Pubs of Manchester

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

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Tommy Ducks, East Street

Tommy Ducks, East Street, 1991. (c) deltrems at flickr.

This famous old pub was situated on land on East Street in front of the Midland Hotel, a street which has not been lost to the Barbirolli Square complex.  The name Tommy Ducks apparently came about when the sign writer who was painting the name of the landlord, Tommy Duckworth, on the then Princes Tavern as it was once known, ran out of room on the sign.

Tommy Ducks, East Street. (c) Salford_66 at flickr.

Greenall Whitley house, Tommy Ducks is a Manchester institution and was famous for, amongst other things, its collection of knickers pinned to the ceiling, donated by the female customers!  A flash mob of women's libbers and lesbians once tried to take the offending garments but were thankfully thwarted.

There were a couple of glass-topped coffins used as tables, one of which was kidnapped by another pub for a while.  In its place they put a polystyrene replacement until the coffin was recaptured.  These two 1986 photos from the archive show its position in the shadow of the Midland Hotel on Lower Mosley Street, and the below on the from cover of An Endangered Species (35 pence from  Beer-Inn Print) [2] photos show Central Station (GMEX) behind Tommy Duck's.  We get a glimpse of the inside of the pub in these three great photos from the 1960s.

Tommy Ducks, before & after, 1993. (c) Debbie Hickey & Jacqui Norwood [2].

As one of the last remaining pubs in the area as all buildings around it were demolished as seen here in 1977, it was served with a temporary preservation order.  Arguments were raised between the developers and brewery who owned the land, and customers and locals who wanted the place retained for for its history.   Thankfully, some items were salvaged from the pub before it was lost, such as these fantastic goblets and beer glasses complete with the Tommy Ducks logo of two ducks.  Thanks to Gerald Distill - who picked up the glasses from the pub at least 20 years ago - for the photo of these fine artifacts.

Tommy Ducks glassware (part of a 5 + 1 set). (c) Gerald Distill.

The dispute lasted for many months with the order being renewed on a regular basis.  However, so the story is told, the preservation order expired on 12th February 1993 at midnight and with no one being able to renew it until 9am the following morning, the developers and brewery, in cahoots, seized the opportunity and tore Tommy Ducks down at 3am.  Indeed the story goes on that a barmaid who worked in there, left her coat in there overnight, returned the next morning to retrieve it only to find a pile of rubble!  Greenhall Whitley were later fined £150,000 for breaching the regulations.

Tommy Ducks, East Street. (c) Frank Mitchell at Hulme, C.on.M., All Saints, Ardwick Facebook [3].

2. An Endangered Species? The Public House - The Conservation and Protection of Victorian Pubs in Manchester, Debbie Hickey & Jacqui Norwood (1993).


  1. There was certainly at least one glass-topped coffin used as a table. If memory serves it was "kidnapped" by another pub for a while and in its place there was a polystyrene gravestone until the coffin was recaptured. I well remember visiting Tommy's in the late 70s when it stood alone in amongst the demolition work - it was a "must visit" pub and whenever family or friends from other parts of the country/world visited Manchester we'd make sure we had a pint there.

  2. Cheers Nogbad, we'll incorporate your comments into the Tommy Ducks entry. Any more pubs you can help fill in the history on?

    1. Hi all I am glad to see this site saved,
      it gives me great pleasure to see my lovey old pub which I ran for 5 great years
      I was the Landlord of TOMMY DUCK'S back in 1987 to 1992
      I also have the MIRROR which was hung on one of the 3 room's before Greenhalls pulled the guts out of it
      and changed it inside SAD!!! took the famous knickers down from the ceiling
      then replaced some into a large frame on the wall

    2. Hello Keith not seen you for years breakfast John here used to stay at the pub call me asap on 01603436183 cheers mate

  3. Now you're making me sound like an old fogey! :-)

    I've got hazy memories of a number of places you list so I'll see what I can add. I'll also send any old Mancunians I know over here.

    Surprised that the Pev isn't listed; that's somewhere I visit whenever I have a chance.

  4. Went in the Pev last night, although shockingly the barman was more interested in restocking his glasses than serving customers so we left in a huff. Shame, as it's normally a cracking booze in the Pev!

  5. Knickers on the ceiling, skeletons in coffins, singer sewing machine tables, bank notes from around the world under glass, fantastic graffiti in the bogs, and a live jazz band on sundays. Oh and a great 'logo' on the glasses, mirrors etc which would now be called merchandising - of 2 ducks flying along 'together'

  6. Wonder whether many of them artefacts were saved before Greenhalls dropped it illegally? Didn't the coffin end up in the Nags Head or somewhere nearby ?

  7. We loved this place when we played the free trade hall!!
    Hot Sam
    Sound Guy
    Bob Seger
    Cheap Trick

  8. Well I've only ever been to Manchester once! but I did have a few great nights at tommy ducks and fond memorys, I for one still have a set (5+1) of those great glasses with the "logo" of the 2 ducks mind you I still have a first issue of the national lottery ticket am I a sad git of what

  9. For those who remember tommy Ducks it is worth visiting The Taps public house on Henry Street in Lytham. Speak to the owner who will gladly show you several artefacts (which are on display in the pub itself)saved from destruction when Tommy Ducks was demolished.
    The Taps'owner is a relative of the last owners of Tommy Ducks.

  10. Oh yes. My favourite pub When I worked at the Odeon this was where I had my dinner. I still have my Tommy Ducks tie and a tin which had some knickers in it. By the way, I was owner of a bar here in Spain. Guess what it was called

  11. Oh, yeah, I remember drinking our beers outside till the police came and chased us back inside on a hot summer night.

    I still got the Tommy Ducks mirror hanging in my entrance hall. Great pub.

  12. A favourite haunt of me and my mates from St Bede's College when we were in sixth form, a
    place where we all got off with girls from a school whose name I can't remember, the Marist in Chorlton, was it?? Anyhow, had some absolutely ace times in Tommy Ducks, the place was legendary and iconic for us

  13. i was in the the ducks the night before it was pulled down. We were taking our time with the drinks and was asked to hurry up as they had to be out by midnight.i never gave it a thought untill sunday evening it had gone.

  14. History to be proud of! In the mid seventies I was an apprentice sparky who worked in the nearby Midland Hotel. Travelling from Sheffield and staying in the nearby YMCA (bed bug central!), the ultra friendly hotel staff introduced me to Tommy Ducks and an interesting local 'pale ale'! Many happy evenings were spent there before the hotel staff would take us down to the nearby Kloisters night club. As well as the coffin, skeleton, toilet and knickers I clearly remember the night the local police took over the pub for the leaving do of one of their kind nicknamed 'Fangio' after his prowess behind the wheel of the numerous constabulary vehicles he managed to re-model! Licensing hour enforcement was seemingly suspended for the night - magic!! Thank you Midland hotel staff, Tommy Ducks and Mancunians in general for some great 70's memories.

    From a Yorkshireman fresh from a nostalgic trip to Manchester and a stay in the Midland as a customer.

  15. The knickers had to be the ones you were wearing that you took off in the pub. Hen nights were popular. I was a nurse and once went in wearing bloomers that were massive. They didn't want to put them up

  16. I was a student in Manchester in the mid 70's. Tommy Ducks was well known as a place for stay behinds in the days when 3pm meant closing for the afternoon. Great alehouse, sadly missed.

  17. A fun pub. The knickers had to be warm. Beer wasn't so great but who cared?

  18. I was posted to RAF Heaton Park in October 1943 when we were told that two pubs in Manchester were out of bounds - Tommy Ducks and the Long Bar in Oxford Road. Naturally we tried the Long Bar first but it was full of Yanks so, next call Tommy Ducks. I was at Heaton Park for about ten weeks and never used anywhere else. One problem was getting there. Going down by the News Cinema in Oxford Road Tommy Ducks was practically the only building left standing. The clientele was mainly Canadian servicemen and Aircrew Cadtes and a fair sprinkling of young ladies some of whom were kind enough to leave their underwear behind as ceiling decoration.
    I next returned in about 1968 when I was horrified to find no knickers, no ladies but was approached by a gentleman who wanted to take me for a drive in the country.
    My next and last visit was in 1973 when I was relieved to see the return of the knickers without the peculiar gentleman.

  19. Only recently did I wonder if the knickers were washed before hanging on the ceiling. Does anyone know the answer to this important and historic question?

  20. I used to pay a visit to Tommy Ducks on a Sunday lunch. I got the shock of life when one Sunday I was greeted by top-less Barmaids. Very nice!

  21. I used to enjoy the occasional visit to Tommy Ducks when out in town as a young lad. I got an early Christmas present from my dad this week - An original Tommy Duck Manchester Tee Shirt. I haven't been able to find another anywhere Including Google Images.

  22. I was also a St Bede's boy who used to go in there. The coffin did end up in the Nags Head and although very hazy I think we either carried it there or carried it back. Can't remember now. Do remember drowning our sorrows on A Level results day outside in the summer of 1976

  23. I ran the pub 1987-1988 with Keith above. Still have a large Tommy Ducks sign! The photo also shows my old Saab!

  24. Mid seventies (76?), very hot summer. I remember coming out of one door & a damn great rat was scuttling along. A builder coming out of the other door spotted it, grabbed a brick as he ran & thwack! Where have the years gone?