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Tom’s Steps Back in Time

Published on October 3rd 2005.

A quick walk down King Street and it shouldn't take you too long to work out what this season's key look is – the shops are literally bursting with corsets, full skirts, frilly blouses, waistcoats and lace-up boots. But what the fashion industry is only just cottoning on to, Mr Thomas's Chop House has known for ages; that Victoriana is well and truly back in style!

Just minutes away from King Street , crammed on the corner of Cross St , Mr Thomas's Chop House is a perfectly preserved spot of Victoriana. Stepping into the back room of Mr Tom's is like stepping back in time. The green glazed tiles, chequered stone floor, huge fireplace and ornate dark wood bar all contribute to making Mr Tom's a perfect tribute to all things Victorian!

Back in January, the chop house got a bit of a facelift. The bar had served over three million pints, and with over 200,000 customers visiting in 2004 alone, the pub was in much need of a cuddle, wash and brush up. So, new toilets were put in (not before time), a modern kitchen was installed, the tiles were restored, the whole place got a lick of paint, and the drinking area got a new, but still old, bar. The owners of Mr Thomas's, Roger Ward and Steve Pilling, prefer to see the work as a restoration rather than a refurbishment. When one regular asked, “So where's the refurbishment, then? Nothing's changed.” Roger took it as a big compliment as it meant they had done a pretty decent job at restoring Tom's to its original Victorian splendour.

As well as maintaining as much as the pub's heritage as possible, the team at Mr Thomas's are also busy making their own history. Considering that the chop house is in its third century, it is a safe assumption that it will be here long after we're gone. Roger and Steve decided to create a living historical archive, commissioning sepia portraits of 50 of their regular customers, dressed up in Victorian costumes (if you're thinking about those Beamish photos you had taken on that school trip you're on the right lines!). The portraits were taken by local photographer Simon Buckley; husband of Rags to Bitches owner Flic Everett, so he certainly knows a thing or two about dressing up!

One of the characters recorded in Mr Thomas's history is John. A regular for 67 years, if you pass by on a Friday afternoon at 3pm you'll see him sipping his cask ale, propping the bar up. Other characters captured on film from the first shoot include Manchester Confidential's Gordo and Lindsay Cessford!

The pictures were such a hit that they've shot a second batch. Our Editor Tim Gough and marketing guru Faye Pulley got their call to get dressed up and serious to join the catalogue. Here's a sneak preview, as they're not up on the wall yet but keep your eyes peeled.

Author: Pam Wood

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