Excavation Under Northern Quarter Building Site Reveals 200 Year Old Pub with Unopened Brandy


When archaeologists were brought in to dig under the proposed site for a new 13-story skyscraper in Manchester city center, they were in for a surprise. Not only did they discover a hidden pub and the remains of several houses, but several untouched bottles of brandy were also unearthed. The discovery came during work to prepare for the building on the corner of Great Ancoats Street and Port Street.

The infrastructre of an old bank vault and the pub found on the site of the corner of Port Street and Great Ancoats Street. (Image credits: Manchester Evening News)

The haul from the former Astley Arms also contained personalized crockery containing the former property owner’s name. The name of Thomas Evans, who owned the Astley Arms pub in 1821, was found on personalized plates. Other items found included pipes, keys and a pot for quills. The buildings date back to the early 1800s when Manchester was still a modest market town. This is only a few years after Napoleon’s forces had swept Europe.

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Some of the finds on the excavation site: From top left: a stoneware bottle from J Moorhouse & Co, Hulme; a crockery set carrying the name of the Astley Arms and its first landlord, Thomas Evans; a glass bottle with the logo of a workman’s arm. (Image Credits : Manchester Evening News)

The site developer of Mulbury City, James Alderson, who is in charge of the building project, revealed that around twenty bottles have been found of which three or four are still full of brandy.

He admitted to opening the cork on a few and claims the brandy can still be smelled. He also finds it amazing to know that there’s so much history at the site and is really excited and fascinated by it all. The find was totally unexpected and he feels that a part of Manchester’s huge history is being captured in these findings.

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Archaeologist Rosie Banens holding a full bottle of found at the excavation site. (Image credits: Manchester Evening News)

According to historians, Thomas Inglesent renamed The Astley Arms pub to the Paganini Tavern in 1840. Its name reverted to the Astley Arms in the 1850s and it remained open as a Cornbrook house until 1928. Although the building was partially rebuilt in 1986, it was later demolished.

Senior archeologist and supervisor at the site, Aidan Turner, is fascinated by the fact that they were able to link the findings to living people today. Pottery and bottles that must have been commissioned pieces for the Astley Arms were found as these have the name of the pub as well as the proprietor, Thomas Evans, written on them. Turner thinks this is brilliant as they have been able to connect it to the local people in the area. An online search about the family history revealed that one of Evan’s descendants now lives in Texas. Several of the bottles have been dated towards the 1900s while the pottery dates back to the early 1800s.

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From left: A type of glass milk bottle marked ‘Ardwick’, a porcelain sink unearthed on the site, and a glass bottle from ‘John Dyson, Clayton’. (Image credits: Manchester Evening News)

The new development consists of 135 apartments and shops and it is expected that these will be completed by the end of 2017.

Several of the items recovered from the site will be displayed in the Museum of Science and Industry. The fate of the bottled brandy is however yet unknown.