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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Travel back in time through Manchester in the ‘90s with these 30 photos
Fashion shows, bombings, Maine Road, buses, cars, the Metrolink and the Hacienda…
Here’s 30 nostalgic photographs of what Manchester looked like in the 1990s.
The city centre has changed a lot over the decades, which probably comes as no surprise with the amount of construction going on – it’s changing by the day.
But as the years go by and buildings you once knew are torn down and replaced with new apartments or office blocks, it’s left to your grainy memory of how places used to look and the times you may have once had there.
The nineties was a great era for music in Manchester and saw the birth of bands including Oasis, The Doves and Take That. It was the decade of hope after the recession of the 1980s, but there were ups and downs also.
On April 1st 1990 prisoners in Strangeways (now HMP Manchester) took control of its chapel, and quickly spread throughout most of the prison to begin a riot which lasted 25 days.
Hundreds of inmates got up onto the roof, with the incident claiming the life of one prisoner and injuring 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners.
The riot was followed by similar disturbances at other prisons across the country and sparked a conversation about reform for prison conditions.
The decade was also blighted by the IRA bomb of 1996. The Provisional Irish Republican Army detonated a 1,500-kilogram lorry bomb on Corporation Street on June 15th.
It was the biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since the Second World War, injuring 212 innocent people and causing £700 million worth of damage to the city centre.
The event kick-started the regeneration and modernisation of the city which has evolved into the Manchester we know and love today.
The city already began planning on improvements as part of its campaign to hold the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics. However, the bid was ultimately unsuccessful and Manchester was beaten to it by Sydney, with Beijing coming in as runner-up.
But Manchester did go on to hold the 2002 Commonwealth Games, with The Commonwealth Games Stadium becoming the new home of Manchester City after the club vacated Maine Road – which was then demolished and turned into new homes.
The Hacienda, which opened in 1982, became the nightclub at the forefront of the acid house scene. The club was owned by record label Factory Records and was famous for playing a major part in the Madchester movement.
Unfortunately, the club gained a reputation for drug use and after enjoying its heyday throughout the best part of the ‘90s, it fell victim to crime issues and financial troubles which eventually led to its closure in 1997.
The club was subsequently demolished and replaced by apartments.
The newly built Trafford Centre opened in 1998, the year after the film Titanic was released, which its themed food court paid homage to. Since then, Trafford Park has transformed from the derelict marshlands it once was and into a centre of retail, leisure and entertainment.
Manchester United were the most successful football team of the city during this era, and the club won numerous domestic and international titles under manager Alex Ferguson.
David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes were just some of the players who played for United during the club’s golden era – playing in the newly formed Premier League, which was founded in 1992.
For the first time in English football history the Reds secured the Treble in 1999 – the League, FA Cup and Champions League.
Meanwhile, the Blue side of Manchester – Man City – went through many ups and downs. In 1998 City were relegated to the third tier of the English Football League. The club regained promotion to the top tier in 2001-02 and have remain in the Premier League since.
Manchester was once home to the iconic Strangeways Boddingtons Brewery, which owned pubs throughout the North West.
The brand was best known for its ‘Boddies’ – a straw-golden, hoppy bitter which was one of the first beers to be packaged in cans containing a widget, giving it a creamy draught-style head.
In the 1990s, the beer was promoted as The Cream of Manchester in a popular advertising campaign credited with raising Manchester’s profile. Model and actress Melanie Sykes was the Boddington’s girl star of the ads, which saw her take a swig of a pint and say ‘by ‘eck’, with a creamy moustache.
The brewery shut down in February 2005 and its workers clocked off their final ever shift, never to return, following its 227-year history.
Got a story to tell?
Have you got a story or video you think our audience will love? We want to hear from you, drop us an email on email@example.com and we’ll get back to you.
Man who worked draining Manchester’s canals reveals grimmest things he found
Inflatable penises, designer handbags, guns, dead bodies and a pet puppy
We spoke with a man who worked draining our city’s canals, as he shared some interesting photos and stories about his work.
Mike Sheldon lives in East Manchester and is retired now, but he used to work for British Waterways where he said he had the time of his life – and would even call it the best job he has ever had.
“There was something to do every day,” he told Proper Manchester.
He worked for the company for 15 years, where he maintained the canals along with his brother Shaun.
As you can expect, Mike and Shaun discovered many strange and unusual things lurking at the bottom of our inner city canals, including some pretty grim and sad discoveries.
Shaun sadly passed away from throat cancer five years ago, as Mike spoke of the great fun they had working together maintaining the canals and how he misses their time together.
Here’s what he said…
About the work he carried out, Mike explained: “It was just general maintenance. Everything really; painting, replacing lock gates, anything and everything.”
He continued: “When we would work, especially Deansgate Locks and Canal Street, we’d find all sorts like handbags, designer bags, keys, bank cards, phones, driving licences, laptops – you name it we found it.”
When Mike and Shaun would drain the canals, a lot of the time they would often find tables and chairs and ‘all sorts of scrap’.
“I think at the end of the night, after a few drinks, customers would think ‘what can I throw over these fences?’ And they’d be throwing over tables and chairs,” he said.
In one picture (at the top of the page) the pair set up a table and tea party scene out of some of their finds, as they waded through the murky silt and laughed at the assortment of items they would come across.
About the photograph, Mike went on: “That is a picture of my brother who was working with me.
“We put it on Facebook because we thought it was quite funny but [work] called us in the office to say they didn’t want it on there, they didn’t want anyone to see it.
“But it was a bit too late by then because everyone would have already seen it.”
Other things the brothers would find were designer handbags, jewellery and even engagement rings, as Mike joked about couples having a row.
But the brothers also sometimes stumbled across guns that had been slung into the canals.
“We’d hand them in at the police station,” Mike said. “But we didn’t like going because whenever we handed one in we felt like they’d treat us like a criminal.”
One time, the pair even came across an inflatable penis, which they tied to their boat and got many laughs and cheers from revellers outside the rows of bars as they passed by.
As Mike puts it, ‘we found a massive big cock and balls’ – they also found plenty of other funny phallic objects and adult toys over the years too.
But the worst discoveries the brothers made while draining the canals were dead bodies. Mike said he discovered a few bodies lying at the bottom of the water in the 15 years he worked maintaining the waterways.
Mike said: “There was a thing about a pusher; someone pushing people into the canals, but I think it’s all rubbish.”
He said he thinks a number of people fall in the canals in central Manchester because they are lined with bars where lots of people will have been on a night out and drinking, then hanging around outside or using the canal paths to walk home.
“Sometimes people were captured on CCTV walking along and stumbling,” he added, saying that all the bodies were identified ‘straight away’.
“There was one lad from Newcastle and he was only young, god bless. I think it was the coldest day I ever worked and we were working alongside police divers.
“I had to drain it [the canal] for them because it was too cold for them to dive in that. I drained it down so far for them and they were linking each other as they walked through the sludge.”
Mike and Shaun each took something home from their time cleaning up our waterways. Mike found a Casio watch that he kept, as he said: “I mean, I’ve got a watch – which was still working when I found it after being under the water.
“I love it, it still works now. It’s a Casio and one of the best watches I’ve ever had. I’ve only had to take it to replace a battery. When the guy replaced it he said ‘it’s soaking wet’.
“I said, ‘believe it or not, I got this out of a canal’ and he just couldn’t believe it.”
Meanwhile, Shaun found a puppy which he brought home and named Willow. “We drained a lock and there was a puppy dog in a bag, but it was alive. Someone had thrown it in. We pulled it out and my brother kept that dog.”
Got a story to tell?
Have you got a story or video you think our audience will love? We want to hear from you, drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you.
Memories of Manchester’s long lost but not forgotten club nights
Before the face of the city centre underwent a glow-up, seeing the gentrification of its different districts with the building of numerous city centre apartments and the addition of many boujee restaurants and bars, Manchester had a number of really great dives.
In the days before social media, people would instead meet up in social situations and dance the night away to great music, get totally steaming and have a laugh with mates while making plenty of new ones – it’s what it was all about.
These absolute dungeons held club nights legendary enough to be written into history books, and many eventful nights took place in them – with some former revellers still around to tell the tale.
Those were the days; when your mate would ask you, ‘what are you wearing?’ and you’d reply, ‘jeans and a nice top’.
As rituals in preparation for the weekend would begin… The girls would get their stilettos re-heeled at the cobblers, after a few weeks of stomping them right down to the metal.
The guys would buy a new tea-towel print shirt and apply far too much hair gel, with neatly separated strands at the front of their short back and sides.
Brothers would steal their sister’s hair straighteners, making them pong of sweaty hair, but still deny using them. Sisters would steal each other’s clothes and replace them the next day, with more than a hint of cigarettes and booze, sprayed over with cheap Exclamation from the local Superdrug.
Fancy coats were a hassle, it didn’t matter if it was raining cats and dogs or snowing outside, you didn’t need a jacket because you were Northern.
There were no smart phones, so you either took a Kodak out with you or you paid for a keyring containing a group photo of you with your mates, taken by photographers who would be doing the rounds.
Some nights were so great that you would dance until the sun came up and the lights went down. Sweaty, red-eyed clubbers would spill out onto the streets hunting for crap food and a cab to take them home. And to top it off, you could go out and have a belting night on a tenner.
Here’s some of the gone but not forgotten club nights around Greater Manchester and tales of the shenanigans that went on there – from the partygoers that were there.
Based on the old Castle Irwell student village for University of Salford students, this hell hole contained drunken carnage like nowhere else and was an iconic part of student life in Salford – a rite of passage.
Built on the site of a former race-track which became student halls sometime in the 1970s, The Pav was the student dive bar that was said to be slowly sinking into the ground over the years.
Former student Louise Patton remembers the ’15-hours of drinking’ nights being ‘the most memorable’ where student boozers wore themed T-shirts – pretty impressive memory skills after all that alcohol!
Louise Thompson, who worked behind the bar for more beer money, recalls ‘drinking out-of-date vodka mudshakes after hours, until the cleaners would arrive in the morning’.
Drunken students would call ‘Alan the taxi driver’ to take them into Manchester and bring them back to the halls at the end of the night.
Chris said: “Jeez, I’ve countless memories! I worked and drank there for three years from 2003. I met my wife and made so many friends. Been in some states in that place!”
The Pav no longer exists as Castle Irwell closed in 2009 and was sold off so a new housing estate could be built.
This club was the place to go to hear all your favourite indie-rock bangers. But, club-goers soon got to know that if you went up to request a song from the DJ, it wouldn’t get played.
The same set played week-in, week-out as you started the night with The Charlatans and ended it jumping and shaking your head around to Faithless. Fifth Ave held epic foam parties that would get very messy. Louise remembers how the ‘bank holiday foam parties were brilliant’.
Once the place to go if you liked R’n’B, this venue was huge. So popular, it would have queues along the front, around the corner and all the way up the side street – in any weather.
Hundreds of shivering girls would persevere through the pain of frost bite just to be able to get inside the club. Lads would separate from their mates and ask to join groups of girls to hopefully get accepted entry.
It wasn’t easy to get inside – if the door staff didn’t like what you were wearing or there were too many of you, you would likely be turned away.
The layout inside had balconies overlooking the dance floor area – after all, it was an old amphitheatre. Located inside the Theatre Royal building on Peter Street, it became Discotheque Royale in the ’70s, before it was rebranded as Coliseum and later, M-Two. The club closed its doors for good in 2009.
About M-Two, Dave McLaughlin remembers: “There was loads of bouncers always on the door and the queue was huge. The dance floor was brilliant and the music was really good in there as well. They had like R’n’B and Hip Hop.”
Reminiscing of his misspent youth, he continued: “We’d go to a friend’s house first for pre-drinks, then get the bus into town and drink pitchers at Paramount before the club.”
He added: “Back then, the music influenced the way that you dressed and the places you went. Music was important.”
Circoloco at Area 51
Laura Jayne, who worked for some of the club nights and liked to rave the night away at others, recalls: “I loved all the Electro house nights: Studio One 11 at Venus, Ampersands, Sankey’s but most especially Area 51’s Circoloco night.
“That [Circoloco at Area 51] was the best night we ever had in there after a crazy bidding war with Sankey’s to host the night.
“Working for the club, I always remember the politics between the venues to get the bookings – the rivalry was very real. I miss those days; of being out for the vibes and the music. Making new friends each time and dancing my a*se off for hours on end.
“Area 51 was absolutely rammed and the roof [would be] pumping off with the tunes. Venus was mint – I think it was the connection to strangers. You don’t get that in the same way anymore. I’m glad we had the times we had before Instagram.”
This club had three floors which each played different genres of music. The lower level played all the feel good cheesy tracks from the time. The next level up played R’n’B and Hip Hop tunes, and the top floor played dance and trance tunes.
Revellers would drink bottles of alcopops and dance the night away. When it was time to leave, navigating the metal stair case after a few too many drinks was pretty tricky.
Especially as it was made extra slippery from all the clubbers who had wandered between floors throughout the night to sample the different music on offer, while clumsily spilling their drinks along the way.
It felt like a weekly basis that someone would land on their backside and go flying down this staircase. Walkabout shut in 2015 and later reopened as Blues Kitchen.
It played pure dance music all night long and had a huge dance floor – so big, it also held roller discos. Ex-party-goer Dana takes us back to an era before social media as she shares her clubbing experience throughout in the early noughties. This club had metal detectors on the way in.
She reminisces of the times she would borrow her friend’s ID who looked nothing like her to get into clubs. “There were no camera phones, it wasn’t about going out for the pictures, it was about dancing the night away, ” she said.
“You’d have to look through sites like Tillate.com to see the fun everyone had or take your disposal camera and have belly laughs at the non-edited photos.”
Dana remembers: “Going out with just £10 and getting drunk and not coming home until the sun came up. And hoping to see the guy you fancied or meet new people as there wasn’t any social media.”
Cha Cha Boudoir
Ali Saeedian fondly remembers outrageous club nights in Manchester’s Gay Village before the pandemic. He says: “Nights such as ‘Cha Cha Boudoir’ that elevated the standards of club performances to new levels where nothing was impossible and a spectacular show was put on no matter what, and in turn launched countless drag careers in Manchester.
“If waiting a month or three for the next event was too long, Aftershock at club Sub101 was the place to be. No matter where you started, everyone used to end up in Aftershock dancing and sniffing poppers with [drag artist] Anna Phylactic.
“There was such a buzz around these events every time they were on. The dilemma of what to wear, when to go, where to meet, what time the performances were on, who was Queen of the night (the winning performer that night) was honestly playing on a loop in my head everyday.”
“The aim was always to shock and stand out, in contrast to today’s post pandemic neutral and humble sense of living.
“Or is it just that no one has the same energy? Maybe I was just younger.” Ali has created his own event night called Your Dad Sells Avon to give clubbers a chance to re-live the days before Covid.
“I started YDSA because I missed the pre-pandemic days of clubbing in Manchester. Every aspect of this club night is sampled, or paying homage to past Manchester club nights or venues,” he added.
You can follow @YDSAEVENTS if you’re interested in attending the club nights and re-living your pre-Covid party days.
What’s your favourite Manchester clubbing memory?