For the George & Dragon the second half of the 19th century would be a time of development and expansion, driven along by the new owners, the ambitious McKenna brothers who had been raised since their early teenage years at the Briton’s Protection, just 400 yards away in Oldham Road. Not only did they remodel, adapt and enlarge the existing George & Dragon, they also took over, indeed probably built, what is now the Picturehouse part of the present Band on the Wall and offices of music organisation Brighter Sound, with its several education and participation projects.
From this new building, after a long period in use by ‘tobacco manufacturers’, the McKennas would distribute their wines and spirits, by horse and cart, to pubs throughout the city, and later they would create a restaurant on the ground floor – currently The Picturehouse Café Bar. They may also have built the ‘Cocozza Wood’ building at the back of Band on the Wall; certainly by the end of the 19th century they owned it.
For the first time, the George & Dragon from 1856 would become part of a family-run commercial group that would include several pubs, most within the immediate area of East Manchester. All would soon to be served by the new and imposing McKenna Brewery in Harpurhey. What started as the little corner pub in Swan Street would soon be ‘the head centre of the transactions of this well-known firm of spirit merchants and brewers’. 51
The story of the McKennas is told in Chapter 3 and further detail on the physical history of the building/s is provided in Chapter 4, The Building/s.