If you saw my last blog post you’ll know that as an interior photographer, my aim is not just to photograph a building but to tell it’s story. And in my opinion, there’s no better place to tell a good story than in the pub. Literally.
There are so many great pubs in Manchester, but they are fading fast. So in a bid to preserve these great institutions, I’m photographing and blogging about some of my favourites. Next up in my Interior Photography Pub Series: Sam’s Chophouse. Sam’s is one of Manchester's most celebrated pubs and it’s a haven for any interior photographer, whether or not they have a passion for pubs!
Situated on the junction of Back Pool Fold and Chapel Walk, Sam’s Chop House is a traditional Victorian bar and restaurant serving cask ales, fines wines and traditional British food.
Established in 1872 and originally inhabiting a basement space on Manchester’s Market Street, Sam’s was the brain child of Samuel Studd, a Fleet Street Newspaper seller who moved to the city to fulfil ambitions of being a pub landlord. Along with his brother Thomas, the two later went on to open Mr Thomas’s Chop House, which can be found situated over the road on nearby Chapel Street.
Upon returning to London for reasons unknown, Sam left his brother Thomas as the official guardian of both venues. There is little information on whether Thomas lived out the rest of his days as innkeeper to these establishments, but the buildings have remained and although the houses have changed custodial hands many times throughout the last century (29 to be exact), probably the most notable to date would be landlord Bert Knowles. Bert was landlord throughout the 1950s and he was firm friends with local artist L.S Lowry, who regularly frequented Sam’s Chop House. Knowles is said to have met Lowry at Art School and their friendship continued into adult life. Lowry is remembered by past staff members as being a warm and kind-hearted gentleman.
Sam’s closed down in 1996 and was left empty until 1999 when it was taken over. Thankfully the new owners preserved everything that makes it unique – the dark wood, Doulton tiles, copper pipes and mismatched furniture gives Sam’s an old-fashioned charm without being contrived. It’s almost like a Dickensian film set, with great beer and a sturdy British menu. Exactly the kind of space I like to photograph.
The place just oozes history. The brass plaques on its walls commemorate some of the many local societies and clubs that were formed there and Sam’s has also seen many famous patrons over the years. In 2011 to commemorate the life and works of L.S Lowry, a brass sculpture was commissioned by current pub owner Roger Ward. The sculpture was designed and created by local artist Peter Hodgkinson to mark the 35th anniversary of Lowry’s death but also to celebrate the bars most renowned customer. The life size sculpture sits in permanent residence at the bar in Sam’s Chop House and has attracted visitors from near and far who come to sit and have a pint with this local legend.