A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls of Chester
The Vanished Pubs of Chester Gallery
New material added here November 2017
The Ship Victory, George Street 2013
The Ship Victory is located at 47 George Street, on the corner of- at least before the coming of the Inner Ring Road- what was William Street. It sadly closed as recently as New Year’s Day 2014 and, unforgiveably, demolished in November 2015.
The Ship was once one of a string of thriving pubs that faced upon Chester’s Cattle Market, now the cheerless Gorse Stacks Car Park, and was, until recently, the sole survivor.
It was referred to in the Chester Chronicle in 1855 as The Ship and in 1858 as The Victory. It was definitely called The Ship Victory from 1868 at the latest.
Right: The Ship Victory seen sometime during the 1950s. As may be seen from our modern photographs, the row of shops between it and the George Street School (now converted for student housing) have long since vanished.
It is, surprisingly perhaps, the only pub in Great Britain to be named after Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory. The story goes that the building was originally converted from a stables and hay loft to an ale house for the benefit of the proliferating numbers of sailors and soldiers travelling through the Port of Chester en route to the Napoleonic Wars. That the inn was first recorded in 1855, but the nation’s struggles against Bonaparte ceased fourty years earlier, in 1815, presents some difficulties regarding the accuracy of this story..
In 1888, at a big auction of Chester pubs attended by a crowd of brewers and wine and spirit merchants, the Birkenhead Brewery Company bought the Ship Victory for £2,350.
In 1985-87 Alexander Joseph and Dorothy Gordon held the licence, 1987 John James Bird, 1991-94 Margaret Nield. From 1994-2014 Joseph John (Joe) Gildea- seen above left, just before retiring, in a photograph by Mike Penney- was the final licencee.
Joe and his wife Helen established the Angela Gildea Memorial Fund soon after Joe's daughter (to his first wife) died of breast cancer in 2002, and have raised well over £100,000 for the Countess of Chester’s Breast Care Unit. In recognition of their work, and almost similtaneously with his retirement and the closure of the pub, Joe was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year Honours. Previously, in 2012, they had earned the Great British Pub Awards title of 'Britain's most charitable pub'.
In February 2012, the admirable Chester Beer Project reviewed the Ship as follows:
The Ship Victory was owned by Cheshire West and Chester Council. They, in their wisdom, decided that the place was no longer commercially viable, allegedly requiring large sums of money spending to bring it up to modern standards, and also hinted at "development opportunities" for the site. In January 2014, they nontheless insist that "no decision has been taken" requiring the Ship's future..
Around this time we also learned that the entire Gorse Stacks car park, including the site of the pub, was to be allocated to the construction of Chester's new bus station, intended to replace the existing one behind the Town Hall as this was said to be required for the years-long-delayed Northgate Development Scheme.
This section of an old Chester map shows how the Ship Victory and its neighbouring pubs stood close to the Cattle Market in a landscape that is entirely unfamiliar to modern eyes. Go here to visit the pub's own website..
Above and below: the Ship Victory, outside and in, at Christmas 2013- pause to admire those psychedelic carpets!
Three photographs of the Ship Victory and its surroundings taken 30th March 1964. Thanks to Keith Hobbs
|For those readers confused by references to Chester's vanished Cattle Market, this interesting aerial photograph, dating from 1932, should help; it shows its boundaries and some of the buildings that surrounded it.
At top left we have the City Walls, Deanery Field and Phoenix Tower. Top centre may be seen the Primitive Methodist Chapel on the corner of George and Delamere Streets. After its demolition, the site was occupied by a bus and coach station but is currently being redeveloped as a 'super surgery', office and apartment complex, in many people's view, on a scale entirely unsuited to Chester's historic and sensitive townscape.
Following George Street down, we encounter the former George Street School- now, complete with crass modern extensions, being turned into student housing- and a line of pubs: the Royal George, the Farmer's Arms (corner of Oulton Place), the Ship Victory (corner of William Street) and the Market Tavern (corner of Thomas Street). Among the buildings in the left foreground was a narrow thoroughfare by the name of White Alley wherein was an inn by the name of The Drover's Arms.
To the left, the interestingly-named Gorse Stacks branches off. Many of the old buildings here- chapels, shops and cottages, are still with us in some form today.
Since the demolition of the Cattle Market, the central space has been occupied by the cheerless Gorse Stacks Car Park. All manner of redevelopment plans have come and gone in regard to this site over the years, from the hair-brained 'Millennium Wall' to the equally-dotty 'Glass Slug' council office scheme. All have disappeared into the obscurity they deserved. The latest is that a vast bus station is to be erected here and we have been told that it will be necessary to demolish the pub as a result. Watch this space for developments. In early 2015, campaigners opposed to the demolition plans established a Twitter group to fight them.
November 2015: Despite a spirited campaign to save it, the Ship Victory was demolished in early November.
|The Ship Victory's sign was rescued from the demolition rubble and eventually restored. It now hangs from its original ornate ironwork in the garden of Ye Olde Cottage Inn in Brook Street, together with a new plaque that lists the names of past licencees.. this photograph of it by the author was taken in November 2017..|
Do you have any more information about this old pub?
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Modern photographs and text © Steve Howe/B&W Picture Place