Search for the Old Pubs of Stoke-on-Trent

The Beer-muder Triangle, Longton

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Historian Fred Hughes writes....   

There was a time in Longton when a John could have been turned as a trick by a trull and taken to the stew of a mackerel and lost forever.

If you’re wondering what this alarming terminology means I can tell you that it was criminal jargon commonly used in lurid Victorian crime novels called Penny Dreadful’s. And it was not uncommon to hear such language being spoken in the Longton underworld of the early 20th century.

“It was a very rough place,” former Longton policeman Pete Addison tells me.

“It is a fact that Longton had more town centre pubs than any of the other Potteries’ towns. Many were gathered around the top of The Stand near to the former bus station. This was Longton’s nucleus of underworld activity and a notorious trouble spot. The pubs around here were frequented, shall we say, by the lower end of the social scale.

Three pubs in particular formed the area of what was commonly called the ‘Beer-muder Triangle’. It was said that some people entered this zone and simply disappeared for days on end, lost and forgotten by the outside world, captured by the mysteries that went on in there. The absolute centre of the Beer-muder Triangle was the George and Dragon pub popularly known as ‘th Owd ‘Ut’. Why? I’ll leave it to others to tell you why.”

the George and Dragon, Longton
the George and Dragon, Longton

These days the George and Dragon is a modern town centre pub, chic and bright with open-plan space and a huge dining conservatory.

“It was virtually rescued from demolition,” says the manager Paul Shenton. “It had been closed for a good while and it had a very bad reputation as a trouble spot over many years. Now we cater for families with reasonably-priced lunches as well as our regular bar customers.”

There’s no doubt that the changes are outstanding.

“There was a time when if a stranger walked into the bar he’d be greeted with particular looks that told him he wasn’t welcome,” recalls long-time patron John Flaherty. “If he didn’t take the hint then his chances of leaving without the help of medical assistance considerably decreased.”

Another regular who knew the old pub well is Philip Leadbetter.

“The police patrolled in twos and they never came in here without good reason,” he says. “There was a hierarchy of power. You just knew your place and where you stood, and there were fights all the time.”

But why was the pub known as the Owd ‘Ut? John and Philip smile at each other. Philip volunteers the answer.

“It is said that at the bottom of the backyard there’d been a shed for many years which was used by women of the night and their clients,” he continues with academic recall. “Prostitution, so they say, was common practice here, just as common as drinking out of hours or having a punch-up. That’s the way it was.”  

Naturally John and Philip were innocents at the time and only heard such reports second hand. But it’s good to know that the bad reputation of the Owd ‘Ut has been confined forever to history’s recycle bin. Longton historian Alan Myott knows more about Longton’s lost pubs and the Beer-muder Triangle.

“There were three pubs in the space of a hundred yards,” he tells me. “The Owd ‘Ut was in the centre, then came the Cricketers and lastly the Shamrock. The Cricketer’s is now a pet supermarket called Animal Dreams but you can still see the sculptured sign on the beautiful stone-dressed architecture.

They just don’t make pubs like this anymore. But the Shamrock has disappeared altogether demolished for the A50, and a new building used by Sports World has been erected on the same spot. Thankfully though the Owd ‘Ut is still going strong. Owd Granddad Piggott was born here. The creator of this famous Potteries’ dialect character is Alan Povey. Alan recorded the first Granddad Piggott LP live at the Owd ‘Ut in 1977 and it has since become famous all round the world. I suppose this is Granddad Piggott’s spiritual home”

the old Cricketers Arms, Longton
now a pet shop

Longton is amazing. There were so many pubs in town that nearly every building has some connection with the licensing trade.

 “You can still pick out the frontages,” says Potteries’ Historian Steve Birks. “Of the grander former pubs is the Earl of Clarendon. It was a huge hotel and very popular at the top end of the beer market. These days it’s a classy shopping mall shared by three distinguished retailers. But is it a tribute to the developer that the original hanging pub sign has been retained. It means you still can’t walk around Longton without passing a pub even if they are all closed.”

Now, all that remains is for former copper Pete Addison to translate the criminal vernacular for me.

“Well a trull is a prostitute, a John is a client, a stew is a brothel and a mackerel is a brothel-keeper,” explains Pete. “Of course nothing like this goes on in Longton these days.”


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20 Apr 2009