Pubs of Manchester

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

Monday, 26 July 2010

Guest Pub - Volunteer, Sale

Volunteer, Cross Street, Sale. (c) garstonian at flickr.

As the summer lull comes to an end we're introducing a guest pub feature for those outside the Pubs of Manchester boundary that we like to frequent. First up is Sale's finest-looking (and finest) boozer, the Volunteer, a great old Holt's house on Cross Street, the A56, a few minutes walk from Sale tram stop.  It's not always been a Holt's house - seen here as a Whitbread's house probably in the 1980s, and here in 1982 as an unknown brand of boozer (Chef's Brewer?).  The pub's name commemorates the enlistment of troops for the Napoleonic War which took place at nearby Sale Moor and an area near Hope Road in 1804. In charge of these troops was Captain John Moore who, unfortunately, later went on to be involved in the Peterloo Massacre where he commanded a troop of murderous yeomanry! [1].

The pub's impressive architecture suggests mid-Victorian period construction, and it's believed the Volunteer was built around about the same time as neighbouring pub, the Bulls Head, but after the Waggon & Horses [2].  This drawing from the Trafford archives is labelled 1898 but is surely from older times?  Here's a wonderful photo of the Volunteer from 1905 (Trafford Council tried to charge me £30 for the use of this photo - erm, as a Trafford Council Tax payer my response starts with fuck 'sod' and ends with 'off').  Inside are high ceilings and the layout of the old once-multi-roomed pub is evident. Nowadays it's been opened out with a pool table and darts area to the right (not to mention the numerous trophies on display), a long bar to the front and a large and part-raised seating area to the left. A function room upstairs and a small (formerly large until NIMBY neighbours had it curtailed) beer yard to the rear adds further capacity to this big old boozer.

Like all good pubs though, what makes it good is the beer and the people that drink it. Holt's Bitter, Dark Mild and a guest are on along with the usual Crystal, Diamond, cider, stout and Smooth Holt's offerings. The full range of Holt's bottled ales are also on offer. As for the regulars, a more loyal and hard-drinking bunch of characters you'll not find. It's the sort of pub that attracts the same crowd every night and has impromptu sing songs, but they remain welcoming to less regular drinkers and even have been known to put up with visiting student types on quiz night. The pub has formidable, all-conquering pool and darts teams and the friendly landlord even puts on Christmas dinner for those loyal regulars without a better offer on the 25th! As with all Holt's pubs, the Vol does more than its fair share for charity, and one year we'll definitely do the Vol-to-Blackpool bike ride, honest.

Volunteer, Cross Street, Sale. (c) Adam B. at flickr.

The Vol's immediate neighbours are the unavailable members-only Garvey's Irish Club and the sadly derelict Waggon & Horses. But, there are a couple of others worth a look just a few hundred yards away, up and down Cross Street. The Bridge is a decent and recently refurbished Lees house at Dane Road tram stop, and the CAMRA-highlighted Bulls Head on the corner of School Road is now rather food-focussed but keeps a few real ales and is doing well. A further stagger into the pedestrianised Sale centre and you've got the madhouse that is Ryan's Bar, a youngsters' bar called Amp, the poor and ale-free Bank and crap Slug & Lettuce chain. Don't despair though as there is an excellent little Robinson's house, the Railway, near the police station and the Kings Ransom opposite Sale tram station, which has plenty of real ales on but can be a bit of a meat market at weekends. Just over the way is another CAMRA-recommended place, the J.P. Joule, a reasonable Wetherspoons. To conclude, central Sale is a mixed bag and could do with a few more decent pubs and trendy bars to complement its decent restaurants, like neighbouring Chorlton, Didsbury and Altrincham. The Volunteer, though, is a cracking local's local.

EDIT:  Pleased to report the opening of the Steamhouse opposite the tram stop in the old nightclub venue.  Reports of a free house with an over-25s policy, serving a couple of real ales and a great selection of continental lagers will be confirmed shortly.

We're happy to host guest pubs for anyone else willing to write about their favourite boozer, just get in touch.


  1. The Vol was my local when I lived in Sale, although the Railway was favourite for lock-ins. When it first opened, as a freehouse, the Kings Ransom was excellent and I would have agreed with the reviewer on Beer In The Evening who said “a night on the cask ales in there will almost certainly result in you waking up next to a member of the opposite sex who is ten years older; possibly your mate's auntie.”

    The Bank also used to be good. The Hogshead wasn’t bad and the Bridge was a bustling Boddingtons house. The one near the Met (Queens?) also did a fair pint of Tetley before it went downhill and the bouncers had to patrol mob handed.

  2. Hogshead is now the Shyte & Lettuce and well avoided. Of course there is also the awful Waterside/Cape over the canal from the Ransom but doubt it's ever seen a pint of ale. Queens was No.2/Mr Q's last time it was open. Been shut for years now and is a shameful infested eyesore in a great location - "welcome to Sale".

  3. While the Volunteer very much has the "Holts" character, it isn't an original Holts pub. I think it was originally Wilsons/Chef & Brewer and was taken over by Holts maybe in the early 90s. The Waggon & Horses is a disgraceful eyesore.

  4. Thanks Curmudgeon. A little quizzing has indeed confirmed it was a Wilsons house formerly, and a bit of rockers/bikers place in the 70s and 80s. As such it was a bit out of place with the gentile Sale of the time. Early 90s sounds about right for Holts taking it as well.

  5. Bar Amp closed down some time ago and will not be missed. Most of the late night trouble in Sale emanated from there.

    Ryan's Bar is a very strange place indeed!

  6. must be strange to let you in!