As English folk, pubs are in our DNA and there’s no shortage of watering holes to choose from in Manchester. The general rule of thumb for many is the older the better, and we have some pubs dating back centuries that we’re extremely proud of, but in some cases many aren’t aware of. Experience every creak and nook, old carpet and low bar in each of these ancient pubs, as well as learning about some of their sordid history and legendary visitors – here’s our guide to the oldest pubs to visit in Manchester.
1. The Old Wellington
The oldest building in Manchester just so happens to be a pub, The Old Wellington. Bordering another historical pub, Sinclair’s Oyster Bar, The Old Wellington was built in 1552 and quite fittingly is located in the Mediaeval Quarter of Manchester, near Manchester Cathedral.
Before it began life as a pub, it was part of a draper’s shop in the 17th Century, and was moved a few yards from its original position after the IRA bomb hit Manchester, as part of the city centre redevelopment. Many original features still exist, but the pub has be healthily reinforced to function properly as a pub today and has integrated a huge beer garden right outside in the courtyard which is always extremely popular in the summer; not bad for one of the oldest pubs in Manchester.
📍The Old Wellington, 4 Cathedral Gates, Manchester, M3 1SW.
2. Peveril of the Peak
A cult favourite amongst Mancs, Peveril of the Peak is pretty much hidden in plain sight, with many not even knowing it exists despite its vibrant green appearance. The Pev is said to be the only standalone pub in Manchester, and regulars love its pretty juicy history.
The pub was formerly a brothel for GIs in he Second World War, and was known as a notorious spot for a fight back in the day, and old newspaper clippings, portraits and facts adorn the walls of the modern Pev, reminding customers that it has had many lives before now. Quirks include a pretty low double-sided bar, several nooks to get comfy in, and a few different entrances, and these alongside the striking exterior make Peveril of the Peak a properly satisfying old pub for the people of Manchester.
📍Peveril of the Peak, 127 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester, M1 5JQ.
3. The Britons Protection
Standing on its current site since 1806, The Britons Protection has a long history with the city of Manchester. Withstanding the Peterloo Massacre just down the road in St Peter’s Square, the pub still has murals dedicated to those who died, and its name would suggest it had something to do with recruiting soldiers back in the day.
This unique pub gives a real sense of history within its walls, with tiny rooms off the main bar section and lots of dark wood and stained glass. Popular with musicians playing at the Bridgewater Hall just across the road, the pub, and its fans, put up a fight a few years ago against developers taking over to demolish it, and is now still standing, as beloved as ever. We’re so glad it’s still knocking about, and we hope it’ll continue to be one of the oldest pubs in Manchester for years to come.
📍The Britons Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester, M1 5LE.
4. The Castle Hotel
Slotted in between now pretty modern establishments, The Castle Hotel keeps watch over the Northern Quarter, in the company of Gullivers across the road and funky bar Lost Cast next door. The pub is now famed for holding musical and literary events, making it a huge part of the arts scene in Manchester, and is known for serving some of the best pints around.
The Castle Hotel opened back in 1776, and still boasts some truly unique features, albeit a little updated since. The Victorian-pub décor includes all patterned ceilings, stained-glass doors and old fixed seats, as well as an ornate ceramic bar – one of only a handful in the UK. It’s just a stone’s throw away from everything the Northern Quarter has to offer, so do include it in a pub or bar crawl, or pop in after an afternoon of shopping – it’s one of the oldest pubs in Manchester, never mind the Northern Quarter
📍The Castle Hotel, 66 Oldham St, Manchester, M4 1LE.
5. The Molly House
Representing the Gay Village pubs, The Molly House is one of the most well-known pubs in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Taking its name from the ‘molly houses’ of the 18th Century – pubs or coffee shops where gay men would go to meet up – the pub is vibrant, floral and welcoming to anyone who comes through the door.
Adorned with classic red brick, the building used to house a tailor’s shop and was only converted into a pub in 2010, but hangs onto its history with post-Victorian shabby-chic décor throughout. The ground floor eatery serves amazing tapas, with vegan options available, alongside classic pub drinks, and upstairs houses a ‘bordello‘ with sofas and a terrace for a more casual, intimate environment. It’s the perfect place to kick off a night on the town, or somewhere to wind down after some partying.
📍The Molly House, 26 Richmond St, Manchester, M1 3NB.
6. The Sawyer’s Arms
This Grade II-listed building has been used as a pub since the 1700s. In fact, it’s said to be one of Manchester’s oldest pubs, having first gained its licence in 1730. Nestled on the prominent corner where Deansgate joins John Dalton Street, The Sawyer’s Arms boasts a sympathetic refurbishment of the traditional interior, with plenty of great beers on tap and sport often playing on the screens.
📍 The Sawyer’s Arms, 138 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2RP.
7. The Gas Lamp
Situated in the basement of Wood St Mission on Bridge St by the River Irwell, this little bar has a rich history. When it was first founded by Alfred Alsop in 1879, Deansgate was a very different place to what we know it to be now. Families often lived in slum-standard housing, and both adults and children worked in the factories and mills, which covered the city in a layer of smog and soot. Many were unable to secure employment, and those who did were often paid a pitifully small wage. This is where the Mission came in, as it served hundreds of meals a day to ensure the local people didn’t go hungry. The Wood St Mission is still in operation and helps over 10,000 people every year.
Whilst slightly different in surroundings and nature from what it was 150 years ago, The Gaslamp underneath is a bustling, friendly bar serving a wide range of drinks in its tiled Victorian underground surroundings to ensure nobody goes thirsty.
📍 The Gaslamp, 50A Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BW.
8. The Kings Arms
The Kings Arms was first licensed in 1807 which marked a time where Bloom Street was lined with multiple shops, houses and other beer houses. Intriguingly, the original Kings Arms stood on a plot on the opposite side of the road that is now currently a car park.
In 2011, the pub lease was taken over by Paul Heaton (of the Housemartins and The Beautiful South) and Zena Barrie and since then more emphasis has been placed on the pub’s artistic endeavors. Regularly accommodating art exhibitions, fringe festivals, gigs, poetry night and all sorts of weird and wonderful types of entertainment.
📍 The Kings Arms, 11 Bloom Street, Salford M3 6AN.
9. The New Oxford
The New Oxford is sat back off Chapel Street in Bexley Square, directly opposite the Salford Magistrates Court. The New Oxford was originally the Town Hall Tavern beerhouse in the 1850s in what was then Bexley Street, and it became the Court Tavern a few years later then the Amateurs Arms in 1871 when it contained a music hall.
By the 1880s the pub had become the Oxford Hotel, and when Wilsons Brewery acquired it and the four neighbouring shops and cottages, it became a large hotel in the 1950s. Nowadays, The New Oxford is an award winning Real Ale and Belgian Beer bar featuring over 40 ever changing draught items including 20 real ale pumps.
📍 The New Oxford, 11 Bexley Square, Salford M3 6DB.
10. The Lower Turks Head
Dating back to 1745, the Lower Turks Head is a unique pub rich in history, heritage and community spirit. The pub is packed full of distinctive features, including three solid wood carved bars, checkerboard flooring, panelled walls, pew seating, Manchester artwork and locally brewed beer. With an historic tile façade on the outside, the Lower Turks Head is deceptively deep and roomy inside. There are plenty of nooks and crannies, as well as larger areas, to gather with friends and family.
In total there are 30 keg taps and 12 cask pumps serving Joseph Holt Bitter, IPA, Chorlton Pale Ale, Two Hoots and Mild. With the pub less than a mile from the brewery, you can guarantee the beer will be in top condition! On the first floor you’ll find a heated outdoor terrace area with local, hand painted artwork paying homage to the pub’s Northern Soul history, plus a pub-dedicated poem on the wall penned by The Thirsty Poet.
📍 The Lower Turks Head, 36 Shudehill, Manchester M4 1EZ.