It is easy to scan read photographs but if you look more closely there are often details which give a lot more information. We have been hunting for visual clues in the Worktown photographs which would help us to identify when and where Humphrey Spender’s photographs were taken.
This strip of 4 negatives showed a pub called the Castle. The Mass Observers in Bolton were interested in pub life and collected information for a book called ‘The Pub and the People’. Spender took photographs for the book although cost prevented their use until later republications. It had been assumed that these photos were part of this endeavour.
However no one in the Museum could remember the Castle and its striking frontage so we thought it was perhaps demolished a long time ago. Bolton’s local history archives contain a couple of excellent books on Bolton’s pubs including Gordon Readyhough’s Bolton Pubs 1800-2000. These books suggested a couple of Castle contenders including the Bolton Castle at the junction of Crompton Way and Tonge Moor Road, named for the Castle Hill district in which it stands. Yet it seemed impossible, even given massive architectural changes that these had ever been the same building.
The Elephant and Castle on Deansgate was suggested as possibility but this pub had only been given its name after a refurbishment in 2010. So drawing a blank in Bolton we looked again at the photographs to try and find more clues. The Bolton pubs photographed by Spender in the 30s were mostly supplied by Magee Marshall’s Crown Brewery and so we decided to find about Young & Co, the brewery who supplied the Castle.We didn’t have to look hard to find out via the internet that Young & Co’s were originally based in Wandsworth, supplied London pubs and still existed as Wells and Young’s. We began to suspect that these photographs weren’t taken in Bolton at all.
As the pub plaque was so distinctive we thought someone at the company might know about the Castle pub. Their reply confirmed our suspicions- Spender had photographed the Castle Pub in Battersea not Bolton! The pub he photographed had been demolished in 1963 but replaced by a modern building, with the original plaque incorporated into the design.
The brewery sent us a short history of the building which contained one detail that the Mass Observers would have loved: when the original pub was demolished workmen found a hoard of gold sovereigns. The coins were declared treasure trove but Young’s bought back a sovereign and a half sovereign and buried them under the foundation stone of the new building. By coincidence this 60s building was due to be demolished the week after we contacted Wells and Young’s. Hopefully they remembered to rescue their gold!