The Briton’s Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester, M1 5LE – Visit Now
This historic pub can tell a few sorry tales, but thankfully its extensive drinks list goes some way towards softening the blows.
Don’t be deterred by the name. The Briton’s Protection is not a pub for the cronies of some nationalistic political party. Instead, The Britons Protection is a solitary reminder of a bygone era. It has stood its ground in Manchester, on the corner of a busy junction and opposite the Bridgewater Hall, since 1795 (when it operated under an equally patriotic moniker: The Ancient Britain).
Step inside, and the interior immediately confirms the Briton’s status as Manchester’s oldest watering hole. The pub is divided roughly into two, its narrow front half dominated by tortoiseshell-brown wall tiles, ornate ceiling decorations and a mahogany bar that has been darkened by decades of varnish. A lounge at the rear is plush with cushioned furnishings, carpeted floors and a brass fire hearth, with the front and back connected by a hallway on whose wall is a depiction of the infamous Peterloo Massacre (it was near here that, in 1819, the king’s militia brutally cut down a crowd of pro-democracy protestors).
With a history as pained as that, a drink is in order – which the 300 or so whiskies on sale can supply
With a local history as pained as that, a stiff drink is in order – and The Briton’s Protection happily boasts a collection of over 300 whiskies to enable you to do exactly that. It is a list that ranges from the familiar, supermarket-sold brands through to the highly acclaimed Middleton Very Dry, but while the pub does a good line in scotch, its taps also drip with international lagers, cider and northern guest ales.
It is said that regulars were once at the mercy of recruiters for the Napoleonic Wars, looking to shanghai booze-addled men into the military – but today the only real threat that patrons face is how to fit in a pint or two in on their lunch hour before having to get back to work. Lunchtimes are busy, with the bar full of office workers and musicians from the Bridgewater Hall looking to take advantage of what is a fairly standard menu: pies, pasties and fish and chips. On the rarest of occasions, when the sun shines over Manchester, lunch can be eaten out back in the pub’s small beer garden – and it is from here, away from the cars and trams that never-endingly pull past the Briton’s Protection, that punters can sit and ponder Manchester’s past, as well as its more pleasant present.