A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls of Chester
The Vanished Pubs of Chester Gallery
The Red Lion Inn (later Hotel) stood for centuries at no 7 Lower Bridge Street, near the corner of Pepper Street, and across the road from St. Michael's Church and the equally ancient Falcon Inn.
In November 1771, one John Manwaring, retired butler, let it be known that he had taken "the old and well-accustomed inn, the Red Lion, late of Widow Penstone's". In its time, the Red Lion was full of company when elections were on, being a 'Grosvenor' house.
Right: this faded image is the earliest known photograph of the Red Lion Inn, looking very different to the later building.
A contributor to a 1927 edition of the Cheshire Sheaf wrote of the Red Lion, "although built in the middle of the 17th century, it bears no external sign of antiquity in consequence of restorations and structural alterations. In the interior, however, some idea of the age of the building may be gathered from the oak beams, floors and staircases, particularly those of the upper stories, which are in a fair state of preservation. On the first floor, at the front, there is a room containing an ornamental plaster ceiling... framed by a beading of plaster at the four corners of which, projecting towards the centre, are fleurs-de-lis on long stems. The centre of each panel is occupied by designs in relief but many coats of whitewash have all but obliterated them..."
The Red Lion was listed in Cowdroy's Directory in 1789 when the licencee was William Hancock. In 1822 the licencee was Robert Roberts, in 1850 Samuel Pilston, in 1857, the interestingly-named David Thom Millions, in 1880 Elizabeth Norris, in 1902 John Lloyd Jones, in 1910 Robert Johnson, in 1914-34 Thomas Miley (of whom much more below), in 1942 Ernest G Bennion. For over 300 years, the inn occupied a set-back site at the top of Lower Bridge Street until the alterations which turned Pepper Street into Pepper Row and the Inner Ring Road. Since then, this prominent site has been occupied by the large and hideous office block / hairdressers premises, Windsor House.
It was at one time one of numerous pubs belonging to the Chester Northgate Brewery.
Denny Colley wrote to us in August 2002 asking if we had any photographs of the old Lion as she was born there in 1944. "My aunt was the licensee but in partnership with my father. It's a shame that they pulled it down, it still had the stables at the back where the coach horses where housed". If anyone can help, contact her directly.
The venerable Chester historian Len Morgan spoke of it to us as the 'notorious' Red Lion, "the scene of many a conflict of fisticuffs, and that's putting it mildly. It was not exactly the place to take a girlfriend or go for a quiet drink". He also added that, such was its reputation during the war, it was the only pub in Chester where US Servicemen wouldn't go, and that it was carpeted throughout in red- "for good reasons!"...
Reader Paul Adamson wrote to tell us that "I used to participate in a game of darts in there 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".
Readers Roger and Gill Brooks have kindly loaned us some unique photographs of the Red Lion, its landlord and his family, dating from around the start of WW1.
Left: a view from the 1970s showing the Red Lion in relation to the other buildings in Lower Bridge Street.
|A well turned-out group sitting outside The Red Lion on an unknown special event, possibly the occasion of Thomas Miley taking over the pub in 1914. Notice the sign on the wall: "T. Miley, formerly of the Fox & Barrel, Grosvenor Street. He had been licencee there since at least 1910, when he was listed in Kelly's Directory.|
This image is captioned "Grandad Miley. First Wrexham Transport bus".
A mounted soldier outside the Red Lion- one of Annie's "young men"?
Thomas Miley: landlord of the Red Lion 1914-1934
A Northgate Brewery dray delivering to the Red Lion on a sunny day long ago.
Two rather sad views from the winter of 1971-2 showing the last days of the Red Lion
This dreadful building, Windsor House, stands on the site of the old Red Lion today
Do you have any more information about this old pub?
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