The Volunteer Hotel at Sale

The Volunteer Hotel

Figure 1. The Volunteer Hotel on Cross Street, Sale in 1905.The building to the right of the hotel was used as a hay loft and later turned into a grocer's shop. Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL0621

The Volunteer Hotel is located at 81 Cross Street in Sale ( Figure 1). It was constructed in 1897 for Chesters Brewery of Ardwick, and opened for business in 1898. The building replaced an earlier inn and cottage on the site, and was designed by the architect James Diggle Mould, who had offices in Manchester, Bury and London.

The title deeds of The Volunteer Hotel go back to two Indentures of lease and release dated 5 February 1750, when James Massey, described as a 'Yeoman of Ashton- super- Mersey', sold a plot of land (1acre, 3 roods) for £90, to John Harrison, a 'Gentleman of Manchester'. (The lease and release was the most popular and widespread way to record simple sales of property from the seventeenth century up to 1845).

The land was known by different names, including 'the Ravald Croft, ‘the Croft next to Hamnetts’, ‘the Croft behind the House’, ‘the Geld Croft’, ‘the Doo Hole’ and ‘the Little Field’.

The Volunteer Inn

Figure 2. The Volunteer Inn before it was rebuilt in 1897. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL4271. 

By 1807, a coaching inn had been built on the land, together with a small cottage. The inn was called ‘The White Lion’. In 1820, the landlord, John Tipping, was also employed as an assessor and tax collector for the Ashton-on-Mersey area, along with Peter Hesketh also of Cross Street.

The Inn was renamed ‘The Volunteer’ between 1807 and 1827 (Figure 2). It is believed that the name change was to pay tribute to the local defence unit known as the Ashton-on-Mersey cum Sale Loyal Volunteers. The troop comprising of 3,000 volunteers, was formed by Captain Sir John Moore of Sale Hall, in response to the threatened invasion of England by Napoleon. The troop drilled in nearby Sale Moor. Local historian, Alfred Ingham wrote:

Button from the uniform of Captain John Moore of the Ashton cum Sale Loyal Volunteers

Button from the uniform of Captain John Moore of the Ashton-on-Mersey cum Sale Loyal Volunteers. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL2891. John Moore was later to become involved with events at Peterloo. (For more information on this, see our online exhibition, 'Preparing for a Massacre; Peterloo and the Trafford area').

On the 9th April, 1804, the Ashton-on-Mersey-cum-Sale volunteers were inspected by Lieut. Col. Cuyler, who expressed his approbation of the improved discipline of the company, and on the 12th of the same month they had the honour of assisting the 5th dragoons in keeping the ground at Sale Moor during the review of 6,000 volunteers, on which Prince William Frederick of Gloucester was present.

In 1808, the threat of war was over and the unit eventually disbanded in 1811.

The Volunteer Inn was a popular auction house for the selling of land and dwellings. During the 1840s, the Inn was kept by Richard Simcoe, aged 20, who took over the business after his father died. The rest of the household consisted of Richard’s wife, Drusilla, his sister and a servant.

In February 1865, an auction was held at the Crown Inn, Deansgate. The Volunteer, then occupied by Hannah Dean, was sold to John Astle-Kelsall, a brewer of Altrincham. Following John’s death,  the Inn was bought by George Richardson and Benjamin Goodall who sold it to Chesters Brewery in July 1890. Chesters also purchased the cottage adjoining The Volunteer in 1896, and both buildings were demolished in 1897. A new two storey building was erected in the impressive neo-Jacobean style seen today. A particularly interesting feature is the lantern tower, comprised of Gothic windows and a leaded dome ( Figure 3). Landlord of the old Volunteer Inn, John Robert Lees, became the first landlord of the new Volunteer Hotel and he remained there until 1916. The neighbouring buildings housed several small shops – including a grocer, butcher, watch maker, tripe dealer, and draper. On the other side of the hotel, stood the Ashton-on-Mersey Congregational Church, corner of Cross Street and Park Avenue.

People gathered on the corner of Cross Street and Chapel Road in Sale to watch a puppet show, The Volunteer Hotel can be seen in the background

Figure 3. People gathered on the corner of Cross Street and Chapel Road, Sale c1900 to watch a puppet show. The lantern tower and dome of The Volunteer Hotel are visible in the background. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL3619

Road repair on Cross Street in Sale, opposite The Volunteer Hotel.

Figure 4. Cross Street, Sale in 1905. Road repairs opposite The Volunteer Hotel. The man at the pump is John Gratrix and the two men with the sprayers are George Allcock and Wilfred R. Burke. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL3627

It was the first attempt at tar spraying on roads made of Macadam. Cross Street and Washway Road, like all the main roads in Sale were made of Macadam. In very dry weather there would be clouds of dust, and wet weather would produce inches of slush. The tub on wheels was the only one used and it was found to be slow work and expensive and would have taken hundreds of tubs to have tar sprayed Cross Street alone (Figure 4).

Extract from Wilfred R.Burke's Reminiscences of Sale


Postcard of The Volunteer Hotel

Postcard of The Volunteer Hotel c1900s. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL10787

The Volunteer Hotel was a major centre for pony trotting, with stables housed at the rear:

The horses would race round the quarter mile trotting circuit which was the present Atkinson Road and Park Road area. If the trotters reached scratch on their home circuit, they were taken to Audenshaw and if they again showed form, they were next raced at Blackpool or another of the large trotting centres. Bob Jones was the last man to keep horses at the hotel and that was in 1920 when he had three cab horses stationed in School Road. Fares were then one shilling a mile, but as Sale was “really rich", trade was brisk and it was not unusual for people to hire a two-horse landau for the afternoon.

Extract from Wilfred R.Burke's Reminiscences of Sale

Front view of The Volunteer Hotel, Cross Street, Sale

Front view of The Volunteer Hotel in 1982. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL4268. Historic England described the neo-Jacobean exterior as being "of a high standard, incorporating good quality eclectic features decorated with ornate elaborations". 

Detail over the front entrance of The Volunteer Hotel, Cross Street, Sale.

Detail over the front entrance of The Volunteer Hotel in 1982. Trafford Local Studies Collection cat. ref. TL4267

Over the years, The Volunteer has been a venue for social events and meetings, including the inaugural meeting of Sale Motor Cycling Club on 27 February 1922. It was once multi-roomed, but was opened up into one large room towards the end of the last century.

By 1970, Chester’s Brewery Company had changed their name to Threlfall’s (Salford) Ltd and they sold two small plots of land at the front of the Hotel to the Ministry of Transport for road improvements.

The Volunteer Hotel sign

The Pub Sign of The Volunteer Hotel. Trafford Local Studies October 2020

In 2012, English Heritage designated The Volunteer Hotel a Grade II listed building for its architectural interest. The organisation stated that it "has remained largely unaltered since its construction" and is "a striking building and notable landmark".


Vivien Hainsworth: Looking Back at Sale 

Steven Dickens: Sale Through Time 

Norman Swain: A History of Sale 

Alfred Ingham: Altrincham and Bowdon: With historical reminiscences of Ashton-on Mersey, Sale and surrounding townships

Wilfred R Burke: Reminiscences of Sale

Letter to Sale Reference Library from Whitbread West Penines Limited dated 18th August 1977

Trafford Lifetimes

British Newspaper Archive

Slater's Directory of Altrincham, Bowdon, Sale, Brooklands and Dunham Massey

The Volunteer Hotel at Sale