The strange tale of a lost Salford pub and a booze loving pig they buried in the garden

-Credit: (Image: Salford Museum and Art Gallery)
-Credit: (Image: Salford Museum and Art Gallery)

Back in the early 1900s, The Cock Hotel on Walkden Road, Worsley, was known far and wide as the stomping ground for one of Manchester's most curious and beloved farmyard creatures. Polly the pig, famous for her love of beer, became a familiar and endearing figure to the pub's drinkers.

The mother of 200 piglets, Polly would amble around the Worsley boozer, often seen enjoying a pint from the pub's selection. Sadly, in 1904, Polly passed away at the grand age of 15, and her remains buried in the pub's grounds.

A memorial stone was erected to commemorate her life, bearing the inscription: "In memory of Polly, mother of 200 pigs - died December 23rd, 1904, aged 15 years." This headstone has intrigued locals for generations, with the legendary story of Polly being handed down through families in the area.

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Back in 2020, the Manchester Evening News spoke to local historian, Thomas McGrath, who had delved into the tale of Polly the pig with great detail. He uncovered that in 1890, Polly was bought by Alice Taylor, who at the time managed The Cock Inn.

Alice Taylor aimed to expand her collection of animals on the land surrounding The Cock Inn, and Polly proved to be quite the addition. McGrath said: "At first nothing remarkable was noticed about the pig until she started to produce frequent, large litters."

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"The smallest litter was four piglets, but over her lifetime she also had one litter of 13, one litter of 14, two litters of 12 and two litters of 16. In one year alone, there were three separate litters."

"The pig was given the name 'Polly' and she eventually became a favoured pet of Alice Taylor and her children. It was noted that Polly would answer to her name, just as a dog or horse would. Polly was also fond of a tipple, which delighted reporters and visiting patrons."

The Cock Hotel in Worsley before it was demolished
The Cock Hotel in Worsley before it was demolished -Credit:Google Street View

Polly's fame also extended beyond local notoriety, as she featured in national newspapers read across the country. On May 30, 1899, the story of Polly the beer swilling pig made the Halifax Evening Courier.

The journalist wrote: "Polly, as she is familiarly called, is quite domesticated, and will answer to her name just like a dog or horse when addressed by Mrs Taylor or other members of the family. She is fond of John Barleycorn [traditional song synonymous with drinking ale] too, and will toss off a pint of beer with as much readiness as a navvy after a hard day's work.

The Cock Hotel was first a farm and then inn in the 1600s
The Cock Hotel was first a farm and then inn in the 1600s -Credit:Salford Museum and Art Gallery

"Moreover, she will not spill a drop whilst quaffing it, and if she observes anyone connected with the farm with a jug in his or her hand, she will follow at their heels like a dog or cat round a catsmeat man [somebody who sold chopped meat on skewers to cat owners], and will sniff as if asking for a drink, presuming, of course, that the jug contains Polly's favourite tipple."

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And it wasn't just in life that Polly became famous, but also in death. In December 1904, Polly sadly had to be put down due to her age and ailments.

But a few months later, landlady Alice Taylor paid for a memorial headstone for Polly to be placed in the garden attached to The Cock Hotel. News of a headstone being erected in memory of a pig made local newspapers around the country.

Polly the pig's headstone dated December 23, 1904
Polly the pig's headstone dated December 23, 1904 -Credit:Dr Sam George

Historian Thomas McGrath, said: "By the 1880s, a pet cemetery had opened in London for the elite but the gravestone of a farm pig was so unusual that it was reported in The Daily Mirror and The Penny Illustrated Paper."

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But when The Cock Hotel, dating back to the 17th century, was demolished in 2021 to pave the way for a new three-storey, 70-bed care home - concerns were raised about the fate of Polly's final resting place. However, residents of Worsley, some lifelong and others who had moved away, united in their belief that Polly represented a 'unique part of local history' campaigned to preserve her memory.

Bridgewater Manor care home was built on the site of the Cock Hotel in Worsley
Bridgewater Manor care home was built on the site of the Cock Hotel in Worsley

Dr Sam George, Associate Professor of Research at the University of Hertfordshire and a native of Kingsway, Worsley, explained to the Manchester Evening News in 2020 why Polly's grave was such an important piece of Salford's heritage.

"I grew up round the corner, just off Walkden Road and three generations of my family have visited the grave as children and been interested in the story. My dad still lives in the same house he has been in for over 60 years, so his grandchildren and hopefully their children will know about Polly."

Sam emphasised the historical significance of the site, saying: "Polly's grave is a unique part of local history, it marks a story that has engaged generations of children in history and is now the last remaining link to the old Cock Inn and its legacy."

The campaign to preserve the local landmark was a success, with the care home company taking over the land committing to 'preserve' Polly's grave. The famous pig's headstone remains next to a plaque explaining the Polly's history near to the entrance of the care home car park.

Does this story awaken any memories for you? Let us know in the comments section below.