WESTGATE, Bradford’s ancient ‘way to the west’ was once full of pubs from its junction with Ivegate and Kirkgate to White Abbey Road and Lumb Lane.

Many old inns went in the 19th century with redevelopment and the widening of Westgate on its western side just before 1900. Still more have gone in the years since. One of those older inns was the Druids Arms, pictured here some time after 1902, after some adjoining property had been demolished for the widening of John Street.

I looked at the deeds to the former pub, courtesy of the then Bass North, back in the late 1980s. They showed that it had formerly been a private house, converted to an inn and occupied on his death, in 1829, by James Forrest, one of an innkeeping family in the town. It was a common enough pub name from their use as meeting places by friendly societies, established by working men to protect themselves in times of illness and unemployment, and their families on their deaths.

The landlord would act as the banker. Hence also pubs called the Oddfellows or Foresters. The Ancient Druids held their annual festival and dinners at the pub in the mid-19th century. In those days the pub seems to have been much in demand for such occasions.

In 1857, the Bradford District Loyal Orangemen met there and, similarly, in 1876 the Bradford Police Cricket Club held its annual dinner there, with the chief constable taking the chair. It also had a concert room, which developed into a music hall, reported in the local paper, for example, in 1883, with its new ‘garish’ front, probably the one in the photograph.

I was too young ever to have drunk there but my dad once remembered for me another interesting association. It was with wrestling. Dad said the pub was popular with the wrestlers who performed at the Olympia on Thornton Road. He recalled Black Butcher Johnson, Rough House Baker and Abdul the Wicked, who used to roll out a piece of carpet and say his prayers before a bout. In the local paper I also came across a 1935 advert for Reggie Meen, the former Great Britain heavy weight boxing champion, Astros, ‘the old Bradford favourite’ and Chick Rolfe ‘the Dillinger of all-in wrestling’.

I could understand something of the sport’s attraction when I saw Adrian Street and ‘Bad Boy’ Bobby Barnes at St George’s Hall. Street was not a sight one could forget. Marc Bolan once said he modelled his style on Street, who died in July of this year, one of his memories being severely beating Jimmy Savile, like him a former miner, in a wrestling match.

I digress. The Druids Arms had been acquired by Hammond’s Bradford Brewery in 1891 as part of its purchase of the former Peel Park Brewery estate. The by then Charrington United Breweries developed the whole Westgate/John Street site in the mid-1960s. Their other pub here, the Pack Horse, was rebuilt, but the Druids Arms was closed in 1966, demolished and replaced by shops.

* Dr Paul Jennings is author of The Local: A History of the English Pub (new revised third edition), Bradford Pubs and Working-Class Lives in Edwardian Harrogate. Available at Waterstones, WH Smith and online.