IN the second part of a series of articles remembering some of the old pubs in Blackburn, former licensee and organiser of the Blackburn and Darwen Pubs (Past and present) Group Stephen Hughes explores some more wateringholes that people may have forgotten about while others are still remain.

Having last month covered a selection from the town centre, for the second part, I am going to cover some notable inns and pubs slightly further afield, but still within the boundaries of the borough.

In case you missed the first article, to recap, back in 1893 Blackburn had an impressive total of 495 licensed houses.

There is a full list of these in the late George Miller’s book, “Blackburn’s Old Inns” (1993) which was originally published by the former Blackburn Times newspaper in 1970 as “Old Inns and Coaching Houses with other vanished scenes of Blackburn”.

Some of the pubs I have chosen here came about a few years after the list was produced or replaced older buildings, but in my humble opinion, all are very worthy of mention.

The Oozehead Inn was built in 1904 and could be found on Manor Road, off Billinge Avenue. A former Lion Ales (Matthew Brown) house, it is well-remembered for serving an excellent pint, its snooker table and Slalom D lager being a popular choice on the bar.

Lancashire Telegraph:

There is still a Royal Mail post box in the wall to the side of the pub and one of my favourite local pub anecdotes that I’ve heard is of a gentleman who used to tell his wife in the evening that he was off to post a letter, which of course translated to going for a quick pint! An imposing building, it was sold in the late 1990’s and is now a private residence.

Rovers fans may be aware that the club’s first home ground was a field at Oozehead near to where the pub was later built, where Rovers briefly played home games between 1875-1877.

The field was used to graze cows on when there was no football and a large watering hole for cattle, located in the middle of the field, had to be covered whenever there was a game. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rovers relocated to Pleasington Cricket Ground within two years, due to the “rough conditions” experienced in the field at Oozehead!

The Oozehead is not to be confused with the Oozebooth Hotel which once stood on the corner of Oak Street and Bastwell Road. It was of a considerable size and owned by Thwaites.

Built on a steep hill, it is remembered for its equally large car park (previously a bowling green), snooker and pool games, interesting Friday afternoon live entertainment (!) and charity pram races. It was closed and demolished in the 1990’s during major regeneration works in the area which saw whole streets of traditional terraced housing consigned to history.

Much of the location where the Oozebooth once stood is unrecognisable – the whole area was near enough razed to the ground with compulsory purchasing of much of the old housing.

The name lives on though in Oozebooth Terrace, a road I lived on in the early 1990’s, which is at the peak of Shear Brow just before St. James’ Road and the former Hole I’th Wall pub.

The Harrisons Arms on Taylor Street was another landmark pub that was built in 1900 and named after Joseph Harrison, a local loom manufacturer, a Councillor and an Alderman who died in 1880. His family were well known for their generosity, including financial gifts to Blackburn Infirmary and St. Silas’s School.

This huge pub, close to the railway’s coal sidings, was reportedly built on such a large scale due to an original plan to build a railway terminus in the locality for the Blackburn to Manchester line. However, this never came to fruition and the principal railway station for the town has remained the current one on the Boulevard.

There was even a greengrocers and fishmongers shop within the frontage of the building. Locals sometimes referred to the pubs in the vicinity as the 3 H’s (The Harrisons, the Hamilton and the Havelock) although only the latter remains open, but continues to be an ever popular well run community pub.

A Thwaites house, with what has been described as the longest bar of any pub in Blackburn, the Harrisons was a victim of regeneration works with the original homes and shops around the pub that it formally served all being demolished.

Gilbert and Jean Booth were the last ever Landlord and Landlady and the Harrisons closed its doors in 1986, standing boarded up and increasingly derelict looking, before suffering a serious fire in 1989 which left it a burnt-out shell.

This resulted in its demolition a couple of years later in 1991. The plot of land it occupied has never been built on. A popular local pub name, there was another Harrisons Arms on Bolton Road – albeit a much smaller premises and although the building survives, its days serving pints are long gone. A third Harrisons Arms was a beer house located on Mosley Street. Now demolished, it was close to the former Atlantic Hotel which closed around ten years ago, the pub being converted at that time into a convenience store.

Built in 1902, the impressive Mill Hill Hotel is somewhat of another new kid on the block! It missed the 1893 list by nearly a decade and for many years was referred to as the “new pub”. Whilst it no longer has a bowling green or stables, it makes a refreshing change to report that this fine pub owned by Thwaites continues trading to the present day.

The Kings Inn, a former Lion Ales house closed in October 2013 and was later converted into flats.

There is a clear similarity with the architecture of the Seven Trees on Whalley New Road that was also a Lion Ales owned pub and close to the sorely missed Matthew Brown brewery site at Little Harwood, itself a victim shortly after Scottish and Newcastle’s hostile takeover in 1987.

The Seven Trees stood closed and empty for the first decade of this century before being extensively refurbished, the chimney stacks removed and a new roof installed and then it re-opened as an education centre in 2011. The Matthew Brown Lion Brewery lion emblems can still be seen in the decorative stonework adjacent to the front door, but the internal green lion wall tiles were all lost during the refurbishment works.

Another relevant newcomer was the Aqueduct Inn which was built in 1925 to replace an older pub building at Ewood Bridge that was demolished during bridge and road widening works. This large former Thwaites owned pub opened its door in 1926 and was popular with Rovers fans, but last orders was called for the final time on the last Saturday of April 2013 and it is now a popular cycle shop.

The Fernhurst on Bolton Road at Ewood is another sizeable pub, which had a 30-bedroom hotel extension added to it around twenty years ago which was named Star Lodge, in relation to Thwaites’ Star Brewery. It’s now called Fernhurst Lodge.

I remember the pub having a sentry box similar to those found outside royal palaces on the roof above the front door for many years, prior to a major refurbishment by Thwaites in the 1990s! Popular with away fans attending matches at the nearby Rovers ground, it was sold by Thwaites in late 2011, becoming part of the Greene King brewery and pub company estate in January 2012.

At the time of the sale, a Thwaites spokesperson told the Lancashire Telegraph, “The Fernhurst has been part of the fabric of Thwaites’ pub estate for decades, however it now requires significant investment to bring a new and fresh offering to its local customers and the away fans at Blackburn Rovers.

Recently, we’ve been concentrating on traditional coaching inns and, while we believe that The Fernhurst has a good future, it does not sit easily within the small but growing group of Thwaites Inns of Character.” The Fernhurst was refurbished in 2017 and continues to be a popular local pub and eaterie as part of Greene King’s Hungry Horse brand.

I hope that tales of these pubs bring back some happy memories for readers.

As always, thank-you to Richey Pull of the Closed Pubs of Blackburn Facebook group for sharing photos and his vast knowledge of local pubs. Also the excellent Blackburn Library Cotton Town online resource which I would recommend to anyone interested in the history of the town.