When I was a teenage drinker in mid-90s Manchester, we used to go to a certain pub – the Old Wellington Inn, a.k.a. the Old Shambles, or just the Welly – that had, and would continue to have, a very peculiar history. Twenty years on, having devoted much of the intervening period to studying philosophy, conserving historic buildings, and/or (as in my present research) applying the former activity to the latter, the place is often in my mind. If anything got me started down my current path, perhaps it was this.
Built around the year 1550 in what was then a nondescript south-Lancashire market town, the Old Wellington was the very last of Manchester’s half-timbered vernacular buildings to survive the city’s stupendous nineteenth-century growth. Modified, extended, re-fenestrated, it clung to its little patch of ground among the tottering brick piles of the Victorian Cottonopolis, accommodating a wine merchant, an oculist, a fishing tackle shop and a series of squalid tenements. It narrowly escaped annihilation in the 1940 Christmas Blitz, but post-war rebuilding left it stranded on a traffic island, and comprehensive redevelopment in the 1970s saw it placed on a concrete raft and jacked several feet up into the air, ultimately to grace a rather bleak little plaza round the back of Marks & Spencer’s. Continue reading