Saturday 17 December 2011

Staggering uphill

It is believed that the annual Hillgate Stagger, performed by the local branch of CAMRA, has been regularly held for longer than any other CAMRA event anywhere. Hillgate – divided into Lower, Middle and Upper – is a long historic street which stretches about three quarters of a mile south from Stockport town centre until it joins the A6 in Heaviley. It was originally the main road through the town, and would have been traversed by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 on his ill-fated advance to Derby. However, it was bypassed in the early part of the 19th century by Wellington Road South and North, the current alignment of the A6. This must have been one of the very first road bypasses anywhere in Britain.

Over the years, there have been 19 different pubs included on the crawl, although I don’t think there have been more than 17 serving cask beer in any one year. Sadly, due to inner-urban decline and the general contraction of the pub trade, there are now only nine pubs on the route with real ale, plus a couple that are keg-only. Those nine include six Robinson’s, two Holt’s and one Sam Smith’s, a considerable reduction in beer choice compared with what was available twenty years ago. At some point around 1990, the direction of the crawl was reversed to go uphill rather than downhill, as problems had been experienced with some of the pubs near the town centre locking their doors after 10 pm due to the crowds of revellers. That isn’t a problem nowadays, but the uphill direction has become well established and does mean ending up at the Blossoms where Robinson’s Old Tom is available.

The 19 pubs, starting from the bottom end, are as follows:
  1. Queen’s Head (Turner’s Vaults) (Samuel Smith’s), originally in the early years of the crawl a free house offering no cask beer. Currently open and serving cask beer.
  2. Winter’s (Holt’s) – converted from a jeweller’s shop in the early 1990s. Currently open and serving cask beer.
  3. Spread Eagle (Robinson’s) – now closed and used as brewery offices
  4. Royal Oak (Robinson’s) – actually just off Hillgate on High Street. Currently open and serving cask beer.
  5. Bishop Blaize (Tetley, then Burtonwood) – previously called the Gladstone, now closed, but still in pub livery
  6. Red Bull (Robinson’s) – currently open and serving cask beer. Shown on the picture
  7. Waterloo (Robinson’s) – currently open and serving cask beer. Actually on Waterloo Road, just off Hillgate
  8. Black Lion (Boddington’s) – closed for some years
  9. Sun & Castle (Tetley, then Holt’s) – currently open and serving cask beer
  10. Pack Horse/Big Lamp (Whitbread) – closed for some years
  11. Golden Lion (Burtonwood) – closed for some years
  12. Crown (Corner Cupboard) (Wilson’s, then Vaux, then pub company) – currently open but not serving cask beer, although it has in the past
  13. Star & Garter (Robinson’s) – currently open and serving cask beer
  14. Ram’s Head (Wilson’s) – long closed, and now an Indian restaurant
  15. Flying Dutchman (Robinson’s) – currently open and serving cask beer
  16. Royal Mortar (Robinson’s) – closed for some years, still derelict and boarded
  17. Bowling Green (Wilson’s, then pub company) – very recently closed. Actually on Charles Street, just off Hillgate
  18. Wheatsheaf (Wilson’s, then pub company) – currently open but not serving cask beer, although it has in the past
  19. Blossoms (Robinson’s) – currently open and serving cask beer
That really is a classic collection of British pub names. I made a few notes on this year’s event, held last night, and with a bit of luck will write them up and post them some time over the holiday period.

Incidentally, this is post #284 for this year, thus exceeding the record set in 2009.


  1. Oh Dear,Mudgie, one of my favourite
    bloggers.You cannot be serious,a
    pub crawl through Stockport? ???
    Bit like being a body collector during the Bubonic Plague,checking
    where has the dead and where has the nearly dead.
    You may have seen on other blogs
    our East Manchester Drifters had
    a skinfull of 8.8% Vol Ardennes
    Ruby in a jam packed Wallonian
    Belgium South)
    tavern last Thursday night.Superb
    smoking lounges (X 2) with music
    dancing and shoulder to shoulder
    conviviality with various nationalites and orientations.
    No need to crawl, staggered out at 1AM ,place still packed
    Slight problem,the joint had no Leffe Blonde
    Chin up,England will wake up,one day

    We few.we happy band.

  2. Even with reduced numbers of pubs, it still sounds like fun.

  3. It does to me, but it doesn't offer anything to those whose evening isn't complete without several varieties of very pale beer tasting like grapefruit, which is maybe why attendances have declined in recent years.

  4. Martin, Cambridge22 December 2011 at 22:21

    These are the pubs we'll miss when they close, not the identikit gastro pubs of North London. I particularly miss the Spread Eagle, which was full of character (albeit mostly Dickensian).


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