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Thursday, 5 January 2012

#043 Wheatsheaf Hotel, Stoke-on-Trent : 2002 to 2011

When we set off on our Summer canal trip in 2002 we had no plans to visit Stoke. Chester was our original destination, but a 'blown' lock gate meant that we had to quickly make other plans half way there along the Shropshire Union Canal. We decided to revisit Leek on the Caldon Canal and so on Friday 13th September 2002 we moored up at Etruria Junction ready for a night out in Stoke!

The Wheatsheaf Hotel was our last pub of the night and we discovered it completely by accident as we were heading back to the boat.
This photo was taken close to closing time following several pints and a Chinese meal. I remember it being packed and vibrant when we arrived, just in time to get a final pint for the night. It was a very friendly place and the bar we were in was full of Laurel & Hardy memorabilia. We weren't there long enough to discover why, but I'd guess that the owner was a member of the Sons of the Desert, the official Laurel & Hardy fan club, which I ran into once in Birmingham at a convention.

On our latest canal trip we moored at Etruria Junction on our way back from Leek on Friday 2nd September 2011. Over the past few years, Stoke seems to have been largely demolished and the bits that have been rebuilt are retail parks interspersed with vast areas of nothing. 

We set off for Hanley with no clear idea of which way to go to find some pubs along the way and after several detours (and the false dawn of a couple of boarded up pubs) we redicsovered the Wheatsheaf Hotel.
From the outside little appears to have changed, but it is difficult to tell as it was dark last time we were there. Inside it was very quiet with a handful of people watching England playing in a Euro 2012 qualifier. At first we weren't sure it was the same place, but then we saw a couple of pieces of Laurel & Hardy memorabilia. The locals were just as friendly as last time we visited, but it seemed as though the pub was in decline along with the surrounding area. Sadly, Stoke has a higher rate of unemployment than much of the rest of the UK and this showed in the surroundings of general decay.

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