This week we look at The Ark, the pub situated at the bottom of Station Road in Winsford, although the correct address is in Market Place.

The old Winsford Market Place is now part of the Town Bridge roundabout. This area has been massively transformed over the years but retains its Market Place address.

The pub was opened in 1850, and the first licensee was Amelia Curzon. Like buildings in Northwich, the Ark was built using wood panelling rather than plaster.

The reason for this was that in the event of subsidence, plaster would not fall onto the customers, and wooden beams would support the bricks.

In its early days, the Ark was called Noah’s Ark and joined another six pubs in this small area.

They were the Red Lion, the Royal Oak - now The Hive - and three terraced pubs called The Flatman’s Cabin, the Ship, and the Swan.

Northwich Guardian: The old Market PlaceThe old Market Place (Image: Paul Hurley)

Next to the Ark was a pub called the Coach and Horses; this last pub was situated where the bookies now stand and was opened in 1869 and demolished like many Winsford pubs in 1907.

Across the road was the Market Hall, and at the turn of the last century, this area was the thriving centre of Winsford (ignoring the purists who say the Red Lion is the only pub in Winsford as all the others are in Wharton or Over)!

Winsford market would take place on both sides of the road, and under the large town hall, several shops were situated, and they would compete with the market for custom.

When evening cast its shadows, the shops would close, the market would slowly disappear, and respectable ladies would make their way home. For the Market Place was no place for the genteel ladies of old Winsford town!

Northwich Guardian: The Ark in 1892The Ark in 1892 (Image: Paul Hurley)

The gas lights would hiss and shed their flickering light over the York stone, and red brick and the area would become the centre of night-time entertainment, Winsford’s 'Red Light District'.

From the doors of the Ark and the other pubs and beer houses, the sound of singing and laughter could be heard as the sailors, better known as Flatmen, mixed with salt workers and other men from the town, making the area a magnet for 'ladies of the night'.

What money these lowly paid men earned was spent on beer, porter, and perhaps the shallow treats offered by the painted ladies!

Northwich Guardian: Winsford Market Hall also known as The Strand and Mr Smith'sWinsford Market Hall also known as The Strand and Mr Smith's (Image: Paul Hurley)

As the years passed, the Market Hall became a cinema, a dance hall called The Strand, and later still a nightclub called Mr Smith's, which was ably managed by Jack Whittick and his three-legged dog!

It was famous in the 1960s and early 1970s for soggy carpets, strippers, and sausage or chicken in a basket brought down from the ‘Bake and Take’ in Dene Drive and handed over at the cash desk. Drinks could then be legally served until 2am.

The presence of the Mr Smith's club ensured that risqué entertainment continued in the area until the extensive demolition in the early 1970s.

This lively area was turned into a bleak and soulless road, part of the roundabout that was part of the Town Bridge redevelopment.

Northwich Guardian: The Ark in 2000The Ark in 2000 (Image: Paul Hurley)

During all this time, the Ark sat in the middle of this bustling scene catering to a cross-section of customers who would go from pub to pub in the small stretch of road.

Later it became one of the three remaining pubs where revellers could buy cheaper beer until closing time when the pubs would shut, and then queues would form across the road at Mr Smith's.

The Ark was always a Greenalls establishment and has had many different licensees over the year.

The owners, now, are Red Oak Taverns, and The Ark is currently up for tenancy or rent.