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Railway Tavern at Flixton
A tithe map dated 1843 reveals that the Railway Tavern in Flixton began as a domestic beer shop. Located in a small, eighteenth century cottage, the building was both a place of residence, as well as an ale house. This dual-function was likely influenced by the Beerhouse Act of 1830 - a piece of legislation which allowed householders to apply for a license to brew and sell beer in their own home. Costing a modest two guineas (estimated today at £2.10), it quickly became common practice for individuals to convert their property into an ale house.
The name 'Railway Tavern' first appeared in the 1871 census when the landlord was Thomas Whishaw, listed as beer seller. Irlam Road at that time, was made up from three separate Lanes - Millars, Green and Boat.
Other licensees of the tavern have included Michael Tattersall, James Buckley, Robert Peel, Samuel McMaster, Edward Brown, William Farrow, Pauline Farrow, Richard Spencer, William Ernest Treece and Nellie Treece.
With no station or train track nearby, it may seem odd that the pub was named the 'Railway Tavern'. Interestingly, when the premises first opened as a public house, there was a clear view of the Manchester to Liverpool railway - situated just over the fields, and roughly a quarter of a mile away.
During and after the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal (which opened in 1894), the Railway Tavern provided a welcome respite for tired and thirsty workers on their way home from a hard day's labour (Figure 1). Beer was poured straight from the barrel located over the bar into an enamel jug, and then into individual pint pots.
In November 1891, the landlord of the Railway Tavern James Buckley, was arrested for allowing gambling on his premises. Another man, William Sumner, was also arrested for aiding and abetting. The offending game was called 'odd man out' and entailed the toss of a coin to see who was to pay for a drink.
In the courtroom, there was a huge debate as to whether 'odd man out' could really be classed as gambling. The court was adjourned and the defendants' representative, Mr Beckton, obtained a remand, in order that 'the trade' be consulted, "with a view that the question be throughly threshed out". Two weeks later, and Mr Beckton having consulted the licensed victuallers, was still without a statement to present to the judge, "as no step had been decided upon". The judge, however, decided he had heard enough of the case. He fined the defendent James Buckley, five shillings, with costs. William Sumner also had to pay costs, and both men were directed to never repeat the game.
On 28 August 1900, the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser reported :
Pauline Farrow licensee of the Railway Tavern, Irlam Road, Flixton, applied for permission to rebuild the premises, on the present site, on the ground that the place was in a bad state of repair. It was stated that the rooms were very low. It would be fruitless to attempt to improve it in any way except by rebuilding, as no facilities were offered for the putting in of any sanitary arrangements. The drinking accommodation would not be increased. The application, which was made by Mr Cross, was granted on the plans produced.
Two years later, when the Tavern had been rebuilt and came to be let, it was advertised in The Manchester Evening News as "a good beerhouse with gardens, piggery, stables and hen run".
Until 1921, British pub opening hours were restricted by law, but there was a loop hole - licensees could sell alcohol to bona fide 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, people would often pretend to be bona fide travellers so they could have a pint outside of the usual opening hours. This put a lot of pressure on publicans who were expected to prove that they had made firm efforts to check the bona fide of the drinker, and not just simply take people's word ( and money) for it.
On 21 April 1914, the Manchester Evening news reported the following:
A Good Friday Invasion at Flixton
The question as to what precautions a licensee should take in serving "bona fide" travellers during prohibited hours, was raised at the Manchester County Police Court today, during the hearing of a summons against Robert Peel, licensee of the Railway Tavern, Irlam Road, Flixton.
The summons alleged that ten men who had not come the distance prescribed by law had been served on the premises during prohibited hours on Good Friday. The men who had been found at the house, were also summoned. It was stated that a large number of people visited the district for a football match, and when the men went to the house for a drink, they were asked to sign a book showing they had come the prescribed distance. At the time they were asked about the distance, two police officers were present.Mr G.R. Clarke, who appeared for the licensee, submitted that Peel had taken all reasonable precautions to ascertain whether the men had come the distance.
The question the court had to consider was what were reasonable precautions and whether they considered the signing of a book was a reasonable precaution. No one could suppose that twelve or fourteen men arriving in a public house were all bona fide travellers, especially if there was a football match in the neighbourhood.
The magistrates came to the decision that Robert Peel had believed he was doing the right thing. The summons against him was dismissed, but he was advised that the signing of a book was not sufficient and he needed to be more careful before serving anyone during prohibited hours. The group of men who had lied about being bona fide travellers, were fined between one shilling and three shillings plus costs.
In 1926, the licensee of the Railway Tavern was William Ernest Treece. Following his death in 1932, the licence was transferred to his widow, Nellie Treece who lived there with her sons, Ernest and George. By 1938, the pub had been extended and updated again.
On 23 March 1942 - in the midst of the Second World War - The Manchester Evening News reported the names of several local men who were missing in Malaysia. Amongst the missing was Signalman Ernest Treece of the Royal Corps of Signals, aged 36 and from the Railway Tavern. In 1945, after three years of imprisonment in a Thai prison camp, readers were informed that Ernest had been released.
David Smith: The Urmston Urban District
Michael Billington: The Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme
Steven Dickens: Flixton, Urmston and Davyhulme through time
Karen Cliff:Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme
The British Newspaper Archive
The Manchester Evening News dated 19 November 1891
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser dated 28 August 1900
The Manchester Evening News dated 23 March 1942