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100 years ago in Salford: Piano players rapped for Black Horse pub calamity

The derelict Black Horse Hotel on the Crescent, Salford is a sad sight to see, with plants growing out of the brickwork, paint flaking and the windows boarded over.

But it was once a thriving inn – so much so that heavy-handed police raided the place for providing a glimmer of joy to wartime Britons.

The pub made the local paper in August 1915 when landlord William Francis Gordon came before Salford magistrates, charged with the heinous crime of allowing piano players on his premises without a music licence.

In court, it was revealed that officers had been staking out the pub for at least three days.

Sergeant J. Ronan, the City of Salford Licencing Officer, had his eagle eyes on the pub, taking observations on regular visits – purely for research purposes – along with Police Constables Noddle and Latham.

On one of their many fact-finding missions they noted that young Ethel Cheetham was tinkling the ivories on a piano in the pub’s back room, in front of an appreciative audience of 15-20 people.

Sergeant Ronan had seen enough frivolity and decided to speak to the landlord about this most pressing of matters.

When asked the pianist’s full name he replied that he didn’t know and had only engaged her to play the piano in the evenings for ten shillings a week plus her bed and board for the past three months.

Not happy with this information the Sergeant instructed P.C. Noddle to bring the pianist to him for questioning.

Young Ethel told Ronan she only came in to play the piano voluntarily, her one big mistake, but she later cracked under the pressure.

Mr Gordon crumbled and admitted that Ethel had done so well on the piano they raised her wages by an extra five shillings a week, business had been bad and that if he had wanted to hire a male pianist he would have had to have paid him 25 shillings a week with free bed and board.

Mr Gordon was charged with permitting music on his premises without a licence and summoned to appear at Salford Magistrates Court.

In court he was asked why there was lamp outside the pub with the words ‘Music Every Night’ hanging outside, he replied that he had bought the lamp six months ago and thought nothing of it.

The prosecution advised the Magistrate, Mr Desquesnes, that he had clearly broken the law by permitting the room to be used for musical concerts and was flouting the law.

However he added that it would not be a right to waste the time of the court, adding that when a man entered the pub he would be under the impression that he was entitled to be entertained by live music.

The magistrate fined Mr Gordon ten shillings and ‘advised’ him to obtain a music licence.

Heaven forbid that the good people of Salford should be allowed to listen to live music to cheer them up when there was a war raging in France, surely anarchy would be next on the agenda if this wasn’t stamped out!

Black Horse Hotel by Keith Rheade via Flickr

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.