A PUB which witnessed the modern history of Bradford is the Shoulder of Mutton in Kirkgate, writes DR PAUL JENNINGS in the latest of his articles on old pubs in the city:

John Wilson was trading as a butcher there in the 1790s and by 1803 had also acquired a licence, appropriately as the Shoulder of Mutton. In 1825 his daughter Elizabeth rebuilt the premises as we see them today, a fact commemorated by her initials and that date over the doorway.

Like inns generally it played a vital role in economic and social life. In the first half of the 19th century, manufacturers coming to the nearby Piece Hall based themselves there and carriers departed to take goods to neighbouring towns and villages. The entrance to the yard, where there were also wool warehouses, as well the brewhouse, can be seen to the left in the photograph.

On the social front the inn had a large lodge room for the friendly societies which flourished at the time and in the 1830s the Royal Jason Lodge Number 1 of the Independent Order of the Golden Fleece met there. On their fifth anniversary in May 1837, 120 members enjoyed, according to the Bradford Observer, ‘a sumptuous dinner’ from Mrs Wilson, followed by music from the Bowling Band. It underwent several renovations in its long life. After one in 1878 it was described as a market house, offering an ‘ordinary’, a set meal, every Monday and Thursday and beds ‘reserved for commercial gentlemen’

A notable landlord in the early 20th century was Harry Benn Wood. Apprenticed as an overlooker, he moved into the wholesale stationery business before taking the Ripley Hotel in East Bowling in 1901, moving thence to the Wickham Arms, Manchester Road and finally to the Shoulder in 1914. He was a Tory councillor and sat on the Board of Guardians, which for publicans had the important relevant job of determining rateable values, and which earned him the praise of his fellows for his role in seeking ‘justice and reason’. The local trade paper, The Licensee, which reported this, also documents Harry’s wider work. He was President of the Bradford Beer, Wine and Spirit Trade Benevolent and Protection Society and of the Beer, Wine and Spirit Trade National Defence League, at a time when the pub trade was assailed by a vigorous temperance movement and government restrictions during the First World War. But by the end of the War he could report that public opinion had now swung in their favour and he rejoiced at the final failure of the prohibitionists. On his death, aged only 56 early in 1923, he was succeeded as licensee by his widow Elizabeth.

I visited the Shoulder many times over the years from the mid-1980s, from when my photo dates. The yard had become a beer garden enclosed within high walls. It had a room to the left as you went in, another small room adjoining the bar and a large room to the right of the entrance. The last time I was ever there, some years ago now, it had the kind of old-fashioned city-centre pub feel which had by then largely disappeared in Bradford.

* Dr Paul Jennings is author of The Local: A History of the English Pub and Bradford Pubs.