Chester: a Virtual Stroll Around the Walls

Brooksbanks and The Old Lamb

the old lamb and the falcon
The Old Lamb Stores and the Falcon Inn, Lower Bridge Street

Reader Keith Rhodes kindly sent us several of these fascinating photographs of a much-changed corner of Chester and the long-vanished Bridge Street businesses, wine merchants P L Brooksbank and the public house John Rowe Duttons.

The late 1950s view above shows the corner of Lower bridge Street and Grosvenor Street. The Falcon Inn- still very much with us today- is just visible on the extreme left of the picture. Note the gentlemen's underground toilet in the foreground.

Keith wrote to us, "My father was the manager of P L Brooksbank, who also ran John Rowe Duttons in Bridge Street, I worked for my father there for two years after he took over as manager, this was after the company was bought by the Ind Coope Brewers of Burton on Trent. He was asked to manage the company for them and moved from Burton to do so. We lived over the shop of P L Brooksbank for a while till he bought a house in Christleton.

The premises farther down the road in Lower Bridge Street was the beer store, underneath what was Browns of Chester's furniture depository. I can  remember one day whilst working in the store a piano leg came through the ceiling!

When we first came to Chester from Burton on Trent I said we lived above the shop, this was not quite correct, there were a set of stairs at the side of the shop which led to a second floor (Brooksbanks was slightly lower than street level) this floor was occupied by a company called Dom Brake Linings, we continued up the stairs to a flat on the top floor, we lived there for a couple of years.

When the road widening took place and the building was lost I got married to my first wife, who died in 2003, and lived in Handbridge for 9 years before moving to Buckley, her home town". 

rebuilding the lamb inn 1900
Rebuilding the Lamb Inn c 1900

The John Rowe Dutton pub, uniquely in Chester, had a licence with allowed them only to open six days a week (closed on Sundays) and then only until 9pm. Their extensive crypt and cellar later housed the Chester Chronicle's printing presses and paper store. You can see the Chronicle's office on the left of the photograph. Today the site is occupied by Cafe Uno-Italiano.

"John Rowe Dutton was the first pub in Chester to sell keg draught beer, they had Watneys Red Barrel. This was in a keg (11 gallons) housed in a wooden cabinet standing at the end of the bar. There were two, one at each end of the bar, with a gas CO2 bottle strapped to the inside of the cabinet. I think most pubs served what we now call real ale, keg was a new thing then. I don't like it now any more than I did then- give me real ale anytime. I served behind the bar at John Rowe Duttons on many occasions.  I could tell you stories about the cellars at that time, berore the Chronicle decimated them for newsprint."

The Lamb or Ye Olde Lamb, popularly known as 'The Dive Bar', was situated in the basement of Brooksbanks and separated by a narrow lane, Little Cuppin Street, from the ancient, but still-extant Falcon Inn.

Its name arose from its predecessor, on the same site, a timber building whose upper storey protruded so far over the street and whose creaking beams sagged so fantastically that it quickly achieved a reputation as being Chester's most picturesque building and was portrayed by many visiting artists. Originally constructed as the home of historian and heraldic artist Randle Holme III in 1655, it was later converted into shops, a market and finally into an inn- The Lamb Inn, which gave its name to a long vanished Row, Lamb Row. So unfeasable was the structure, however, that the whole thing inevitably collapsed into the street in 1821. The Chester Chronicle reported at the time, "this ancient pile, like all the works of man, underwent a severe shock from the hands of time... the projecting portion of the south end suddenly gave way and tumbled into the street with a loud crash. An immense volume of dust rose from the ruins, and it was some time before bystanders could ascertain what damage was done and whether any injury had been sustained".

Miraculously, nobody was hurt, but an elderly inhabitant of the house, Sarah Adams, had a nasty shock when the wall of the room she was sitting in collapsed within six inches of her chair.

Visit our gallery of pictures of Old Lamb Row here.

The 1902 edition of Kelly's Directory lists the licencee of The Lamb Stores as William Cooke Thornhill.

The photograph below by Chris Langford shows, presumably, the Lamb's landlord standing before its entrance. Does anybody remember his name or anything about the place?

dive bar landlord

falcon cocoa house and olde lamb
Detail of a painting showing the Falcon Inn and Old Lamb by Louise Rayner

old lamb stores

pepper street 1959
An extremely shabby Pepper Street in the rain in 1959. Brooksbank's may be seen in the distance

pepper street and the lamb
Brooksbank's is in shadow on the right in this rather murky photograph from the 1950s.
Everything in the picture has now gone with the exception of St. Michael's Church.

brooksbanks in 1961

This interesting photograph, remarkable even to those who thought they knew this area well, shows the Lamb's final days in 1961, just before it was demolished to make way for the widening of Grosvenor Street as part of the Inner Ring Road scheme and its site is now lost beneath the busy road junction we know today. The photographer was apparently standing in ruins next to the 17th century Red Lion Inn, which would in turn be pulled down in 1968, to be replaced by a soulless modern office block/hairdressers known as Windsor House.

Reader Paul Adamson wrote to tell us that "I used to participate in a game of darts in the Red Lion, and the occasional jar of course. The elderly couple that ran the place up to its demise in 1968 were named Swallow. I used to go to school with their grandson Melvin who was a canoeist of some repute and who, I believe, was up to Olympic Standards in the early 1970s. In turn his parents ran The Albion Hotel opposite the General Station- now called The Town Crier".

bridge street/pepper street junction
This is the end: one final corner of the building remains standing as preparation work for the Ring Road gathers pace...

rag mag advert
Above: from the Chester College Rag Mag 1954

Right: Advertisment from The Visitor's Chester Guide 1884
(Look at those prices!)

dutton advert

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