The Church Inn at Flixton

View of the Church Inn and St Michael's Church, Church road, Flixton.

View of the Church Inn and St Michael's Church in 1974. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL5131

The Church Inn stands next to St Michael's Church in Flixton, and is believed to date back to 1731. The inn’s deed of sale, dated 1830, reveals that it was formerly known as 'The Dog and Partridge’ (Figure 1).

Mortgage of the Church Inn and Premises Situate in Flixton in the County of Lancaster

Figure 1. Mortgage of the Church Inn and Premises Situate in Flixton in the County of Lancaster, 1830. Trafford Local Studies Centre Collection, cat. ref. TRA614. 

Mr Samuel Collier to Edward Walter Foulkes - Further Mortgage of Church Inn (formerly known as The Dog and Partridge) and premises situated in Flixton, in the County of Lancaster securing the sum of £120 and Interest. 

In 1788, John Shawcross, the innkeeper of The Dog and Partridge, was granted an official license to sell ale by the Magistrate for the County of Lancaster. License holders were expected to adhere to a strict list of rules, which included no cock fighting, bull or bear baiting, swearing or riotous behaviour, and no selling short measures of liquor. The Dog and Partridge had beds and stables, and was well-placed to provide food and lodging for travellers along the busy roads between Manchester and Warrington. 

In 1806, the four bells of St Michael's Church were recast, and four new bells were added (Figure 2). Before the new bells could be installed, however, the tenor bell was placed upside-down in a hole in a nearby field, and filled with 'ten guineas worth of double strong ale'. Within an hour local residents had drained the ale-filled bell, after which they migrated to The Dog and Partridge and carried on drinking for the rest of the day. 

Flixton bells  1806

Figure 2. List of Subscribers to Flixton Bells Appeal, 1806. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TRA/5/7/842. Subscriptions and particulars of disbursements for the addition of four new bells and the re-casting of four old ones at St Michael's Church in 1806. 

By 1830, The Dog and Partridge had been renamed the ‘Church Inn’. With a brewhouse and piggery housed at the rear, the inn quickly became an important site for trade; serving as an auction house for the selling of property, land and cattle, a courthouse, and an indoor market. Notably, the Flixton Ley – a market associated with the feeding and care of cattle, horses, and livestock – took place at the property.

 The Church Inn, Flixton

Figure 3. The Church Inn, 1907. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL8367.

The Church Inn has an antique piece of ironmongery attached to both the corner of the pub wall, and the wall of the churchyard. It can be seen in the 1907 photograph of the inn, now part of the Trafford Local Studies Centre Photographic Collection (Figure 3). Locals refer to it as ‘the shell’ - it is thought to have been a moral deterrent to anyone tempted to use that corner as a urinal, on account of its proximity and link with the churchyard (Figure 4).

Church Inn

Figure 4. The wall of the Church Inn showing 'the shell', in May 2020.

Flixton Wakes

The annual celebration known as the Flixton Wakes occurred every October and involved games, sack races, foot races, and climbing a greasy pole. The amusements would attract people from miles around and local innkeepers provided the prizes for the competitions. 

In the area surrounding St. Michael’s Church and the Church Inn, booths for boxing, roulette tables, and shooting galleries were erected. Troupes of actors and entertainers, called ‘mummers’, performed folk plays and short traditional sketches for the public, and would make an appearance at the inn. Monies collected during each performance  would go to charity. The local delicacy of the district, snig (‘eel’) pie, was also served. Eels were caught from the River Mersey in abundance. In 1877, the Eccles Advertiser described the methods of fishing for the river serpents:

eels were caught by night lines or basket. These baskets in some parts were called ‘keddles’ or ‘kettles’ hence the common saying ‘a fine kettle of fish’. Spearing in the winter was a common method of eel catching

It was during the Wakes of 1839 that a fight occurred at the Church Inn, which resulted in one man having half his lip bitten off and the another being found dead at the rear of the premises. On 19 October 1839, The Manchester Times reported:

The fight started after a man refused to pay for a pint of ale resulting in a regular pitch battle in the large room of the inn. They fought two rounds and then ceased for a while, but the contest was afterwards renewed and appears to have been carried on in a very un-English way.

 

Ancient Order of Froth Blowers  Motor Mascot hankerchief

Figure 5. Ancient Order of Froth Blowers Motor Mascot hankerchief, Wikipedia

The Church Inn also had links with ancient and local orders, both strange and bizarre. Landlord, Abraham Cheetham, was a member of the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers, a British charitable organization that was established in 1924 (Figure 5). Members of this rather eccentric group received a pair of silver and enamel cuff-links, a membership booklet and a card entitling them to:

blow froth off any member’s beer and occasionally off non-members' beer provided they are not looking or are of a peaceful disposition.

One of their slogans was “Lubrication in Moderation”.  By 1928 there were 700,000 members throughout Britain and £100,000 (equivalent to £5.5 million today) had been raised for children’s charities.

A view of Church Road, Flixton looking towards St. Michael's Church and the Church Inn

A view of Church Road, Flixton, looking towards St Michael's Church and the Church Inn, 1910s. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL5757.

Ghostly goings on

In February 1962, the Urmston County Express wrote about two ghosts reputed to have been seen in or close by the Church inn:

One is reputed to be a lady of Shawe Hall whose husband went off to fight for his King in the Civil war. She went out in the fields each day to wait for his return but return he never did, for he was killed in battle. One day she glimpsed her husband coming across the fields. Suddenly he vanished, never to be seen again. Every so often she is supposed to appear wandering through the fields searching for her beloved. Ghost number two was a local poacher who was chased into the Church inn by the Squire's gamekeepers and killed. A previous landlord claimed to have seen him in the cellar three times and when spoken to, he would walk through the cellar wall into the adjoining churchyard persumably where his remains are buried. The present landlord, Mr Desmond McLellan has sensed 'Percy' as he calls him, many times and guests of he and his wife refuse to sleep in the room overlooking the church yard. 

Years later, another landlord asked a spiritual minister to pay a visit to the Church Inn. The minister formed him that the ghost of an old soldier was living there, but the landlord has never seen or heard any evidence.

 

The present appearance of the Church Inn dates from 1924, when its whitewashed exterior was altered and given a Tudor-style appearance (Figure 6). It was during this renovation that the old stables were demolished.

The Church Inn showing the rear view and garden

Figure 6. The Church Inn, showing the rear view and garden, 1963. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL4817.

Sources

Michael Billington, The Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme  

Steven Dickens, Flixton, Urmston and Davyhulme 

Karen Cliff and Vicki Masterson, Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme

David Smith, The Urmston Urban District 

Eccles Advertiser dated 1877

Urmston County Express dated 15th February 1962

Manchester Times dated 19th October 1839

Trafford Lifetimes

https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Great-British-Pub/

The Church Inn at Flixton