The Old Cock Inn at Stretford

Old Cock Inn, Stretford

The Old Cock Inn, Chester Road, Stretford c1870. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL0451

The Old Cock Inn was situated at the junction of Chester Road and Higgin Lane (now Barton Road) in Stretford. It is believed that the name originated from the pastime of cock fighting that was once popular in the area.The Inn was one of the last buildings before the road crossed the open and often flooded low lying ground, known as the ‘Ees’, between Stretford and Sale.

Historical records illustrate the many community functions the Old Cock Inn served, particularly in the last three-hundred years. In The Masonic Records of 1717-1894, the Inn was listed as a meeting place after its warrant of constitution on 25 July 1777. By 1806, it served as an auction house involved in the sale of land and dwellings. The court baron, or manorial court, was often held there, which dealt with matters over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction.This included settling disputes between individuals, and manorial offences. 

Canal pioneer, James Brindley stayed at both the Old Cock and Bishop Blaize Inns, while supervising the construction of the Bridgewater Canal. He designed the Barton Aqueduct ( Figure 1), a three arch stone structure, which carried the Bridgwater Canal over the River Irwell and was the first navigable aqueduct to be built in England. It was opened in July 1761 and remained in use for over 100 years until the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. Ships using the new canal were too big to pass under the aqueduct, so the Barton Swing Aqueduct was built upstream and alongside Brindley's original, which was then demolished in 1893. 

Barton Aqueduct, Barton on Irwell

Figure 1.Barton Aquaduct c1880s. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL10073

In 1795, John McIntyre took over the tenancy of the Old Cock Inn from Thomas Raingill.  He was followed by John Ledger in 1798 and Thomas Altree in 1799. Later tenants included William Henry Mann, James Wright, Eliza Wright, George Dent, Alice Rogerson, Thomas Higson and George Barratt.

Painting of the Old Cock Inn by local artist Marie Walton

The Old Cock Inn - painting (undated) by local artist Marie Walton.Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TA927

The Old Cock Inn brewed its own beer and was a favourite among carters heading to Manchester’s markets to sell their produce. As well as pig farming, Stretford became an extremely successful market gardening community during the 19th century, supplying the centre of Manchester and its surrounding suburbs with fruit, vegetables and flowers. Rhubarb was a particularly successful product and was nicknamed ‘Stretford Beef’. By 1836, market gardening had become so extensive in the area, one writer described Stretford as the 'garden of Lancashire’.

The Old Cock Inn was surrounded by farms ( Figure 2) including Porch House Farm and Ivy Farm on Chester Road, and Manor House Farm on nearby Poplar Road.

Ordnance Survey Map of 1898 showing the Old Cock Inn, Stretford

Figure 2. Ordnance Survey Map of 1898 showing the Old Cock Inn, Stretford and surrounding area. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. 96275146

The Pinfold, Stretford

Figure 3. The Pinfold at the junction of Barton Road and Urmston Lane, 1906. Trafford Local Studies Centre Collection cat. ref. TL1439

Stray cattle, pigs and poultry often wandered past the Inn. The animals were a threat to safety on the roads, so they were rounded up and impounded in The Pinfold on Barton Road (Figure 3) until their owners, usually on payment of a fine, collected them.

In an issue dated 25 September 1852, The Manchester Times reported that the inhabitants of Stretford were very keen to revive a popular horse racing event, known as the Stretford Races. The newspaper informed readers that 'they were formerly carried out with great spirit and the forthcoming meeting promises to be a very agreeable one to the pleasure-seeking part of the community of Manchester. They are to be held on the old course near the Old Cock Inn'.

The land around the Inn proved very useful to the community. Each year, a calf and pig fair took place in the open space known as ‘the Gravel’, while the plot immediately adjacent to the inn was used for pigeon shooting and dog shows. The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser provided the following report on a dog show held there in August 1881: 

Several well-known champion dogs from all over the country took part including Mr. S. W. Smith’s splendid Mont St. Bernard dog, “Champion Barry” which it is stated is the winner of no less than 133 cups and other prizes. 

On Shrove Tuesday innkeepers gave pancakes to their regular customers which provided scenes of great merriment. Sir Bosdin Leech wrote:

If the cook could turn a second pancake before the customer had finished the first, he had to pay a money penalty or to be carried out and pitched onto the nearest middon-stead ( muck heap). If the cook lost, a penalty by way of a kiss was sought from her.

From 1845 onwards, the Old Cock Inn was both a terminus and point of origin for horse drawn omnibus services ( and later, horse tramways).  The enterprising landlord of the Old Cock, Thomas Higson and his partner John Brundritt of nearby Beech farm, introduced a local horse bus service to Manchester with fares costing fourpence for inside, and threepence outside; a stagecoach could be hired for outings. In the days of the horse-drawn omnibus, it was customary for those living close to Manchester to travel to the rural districts of Sale and Stretford at the weekend. The Old Cock Inn, surrounded by lush, green fields, proved immensely popular with the visiting day-trippers. After a number of years this local service was sold and a limited company formed under the title of the Stretford Omnibus and Conveyancing Company.

Tramcar on Chester Road, Stretford heading towards the Old Cock Hotel

Figure 4. A Manchester Carriage and Tramways double-deck reversible car arriving at the Old Cock c1897. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL1890

In 1879, the Piccadilly - Stretford tramway opened and the Manchester Carriage and Tramways Company ( Figure 4) erected a small depot next to the Inn which accommodated up to 20 tram cars and 167 horses. Trams to Manchester, left the Old Cock Inn every 10 minutes between 8am and 10.15pm. The  depot was later converted into a wheelwright’s workshop. In April 1903, the horse-drawn trams were replaced with electric cars, powered by the Manchester Corporation, when routes 47 and 48 ran to the Old Cock. In 1907, the tramway was continued to Sale and Altrincham.

In his publication A History of Stretford, author Samuel Massey recounts an incident that took place at the Old Cock Inn, involving a barman named George. On noticing that a young man was stealing all the matches from the bar counter, and putting them in the back pocket of his coat, George angrily marched over and grabbed the petty thief by his coat tails. He gave the man’s back pocket a rub, setting both the matches and the young man’s coat on fire! 

Junction of Chester Road and Barton Road, Stretford, by the side of the Old Cock Inn

Junction of Chester Road and Barton Road, Stretford;photograph taken in front of the Old Cock Inn, 1880. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL1251.

The Old Cock Hotel was built on the site of the Inn in 1880 (Figure 5). The grand, turreted building was a popular venue for social events and club meetings. It was a favourite starting point for races organised by athletic clubs, including the Salford Harriers, South Manchester Harriers and Broughton Harriers, whose members would race over eight miles of good country, through Flixton, Urmston and Davyhulme.

In latter years, the pub proved very popular with football fans, being situated on the A56/Chester Road, the busiest arterial road serving Old Trafford. The Old Cock along with The Gorse and The Palace in Levenshulme, were trailblazers in showing Saturday Afternoon 3pm kick offs live on television. 

The Old Cock Hotel closed as a public house in April 2008 and is now a commercial premises. 

Old Cock Hotel, Chester Road, Stretford

Figure 5. Old Cock Hotel, Chester Road, Stretford in 1951. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL2112

Stretford House under construction in 1967. The Old Cock Hotel can be seen in the foreground.

Stretford House under construction in 1967. The Old Cock Hotel can be seen in the foreground. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL1900

Sources

Samuel Massey: A History of Stretford

Steven Dickens: Stretford and Old Trafford

Karen Cliff and Vicky Masterson: Stretford, an illustrated history

John Lane: Masonic records of 1717-1894

Michael Redhead: Stretford in Times Past

Sir Bosdin Leech: Old Stretford

H T Crofton: A History of the Ancient Chapel Of Stretford

Stretford Local History Society: Stretford People and Places 1918 - 1945

Stretford Town Trail

Trafford Lifetimes

The British Newspaper Archive

The Manchester Times, dated 25 September 1852

https://www.manutdfansblog.com/legends-in-their-own-closing-time/

The Old Cock Inn at Stretford