the barbaric practice of bull and bear baiting on their premises. Image from A History of the Parish of Flixton comprising the Townships of Flixton and Urmston by David Herbert Langton

Rebuilt in 1877, the Lord Nelson was described in the Eccles Advertiser in 1887 as: 

Having all the modern notions of capacity, elevation, variety and luxury. There are suites of rooms, billiard and general rooms, all approached by a staircase large and open enough for a bazaar. Adjoining the hotel is a large bowling green, like the hotel itself, enlarged, remodelled and modernised, and every preparation is being made for carriages and horses’. It has been entirely rebuilt at a cost of over £4,000 and the architects are Messrs. Horton & Bridgeford, 19 Cooper Street, Manchester and the contractors, Messrs. Kewley, Jones & Robertson. Bridgewater Street, Manchester. The Court Leet of the manor of Urmston meet and dine here twice a year. There are also at present, one or two sick and burial societies holding their meetings here; cricket and football club meetings and several Manchester societies have taken latterly to coming out to hold their annual dinners.

Ordnance Survey map showing the Lord Nelson Hotel and surrounding area. Lancashire sheet CX3

Ordnance Survey map ( Lancashire sheet CX3) dated 1890 showing the Lord Nelson Hotel and surrounding area. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. 96275987

Lord Nelson Hotel, Stretford Road, Urmston looking towards Stretford, with Gloucester Road on the left.

The Lord Nelson Hotel looking towards Stretford, with Gloucester Road on the left in 1886. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref TL0219

The hotel was a popular stopping place for travellers, and was well-known for selling hot cross buns at Easter time. Several local groups met there, including ‘The Friendly Men’s Society’ – an organisation which provided financial and social services for the working class. The Urmston and District Wheelers (later known as the Urmston Social Cycle Club), also held meetings at the Lord Nelson, as did the local Freemasons. In the early 1900s, the hotel was used as a terminus for local tram and bus companies ( Figure 5).

The Tower Waltz at the opening of  Blackpool Tower in 1894

Figure 6. The Tower Waltz composed by Oliver Gaggs was played at the opening of the Blackpool Tower ballroom in May 1894. Image courtesy of Urmston.net gallery

Oliver Gaggs was landlord of the Lord Nelson between 1898 and 1900. Born in 1840 in Newton Heath, he was a highly respected flautist, composer and conductor. He was associated with the Manchester Comedy Theatre and played in the Halle orchestra, before heading to the Isle of Man where he was conductor at the Palace and Derby Castle ballrooms. Oliver wrote many musical scores including the popular vocal polka, Hi Kelly. In 1894 he was confirmed as the first musical director of the new Tower Orchestra, Blackpool. He wrote The Tower Waltz to celebrate the occasion of the opening of the Tower and Ballroom in May of that year (Figure 6). Oliver Gaggs later moved to Urmston, eventually taking over the running of the Lord Nelson Hotel, before building and retiring to The Roost at 229 Stretford Road.

Other licensees over the years included Stephen Shawcross, Catherine Fielden, Mary Holiday, Herbert Roland Bannister, John Duggan, Alice Featherstone and James Seal.

Horse Bus on Gloucester Road Urmston, Services commenced in June 1901 by Herbert Roland Bannister, landlord of the Lord Nelson Hotel

Figure 5. Horse bus on Gloucester Road, Urmston. Services commenced in June 1901 by Herbert Roland Bannister, landlord of the Lord Nelson Hotel. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL7650

In 1905, the landlady of the Lord Nelson, Alice Featherstone, devised a cunning plan to discover who was stealing whisky from the shelves. A report in the Leeds Mercury, dated 16 December 1905, explained the events: 

Cold Tea for whisky. Landlady turns detective 

Recently a bottle of whisky was missed off one of the shelves in the bar snug of the hotel and the lady set herself up to discover who was the thief. Taking several bottles labelled whisky she filled them with cold tea and put them back on the shelf. This clever trap succeeded ... and a commercial traveller was charged with stealing a whisky bottle, valued at 1 penny. When charged with the offence, prisoner replied “I bought that bottle of whisky in Manchester for a medicine”. The officer then asked the prisoner if he would test the whisky and he replied “Yes”. The cork was then drawn, and the bottle was found to be filled with tea. When told that it was tea, the prisoner made no reply. A fine of 20s was imposed. 

An article in the Urmston County Express (12 April 1962) described the hotel as having six stained glass windows depicting the victories of Lord Nelson in the French wars.

The names read like a history textbook: Trafalgar, Porto Ferrajo, Leghorn, Bay of Aboukir, Bastia, Genoa, St Vincent, Cadiz, Santa Cruz and Toulon. The windows which grace the stairways on two floors of the three storey building, are beautifully made of Czechoslovakian glass.

Pub sign and detail over the entrance of the Lord Nelson Public House

Figure 7. Pub sign and detail over the entrance of the Lord Nelson courtesy of S. Llewellyn, October 2020

The Lord Nelson was originally finished in natural brick, but this was later covered with a white concrete effect. The frontage has a central arched doorway set in between a pair of columns. The face above the entrance is that of Lord Nelson, and is believed to date from 1805 (Figure 7).

Sources

David Smith: The Urmston Urban District 

Karen Cliff and Vicki Masterson: Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme.

Michael Billington: The Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme 

Alan Crossland: Looking back at Urmston

Steven Dickens: Flixton, Urmston and Davyhulme

Steven Dickens: Trafford The Postcard Collection

David Herbert Langton: A History of the Parish of Flixton comprising the Townships of Flixton and Urmston

Urmston: a sketch reprinted from Eccles Advertiser 1877 

Trafford Lifetimes

Leeds Mercury dated 16 December 1905

Urmston County Express dated 12 April 1962

https://www.urmston.net/gallery/gallery_detail.asp?offset=40&ID=2836

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/lancs/vol5/pp50-56




Lord Nelson Hotel at Urmston