The Changing Face Of The Rovers Return

By Mike Plowman

"When I'm gone they'll probably take the Rovers facade brick by brick to a museum"

Annie Walker


THE ROVERS RETURN INN has faced many changes over the years, the most important ones being the people who have lived and worked in the building. However, there have also been changes in the layout of the bar and living quarters and in the atmosphere of the pub.

The refurbished Rovers (exterior)The original Rovers (interior)
Originally, the pub was sectioned off into three separate bars. although the only entrance into the pub was through the Public Bar. The smallest room, the Snug, was where unaccompanied women traditionally drank. Up to the First World War, this was the only room the women were allowed to be served in. Even in 1960, a sign in the Snug warned the ladies that they would he thrown out of the pub if they lingered at the bar. Pensioners like Ena, Minnie and Martha drank in the Snug because the drinks were a half-penny cheaper there than in the Public.

The other bar in the Rovers was the Select. This room was reached via a small corridor along the side of the Snug. It doubled as the Street's function room - complete with stage area - and a room where patrons could drink in private away from the crowds, paying a penny more for their drinks and waitress service Hardly any-one used the facility.

At Christmas the Select would be thrown open to everyone for shows and sing-songs. Memorable moments include Minnic Caldwell reciting "The Owl And The Pussy Cat" at a party in 1969 (she could not remember more than the first verse) and Rita Littlewood's impersonation of Marlene Dietrich in a 1972 show.
Rita, a professional singer, also appeared a year later in a show put on by the local ladies as a forfeit for losing a bowls' match. The only problem was that the ladies had to present the cabaret in drag. There were boos and hisses ashen Rita walked on stage in a glittering dress and blonde wig but the men roared with laughter when she announced, in a husky voice, that she was Danny LaRue.
The last show to be put on in the Select was the 1984 talent show, in which Percy Sugden presented his terrible farm-yard impressions and Alf Roberts told awful jokes.

The Public was the largest of the three bars, furnished with cast-iron tables and wooden chairs, although most of the regulars preferred to stand at the bar, chatting to the staff. Two doors led off from the Public, one to the gents and the cellar, the other to the ladies' lavatory. There was also a trap-door to the cellar behind the bar, but this was rarely used.

Space behind the Rovers' bar was at a premium until 1964 when a wooden cupboard, used for storing glasses, was removed from the middle of the floor. The cupboard had always been in the way and the barmaids were forever complaining that the splintered wood kept laddering their stockings, as they tried to squeeze round it..

In 1961, Annie Walker made reference tothe fact that the pub needed complete renovation and drew up plans for alterations, which included knocking the three bars into one.
She faced huge opposition from her husband and customers, who liked the pub the way it was, and the idea was dropped.

The pub had always been a working-man's local and the traditional sawdust had only been removed from the floor as late at 1957, along with the spittoons that had stood along the bar since 1902.

The three-bar system remained in operation until that fateful night in June 1986 when the Rovers was gutted by fire.
The pub was then completely refurbished by the brewery and the three bars were knocked into one large one.
The other big change in the layout was in the hall of the prize ate quarters. The fire had caused so much damage to the staircase that a new one was built going up in the opposite direction.


The original layout of The Rovers Return (1902 - 1986)

The Rovers, gutted by fire!

The Rovers after the fire

The new layout of the Rovers Return (1986 - present)


In 1992. the Rovers' kitchen was condemned by the Health inspector and was completely modernised to meet the requirements of new legislation. This has also allowed a larger selection of bar meals to be served.

Another change took place in May 1993 when bar pumps were installed behind the ban The last bar pumps to be seen in the Rovers were taken out in 1968, but now real ale has returned to the pub, to comply with the new licensing laws which require pubs to offer a larger range of beers to their customers.

One thing has remained constant at the Rovers, customers are always guaranteed a friendly welcome, a shoulder to cry on and scintillating conversation such as this classic line from the bar-maid Raquel Wolstenhulme - "I were always led to believe I were equally good at most things. I were told that when I were at school. They said - 'Raquel - you have no particular talents.' !"

Reference Source: 'Life and Times at the Rovers Return'. written by Daran Little and published by Index. ISBN 3579108642

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