What the locals really think of Bury
- Credit: Alamy
Bury is seldom out of the headlines and invariably for all the right reasons. Roger Borrell and photographer Kirsty Thompson took a tour
They say Bury is not just about black pudding and that is certainly true. But it’s not a bad place to start, is it?
The Lancashire delicacy, once condemned as the work of the devil by the health police, now finds itself on a list of superfoods along with more exotic things like goji berries and acai juice. Put that in your Nutribullet and whizz it!
This is, of course, music to the ears of the lads and lasses at the Bury Black Pudding Company, where marketing manager Peter Winkler said: ‘It was a lovely bit of news to kick off 2016 and things have gone a bit crazy since then.’
Darren Beale from MuscleFood.com , which tracks culinary trends, started the ball rolling when he said: ‘Some of the foods have been on the up for a while - like avocado oil and maca root. But others, like black pudding, have been a total surprise to us.’
It’s no surprise to Peter Winkler. ‘When you look at what goes into black pudding, there is no way it couldn’t be a superfood. The blood is rich in iron along with magnesium and zinc. One pudding has 2.5 times the recommended daily iron intake. Then there are onions, which are an antioxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory, and there’s barley, a super food in itself which helps the immune system. And, contrary to popular belief, it only has 2.5 per cent fat. But you have to be careful - some Scottish brands are 50 per cent fat.’
In recent times, the company has increased its production base in the town and is turning out, on average, 40 tonnes a week. Over Christmas that increased to 60 tonnes – who would have thought the festive season was a time for so much healthy eating?
Black pudding has kept Bury in the news, but it is far from being a one story town. Readers of last month’s Lancashire Life will know that it has also been the temporary home of the world’s most famous steam train, Flying Scotsman, restored at Riley and Son engineers and running on the East Lancashire Railway line.
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And talking to locals, you discover that it also has a world class military museum, a brilliant theatre and music venue which is about to get even better, an award-winning food market, a landmark dining pub brought back from the brink and a local man who was probably responsible for starting the whole micro-brewery revolution. This really is a town that has re-invented itself after years of post-industrial decline
The great pub revival
The Clarence in Bury’s Silver Street could almost be a metaphor for the town’s fortunes. It was once much-loved but it fell into decline as part of a national chain with the roof leaking water and the fabric starting to crumble. Like the town, its revival has been remarkable and it is now regarded as one of Lancashire’s up-and-coming dining pubs with food produced by former Gary Rhodes protégé Liam Rutherford. It also has its own expanding micro-brewery.
The revival has been the vision of Lee Hollinworth and his wife, Lottie, who launched Automatic, a swish bar and café at The Met, Bury’s arts hub, about 14 years ago. They bought The Clarence from a big chain four years back when it was a run-down Victorian boozer with a less than glowing reputation.
‘We knew it was in a sorry state,’ said Lee. ‘It had been empty for a year and water was pouring in. But when we started looking closely at what needed to be done, we opened a can of worms.’
For a start, a huge concrete buttress had to be installed just to prevent the building from collapsing. But they had a clear vision for the four storey building and spent a couple of years getting it right. ‘People bought into it,’ said Lee. ‘But they also said we were mad!’
The transformation - costing around £750,000 - has been astonishing. The walls have been stripped to the red brick, original features have been restored and enhanced and it now looks like the sort of sophisticated ale house you might find in affluent Islington.
Not only is the food terrific but the micro-brewery, currently housed in the basement and lovingly tended by Craig Adams, is getting such a strong following that it’s expanding onto a new site.
‘My dad was passionate about real ale,’ said Lee. ‘He was very disappointed when my first job was working behind a cocktail bar. We started running the Bury Beer Festival five years ago and that rekindled my interest in real ale.
‘Bury has a strong tradition in brewing. Dave Porter has been building affordable micro-breweries here for many years and he has really been responsible for the boom in small scale beer production. He has made it accessible.
‘I’m incredibly fond of Bury. It has so much going for it. I’ve never known a town with so many enthusiasts for so many different things. The one thing we are not so good at is shouting about it.’
Hail fellow, well Met
When it comes to live music and theatre Bury punches well above its weight and that is largely down to The Met, a glorious old pile built by Lord Derby back in the 1850s. It helps to bring in 45,000 into the area each year.
However, even its biggest supporters would admit that a refurbishment is long overdue. Happily, that can now start next month thanks to the Arts Council, Bury Council and local benefactors who have provided the cash for £4.6 million of improvements.
The money will mean the restoration of the building’s heritage features and transform the interior to increase capacity and improve facilities for customers and performers. It will also enable The Met to attract more high profile artists and theatre productions, thanks to new and improved studio and theatre spaces, a new bar area, workshop, dressing rooms and a new and more accessible lift in the centre of the building.
David Agnew, artistic director, said the last five years had seen major growth, with development of festivals and the opening of a recording studio. But there was a dire needs for improvements and these should now be completed by November.
Victoria Robinson, The Met’s chief executive, added: ‘The council here is really forward thinking – there is a strong focus of culture. Bury has become a really good cultural destination.’
For more information go to themet.biz
Fusiliers’ storming history
As well as the East Lancashire Railway, Bury has another major attraction – the award-winning Fusiliers Museum, official home of the Lancashire Fusiliers, commemorating more than 300 years of the regiment’s history.
It’s most recent achievement was to bring together a unique collection of Victoria Cross medals won by Fusiliers. The exhibition was titled: ‘6 VCs Before Breakfast’ and it caused quite a stir among military history buffs and well as fascinated casual visitors.
Helen Smith, the museum’s general manager, said it took a year to find a missing sixth VC but the visitor figures had made the effort very worthwhile. ‘It was a massive event,’ she said. ‘We normally have 25,000 visitors a year but for this exhibition we had 12,000 in the first four weeks. People were waiting at the door for us to open.’
The exhibition, which runs until July, tells the background to the ill-fated Gallipoli landings during the First World War when the medals were earned by members of the regiment.
The next big event at the museum will be the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Researchers are working to eke out the stories of the men who fell during the battle – many of them from the Salford area. ‘There were 72,000 bodies never found and we are trying to ensure the stories of these soldiers are not forgotten’ added Helen. w
Find out more at www.fusiliermuseum.com