Prisoners, Pig’s Trotters & Floods: What Happened to The Mark Addy?

This unique boozer certainly had an action-packed run of it...

By Ben Brown | 9 February 2021

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Flooded in 2015 // Eamonn & James Clarke

The recent excessive rainfall in Manchester caused no end of problems for people; from flooding in Didsbury, to a couple of houses in Gorton disappearing down a bloody sink hole. It also claimed a Manchester boozer, one which surely won’t ever open up again – The Mark Addy.

Actually though, before you all start commenting and crying, The Mark Addy isn’t actually a Manchester boozer – it’s a Salford one, located right on the banks of the mighty Irwell.

Credit: Sean Hansford

This most recent rainfall caused the Irwell to swell, and once again, the second time in 6 years, The Mark Addy pub was completely submerged – there’s surely no coming back from this set back. It’s entirely likely that it’ll be demolished, and any plans that might have been flying around will definitely have been thrown in the bin.

Which is a shame really, because The Mark Addy as a pub certainly had its moments over the course of its 30 year history. Even though it was never the most attractive of boozers, and sometimes it stunk to high heaven of sewage and damp, it had a certain charm and there were some people who did amazing things with it.

The Mark Addy in 2020

Let’s kick the story off back in 1844 when a brand-new bridge was constructed over the Irwell, one which replaced the dangerously rotten New Bailey Bridge, which was likely to have fallen down at any time.

I mean, it’s just a bridge, so it’s not that interesting, but what IS interesting is that the bridge went a long way to improve access to the city’s prison at the time – which was located just over the Irwell on the site that now holds the New Bailey development (with Menagerie and Foodwell).

The precursor to Strangeways, the New Bailey Prison was founded in 1787 and was still housing scumbags until it’s closure in 1868. One of the features that is most interesting though is the prison’s proximity to the river.

New Bailey Prison

With what could be the perfect getaway method; jumping in the river and getting carried off to safety, was also the perfect transportation method, with prisoners arriving regularly via the river, docking up at the original Salford Quay just under the bridge.

It’s here where thousands of prisoners will have seen their last glimpse of the city as a free man, and experienced the last ounce of normality before descending into the hell that awaited them behind bars in that manky old prison.

Plans of the prison

So, the dock was there and in use since the creation of the prison, and it’s likely that it would have been used frequently for the many warehouses and mills close by too. Used for the next 100 years as a dock, it wasn’t until the 80s when the pints and the fun truly arrived.

The dock was acquired by a fella named Jim Ramsbottom, a Salford entrepreneur and bookie who wanted to create a classy joint on the waterfront – something the city hadn’t seen in more than 100 years.

One of those trendy ‘bistro’ type places, The Mark Addy was an instant success, primarily down to the fact that they served food and drink together, something that wasn’t that common at the time, and the massive outdoor terrace – which stretched along the Irwell and was a true joy when the sun was out.

Salford hero Mark Addy

I should maybe take the time now to tell you a little bit about Mark Addy himself, who was a true hero in Salford back in the late 19th Century, eventually being awarded the Albert Medal by Queen Victoria herself for his life-saving efforts. A keen swimmer and oarsman, he is credited with rescuing more than 50 people who fell into the dirty River Irwell, saving them from drowning and certain death.

Most people remember The Mark Addy pub for a few things. First is just how weird it looked. Set over two levels, you’d enter through a kind of greenhouse entrance and instantly descend some stairs to the bar below.

Inside The Mark Addy // Credit: Hungry Hoss

The externals of the building looked a lot like one of those river ferries that you see going down the Thames, in fitting with its waterside location.

Once you got down the steps, which were a nightmare after 11 pints, you were greeted by a moderately sized bar and a rather muted Industrial decor – overshadowed by the large windows looking out onto the water and of course – the HUGE terrace outside.

Credit: David Kearney

Credit: @Lizzie_pluta

Well-known throughout the two cities as somewhere to go for a belting pint of Boddies, as well as a reputation for their brilliant cheese and meat platters – The Mark Addy featured in many a Good Beer Guide throughout the 90s.

But slowly it started to get a bit rough around the edges, a bit tatty and by the turn of the millennium – it was a largely forgotten shell of it’s former self, hardly frequented and sadly in need of some TLC.

Things started looking up for The Mark Addy in 2009 when, after a spell of closure, renowned Manchester chef Robert Owen Brown took over and turned it into one of the city’s most exciting food destinations.

Winning national plaudits and rave reviews from top critics, Owen Brown’s plans for the pub revolved around honest, traditional British food, focusing on game, off-cuts, offal and meats that you’d expect to hunt whilst wearing tweed and a flat cap. He was championing tail-to-nose.

Locally-sourced and working as close to ‘waste-free’ as possible, the menu featured such delights as a Long-braised, Chicken-stuffed Pig’s Trotter, Crown of Pigeon and Tripe in Madeira on Toast. It was refreshing, exciting and nothing like what the city had seen before – and certainly paved the way for the subsequent similar ventures that we’ve seen since.

Robert Owen Brown experienced an impressive few years at the venue, really turning it around and making it into a destination once again. People flocked to the riverside boozer, and it’s reputation as one of the country’s top gastropubs was cemented.

It was, however, short lived as the venue was forced to close in 2014 due to rising repair and upgrade costs associated with its upkeep. It seems that they simply weren’t making enough money to justify the high costs – meaning they shut up shop and it’s been empty ever since.

Robert Owen Brown // Credit: Eat North

In a rather prophetic way it seems like this was a good decision, as barely a year later the venue experienced extensive flooding when the River Irwell burst its banks, a disaster that repeated itself at the beginning of this year too.

There was talk of the pub receiving some much-needed cash back in 2017, with owners Elle R Leisure saying that they were considering restoration of the pub in light of the increasing footfall and interest in the area, brought about by the nearby Spinningfields development and the brand-new New Bailey offering.

Credit: @MancSwanky

However, this year’s floods must surely have put the final nails in the coffin of these plans, as the water level rose to completely envelop the entire bar and restaurant area.

It’s probably safe to assume that The Mark Addy is the city’s first casualty of increasingly erratic and extreme weather – with the chances of it happening again increasingly likely as a result.

So, The Mark Addy is dead and gone. I find it highly unlikely that anyone would want to shell out any money on replacing or renovating it, so expect it to be completely removed at some point over the next few years.

Will we miss it? Err…