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By Colin Barnsley & Bernard Flynn

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First Published 17/8/2021
Last Updated 12/1/2022

 

Not just for a drink or a meal ; over time the Heald Green Hotel (now Beefeater & Premier Inn) has hosted them all!
With so many memories from current and past residents, their stories need little embellishment to explain its history.

 


Origins
     Wartime      1950s & 60s    1970s onwards     2021     Top

 

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Fig. 1 Sketch of Proposed Heald Green Hotel c 1935
© Carl Roe
Click Image to View
 

Origins

Where the Heald Green Hotel now stands there was a large triangle of neatly-kept green grass, which gave one the impression of a little village green.
- Eugene Jackson, speaking of life here in the 1920s on p6 of the Autumn 1970 Contact Magazine -
"A Soliloquy of Heald Green"

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The 1841 tithe map shows 3 fields bordering the then path of Styal Road and Finney Lane; no's 380,381 & 382; the largest of which was owned by Sarah Pickford  . 

Means of transport were changing rapidly in the 1900's. The number of private cars on the roads doubled during the 1930s from 1 million to 2 million by the outbreak of WWII   . Breweries responded to this affluent market by building so-called “roadhouse” pubs including the Heald Green Hotel.  These were typically destination pubs in country locations offering meals, dancing, accommodation and parking. Another nearby example is the Gateway, near the Mersey in East Didsbury which is situated on Kingsway (named for King George V)   .

A map from 1934 shows a building called "Brockhurst" on  a portion of the largest field   . Joan Heinekey describes the land as having once been "Ratcliffe's Market Gardens"   .

Before the hotel was built, the plot of land it occupied was offered to the Anglican authorities for St. Catherine's Church, but was rejected on the grounds that it was not considered central to the core of the village  . 

The land was instead purchased on 19th December 1935 by Chesters Brewery of Ardwick. Construction of the Heald Green Hotel commenced in January 1936 and the hotel opened that same year  .   A year later Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Townsend became licensees   . 

 

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Fig. 2 Tithe Map 1841 showing location of HG Hotel
© F. & T. Mitchell / St. James Church
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Fig. 3 Map of Location of HG Hotel, 1934
© old-maps.co.uk (mapping service no longer available)
Click Image to View

 

Origins     Wartime      1950s & 60s    1970s onwards     2021     Top
 

Wartime

World War II brought an influx of servicemen and women to Heald Green.  Joan Heinekey's book, "Heald Green In Wartime" details the resulting changes to local peoples' live and in the uses of buildings.

Joan explains, "The bungalow...was built by the Brock family (of firework fame). It was between the station and the hotel. In 1936 it was sold to Chesters, and in 1938 Mr. and Mrs. Dutton rented it. The house was large and had a field behind for a few cows, hens and rabbit hutches." 

The Duttons decided to divide their bungalow in two and rent one half to Jack and Marthe (Cnockaert) McKenna. It later transpired that Marthe had been a nurse and spy during WWI. She later became a famous author    , and her wartime exploits were made into a 1933 film, "I Was A Spy".   

The Townsend's son Tony confirmed that during WWII, Guy Gibson and 40 other Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) men used the hotel's Committee Room upstairs   .

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Fig. 4 Guy Gibson
© Imperial War Museum
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Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar was born in 1918.  He served from 1940-42 in Bomber Squadron.  617 “Dambuster” squadron was formed under his command. Over a six-week period they trained in low level night flying over water in the Derwent valley and other locations.  On 21 March 1943 they successfully attacked the Mohne and Eder dams, and unsuccessfully attacked the Sorpe dam and a secondary target on the night 16-17 May 1943.

He was killed when he crashed his Mosquito in Holland near Steenbergen after a raid in 1944.

 
In 1955, he was immortalised in the film
“The Dambusters”, his role played by Richard Todd, who himself had trained as a paratrooper at Ringway.

In his memoirs,  “Enemy Coast Ahead” relayed to us via Joan's book, Guy Gibson described the Committee Room as "primitive, as all 40 men had to sleep on palliasses [a large bag made of canvas or linen or sackcloth and filled with straw, horsehair wool or feathers] on the floor and share one bathroom."

The “bus” took them back [from Ringway] to the pub at 5 o’clock and there were many parties. The sight of blue uniforms drew everyone’s attention in the bars and free drinks were bought for them, also they did not lack female company as Ringway was the centre from Womens' Auxiliary Air Force (W.A.A.F) volunteers.

“The hospitality was almost embarrassing, people could not do enough; houses were thrown open, girls were plentiful, theatre tickets were booked and we lived like kings…gradually we got to know the local people.  We were fond of Manchester and they were fond of us.”

Eventually, the frivolity was brought to an end when they were ordered to move to a temperance hotel [Ed: one which doesn’t serve alcohol ]    .

Mr. Townsend joined the Observer Corps  , watching for enemy planes overnight 2 or 3 nights week.  Whilst the Womens' Voluntary Service (W.V.S.) headquarters was at the Institute further along Finney Lane, its members also met in the empty cafe at the side of the hotel   .

 

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Fig. 5 The Heald Green Hotel and adjoining bungalow, 1947
© Christ Church
Click Image to View

 

"I remember the little building and was told it was the off-licence but never saw it used. One of the old pictures has a sign pointing to the tearoom which would fit the original roadhouse concept. I think the Garden was only open a couple of times when I went in and was quite overgrown to the South." - Bernard Flynn, Facebook, 2021

 


Origins
     Wartime      1950s & 60s    1970s onwards     2021     Top

 

1950s & 60s

My Dad remembered the off-licence to the side of it like a little bungalow and then the rose garden at the back.” - Helen Morgan, Facebook, 2021

According to "The History of the Diocese of Shrewsbury" by Canon Maurice Abbott, Father Howe commenced saying a monthly Mass at the Heald Green Hotel in 1947, in the so-called Upper Room.  This was expanded to a weekly mass in 1952, and as the population of Heald Green began to grow throughout the 1950s, expanded to over 200 people, squeezed in to the Upper Room, stairs and landing    .

Chesters Brewery was bought by Threlfalls in 1961    .  The remainder of the hotel's history is chiefly explained by its patrons.

 

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I had ballet lessons upstairs in about 1959/60!" - Susan Raistrick, Facebook, 2021

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Fig. 5 The Heald Green Hotel 1962
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Fig. 6 The Heald Green Hotel and bus terminus, 1962. The picture looks towards Wythenshawe and the then T-junction of the old Styal Road and Finney Lane. Styal Road was diverted in the late 1960s and these portions became Irvin Drive (left) and Daisy Bank Lane (right). 
The cottage (centre) was demolished.

© Ratepayers' Association
Click Image to View
 

"Late 50’s into 60’s Mr. Vigar from Kirkham Road played the piano in the ‘best room’ @ weekends. The guy selling cockles; muscles or shrimps would call on ‘his round’"
- Phil Jones, Facebook, 2021

"I seem to remember a bus turning at the hotel, can’t remember the number but I remember catching it near the Co-operative; it went to Stockport then on to Piccadilly...my dad used to be darts captain at the hotel in the 60s."
- Jean Taylor, Facebook, 2021

Carl Roe picks up the story.  "I lived there; my Nana Lilian (Lil, Lily) Stockton became landlady of "The Green" in 1964. 
 

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Fig. 7 Carl Roe with his Nana, landlady Lil Stockton, in the "back garden" of the Heald Green c 1968-1970
© Carl Roe
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Fig. 8 Upstairs in the living area at the Heald Green Hotel.  Bruno and Blackie, c 1968-1970
"I’m sure back in the day you could look up and see the stained glass. "

© Carl Roe
Click Image to View

"It was huge upstairs. I remember my first nights sleeping there. The aircraft lights shining up the bedroom wall as they came in to land at night.   The kitchen area had one of those drying racks on a pulley above the open fire. Corridor to the bathroom, living room last door on the right before the bathroom."
 

"To the left of the picture [of the upstairs living area] would have been the assembly room, it was a function room, it had a piano in it. There was also a lift from there down to the bar. There must have been about 5 bedrooms?" - Barbara Williams, Facebook, 2021. Her grandparents were the previous licencees, the Townsends

"My mum and dad were friends with Lil, so I was allowed to spend the evenings in the lounge upstairs with my crisps and lemonade while my Mum and Dad were downstairs. When I was a bit older I helped out in the kitchen / bar when there were do’s in the function room. I then had my 18th in said function room. Happy memories!" – Karen Podlaski, Facebook, 2021

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Over the years, the hotel has hosted the occasional local society.  For example, in 1966, the Evening [Townswomens'] Guild was meeting there, and so too a now-defunct Heald Green Historical Society!      Maybe it is time to bring this one back.

In 1967, Whitbread acquired the merged Chesters / Threlfall
venture   . 

 

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"I remember a revolving door between the two bay windows led to lounge area; a long U-shaped bar with an organ at the back and the Vault on other side of the bar which could also be accessed from the door at the north-west corner of the property. One TV in each area, and couldn't have them turned over unless it was for BBC2." – Bernard Flynn, Facebook, 2021

"I remember as a small lad, the Manchester boards in soak behind the bar. [Lil] had a Castella tin full of odd darts that I could throw at the board before opening time." – Les Clough, Facebook 2021

"Had my wedding reception there in 1969. My dad was a very regular regular there." – Ena Connors, Facebook, 2021

 


Origins
     Wartime      1950s & 60s    1970s onwards     2021     Top

 

1970s Onwards

"I just about remember the beer garden at the side through a gate."

- Helen Morgan, Facebook, 2021

"I used to go to the off-licence [where the Premier Inn is now], then in the pub, my grandparents and parents used to go in when they had the organ as entertainment." – Dawn Barratt, Facebook, 2021

"Went in from about 1970-1980, my mam and dad's local. My mam Dina worked behind the bar with landlady lily Stockton. If you weren't in by 7.30 on a Sunday you couldn't get a seat."

– Alan Keane, Facebook, 2021

"Mid 70s. The entrance was in the middle at the front, rather than on the corner where it is now. There was an off-licence, then the 'Vault' to the right and the 'Room' to the left. You had to cut your way through the smoke in the Vault. When it closed for refurb, the regulars were promised that there would still be a Vault. I don't think they were too impressed with 2 tables and a dart board round the back!" - Les Clough, Facebook, 2021

"My daughter had ballet lessons in the upstairs room over the pub about 1978 when she was 6. She had a part-time job there aged about 16." – Iris Thorley, Facebook, 2021

" During the 1970s and early 1980s when I used the pub there was a copy of Gibson’s mess bill in a frame with his photograph displayed at the end of the bar. This disappeared following the refit of 1984 when Whitbread branded it as a Roast Inn. In 1991 it was again rebranded as a Beefeater with a Premier Inn being added in the car park." - Bernard Flynn, Facebook, 2021

"I remember walking through the fields with family and friends along the side of the station.  Att the back of the pub there was a rope swing with an old tyre; that and a bottle of coke was the height of an absolute fancy afternoon aged 9."

– Kim Shennan, Facebook, 2021

"Used to go with my grandma every Sunday early 80’s to pick up my grandad ready for Sunday lunch. I used to sneak in this door to get him and he’d be sat with his buddies in the first room on the right playing dominoes or cards."

– Sal Jackson, Facebook, 2021

"I remember it being “The Roast Inn” - celebrated birthdays there in the mid 1980’s. Carvery and I remember as a kid enjoy bubble gum ice cream."

- Neil Gilligan, Facebook, 2021

"I had my wedding reception here in 1993."

– Ashley Parkinson, Facebook, 2021

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Fig. 9 Heald Green Hotel, mid 1990s
© Mikey, Flickr
Click Image to View
 

"I did the wiring to the hotel part when it was put in."

– Steve Dawson, Facebook, 2021


Origins
     Wartime      1950s & 60s    1970s onwards     2021     Top

 

 

2021

Today, Whitbread's Heald Green Beefeater & Premier Inn continue to operate from these extended buildings.  Describing themselves as a "pub-style chain serving up a menu of grilled meats and international favourites such as fajitas", they also serve breakfast from 6:30, lunches and evening meals as well - and there's still a bar!   .
 

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Fig. 10 Heald Green Beefeater & Premier Inn, 2021
© Colin Barnsley
Click Image to View

 

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