Pubs of Manchester

All pubs within the city centre and beyond.
A history of Manchester's hundreds of lost pubs.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

John Willie Lees, Withy Grove

John Willie Lees, Withy Grove, 1990. (c) deltrems at flickr.

With the development of the Arndale Centre came this strange little pub, the John Willie Lees, built into the side of the bus station entrance on Withy Grove.  Generally populated by old men, off-duty bus drivers and newspaper workers, this little pub was probably one of the smokiest places you would ever visit.  Taking its name from the JW Lees brewery that took the franchise and supplied the beers, this was one pub that can easily be forgotten and it's not a real to shame to have lost it.  Towards its end it was named John Willie Lees Cabaret Club, had club nights and showed local bands on occasion, but it's now gone following redevelopment of the Arndale.


  1. I think they just recladded this side of the Arndale. Almost dead certain this is where the birdcage is now

  2. That whole side of the Arndale complex was demolished after the bomb and reopened in 2006. The bus station was never reopened due to structural damage and the flats above left unoccupied. Been up the Arndale tower many times and when looking down on that side it's very evident it's a new build with nothing remaining from that original part of the Arndale. However you're not far off Treguard The Birdcage is roughly around there within a few metres or so, maybe a little further up to what would be now the pedestrian crossing and entrance to the mall.

  3. the john willies lees was so called because to build the arndale they had to demolish the lower ship inn which was owned by the brewery,due to a delay on the openning it coinsided with the anniversry of the founding of lees brewery,so instead of calling it the lower ship(which was why the windows looked like portholes)the named it the john willie lees,it was not only frequented by old men,but much used by the workers of the newspapers of thompon house and the post office and the cis insurance

  4. I used to go in this pub in the mid eighties...I hated it but our boss at the Co-op liked it and we would go for the "beautiful" pub grub they served there. Possibly the worst pub ever.

  5. Replies
    1. 1996, closed by the bomb.

    2. Actually it survived the bomb, being around the corner away from the blast. I was working nearby in 2000 and was still going until approx 2003.