Campaigners fight to save historic building

Bird Ith Hand pub, Gidlow Lane is to be converted into a block of flats
Bird Ith Hand pub, Gidlow Lane is to be converted into a block of flats

AN historic Wigan pub could be redeveloped into flats unless a last-minute bid to save it is successful.

The Bird I’th Hand in Gidlow - known across the town as the ‘The’en ole’ - has been closed for the past two years.

New owners Contact One Limited, of Morecambe, want permission to extend the century-old three-storey premises before turning the ground floor into a shop with three self-contained flats above.

The classic terracotta brick-built pub boasts six bedrooms, a beer patio and a 20-space car park.

It was sold for an undisclosed fee with vacant possession immediately prior to a scheduled auction earlier in the year.

Campaigners are now planning to make an 11th hour plea to get town hall chiefs to try to save it.

Outraged beer custodians the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are planning to lobby councillors before officers consider proposals under delegated powers which will finally kill off the pub.

Brian Gleave of the borough branch of CAMRA said that, in its final years, the pub had “dropped off the cask radar” and reverted to selling keg national brand beers.

But its striking external architecture and internal features - along with the important role it played for the terraced Wigan community surrounding it - made it worth fighting to save.

But the scheme to turn the Bird I’th Hand into a shop and flats could be “almost irreversible”.

The Wigan optician said: “The ‘Th’en ole’ has been closed for a bit now. There are always hopes that it was going to be taken on by somebody with some know how who is going to make it work.

“It has been a noted Camra pub in the past. The pub has a fantastic exterior and lovely tiled interior and is very definitely worth saving if at all possible.

“It is obviously a shame to hear about this application and the branch will be making representations.

“While it is still stood there - even if it is closed and boarded up - there is always a chance that it could re-open again in new hands, free from any brewery tie.

“There are a number of success stories where the pub co’s have closed pubs and they have sat there in this condition for a few years before being sold off and re-opened again independenly to make a real go of it.

”If you can find the right people to take them on it can be a much different story.

“But once it has been made into a house or a shop then, in effect, that is that.”

He added that Camra were alarmed that a few community locals had recently been converted into shops, including the Golden Lion at Hindley Green.

Latest pub closures include The Wakes at Hindley, The Railway in Platt Bridge and the The Owl Inn, Up Holland.

The Lathom House and The Old Engine at Orrell have both been recently demolished for housing.