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Lower Turks Head Re-opens: A Gallery

Jonathan Schofield visits a new boy that's over 250 years old

Written by . Published on August 28th 2013.


Lower Turks Head Re-opens: A Gallery

SINCE you have to cover your ears in certain areas of British cities to drown out the noise of pubs being demolished, it's good to have one re-open.

And one with a bit of pedigree.

"We're very proud of the way the design works. Pubs can open as well as close, you see."

Phil Ainsworth, landlord and one of the partner's behind Shudehill's new/ancient arrival says: "We've done a bit of research and found the Lower Turks Head dates back to 1745 which makes it one of the oldest pubs in the city."

That's certainly the case if the date is correct. Perhaps the Sawyers on Deansgate in its various manifestations, or Sinclair's Oyster Bar, outstrip the pedigree of The Lower Turk's Head. But that's about all.

Lower Turks Head

Lower Turks Head

"Because it is such a part of the Manchester story we've made the pub very Mancunian," continues Ainsworth. "This will be a place that celebrates the city right down to the beer we serve, including the local family brewers such as Lees and Holt but also with a couple of changing guest ales every week."

The design of the surprisingly large and deep building comes from the pen of Mike Madox and gives good pub. If you dream of trad boozers as room after room of intimate spaces, preferably low-lit to encourage wit, flirtatiousness, rhetoric, ease of mind, then this is the place for you.

The use of timber and the variety of fixtures and fittings provides that lived-in busy feel that the best pubs all share. Minimalism never does a traditional pub any favours. The tattoo room is a curious one yet not unentertaining - one of the partners is a tattooist. 

"We have seven bedrooms," says Ainsworth. "They aren't ready just yet but I want them decorated in the boutique style. There are very few small hotels and bed and breakfast places in central Manchester. We'll charge around £60 a night for a double with breakfast taken in the pub dining room. In two or three weeks the kitchen will open and we'll do a full a la carte menu based on pub classics but also with sharing food and lighter options."

The former bookshop next door to the Lower Turks has also been bought and converted into the Scuttler's Wine Bar. This links with the main pub at the rear and helps provide more space on the floor above. 

Scuttler's

 

Scuttler's

Scuttlers were gangs of Manchester youths in the nineteenth century. They've recently achieved notoriety as proto-modern gangs complete with dress codes, secret signs, turf wars and violence. They probably never touched wine in their lives. 

Scuttlers were rascals at best so I'm not sure that we should allow the romance of time to turn these lads into little Robin Hoods. But maybe I'm being prim, pubs can be a bit rum. It's part of their history.

Phil Ainsworth and team should be congratulated for resurrecting the Lower Turks Head and its 1920s' tiled frontage. It gives the Northern Quarter more food and drink range. It gives it more depth.

"We're very proud of the way the design works," says Ainsworth. "This is a soft opening of course and we're still finding our feet. In another two or three weeks we'll be able to welcome guests with the full range of what we can offer. At least we've shown that pubs can open as well as close."

And finally...

The name, Lower Turks Head is a traditional pub name that must have been copied from elsewhere. The oldest Turks Head pubs in the country refer to conflicts, Crusader and otherwise, with Turks and Saracens. This pub is 'Lower' because there was another Turks Head higher on Shudehill.

1745 was the year of the last major armed conflict on British soil when Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) began an armed insurrection to overthrow the reigning Hanoverian king, George II. He failed but several Mancunians joined his cause. Ten were hung, drawn and quartered for their trouble.

So we're back to heads again and Phil Ainsworth, one of the partners. I don't know whether he's a relation but it was William Harrison Ainsworth, a prolific nineteenth century novelist, who gave the 1745 event a certain glamour in his book 'The Manchester Rebels', published in 1874.

The Lower Turks Head is run by Manchester Brewery Ltd and is at 36 Shudehill, City Centre, M4 1EZ. 07814 184384.

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Liam McDonaldAugust 28th 2013.

looks like a nice boozer.

Stephen LakeAugust 28th 2013.

Brilliant.

John EdwardsAugust 28th 2013.

Looks just the ticket - controversial but having worked/lived in both Liverpool and London Manchester lacks really proper characterful 'normal' pubs. The Marble and Thomas' aside. Would love some suggestions however...

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 28th 2013.

They've done a perfect job with this. Very impressive.

FloAugust 28th 2013.

We tried it Friday and let's just say it's not quite how I imagined! Looked like the clientele were the people who were there the day it closed down (not being snobby - just saying!) More of a Millstone that a Marble.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 28th 2013.

The fact that it's NOT surrounded by sneering bearded types from the Home Counties seems a MASSIVE reason to go in there, Flo. Stick to Common if you dislike the plain people of Manchester.

FloAugust 29th 2013.

FYI I cannot stand Common which is why I chose The Turks Head. Not quite sure where in my post I said I had issue with the clientele? Just pointed out that they were pretty old school Manchester pub goers. Think some of you lot have arrived from the Daily fail website!

JanusxxxJanuary 18th 2014.

Why shouldn't the "clientele" be the same ? People to most of us, rather than this snobby way of defining people as sub standard !

Colin EvansFebruary 1st 2014.

better get down to the Port Street 'Beard' House with your snood and beard manicuring set!!

Peter FairchildFebruary 15th 2014.

How dare you denigrate "Older" people, that is "Ageism which is no better than "Racism" and "Homophobia". At least we older people don't cause the racket in pubs that you lot do. If you don't like the atmosphere in a pub like The Lower Turks Head clear off to the many crappy wine bars you can choose from in Manchester

GimboidFebruary 15th 2014.

"Wine bars"? Are you a time traveler from the 1980s?

AnonymousAugust 28th 2013.

^ ha ha ha ha ha ^ Pub too good for it's old 'clientele' now is it !

FloAugust 28th 2013.

Not if that's what they're after. The social media campaign would have suggested otherwise, that's all...

James SmithAugust 28th 2013.

looks like they've done a good job of the refurb, but am i right in thinking that the preference of our glorious council for this site was demolition?? another one of karney's grand plans? wouldn't leave that idiot in charge of my cat.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 12th 2013.

Not sure where you got that idea from James but you're wrong. As far back as 1999/2000 our glorious Council contributed a considerable sum of money towards making this derelict, empty building water-tight and secure.

bigbaddomAugust 29th 2013.

far from how i remember it 20yrs back :-) a tipple in order i think

Dave TaylorAugust 29th 2013.

Looks fine to me. I used to have a tipple or two in there in the late 70's. Well done to Phil and his team for bringing a traditional pub back to life. Deiter.

Graeme WrightAugust 30th 2013.

In there yesterday (Thursday 29 August). Still smells of fresh paint and plaster, looks like a project in situ and, unfortunately, there was no cask beer on. Reading the plans above for the next phases of the conversion I'll certainly try it again...hopefully the ale will be flowing

Roger TaylorOctober 21st 2013.

Checked it out for 1st time today. Hard to gauge a place but v impressed with cask ale choice, decor & atmosphere. I just remember it as a derelict, crumbling building so quite a turnaround. I think it'll be great addition to that northern quarter area - look forward to returning with my friends & adding it to our city centre circuit.

DorothysmithNovember 8th 2013.

sounds good interesting last time i was in there it was a vault

DorothysmithNovember 8th 2013.

sounds good interesting last time i was in there it was a vault

Brian PhillipsNovember 23rd 2013.

The refurb looks good just hope the ale is the same. Give it a go tonight, just hope their not too many beards with their half bitters and newspapers.

Bill LindsayNovember 24th 2013.

can anybody tell what year it closed down as i lived in ancoats but don't remember this pub being open

1 Response: Reply To This...
Colin EvansFebruary 1st 2014.

I think it was 1988, it was an occasional hang out when I worked in the old Corn Exchange along with the Swan with two Necks on Shudehill - was a real old mans place, I think they move up the road to the Hare and Hounds!! Not mentioned here but I think is was also a prison at one time in its early years - visited a week ago absolutely brilliant place full of character and great ale. Ideal for a night with frieds

Karen GalstonDecember 3rd 2013.

Visited tonight brilliant duo "death to the strange" added a great vibe, lovingly restored, its a welcome addition standing out proud to all the other identikit northern quarter bland overpriced "clipjoints".....going to try a meal there next week cant wait, look forward to the future expansion of the roof terrace as one customer pointed out to us was going to be happening next. To sum up, a rare gem full of character, snuggly cosy corners, surprisingly deceptive, steeped in history, makes me proud to be Mancunian, lets hope more of us enjoy its revival and it doesnt end up like other nearby bars, full of poncey southerners swanning around like they own the place, now that would be its downfall! Well done Phil, youve done the place proud we salute you!

Peter FairchildFebruary 14th 2014.

Brilliant atmospheric interior. I only hope the pub will not be spoilt by gangs of noisy kids and loud blaring music like every other pub in Manchester is. Let us have at least one pub in Manchester where we can TALK and hear ourselves think!

Peter FairchildFebruary 15th 2014.

Am i right in thinking that The Lower Turks Head used to be one of Manchester's Gay pubs before it closed down over 23 years ago? Or is my memory playing tricks with me?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 15th 2014.

Yes you are right, many a happy hour spent in there back in the day when gay pubs and clubs were not all in one area of town.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

LOL

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

are there not enough gay pubs in seedy canal street? that gay village really puts manchester to shame

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

You really have missed my point, haven't you? That was exactly my point, I am gay and do not want to go to the "seedy" Canal Street. In my youth there were gay pubs across the city that were not "seedy" this was one, The Peel Park and Egerton Arms in Salford two more. So in answer to your question, yes there probably are enough gay bars in Canal Street, however there are not enough in other areas of the city. Or is that not what you are implying?

AnonymousFebruary 20th 2014.

I think it is a thinly veiled anti gay comment. Nice measured response though!

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2014.

I wasn't implying anything or referring to anyone, I was giving my opinion on the culture of gay bars in general which are often little more than pick-up bars, rentboy shops and general sleaze-pits.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2014.

There should be no need for gay bars, integrate!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
tblzebraFebruary 21st 2014.

That's a lovely suggestion Anon, but unfortunately LGBT people still get hassle and are physically assaulted in 'non-gay' bars. There's still a need for gay bars, so people have a safe place to be themselves. Gay-bashing doesn't just happen in Russia, Uganda, etc. but also over here in the UK.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2014.

No, you!

Kevin Moran shared this on Facebook on March 6th 2014.

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