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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!

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Here’s what happened to the infamous Kersal Massive after their early viral fame

The ringleader of the notorious rap trio was tracked down a few years ago…

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YouTube

Back in the early days of the internet, before the birth of TikTok and when YouTube reigned supreme, an unassuming rapping trio from Manchester were catapulted to viral stardom.

C-Mac, Little F*****g Kevin and Ginger Joe, all from Salford, made up the Kersal Massive, a rap trio that would go on to become instant internet stars thanks to their rap song about day-to-day life in Manchester.

Instead of using their music to address social inequality or political issues, the Kersal Massive instead opted to rap about life in Manchester, grand theft auto and using their day saver bus passes. 

Their rap song was actually an entry for a contest to win a Kano-themed BMX, hosted by former record label 679 Recordings. Shockingly, the Kersal Massive didn’t win, but the video wound up on the internet, where they found online fame instead.

The video was one of the first viral sensations to ever grace the internet, and today has over 1.8m views on YouTube alone. 

For years people have been trying to decipher the meaning behind the song, with one YouTuber optimistically commenting: “By referring to a ‘day saver’, Little Kev highlights the struggle of the working class, while at the same time bringing up questions about religion and culture with the following ‘laid low, did a grand theft auto’ line, and how the incarceration of the young in today’s western world is affecting our society.

“Such a lyrical genius. A poet in his own right.”

Another commented: “It has been said Ginger Joe now travels the globe giving lectures on philosophy and ethics… and is also a UN spokesman answering questions on the [meaning of] being human.” 

Someone even went to the bother of creating a lyric page to search for any hidden meanings or political agendas behind the track – unsurprisingly, none were found. 

Despite their initial success and claims of having ‘all the money ’cause we know how to rap’, however, the Kersal Massive only ever released the one song, and were as quick to slip out of the spotlight as they were to enter it. 

This has caused many people to wonder what exactly happened to the Kersal Massive over the years, and what the rapping trio are up to these days. 

Well, The Tab claimed to have tracked down the infamous ringleader of the Kersal Massive, C-Mac, back in 2016.

They said at the time that C-Mac – real name Callum – still lived in Salford and was working for a law firm in Manchester.

He told the publication of the video: “It was uploaded to the internet over ten years ago. It was done as a joke and then it just went viral. I don’t actually know who uploaded it to YouTube, it wasn’t me.”

Then, Callum went on to break the hearts of Kersal Massive fans far and wide by adding: “I am not in touch with the other two lads anymore.”

While the beloved Ginger Joe is yet to be identified or tracked down, many social media users believed a man on the run from GMP for a series of gun-related offences was in fact a grown-up Little F*****g Kev… though this was never proven. 

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Feature

Did you know the NHS was born in Manchester 74 years ago today?

Happy birthday to the NHS!

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University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences / Wikimedia Commons & Peter McDermott / Flickr

Today, as our treasured National Health Service marks its 74th anniversary, we’re taking a look back on its extensive history and the substantial role Manchester played in its creation. 

Life before the NHS was a bleak one; before 1900, healthcare was typically provided by charities, poor law (the local welfare committees who operated workhouses) and a criminally unregulated private sector.

Others, including many in the lower middle class, struggled to afford treatment, relying on hospital casualty departments, kind-hearted doctors or dubious folk remedies – as a result of these archaic conditions, women frequently died during childbirth and the life expectancy for men was just forty-eight.

But in 1911, that was all set to change.

Science Museum Group / Wikimedia Commons

The National Insurance Act of 1911, something that many regard as the original groundworks for the NHS, was introduced and, for the first time, provided access to general practitioners for manual labourers and lower paid non-manual workers earning under a certain income. 

However, this groundbreaking new system wasn’t without its flaws – fees for GPs were increasing for the middle class and wealthy who were outside the system, and the wives and children of National Insurance members were excluded, as was hospital treatment, meaning that many had to pay further fees or rely on older workers’ society insurance schemes or free, less reliable clinics for mothers and children.

Something needed to change.

Nearly two decades later, the Local Government Act 1929 gave authorities the power to transform Poor Law institutions and develop them into the modern hospitals we know today. And, fast forwarding another two decades and another world war, Aneurin Bevan was appointed as the minister of health and thus, the wheels for the UK’s first National Health Service were set in motion.

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On July 5th 1948, after years of hard work from various medical and political figures who felt the current healthcare system was insufficient and needed to be revolutionised, the first NHS hospital offering free healthcare for all, regardless of class, was launched at Park Hospital Manchester – known today as Trafford General Hospital.

On that historic day, Bevan arrived to inaugurate the NHS by symbolically receiving the keys from Lancashire County Council. Nurses formed a ‘guard of honour’ outside the hospital to meet him and, from that day forward, the healthcare of the nation changed forever.

In the early days, there were of course some teething problems – not long after its launch, expenditure was already exceeding previous expectations and charges were considered for prescriptions to meet the rising costs. However, by the time the 1960s rolled around, these early adjustments were altered and it was considered to be a strong period of growth for the NHS, characterised by new developments in the availability of drugs.

Since its birth here in Manchester, our NHS has gone through many changes, improvements, updates and modernisation processes, with no one back in 1948 ever fathoming the way in which the service has developed, pioneered and expanded from Manchester across the entire country.

Nicolas J Leclercq / Unsplash

However, there’s still room for improvement.

Today, the NHS continues to face a national crisis – the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the impact that years of underfunding has had upon our health care service and the long-serving staff members and medical professionals that continue to hold it together.

In October 2020, it was revealed by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) that as many NHS nurses died from Covid than were killed during the entirety of the First World War.

But regardless of the hurdles thrown in its path, the NHS continues to valiantly serve the British public – the idea of a National Health Service once upon a time would have been unheard of, yet today we cannot imagine a life without it.

Happy 74th birthday to our wonderful NHS!

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Feature

FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The rise and fall of Tommy Ducks

From coffins as tables and knickers stapled to ceiling, there wasn’t a lot that didn’t happen at Tommy Ducks…

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Salford_66 / Flickr

Out of all of Manchester’s weird and wonderful institutions, the legacy of Tommy Ducks remains today as one of the all-time greats.

 But what exactly happened to this infamous boozer?

Tommy Ducks stood proudly down what is now Lower Mosely Street, and is known to have roots dating all the way back to the 1800s. 

While it is widely believed that it was originally named The Prince’s Tavern, the pub underwent a name change at some point in the 1870s after its egotistical landlord Thomas Duckworth wanted to name it after himself. 

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But rumour has it that the painter-decorator hired to replace the pub’s sign either ran out of paint and supplies or found he didn’t have enough room to fit in the full name, so improvised and come up with the name Tommy Ducks, instead.

Of course, there’s no solid evidence for this mishap actually happening, but it is certainly one of the more believable rumours about the pub’s namesake.

Anyway, the pub settled with its abbreviated name and went on to quietly serve the good people of Manchester throughout the 1900s.

But then the 1970’s arrived, and Tommy Ducks started to gain a different kind of reputation, with it quickly becoming one of the most sought after boozers in the city – quite the accomplishment considering it was stood in the middle of a recently-demolished estate.

Rose McGivern / Facebook

One of the pubs more popular legacies is its makeshift tables – for reasons unbeknown to most Mancunians today, someone had the bright idea of using glass-topped coffins as tables, one of which was kidnapped by a rival pub for a while.

One of the coffins even featured a skeleton, which many people were adamant was a real one.

Tommy Ducks was also renown for having ladies knickers and bras stapled to the ceiling above the bar, with female punters allegedly been invited to remove their undies upon arrival (yes, before their first drink!).

The pub played home to these kind of shenanigans for the next couple of decades and, by the 1990s, it was one of the last standing buildings in the area, which lay in ruin following a mass demolishment.

Andrew Simpson

However, in 1993 the pub’s temporary preservation order – arranged by punters and supporters back in the 1970s – expired, plunging its future into uncertainty and doubt.

Greenalls Brewery, which ran the pub, was also coming under increasing pressure by fat cat developers to sell up and shut shop.

Tragially, the temporary preservation order expired on a Friday, meaning that the council offices were closed for the weekend. And because the order couldn’t be renewed until Monday morning, demolition began in the early hours of Saturday.

While Greenalls was eventually fined £150,000 for their act of destruction, it was still too late – Tommy Ducks and its abundance of coffins and bras was gone forever.

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