A blood-curdling history of Bolton’s oldest pub Ye Olde Man and Scythe

This Bolton pub's gruesome history has seen customers flee screaming in fear, murdered soldiers and civilians lain in pools of blood at its door.

Georgina Pellant Georgina Pellant - 2nd July 2021

It’s the 19th Century, and a woman sits alone in Bolton’s oldest pub Ye Old Man and Scythe having a quiet drink in the snug.

Suddenly she looks down, terrified, to see her hands and other parts of her body mysteriously streaming with blood. Fleeing in fear, later she discovers that she hasn’t got a single scratch on her. Not one.

This is just one of many blood-curdling tales to come out of Britain’s fourth-oldest pub, which today sits rather innocently in the town centre, looking the picture-perfect idyll of old-world country drinking.

Inside, it’s a different story. Indeed, time appears to have stopped here – or rather it remains very fluid for the estimated 53 different spirits that haunt the pub to this day.

Ye Olde Man and Scythe / Image: Robert Wade

From a 17th century Earl beheaded by Royalists directly outside (in a chair that is still there now), to a little girl called Jenny that’s known to pinch guests and pull on ladies skirts, the old pub is not short of ghoulish regulars.


Broken glass and moving furniture is a regular occurrence here and, according to landlord Richard Greenwood, ghostly activity happens on an almost daily occurrence.

He even says that none of his female staff will enter the cellar any more because, apparently, when they do they are touched by the spirit of a young boy – although there are also stories of a young woman hanging herself down there many years ago.


The old pub’s history can be traced back to 1251 and includes hundreds if not thousands of slaughtered townsfolk and.a brutal massacre that once saw blood running through the streets outside its doors.

The ancient building is said to be home to a huge range of spirits – including a ghost dog that’s known to lick the live-in manager’s feet when he lets them hang out of bed in the middle of the night.

Apparently, sometimes he’s woken up by his wet feet – but other nights, he stirs only to see the dog peacefully sleeping at the foot of his bed.

A handful of patrons stand in the front of the Olde Man and Scythe pub in Bolton

Its murderous past dates back to the English civil war and the storming of Bolton, which saw the town seized by Royalist forces in 1644.

In the spine-chilling battle that ensued to defend the town, around 1,600 soldiers and civilians were mercilessly slaughtered and left to lay in pools of blood outside the front of the Old Man and Scythe, or Cider ‘Ouse as it is often known today.

As if that wasn’t enough, the pub was then the scene of another gruesome murder just seven years later when James Stanley, the seventh Earl of Derby, was dragged from its bar and beheaded outside after a few hours of drinking.

A still from the pub’s CCTV footage shows a hooded figure standing behind the bar / Image: The Old Man and Scythe.

In truth, the more we discover the more things just get stranger and stranger.

The Olde Man and Scythe made headlines first ini 2014 after CCTV captured a hooded figure emerging from the bar, surrounded by flickering lights before everything cuts out.


Two years later, it hit the headlines again when The Earl, whose spirit is said to haunt the old pub today, was allegedly “stolen” by Chinese artist Lu Pinguyan in 2016 – leading to international attention from the world’s media.

Artist Lu Pinguyan claimed at the time the ‘burglary’ was “an act of protest against England’s colonialist past”, leading the landlord to write and demand the late Earl’s safe return.

People stand outside the Old Man and Scythe in a black and white photograph

Suffice to say, then, this has to be one of the weirdest buildings in Greater Manchester. Not that stops locals in Bolton from popping in for a drink today.

From the outside its all black and white wooden beams, but step inside and you’ll find leaded windows and stone floors that date back to the early 20th-century.

Sitting near the Parish Church on the historic Churchgate, today it retains a cosy snug and a separate drinking room that in times past was often used for folk sessions and open mic nights.


On the back wall you’ll find a painted mural of the much-missed former landlord, John Jewitt, and outside there’s a small enclosed courtyard that doubles as a smoking area.

With adventurous ales provided by Enterprise Inns and topped up with brews local brewery Bank Top, there’s some good beers to be found on tap here – promising a pleasant afternoon of drinking if you can overlook their more spooky clientele.

Why not pop in for a pint on the weekend and see if you can spot any ghostly spirits for yourself. We double dare you.

Feature image – Rept0n1x.