|First published on Facebook 29th April 2011|
by Dave Roberts
Here's one for owners of the new apartments at the top of Wheelock Street to hang on their walls.
It shows the old Red Lion on the corner of Wheelock Street and Nantwich Road as it was in 1969.
Note the CHESTERS neon sign and the off-licence, or 'OFF SALES', department.
Many pubs had these before the advent of...er...off-licences.
There was, for example, one at The Vaults (or Brown's Vaults) at around the same time as this photo was taken.
Note also, to the right, the long-gone Yeowart's grocery shop on the corner of Nantwich Road and Chester Road and the total absence of gardens and dangerous road junctions in front of the pub.
Here's the other side of the shop, seen from Nantwich Road:
For a full description of this photo, click here
In our drinking glory days we had some epic nights in the old Red Lion, particularly when the legendary Ted Hussey was the landlord.
It was there that I first saw the folk band Cheshire Folk in the early 1970s – twenty years before the Folk & Boat Festival was even a gleam in anyone's eye.
And in 1977 I did a few Sunday evening discos there after a recommendation from the late lamented Frank Robinson. It was the year Elvis died, and we spent a lot of time crying into our beer and playing his records, along with a new 'waxing' which at the time I thought was dire - I Remember Elvis Presley by Danny Mirror. Our version was a 12 in coloured vinyl pressing. Time and age has mellowed my opinion, though, and the song now mostly inspires affection and nostalgia, not only for Elvis but for those early 'Dees Disco' days around the pubs of Middlewich.
I REMEMBER ELVIS PRESLEY (Danny Mirror)
(Not for the fainthearted)
It's easy to forget at this distance of time, but 'The King's' reign, from the time he burst on the scene in the 50s to his early demise in 1977 was a mere 20-odd years.
But the Red Lion at that time was not really a place for a disco, particularly on a Sunday evening.
Reg Bunn summed it all up perfectly when he asked me, 'what do they do - rattle their dominoes in time with the music?'
By 1979 I had moved to The Vaults and spent three fraught but basically happy years playing disco music to a (usually) more appreciative crowd. But that's a story for another time...
The Red Lion meanwhile moved on through a series of transmogrifications and failed experiments, aimed at finding a new format.
Most of these involved nailing old doors and other bits of rubbish on the ceilings and plastering the walls with 'jokes' and fake notices. These were, as a friend remarked, mostly 'about as funny as a rupture'.
The pub became the Cat's Whiskers, the Tut & Shive, the Tap & Spile and probably a few more before, briefly, reverting back to the Red Lion and then becoming the rather more successful Cats Bar for its final few years.
Now its pub days are gone, along with all the memories and it has become 'Lion House', a rather unlikely apartment building.
The old stable block (seen to the right of the picture) and the bowling green to its rear have also gone to be replaced by town houses.
Thus does poor old Middlewich pass from glory.
At least the building itself survives, albeit shorn of most of its interesting adornments and character.
Originally published 13th July 2011
Revised and re-published 17th August 2015
When this Diary entry was re-published in August 2015 there was a great reaction from many people who remembered what we like to call the pub's 'glory days' - the days when, if you had a Saturday night out at the Red Lion, you knew you'd had a night out...
Anita Jane Keal I grew up on Nantwich Road, not far from the Red Lion, where the flats are now. I have such wonderful memories of this era, and pictures like this bring a tear to my eye. In one such picture I saw Dad's old car parked outside our house. Now that did make me cry!
Dave Roberts I lived in Nantwich Road myself, at number 53, from 1952 to 1959. My sister lives just a few doors away from there now.
Anita Jane Keal It was such a wonderful era when we were kids - so carefree! Mind you, I did escape to play footie one day when I was five and got hit by a car outside our house, number 25. I still have the scars too! Dad worked in the Red Lion as a waiter for Ted. Then, as I got older, I worked there too, from 1986 to 1988
Debbie Fox My Mum still lives in the same house as I grew up in. I have very fond memories of playing on the park with the massive slide. Had a few fab nights in the Red Lion!
Dave Thompson Happy Days! Our first house was number 25.
Christine Ruscoe Yeowarts! I'm glad others remember this shop too!
Dave Prince Not as old as you, Mrs!
Jacqui Cooke I used to go in there for a quick one with my friends on a Friday and Saturday night while waiting for the bus to Mr Smith's Club in Winsford.
Craig Whitney What does the red sign say?
Dave Roberts The one at the top, underneath the attic window, says RED LION; the other one says CHESTERS - by then part of Whitbread.
Craig Whitney Was Chesters a pub chain or brewery?
Paul Stevens It's a brewery:
'Back in 1959 mild accounted for 42% of beer brewed. Twenty years later it was down to 10%, and today it's probably much less than that. Initially this steep decline was largely the result of selective advertising on bitter beers, but until the late 1970s most brewers still produced at least one mild.
Its last strongholds now are the Midlands and the North-West, especially the Manchester area. Its popularity there is perhaps typified by Chesters 'Fighting' Mild as it was endearingly known. Once a delicious dark mild - so dark that the first time you walked into a pub selling it you would be convinced everyone was drinking draught Guinness. The 'fighting' tag seems to be derived from typical scenes inside and out at the average Chesters House! Chesters was, sadly, closed by Whitbread in the 1980s.'
Colin Dutton I was born and bred at number one Nantwich Road, right next door, and I'm sure I was fed Whitbread bitter as a baby! They had a fantastic bowling green, as I remember. Chesters was a beer - bitter or mild.
Bernie O'Neill I remember it well, living there for 18 years and being crossed over the road to got to Yeowart's shop. Good picture! Dave, I must sort through those old films. There are lots of scenes showing trips to the races etc. from the Red Lion in the good old days!
Dave Costello (August 2017) Fond memories. I was born next door at number 1 Nantwich Road. At that time Mr Garner was the licensee. The pub and bowling green were my playground as my mate, Peter Gallimore, was the grandson of the landlord. Upstairs there was a billiard room. In the early days of the Ted Hussey era the pub had no music licence, but the lounge and bar were packed ever night. The lounge had table service, the waiters wearing very smart white 'Chesters' jackets. Sunday lunchtime, Tom Ryan, Ted's brother-in-law, would have twenty or thirty pints of mild ready pulled for the queue outside awaiting the mid day opening!
From Nantwich Road we moved across to Oddfellows Passage and from there to Cemetery Cottage in Chester Road where my dad was sexton. Three houses in a few years, and we'd hardly moved a hundred yards! At least I kept the same friends!
Delia Smith (August 2017) We used to go round as kids to the 'off sales' to get pop. There was always a lady in there with her dog, with a half of something.
First published 17th August 2015
Updated and re-published 22nd August 2017