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.
Making rope, selling flour, casting iron & crafting looms and coffins.
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:
- Sam Hegginbottom’s rope yard just 20 paces or so across Swan Street, with the family home and workshop a few doors along from the George & Dragon
- Local landowner John Taylor, trading as a flour dealer in Tib Street, before moving in 1794 to what would be next door to the George & Dragon, and five years later opening the Rising Sun pub, that would become a Music Hall of some notoriety at the north corner of Swan Street and Rochdale Road
- The family firm of Smith & Co’s Griffin Iron Foundry that would operate for many years on Swan Street – just across Oak Street from the George & Dragon
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.