75 Pool Street
The Honeysuckle is the best known of the ancestral pubs among today’s family members, being the place Henry Harold Harrison Senior was raised. It has become a kind of family shrine for the Canadian branch of the family that many of us make a point of visiting on trips to England.
The Honeysuckle Inn, which is still in operation today, is located on Pool Street at the junction of Corporation Street on the south bank of the River Douglas. It is immediately south of the huge hulk of the old Swan Meadow textile mill and just down the road from the Trencherfield Mill. The location is a few hundred metres from the present day tourist site known as “Wigan Pier” and perhaps a 10 minute walk from the centre of Wigan.
The Honeysuckle Inn occupies a two-story building with the pub on the ground floor. The upper floor contains a living quarters and many of the 19th century publicans, including Henry Harrison, lived with their families upstairs at the inn and welcomed customers downstairs. At one time in the 1980s part of the upstairs area was used as a restaurant.
Although there have been claims by recent owners that the pub dates back to the 18th century, in fact the ordinance survey maps from the late 1840s show clearly that the site of the Honeysuckle was in the middle of a big empty field. It is almost certain that the inn was constructed c. 1850 when the Poolstock neighbourhood was first developed to house textile workers. We don’t know why the inn was named after the Honeysuckle; it may be that the shrub was present along the banks of the River Douglas in the mid-19th century. The Honeysuckle Inn first appears in the census records for the year 1851. The 1851 census enumeration district in which the Honeysuckle was located is described, in part, as “the whole of the new buildings lately raised by the Messrs James and Nathaniel Eckersley consisting of Byrom Street, Pool Street, Baker Street, Institution Street and ending with Swift’s Buildings adjoining the old River Douglas.” The Eckersleys were textile barons who owned the Swan Meadows Mill.
At the time of the 1851 census the Honeysuckle was occupied by one Nancy Whalley, age 21, “Landlady Beer Seller” along with relatives and boarders. At the time of the 1861 census a Robert Bancks, “Victualler” lived at the Honeysuckle with his wife and large family. A Wigan directory published in 1869 lists one Adam Bancks as the proprietor of the Honeysuckle. Adam, a “Licensed Victualler” was enumerated along with his wife and substantial family at the Honeysuckle in the 1871 census. One Joseph Halliwell and his family lived at the inn at the time of the 1881 census and was again listed as the proprietor both in an 1881 directory and in the 1885 Wigan and District Directory.
Henry Harold Harrison’s father, Henry Harrison, became the proprietor of the Honeysuckle sometime between 1886 and 1891. Although Henry did not have any experience operating a pub that we know of, his grandfather and his father-in-law had both been publicans at one time. Henry must have known the Honeysuckle Inn well because he had grown up in the neighbourhood and actually lived with his parents across the street from the Honeysuckle, at 64 Pool Street, at the time of his marriage in 1885. He had also lived just around the corner in Walmer Street in 1886. At the time of the 1891 census Henry Harrison, Alice Barton and son Henry Harold Harrison (“Harold”) were enumerated at the Honeysuckle Inn along with two of Alice Barton’s younger sisters, Ellen and Annie, who may have been employed there.
We know from Harold that his father was employed as the proprietor of the Honeysuckle in the 1890s. Harold told his daughter that Henry would drink with his patrons in the morning, then sleep off the drink when his customers went off to work, then drink with them again at lunchtime, sleep in the afternoon, and drink again in the evening. Harold himself worked at the pub from a young age and recalled standing on a barrel to draw beer for customers.
In 1894 when Henry’s brother, Edward Harrison, died of rabies his wake was held at the Honeysuckle as reported in the Wigan Observer newspaper of the day. Alice Barton died at the Honeysuckle Inn in August 1897 when Harold was just 11 years old. In the 1901 census Henry Harrison was again enumerated at the Honeysuckle, this time with his second wife, Elizabeth Donahue, and Harold. Harold was still living at the Honeysuckle two months later in May 1901 when he was indentured to Robert George Dawson as a joiner’s apprentice.
Sometime between 1901 and 1907 Henry Harrison ceased to be the proprietor of the Honeysuckle Inn. Harold told his daughter that his father, who liked to stage cockfights in the yard behind the inn, “gambled it away.” This might mean that the proprietorship of the Honeysuckle Inn had a value that could be wagered; it might also mean that Henry’s gambling losses left him unable to pay the rent (in which case the family must have suffered some hardship at the time). After losing the Honeysuckle Henry went back to being a manual labourer as he had been before his innkeeper days. Although he had spent only 15 years of his life as the publican at the Honeysuckle, his obituary some 30 years later was titled “Henry Harrison, a Former Poolstock Licencee.”
There are many references to the modern day Honeysuckle Inn on the world wide web. A Google search on “honeysuckle inn wigan” produces over 800 hits.