Towards the end of the 19th century, commercial life became more difficult for the smaller brewers and their pubs. The 1880 Inland Revenue Act was having an effect, as it ‘required brewers to pay tax on their raw materials, irrespective of the amount of beer they actually produced. As a result of this, ‘many small, less-efficient breweries and home-brew pubs found they could not compete with their bigger neighbours and sold out’. The McKenna Brewery at Harpurhey was technically advanced when it was built in the 1860s but within a few decades other, newer breweries, incorporating latest technological innovations, were more productive. And later, ‘more Manchester breweries, hit by increased taxation and further loss of outlets under the Compensation Act of 1904, closed’.
Whatever the reason, after over 80 years and three generations in the brewery and inn-keeping trade, the McKenna family decided to sell their entire estate, comprising the Harpurhey Brewery, the George & Dragon and around a dozen other pubs.74. Their half century ownership of the George & Dragon would soon come to an end, and for the next 80 years the George & Dragon would be in the hands of one or other of the big brewers, only to be rescued from their clutches by a tiny jazz organisation and its offspring charity, current owners Inner City Music.
The music would now be top of the agenda.
The story of the end of the McKenna era and of the many episodes in the evolution of Band on the Wall is told in the next part, the 20th Century History of ‘The Band’.