“Spirits have stories to tell, one must know how to listen”- Deepta Roy Chakraverti, From Bhangarh to Bedlam.
To be honest, I have not come across any spirits yet; but I do get an uncanny feeling every time I walk past The Black Horse Inn. This desolate building on Chapel Street has been lying ignored for years. As its outer walls decay with moss and algae; as the heavy rains seep inside the building through old cracks and creeks; as the blowing wind carries pollens to its walls giving rise to life in this lifeless building; something attracts me towards it more and more. The world moves in its own fast pace beside the Black Horse Inn, but somehow I feel that time has stopped for this building. The atmosphere around it carries a feeling of unspoken sadness, it is almost as if, it wants to say something, one only needs to have the ears to listen.
Interestingly, during my research into this building, I found out that the inn was not always so desolate. Once upon a time, it was the centre of all the buzz and happening things in Chapel Street. It was a fully functioning inn with music, piano players, singers, laughter and cheers. The interior of the inn was filled with the aroma of ales and drinks. People from all backgrounds used to come here to quench their thirst amidst entertainment. It was full of life, noise, aroma and people. Then what drove such a flourishing inn to its ruins ? To know about its contemporary condition, it is mandatory to go back to its history, because it is only in the pages of the past that the conditions of the future rests in.
The Black Horse Inn was built opposite the erstwhile Manchester Race course. Interestingly, today the race course does not exist at all. Just beside the inn is the Crescent pub, the happening place for all the youngsters. Opposite the inn lies the Peel Park, on the other side of the Street. The University of Salford (Peel Park Campus) is just a two-minutes walk from the site. No specific date of its opening has been traced yet. Different websites and blogs state different opening dates. While one website traces its origins to the year 1739, another one traces it to almost a hundred years later in 1875.
If you look closely at the design of the pub (whatever is left), you would find sculptures of horses and designs which have an equine imprint . The inn was said to have a parlour, two refreshment rooms, a billiards room, a drawing-room, a vault and a bar. From the outer structure of the building it can be understood that there were more than one rooms inside, but what were these rooms, how they looked and most importantly what would one find inside it today can only be imagined.
The pub has been credited to have started the local paper in 1915. This paper usually had local news and news of the Great Wars. This pub was not devoid of controversies as well. It was said that the licence of the pub was at stake when the landlord found out that it employed piano players without proper identity checks and licenses. Nevertheless, the pub fought bravely against it and held its ground till the 2000’s. No one can actually highlight why the pub was shut down and unfortunately there is no one whom I could go and ask for more information. Most people today, have just accepted it as a desolate building standing on the edge of a street. But I think it is far from desolate. The walls of the building has numerous stories hidden inside it and would love to tell, if only it could speak.
Today, it is a Grade -A listed building, conserved as part of the heritage of Salford, Manchester. Time and again, there have been proposals to demolish the building to make way for modern housing apartments, but each time the building has been saved from being mowed down. It is almost as if there is still life inside it, which wants to live and fight for its existence; fight for making its identity amidst the modern environment.
To conclude, I leave you with some photographs of the building (Even of the interiors, which I managed to find out after extensive research)