It must have been with some trepidation that Elizabeth Marsh opened the doors of the George & Dragon to the public for the first time probably in 1803. After all, she was a newcomer to the area, having only recently moved from Ardwick where her first George & Dragon pub was located. The area may also have been gaining a reputation for trouble on the streets.
Of course, many of her potential customers also were new to the area that continued to experience an unprecedented influx of migrants seeking employment in this, the world’s hot spot of industrialisation. It was an influx that would gather momentum throughout most of the 1800s.
Other local residents, close to the George & Dragon, were more established: several had been there for at least 15 years, from when the first properties were built in the street in 1788:
Even earlier, another corn & flour dealer, Edward Swain is recorded in 1773 in Shudehill and is probably the Edward Swan who towards the end of the 18th century is living and selling his flour at No 1 Swan Street, and the street was named after him.
At the turn of the century, the number of addresses in Swan Street, that is barely 300 yards long, was at least 26 and, in the area westwards towards the city centre, already there was a warren of homes and workplaces. These included many weavers’ cottages. Swan Street was more geared towards distribution, retail and wholesale sales and small-scale manufacture: not a weaver in sight, although Thomas Coop at No 1 Coop Street (once more named after the occupant of the street’s No1 residence) must have dealt with many. He worked as a loom-maker in his workshop on part of the site now occupied by the Smithfield Hotel. Some years later, a George Coop – probably Thomas’s son – works next door and makes coffins, no doubt an expanding market in these pestilential times.