A New Century: 1900 – 1936

Now that the early decades of the 20th century drift beyond living memory, the task of uncovering the specific history in these years of a local pub, The George & Dragon, on Manchester’s Swan Street, is dependent on just a few documents and even fewer photographs, rather than fresh eye-witness accounts. There exists, however, a wealth of material about the surrounding area, the much-studied heartland of the Industrial Revolution – in the world’s first industrial city.

This part of the history seeks to set the scene by some brief references to this wealth of information and to trade directories, census records and registers of licensees. It also describes changes in ownership, usage and internal design that shaped the licensed buildings, now collectively known as Band on the Wall. Invaluable sources have been publications by historian, the late Neil Richardson.

All available records suggest that the George & Dragon remained open throughout these years – through the 1914-18 War, through Manchester’s post-industrial economic decline, the General Strike of 1926, the effects of the Great Depression and through much political and social change and upheaval.

The period to 1936 leads to what we have called ‘The Tyson Era’ that forms the next part of this history – when the ‘Band on the Wall’ name began to be used, subsequently defeating, through popular use, both the George and the Dragon.

There are four chapters to this section:

Chapter 1 – ’The Street Scene’, gives a glimpse of life around the George & Dragon, in a street loaded with human (and equine) activity, equidistant from both nearby ‘Little Italy’ and ‘Irish Town’, and with a remarkable diversity of occupants

Chapter 2 – ‘The McKennas: The Conclusion’, completes the three-generation story of The McKennas, brewers and publicans who were owners of the George & Dragon for half a century and were vital to the development and expansion of the pub. The chapter also speculates on a continued Irishness at the George & Dragon after the departure of the McKenna brothers whose grandfather Bernard, born in 1776, emigrated from Ireland and established the first McKenna pub and micro-brewery, in Salford, in the early years of the 19th century.

Chapter 3 – ‘An Expanding Space’ – about the 1911/12 building development and further improvements that led to the space for music, Band on the Wall’s concert room.

Chapter 4 – ‘The Story of The Picturehouse’ – about the unusual change of use over a century ago of No 29 Swan Street – now part of Band on the Wall – from public-house to cinema, operating throughout World War 1 and into the 1930s.