Gary Rycroft column: Familiar Lancaster hostelries dry up

Gary Rycroft
Gary Rycroft

Having been born in Morecambe and lived in Lancaster now for nearly 20 years there aren’t many local public houses I haven’t had a drink in for one reason or another.

Some I have only ever had one drink in and others quite a few more than that. Two local hostelries which I have drunk in, although not on a regular or frequent basis, are The Greaves Hotel and The Moorlands Hotel. However, as we start a new year, it is with regret that we must note their passing into history.

Regret because they closed in 2013 having been in decline for some time and yet in their prime both were the focal points of their local communities and as important to those communities as the Rovers Return is to the residents of Coronation Street.

The Moorlands Hotel first obtained a licence in 1895. It was built at the same time as the surrounding terraced houses. A purpose-built Victorian “super pub” promoted by local brewer William Mitchell, its development was opposed by the local Temperance Society, but Mr Mitchell was canny. He owned a very old and rundown establishment on China Lane called The Feathers.

The council wanted to acquire it from him as they had bought up the surrounding buildings in order to widen the lane but Mr Mitchell refused to sell. That is he refused until a scheme was hatched whereby the alcohol licence for The Feathers was in effect handed him on the basis that a new licence would be granted for The Moorlands Hotel.

In those days alcohol licences were granted by the magistrates so the licensing bench was able to justify granting of a licence for The Moorlands to the Temperance Society on the basis they were not increasing the number of licences.

Mr Mitchell got a licence for his new pub and the council got to buy The Feathers and widen China Lane.

Victorian pragmatism and commercial enterprise at its best.

I gather the now defunct Moorland Hotel is going to be turned into apartments and The Greaves Hotel is going to be accommodation for the elderly. I can’t help thinking that’s not progress and I hope as a city we do not live to regret the loss of these once vibrant establishments.