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Feature

The rise and fall of Boddingtons, a proper Manchester institution

Where did it all go wrong?

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Literature & Libation

Boddingtons went from a roaring success to almost impossible to find, so what happened?!

Boddington’s became known as The Cream of Manchester in the 1980s, but to understand how it became such a huge part of the city’s history we need to go back to a time when people drank beer instead of water.

Hundreds of years ago, water was a huge cause of serious sickness and unfortunately a lot of death. And as communities and civilisations grew the water got dirtier and even deadlier as sewers flooded into open water sources.

This is where beer came in, fermented and brewed making it healthier than water to drink. It was much thicker and a lot weaker than we know it to be now. But even back then you would regularly find the whole family chugging a few glasses at the dinner table, even the kids.

Keith Williamson/Wikimedia

Mostly, beer was brewed within households. But as families got bigger and the need for space over a spot for brewing became more important.

Monasteries and schools started to lead the way for larger scale brewing operations. Manchester Grammar School used their ‘free’ workers to create beer under the guise of education and by the mid-1700s the school had a huge monopoly on the grinding of grain in the city.

As workplaces grew in the city, the desire for a nice place for a swift pint after work became huge. Hundreds of small brewers began setting up shop, including Strangeways Brewery.

In 1831, Strangeways Brewery employed John Boddington as a clerk. From a poor, large family down South, his family got wind of the job opportunities in prosperous Manchester and quickly followed suit chasing that northern dream.

In Memoriam: rattypete/Flickr

Surprisingly, it wasn’t John who set up Boddington’s as we know it. It was actually his brother, Henry.

John pursued a career in Corn & Provisions, emigrating to America and dying penniless over there 20 years later.

Henry on the other hand, got a job at his brother’s old workplace and quickly made a name for himself, becoming a partner in the firm just 10 years later. He borrowed some money and became the sole owner in 1877.

By this point, they were the biggest brewery in Manchester, with their output growing from a mere 10,000 to 100,000 barrels a year.

Dunk/Flickr

Henry, as you can imagine, died a very rich man in 1886. His fortune equates to around £19.2 million in today’s monetary terms. His son William Slater took over, made the company public, doubled its value and so Boddingtons Breweries Ltd. was born.

By the turn of the century, Boddingtons were the 12th largest tied estate in the UK, owning over 200 public houses across the country.

But then there was the English Beer Scandal in 1900.

Over 6,000 people were poisoned and 70 people died from arsenic in the beer of many of the city’s breweries. While the illness was prevalent across the Midlands and North West England, Manchester was the most heavily affected by it.

It turns out hundreds of Boddingtons’ barrels were poisonous due to the sugar in the fermentation process – the beer market by then was very competitive, and high-quality barley malt was replaced with low quality in efforts to reduce costs.

Mikey/Flickr

This meant the barley was supplemented with sugar, a sugar that was made by heating starch with acid to form glucose. The acid was unpurified sulphuric acid used by Bostock & Co. which contained arsenic.

The poison remained in the sugar, and then subsequently poisoned the beer and thousands of people.

There was a significant decline in the birth rate in 1901 in Manchester, Salford and Liverpool, with an investigation later concluding that the arsenic epidemic was to blame.

A subsequent investigation into the mass poisoning later revealed that arsenic had been present in beer for decades – unknowingly poisoning thousands.

However, Boddingtons managed to get over this blunder and actually continued to be prosperous for the next century.

Keough/Flickr

In World War II Boddingtons’ brewery was smashed to bits by the Luftwaffe in the Manchester Blitz, and they were forced to close for several months.

As a result, the the brewery was modernised and improved, becoming the first in Europe to install stainless steel brewing vats and getting all of the best mod-cons of the age.

During this time the Boddington family were selling shares and by 1930 only owned around 40% of the business. Then in 1961, Whitbread bought a 13% stake in the company.

In 1969, an attempted hostile takeover of the company took place, with Allied Breweries trying to force out the family and strip away its independence.

Whitbread actually raised the Boddington family’s stake to 23%, and by 1971 Allied Breweries had sold their 35% stake – leaving the family with 10% and Whitbread with 25% of it.

CrossingTheLineDVD/Youtube

The ’80s saw huge growth for Boddingtons Bitter. The brand expanded outside of Manchester for the first time and people became enamoured with the cheap and distinct beer.

By 1986 they had 580 tied pubs and were producing over 500,000 barrels a year (while only maintaining a 50% capacity at the brewery). Finally, though, Boddingtons was sold to Whitbread for £50.7 million in 1989.

It was during the Whitbread era that Boddingtons became an international brand and a household name.

Much of the success of the brand is attributed to one of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time, ‘The Cream of Manchester’.

The style, swagger and colours highlighted perfectly the iconic taste of Boddingtons, and helped put Manchester on the map.

After the ’90s soaring success came the ‘fall’ of Boddingtons. It moved away from Manchester, the taste changed and the sales reflected that.

By this point the company had been acquired by Belgian brewer Interbrew, who are now known as InBev. By 2004 production had moved to South Wales and Lancashire.

The brewery had a huge send off in 2006 hosting the first ever Warehouse Project before the building was knocked down completely, and replaced by a car park – which it remains to this day.

The beer, however, remains the sixth best-selling bitter in the UK despite its sales falling by three quarters and it disappearing from the taps of many pubs.

If you do fancy a pint of it though, you can grab a draught pint at The Bay Horse in the Northern Quarter. And good news folks, it’ll be set to open its doors very soon now Boris has given the green light!

Feature

Take a look inside the creepy abandoned Belle Vue Showcase cinema

Who else has great memories of this place?

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Mark Gardener

The Belle Vue Showcase cinema was somewhat of an iconic venue in Manchester, however, it is set to be demolished and replaced. 

The news came late last year that the cinema would be demolished to make way for a new secondary school.

The school, ran by the Co-op, is planning on having its first year sevens students in by September, although they’ll be placed in temporary buildings.

Sir Robert McAlpine / Space Architects

The new Co-Op Academy Belle Vue school is set to be finished in 2023, and a first glimpse of what it will look like has now been released. 

Newly released documents show a modern L-shaped building, which will be split into three different ‘zones’, including a two-storey sports block – complete with a sports hall, auditorium, and drama studio.

Mark Gardener
Mark Gardener

The iconic cinema first opened its doors in 1989 boasting a huge 14 screens in the entertainment complex.

Closing its doors back in March 2020, the cinema had been left abandoned all last year and started to look seriously creepy. 

Mark Gardener
Mark Gardener

The timeline for demolition hasn’t been given yet, and parents had to have applied for their child’s place in the new school by November 2nd last year – in case you were wanting to. 

Once the grounds of Belle Vue zoo and amusement park, the area will definitely have some stories to tell.

Mark Gardener
Mark Gardener

The Belle Vue Showcase cinema was one of the first multi-screen complexes to open up, bringing American films, no queues and car parks to fit a 1,000 cars – it was unlike anything that had ever been seen before when it first opened back in 1989.

Back in February last year when rumours began to circulate the cinema would be closing, Mark Barlow, general manager at Showcase Cinemas UK, said: “As the leader in UK cinema innovation, Showcase Cinemas remains committed to operating a cinema in Manchester and as such are in active discussions about future opportunities for a new, state-of-art cinema in the city.”

If you’re going to miss this iconic venue, the company are said to be looking into a new unnamed location for another cinema. They added that they ‘remain fully committed to the city’. 

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Feature

The 12 retro chocolate bars that need to be brought back immediately

Nostalgia guaranteed…

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Sadly many of the chocolate bars we were once delighted to see in our lunchbox no longer exist, snatched from us way before their time.

And I’m not the only one upset. Hundreds of petitions have been set up to bring back some retro classics and a handful have even been successful.

Last year, Cadbury announced it’s bringing back the Marble bar (only in Australia, unfortunately), proving that nagging works.

We’re still upset about a few other discontinued chocolate treats though…

White Maltesers

These delicious honeycomb and white chocolate balls were last tasted in 2014 and Mars have confirmed they have no intention of bringing them back. It’s a crime against humanity.

Poundland does its own version if you can’t go another minute with eating one. Sure, it’s not the original but they are almost as good.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Dream

This white chocolate revelation from Cadbury was taken from us too soon. It first graced the shelves back in 2002 and fizzled away just a few short years after.

You can still get the original in Australia and New Zealand and import it over if you’re that dedicated to the cause. Personally, I’d like to see this in corner shops all around the UK.

Credit: Galaxy

Galaxy Truffles

There was nothing quite like the feeling of dunking your hand in a box of Celebrations and pulling out a Galaxy Truffle.

That feeling was pure happiness and frankly, we all need it back. They’ve released some sort of knock-off Nigel version but I’m not buying it. We want the originals.

Credit: Cadbury

Time Out

It wasn’t until I started researching this that I discovered Time Out bars had sneakily been taken off our shelves and replaced with a single wafer version called Time Out Wafer.

Clever but you’re not fooling me with this smaller alternative.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Snaps

Two words we didn’t know we needed putting together; chocolate and crisps. Essentially these bad boys were chocolate Pringles and how iconic were they?

We lost these to the discontinued pile back in 2010 and things haven’t been the same since.

Credit: Mars

Mars Delight

The Mars Delight led a short life, just 4 small years. In part due to the fact that it was one of the most calorific bars ever made and it was released just when we were all getting fit – unfortunate timing.

6,423 signed a petition to bring these back in 2016 but there was no luck.

Credit: Cadbury

Flake Snow

She is beauty, she is grace! Another bad decision from Cadbury was to remove the Flake Snow from our lives.

Nothing beats the promo of this either, a sponsored photoshoot at Anthea Turner’s wedding?! ICONIC.

Credit: Fox’s

Echo

Fox’s Echo bars were classic lunch box biscuits. They were discontinued and replaced with an inferior bar that we won’t even give any limelight.

Absolutely partial to a mint one but nothing could beat that mix of white and milk chocolate that would just melt in your mouth.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Marble

Cadbury Marble is only back in Australia so it is definitely going in the list of things we need back in the UK.

Marble is quite possibly one of the most missed creations of Cadbury, complete with swirls of milk chocolate, white chocolate and hazelnut praline. Dribbling already. 

Credit: Cadbury

Wispa Mint

These rivalled Aero Mint (easily) but unfortunately never proved popular enough, being taken from our shelves back in 2003. Something about that velvety chocolate though… 

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Taz

The best thing you could get with the spare change you’d find down the sofa was a Cadbury Taz or a Freddo. The Taz has been replaced with a caramel Freddo instead, and I’m sorry but it’s just not the same.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Spira

This is like an ’80s version of a Twirl. Because I was born in 1996 I can’t comment on this bad boy, but I’ve heard good things and there is a petition to bring it back so they must’ve been popular enough to create an army of fans.  

Have we missed any? Let us know in the Facebook comments…

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Feature

There’s an abandoned bar hidden underneath Manchester’s Victoria Station

Would you dare explore underneath Victoria Station?

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Finest Media & 28dayslater.co.uk

The Urban Collective search cities and urban landscapes for hidden, unexplored derelict sites, filming the process so we get to see. 

Recently, The Urban Collective headed underneath Manchester’s Victoria Station to see the inner workings beneath the station.

Manchester’s Victoria Train Station opened all the way back in 1844, and was designed to help connect Leeds with the port city of Liverpool via train. 

The initial building was designed by the ‘Father of Railways’, George Stephenson, who was heavily involved in the UK’s early rail networks. 

Finest Media
Finest Media

The original building was a long, single-storey structure that you can still see just next to the large Arena steps. 

By the early 1900s, the station had 17 platforms and a huge façade, designed by William Dawes, which still exists today.

The Urban Collective headed underneath the station via the old station offices in the main building, and descended into the now derelict B.R.S.A club.

Finest Media

28dayslater.co.uk

The club was an underground bar owned by the British Railway Staff Association, and operated as a typical working men’s club during the ’70s and ’80s.

It’s tucked away below the station and the street itself, with punters heading down for a pint near the top station entrance. 

28dayslater.co.uk
28dayslater.co.uk

You could also get in via the glass building over the road, which later became a barbers.

The bar, topped with glass, as well as wooden floors and other original features are still intact. There’s even a creepy cellar full of crates and thousands of discarded lager bottles.

Old posters are still on the walls, plus there’s even electricity still supplied which makes the fan above the dance floor occasionally spin. 

Members nicknamed their fave spot ‘The Vic Bars’, and train staff regularly attended day and night to see organists and cabaret acts throughout the week. 

28dayslater.co.uk

The club was eventually closed in 1992 and has remained derelict and forgotten ever since. 

However, the club unit is now under offer as a potential new club, pub or retail unit, despite the considerable amount of work that needs to be undertaken. 

You can check out The Urban Collective on YouTube here.

 

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