Pub That Carries a Landlord's Families Name
Baker's Vaults takes its name from a 19th Century family of publicans
who occupied the public house for much of that century. It is the second
building known to be on the site. The present building occupies only half
the site of the Baker's predecessor, an inn called the George and Dragon
which jutted out well into the market place.
is not known when the George and Dragon was built, but a likely date is
about 1775 when the remaining walls of the old castle, which had stood
on the site of the Castle Yard for centuries, were finally demolished.
first official record is dated 1820, by which time it was well established.
The record relates to the billeting of Marines there at a time when most
Inns and taverns were used to accommodate the military.
Baker family became the owners of the George and Dragon about 1824 and
it remained in their possession for most of the 19th Century, during which
time the premises were transformed.
Baker, the son of the first proprietor, was a successful businessman with
political ambitions. He was Liberal councillor for Heaton Norris and was
twice elected mayor of Stockport, in 1839-40 and 1852. Baker built up
the wine and spirits side of the business as a wholesaler and retailer
and was the chief rival to Turners, another well known wine and spirit
the middle of the 19th Century, the Bakers owned all of the east side
of Bridge Street Brow, including the Kings Arms, part of which (the tap
room) became known as the Hole in the Wall. In 1853, the Corporation purchased
the market rights and tolls from the lord of the manor, Lord Vernon, the
heir of the Warrens, and promptly cleared Castle Yard, taking away what
remained of the old castle and lowering the hillock site by several feet.
Ten years later, when it was decided to erect the massive iron and glass
'umbrella on stilts' and thus cover Stockport's hitherto open market place,
it was became necessary to demolish the George and Dragon. The George
and Dragon jutted out into the market place, and the original plan for
the market hall included an extra bay, which is no longer there. The extra
bay was demolished in 1912 so that 'trackless trams' or trolley buses
could run from St Petersgate through the market place and turn the corner
by the Boars Head en route to Afternoon.
rebuilt his premises in the so-called 'gin palace' style of the times,
and the name "Baker's Vaults" may date from this period. The
term 'vault' had two meanings locally, one meaning a tap room where customers
were served from tapped barrels over a bar (started by a landlord of the
Pack Horse on Higher Hillgate, who opened a special room commonly called
the Vault) or as in the case of the Baker's Vaults, signifying underground
chambers for storing wines.
Charles Bakers' term of office as mayor of Stockport, the nature of his
occupation drew sneering comment from the staunchly Tory Stockport Advertiser,
which commented, "Is it not disgraceful that the chief officer of
the town (i.e. the mayor) should be the keeper of a gin palace".
was however, very successful and built himself a large house in Heaton
Norris (on the site of the present St Mary's RC Church). Bakers Terrace
(opposite the church) and Baker Street, in Heaton Norris, are both named
after the family.
new George and Dragon (or Baker's Vaults) of 1861 incorporated all the
latest and fashionable designs, notably the big central bar serving members
of "private" snugs and rooms, which were partitioned by glazed
screens. At one time there were screens all along the pub's bar called
'blinkers,' a glass partition with windows on pivots which could be pushed
at right angles when service was required. By law, a vault (public bar)
had to have a separate entrance from the outside. Baker supplied no less
than four, each opening into a small bar but all interconnecting internally.
inn brewed its own beer in the basement brew house, which is still largely
intact, together with remnants of its fittings. Unique to the Bakers Vaults,
is a completely subterranean wine cellar for storing choice vintages -
utterly cool and dry. Beer was brewed on the premises until well after
the turn of the century and Sir Richard Clarke, the founder of Clarke's
Reddish Brewery (now incorporated in Boddingtons) served a seven-year
apprenticeship at the Baker's Vaults.
the pub was purchased by Kay's Atlas Brewery of Hyde and became a tied
house. This firm was subsequently taken over by Robinson's Brewery of
the exterior looks much as it did when completed in 1861. The big lamp
over the Castle Yard entrance was probably originally gas-lit and is now
something of a rarity.
recent history - the Bakers Vaults has had a history of putting on live
music for the best part of 20 years. Traditionally known as a jazz and
blues venue. It had stopped the live music for a while before the current
tenants took over in April 2003. Since then the pub has brought back some
of the fantastic stalwart bands of Stockport, whilst also welcoming many
exciting new acts.