Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Higsons survival

I took this picture today in the Guest House; it shows one of the pub's three hand pumps that still display the Higsons liver bird.  When Higsons was an independent company, the Guest House was its only pub in Southport, and it had no hand or electric pumps on the bar; all the electric pumps were ranged across the back of the bar, and the cask beers were in the cellar behind the bar with their taps poking through holes in the wall. The cask range was Higsons Bitter and Mild, and Draught Bass.

When Boddingtons of Manchester took over Higsons in 1985, they installed hand pumps on the bar and moved the electric pumps there too. They also put real ale in all Higsons houses ~ only about half had sold real ale previously because, Higsons claimed, the pubs were unsuitable for cask beer. I always found that unbelievable, seeing that nearly all of the Higsons estate consisted of Victorian and Edwardian pubs, built when real ale was the only beer available. Whitbread took over Boddingtons in 1990 and, as was its wont, closed the Higsons brewery down. Higsons beers were brewed in Sheffield, then County Durham, but with no resemblance to the original beer, and production was ended a few years later.

The hand pumps installed by Boddingtons in the Guest House in 1985 are the only visible memento of the pub's Higsons past.

Incidentally, the beer on that hand pump was Phoenix Hopsack ~ rather nice.


  1. I'm the proud owner of a grey Higsons tie (Godfrey Boardman has one too!) and a handsome Higgy's tie pin, both with the Liver Bird logo and, I'd imagine worth bugger all on eBay but as I wouldn't part for the whole wide world, it's a non-starter.
    "Mm,mm Higsons Mild" as Homer Simpson never said, being a bit of a Duff drinker. btw, I'd guess that Duff is like Schlitz - the beer that made Milwaukee famous and made a 1968 hit for Jerry Lee Lewis.
    "What made Milwaukee famous, has made a loser out of me." Quite.

  2. I have an older blue Higsons tie with the oast house and liver bird emblem. I was once wearing it when I went into the Halton Castle in West Derby and the barmaid rushed to serve me before others. "Do you work in the office?" she asked, meaning the Higsons offices.

  3. I used to teach with Tony Molyneux in the days when he was Tony Wilson. I remember him having the blue Higsons tie, he never tied it through properly, I think it was Tony's way of not quite conforming to the teaching profession. I have a small book of Higsons matches. It is red and has, "I'll have a Higsons" on the front and, "Higsons Bitter It's the local ale" on the back.

  4. I remember Tony singing at the Coronation folk club in Southport years ago. He annoyed the pub staff by singing,"I'm the man, the very fat man that waters the Whitbread beer". The Coronation was a Whitbread house in those days. Subtle as ever!

  5. I have (as you might suspect) quite a bit of Higsons memorabilia. From my pride and joy, the large sign that used to adorn the outside of pubs, to playing cards (unused), Pilsner lager fount and clock, beer showcard (just one) and all the Old Higsonians in both showcard and badge form. Bottles of last drop, pumpclips (new ones but if anyone has any others?)Oh and a tie. The blue one. Any other Higsons stuff anyone doesn't want, let me know.

  6. Does anyone know if Higson's Brewed and sold their own LAGER ???

    Rob Huyton

  7. If I remember correctly, Higsons used to serve Carling Black Label in their pubs. I presume they decided they'd rather brew their own lager than just buy someone else's, so at great expense they built a lager plant and produced Higsons Lager. I don't think this was very popular with lager drinkers, so later they obtained a contract to brew Kaltenberg, which they advertised as being made to the Bavarian Purity Laws. Some people believe that it was the building of this brand new brewhouse that made Higsons more attractive for takeover.

  8. I have a hand pump with the liver bird on if anyone is interested in buying?


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