Saturday 30 January 2010

Rovers Return, Shudehill

Rovers Return, Shudehill, 1877. (c) Greater Manchester County Records Office.

Ye Olde Rovers Return (inspiration for Coronation Street's Rovers Return?) was reported to be the oldest public house in the country, the building dating back to 1306, as seen on this drawing.  It was built as a manor house for the Wythin Grave family, and became a pub in the 18th century [1].  There's a load of photos of the Rovers Return at the archives seen here in 1873, here in 1882; here in 1905; advertised as the oldest beerhouse in Manchester here in 1910 with a proud looking young fella stood outside; here as a working men's cafĂ© in 1938; here from a different angle in 1949; finally here as late as 1956 with a more modern market taking place in front of it, just before it was demolished in 1958.

In its last days it was known as the Rovers Return Trinket Shop, which was said to be haunted by the ghost of a young Jacobite soldier who was often seen gazing at a picture of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald in the shop [2].  There were also reported passages beneath the building running towards the Cathedral [1].

Rovers Return, Shudehill, 1920. (c) Burgess Beds.

The Rovers was next door but one to the Old Mosley, which itself was on the corner of Watling Street.  The large building to the right of the Rovers means the Rovers can't have been on the New Brown Street corner of Shudehill.  Therefore, bearing in mind that Withy Grove ends and Shudehill begins at Dantzic Street (and also New Brown Street in the past), then the location of the Rovers was where the Zavvi and Shudehill car park entrance is now (so therefore not far up from the Seven Stars).

Former location of Rovers Return, Shudehill. (c) Google 2010. View Larger Map.

A couple of paintings show the old place in much better nick. Wonder who the Benjamin is in the postcard, and whether he used to sup in the Rovers...

Rovers Return, Shudehill. (c) Steven Scholes.

Rovers Return, "Kind Regards, Hoping you are well, Benjamin". (c) delcampe.

1. Underground Manchester, Keith Warrender (2007).
2. They Still Serve: A Complete Guide to the Military Ghosts of Britain, Richard McKenzie (2008).


  1. Hi there, with reference to the precise location of the Rovers Return: surely this can be established quite easily, since we know for certain that the Rovers Return is next door but one to the Old Mosley (as verified by existing photo from 1949) and we also know for a fact that the old Mosley itself stood on the corner of Watling St and Shudehill (as verified on another existing photo). Furthermore it can be seen there is also a substantial building to the right of the Rovers which means the Rovers could not have been on the corner with New Brown St. Bearing in mind old maps indicate that Withy Grove ended and Shudehill began (and still does) at that junction with New Brown St then it stands to reason that its location must be pretty much halfway between where Watling St and New Brown St met Shudehill on the right hand side travelling up Withy Grove. Translated into the Google Map of today I reckon the location must have been between Zavvi and the car park entrance on Shudehill. Regards Rob

  2. Can't argue with that reasoning Rob, many thanks! I'll incorporate your comments into the entry.

  3. Who's bright idea was it to knock down this old building and stick in a scummy carpark?! jeez

  4. I can recall the book sellers on shudehill being around where the pub was located and I think the large Mill-like building next door was a camping store (volmax?) remember going there with by Dad in early 60's