Work begins on landmark Wigan pub

John Brearley inside the Swan and Railway, which is full of original late-Victorian features and nicely-restored touches such as the mirror above the bar
John Brearley inside the Swan and Railway, which is full of original late-Victorian features and nicely-restored touches such as the mirror above the bar

Work is beginning to return a landmark Wigan town centre pub to its former glory.

The Swan and Railway, on Wallgate opposite Wigan North Western station, has been bought by accountant and ale enthusiast John Brearley who says he wants it to again look how it did in late Victorian times while providing the middle of Wigan with a jobs and economic boost.

Mr Brearley, from Manchester, says he wants to oversee a “restoration” of the historic watering hole built in 1898.

The boozer is packed full of original and historic features and even warranted a mention in a book on heritage pubs of the North West back in 2017.

Mr Brearley hopes to show the interior off to full effect once more and wants to run it as a free house, having purchased it from large industry firm Marston’s.

He said: “It’s still got its multi-room layout which is really nice. There are two bars and what I call a drinking corridor.

“I’m calling it a restoration rather than a refurb. We’re trying to return it to its original glory. When it opened this would have been a high Victorian pub with polished bars, rich carpets and leather seats. Let’s make it like that again.

“We are going to try to turn it as far as possible into how it was when it come out of the box in 1898.

“I don’t think Marston’s really knew what to do with it as it wasn’t a food pub or a destination outlet so I approached them and am now the owner.

“The building is in fine condition structurally. It needs re-roofing and some outside work doing but really it’s all cosmetic.

“The heritage of it really attracted me and it’s also such an atmospheric and cracking location, 25 yards from North Western station.

“I’ve got close friends who live in Appley Bridge and when I came up to visit them I always bobbed in and out of the pub.

“I’ve been getting to know how Wigan works as a drinking venue. The nightlife circuit is on King Street and we’re also quite separate from the other pubs on Wallgate.

“We’ve got Wigan Central, which I think is a superb outlet, and the new Hideout bar in the arches so I think we can all set off each other very well.”

Mr Brearley got permission to start work in December from Wigan Council’s conservation office, which he says has been extremely supportive of his plans.

He intends to bring the original entrance to the pub, currently a small boarded-up door at the front, back into use.

As the renovation is just beginning Mr Brearley said he was not keen to be drawn on a re-opening date.

As a huge enthusiast for the now-rare Draught Bass he is keen to see that ale return to the Swan and Railway’s pumps, having already discovered the place was once Wigan’s biggest-selling outlet for the beer.

He is also due to meet a previous landlord who spent a quarter of a century behind the bar to glean more insight into the pub’s storied past.

Mr Brearley has plans for seven handpumps behind the bar, four of them stocking nationally-known ales and the others concentrating on highlighting the work of Wigan’s busy brewing scene.

He said: “It’s horses for courses. You’ve got to cater for everybody’s tastes.”