How one of Britain's best loved pub chains was made in Preston

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local historian Keith Johnson looks back at the foundation of a licensing dynasty

Visitors to Preston city centre in recent weeks might well have been surprised to find the recently refurbished Yates Wine Lodge had opened with a new name above its doors.

Operated now by the Stonegate Pub Company, it is now The Slug and Lettuce. The new title giving no clues of what was originally the Grey House and later Addison’s Wine Lodge, one of Preston’s most significant historical inns.

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It is true that Preston public houses have had many curious titles in the past, such as the Old House At Home, Garden Gate, Jenny Lind Tavern, Pet Dog and Strawberry Gardens, but just what Mary Addison of Yates’ heritage would have thought of the new title we can only speculate.

Inside Addison’s bar in Preston circa 1930Inside Addison’s bar in Preston circa 1930
Inside Addison’s bar in Preston circa 1930

The inn opened originally circa 1808 and back then was known as the Grey Horse. In 1820, when Robert Johnson was the landlord, a fire broke out in the bakehouse of Mr Clenning in the adjacent Turks Head Court and spread into the Grey Horse.

The bakehouse, several cottages, stables and the rear of the Grey Horse were gutted by the blaze leaving Mr Johnson with a £500 loss. The landlord from 1851 was Simon Yates, the brother of Mary Addison, and she was involved from the start of his tenure in the running of the Grey Horse.

From 1860, when he died aged 38, she took an interest in her young nephews Simon and Peter and saw to it that they received a good education in the licensing trade, including trips aboard to extend their knowledge of the wine trade with Oporto, in Portugal, one port of call to study Port wine.

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Mary, who was born in 1818, had married Thomas Addison, land surveyor, when she was just 18 in August 1836, being the only daughter of the late Simon Yates. In 1865 it was recorded that he had deserted her without reasonable cause and, following protracted divorce proceedings, she received a settlement of more than £3,000.

Yates’s Wine Lodge, in Preston, in the 1990sYates’s Wine Lodge, in Preston, in the 1990s
Yates’s Wine Lodge, in Preston, in the 1990s

In 1868 she agreed to the purchase of the Grey Horse Inn premises with trust agreements, the transaction being completed in 1873.

From the early 1880s both the nephews were thought fit to manage affairs with Peter Yates heavily involved in the Preston enterprise and Simon Yates trusted to manage the historic Angel Hotel, in Oldham, which she purchased in 1881.

Peter Yates would go on to create the Yates’s Wine Lodge business in 1884. With the knowledge gained from their Aunt Mary and their mother Jane Yates, who took over the tenancy of the Wheatsheaf, in Gin Bow Entry, from her late husband, the nephews would go on to open the highly popular Yates Brothers wine store on Cheapside.

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Not far from Addison’s Wine Lodge, down Main Sprit Weind, off Church Street, was the Yates Brothers Wine Lodge. Those premises were opened circa 1900 by Peter Yates. He had taken over the old Sun Inn down Main Sprit Weind and converted it into a saloon bar.

Peter Yates, founder of Yates Wine Lodge, in 1934Peter Yates, founder of Yates Wine Lodge, in 1934
Peter Yates, founder of Yates Wine Lodge, in 1934

Mary Addison died in November 1900, aged 82, while living at Beechwood in Penwortham and was buried in St Mary’s Church, Penwortham. She had only recently retired, leaving her grandson John Wilfred Holding to run the business.

Her business dealings were regarded in the trade as second to none, in fact, according to one scribe, the greatest lady wine merchant of the Victorian era. Upon her death she had only one daughter living who had married the Rev John Holding and from their marriage several grandchildren had emerged.

At the reading of her will in June 1901 it was recorded that she had spent 60 years with the firm of Addison and Co. and the bulk of her estate was left to her daughter Susannah and her descendants. Her estate was valued at over £31,000.

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The original Grey Horse building, with its thatched roof that Mary Addison acquired, was extended in 1877 when she purchased a house and a shop which adjoined it. It enabled Mr Addison to not only supply the finest of ales and wines but to develop a tea business where customers could buy in bulk for half the price. The present day building originates from 1922 and it is fair to say by the 1940s it was one of the most popular inns in town, even though it was closed on Sundays.

Yates's Wine Lodge in Preston in its heydayYates's Wine Lodge in Preston in its heyday
Yates's Wine Lodge in Preston in its heyday

Nowadays the premises have, located to their left, the Co-op Bank. In 1985 long overdue renovation work took place and the inn’s original title the Grey Horse was restored. This was, however, short-lived as three years later a four-month closure and a further £375,000 refurbishment saw the place reopen as Yates Wine Lodge.

As for the Yates Brothers Wine Lodge down Main Sprit Weind, it was an old original spittoon and sawdust saloon bar and when other licensed premises moved with the times Yates’s retained their bare floor boards, wooden seating and 20ft long curved bar counter with huge barrels of foreign wines on display.

Eventually in 1979 Yates’s called last orders as trade slumped and a To Let notice was fixed on the exterior. At that time Yates’s still had around 40 wine lodges nationwide and had ownership of the Grey Horse. By June 1980 the wine lodge had been transformed by its new owners thanks to a £50.000 facelift and was named Bodega II, a real ale and wine bar.

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Later it became known as Lou’s Long Bar a fitting name for the very long bar within. But the name changes would continue in the years ahead with the Eclipse, Madison’s, Bar One and Revolution to follow before it became a cocktail bar named Rift and Co, in 2014 and then in 2016 was named Boston Brothers, before becoming known as Rift Bar and Grill in 2017.

Its future is now uncertain having closed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In January 2013 it was announced that Yates’s were breaking with tradition by dropping the words ‘Wine Lodge’ from their chain of bars. The management of the Bolton-based business with 130 public houses UK wide wanting to distance themselves from the old lodge traditions nurtured in Victorian days.

Addison's Wine Lodge in Preston, in 1902Addison's Wine Lodge in Preston, in 1902
Addison's Wine Lodge in Preston, in 1902

In the 1920s the company bought farm pasture land in Cheshire and raised a herd of Hereford beef cattle to supply meat to their chain of butchers shops in Lancashire and to their wine lodges.

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Peter Yates was known for his healthy living policy and he encouraged the growth of teetotal taverns and low level food pricing in his lodges his motto was ‘moderation in true Temperance’.

These days the Yates slogan is ‘All Day Long’ and the parent company is the Stonegate Pub Company, which nurtures a food and family environment with almost 80 outlets in the UK. Peter Yates deserves much credit for the emergence of the business, born in 1854 he died in April 1944 a few days short of his 90th birthday, leaving a widow and three daughters behind. His Preston residence was Ribblesdale House, but in his later years he spent the winter months in his residence at Fordingbridge, in the New Forest, Hampshire where he died.

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