Topless barmaids and coffin tables? Unravelling the infamous Tommy Ducks pub

Amidst the bustling streets of Manchester, nestled in a row of quaint 18th-century cottages, stood Tommy Ducks, a pub that oozed historical charm.

There used to a pub just a stone’s throw away which succumbed to the pressure of development.

It was one of Manchester’s most-loved pubs and though it’s nearly 20 years since its demise, people still talk fondly about it today.

The pub was said to sell more than 100 whiskeys, and bizarrely for the time, a vegan menu too. Forward-thinking?

Tommy Ducks was housed in a row of small cottages dating probably from the 18th century.

It was famous for the ladies’ undergarments that adorned the ceiling of the interior. I remember them well, and the jolly atmosphere inside.

It was pure Manc.

Tommy Ducks survived into the nineties but it was in the middle of a prime city centre location.

Despite a campaign to save it, it disappeared.

It was there one day and gone the next – literally.

Why couldn’t it have been incorporated into the hotel, like Lark Hill Place in the Museum of Salford?

Irish pubs have been installed in hotels and airports all over the world.

Most architects of today would find the idea abhorrent, but I’m sure the Manchester pub ‘preserved in aspic’ inside a hotel would have been a big tourist attraction.

The history of the Tommy Ducks pub

Tommy Ducks found its home within a row of quaint 18th-century cottages, becoming a cherished landmark in Manchester.

Adorned with a unique collection of ladies’ undergarments suspended from the ceiling, the pub exuded authentic Mancunian charm, creating a jolly and welcoming ambience that patrons cherished.

An Enigmatic Origin

Unravelling the pub’s true origins has proven challenging.

While some believe it existed as early as the mid-19th century, concrete evidence remains elusive.

A map from 1819 hints at the presence of a public house in the vicinity, potentially linked to Tommy Ducks.

However, conclusive historical records are scarce, leaving room for intrigue and speculation.

The Quirky Name

Legends swirl around the origins of the pub’s name, attributed to a sign painter’s mishap.

According to one story, the landlord sought to rename the establishment after himself, Thomas Duckworth.

The painter’s alleged blunder led to the serendipitous moniker “Tommy Ducks.” Although this tale adds charm to the pub’s lore, its veracity remains uncertain.

Catering to ‘diverse’ tastes

Tommy Ducks’ colourful history includes intriguing elements like tables fashioned from glass-topped coffins and ladies’ knickers playfully adorning the interior.

These unique quirks became an integral part of the pub’s identity, prompting lively discussions and adding to its enigmatic allure.

Legacy of Controversy

The pub’s unconventional practices were not without controversy.

The knickers hanging from the ceiling became a point of contention, prompting an attempted “raid” by local feminists.

The episode further fuelled the legends surrounding Tommy Ducks, cementing its status as a pub like no other.

The 70s: A Decade of Transformation

The 1970s brought both transformation and legendary status to Tommy Ducks.

As surrounding buildings faced demolition, the pub emerged as a beacon of vibrancy amidst a dreary landscape.

Rumours of topless barmaids and the use of actual coffins as tables circulated, capturing the imagination and fuelling its popularity

Farewell to an Icon

The 1990s marked the beginning of the end for Tommy Ducks. Despite efforts to preserve the pub, fate had a different plan.

‪Demolished the night its preservation order ran out, Tommy Ducks was gone by February 13, 1993 and in its place now stands a Premier Inn hotel.

The aftermath left a void in the city’s heart, symbolising the delicate balance between progress and heritage.

The Legacy of Tommy Ducks

Although Tommy Ducks has vanished physically, its spirit endures in the cherished memories of those who frequented its hallowed walls.

The tales of its quirky past continue to captivate new generations, and the void it left behind serves as a reminder of the transient nature of historical landmarks in an ever-changing world.

Tommy Ducks, a legendary Manchester pub, has etched its enigmatic legacy in the city’s history.

Amidst tales of eccentric decor, quirky practices, and untimely demise, the pub’s essence lives on as a treasured part of Manchester’s cultural fabric.

As the city evolves, the story of Tommy Ducks serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of preserving and cherishing our heritage, lest we lose the essence of what once made us truly unique.

What are your memories of the Tommy Ducks pub?

Let us know! [email protected]

All photos credit Manchester Libraries

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