A historic pub interior of regional importance
Listed Status: II12 Little Underbank
Tel: (0161) 480 0725
Real Ale: Yes
Nearby Station: Stockport
Station Distance: 700m
Public Transport: Near Railway Station (Stockport) and Bus Stop
View on: Whatpub
Like the Circus Tavern in Manchester, this pub is extremely narrow and shows how many small urban pubs must have looked a hundred years ago. The interior was remodelled about 1930 and consists of three rooms and appears to be little altered. The extreme narrowness of the interior led to some rearrangement of some of the internal woodwork in the early 1990s but this was carried out with care by Samuel Smiths and the pub still retains an authentic historic ambience. On the top of the bar counter (a replacement top) are two sets of spirit cocks which used to dispense drink from the rooms above. The original Queen's Head seems to have occupied a larger building abutting on the east but was demolished when St Petersgate Bridge was built in 1866-8 and moved into the present premises.
Turners Vaults Wine merchants were established in 1764 but built into Underbank bridge in 1868 and has an underground labyrinth of wine caves over 300 years old. Like the Circus Tavern in Manchester it is extremely narrow and shows how many small urban pubs must have looked a hundred years ago. The interior was remodelled about 1930 and consists of three rooms and appears to be little altered. The extreme narrowness of the interior led to some rearrangement of some of the internal woodwork in the early 1990s but this was carried out with care by Samuel Smiths and the pub still retains an authentic feel.
You can see the changes to the front bar by taking a look at the photos of the original untouched interior on the walls. They show the bar was smaller as there was originally a passage from the front door to the rear and a partition wall closer to the counter with old bench attached to it. The original counter remains but the photo on the wall show it originally went all the way to the front window so Sam Smiths have carefully shortened the servery by turning a section of the counter through 90 decrees. In place of simple bar back shelving there are now two curved areas forming the bar back fitting with modern 'Samuel Smiths' and 'Queens Head' mirrors, new tiles and wood to attach optics; the third 'curved area' at the front is now part of a cosy corner of the public bar. The fixed seating at the front is part original (on the right) and part a copy by Sam Smiths, but it is difficult to spot the difference. A part glazed partition wall separates the front door lobby from the public bar.
On the top of the bar counter (a replacement top) are two sets of spirit cocks. Until 1935 they dispensed spirits stored in the rooms above the pub when it was a Wine Merchants business. A photo on the wall shows that a third set existed hidden behind the counter in the front now removed part. These are rare survivals in pubs - CAMRA is only aware of four other sets of spirit cocks at Shipman's, Northampton; Haunch of Venison, Salisbury, Wiltshire; Bull, Paisley, Scotland; and Crown, Belfast, Northern Ireland - all CAMRA Heritage Pubs.
Photos on the wall show that the counter originally abutted the partition at the rear of the public bar so part of the counter at the rear has been turned through 90 decrees (or is modern work?). Also, photos show that attached to the surviving five section partition and set at an angle there was a small section of two panels wide that has clearly been removed. Finally, the entrance to the public bar was via the doorway at the rear of the room. Just short of the rear door to the public bar is a recess formed by two short partitions - this housed a fruit machine until Sam Smith's implemented a policy of no electronic machines in their pubs, which also saw the removal of TV's (even in guest rooms of their pubs offering accommodation!).
Beyond the public bar is the 'horse box' snug created by three partition walls, two with upper section of glazed panels, with U-shaped fixed bench seating attached around a tiny table and lit by a skylight. This snug is thought to have been the meeting place of the first trade unionists. It has enough room to seat just six people and boasts an original hat rail. At the rear a doorway leads to another small room with fixed benches down both sides, a cast iron fireplace (modern?) at the end and the whole room is covered by a skylight with two sections of cornice work. Also, there is 'Compacto' what might be the smallest gents’ in the world but no longer in use!