The early years.
The Shoulder of Mutton was built in 1751 and has been an important part of village life for several hundred years.
In the early years the pub had a disorderly reputation and was associated with cockfighting- one of Holcombe’s sporting traditions. Officially the sport was stopped in 1859, but it is believed that it continued until the 1930s.
The Shoulder also housed the Old Holcombe Game Fowl Show, an annual exhibition of game fowl organised by the Holcombe Old English Game Fowl Club, started in 1843.
The Shoulder also hosted the New Year’s Day Meet of Hunt, an annual event taking place in Ramsbottom.
The origin of our name.
In addition, the annual Holcombe Wakes grew out of the tradition of celebrating the saint’s day of the local church, in Holcombe celebrated with a rush-bearing ceremony- it was known to be a riotous affair attracting people form the wider area and lasted for a few days.
Races, tupping, bull-baiting and cockfighting were all part of the programme, as was the retrieval of a shoulder of mutton placed at the top of a greasy pole (the origins of the pub’s name).
In addition there was plenty of drinking and carousing, which apparently resulted in a regular spike in the village birth rate, and it concluded with the Holcombe Row – a recognised opportunity to settle old scores from the previous year, which generally developed into mass mayhem.
Sir Robert Peel.
Following the death in 1850 of Sir Robert Peel whose family had long been associated with the area, in 1851-2 the Peel Monument was erected on Holcombe Hill to commemorate the local man who had become Prime Minister and would forever be associated with the founding of the police force and the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.
An excerpt from his speech to parliament in 1846 is inscribed within the 128 ft high tower, which constitutes an important local landmark.
The Second World War.
The village was barely touched by the two world wars, despite a Zeppelin dropping bombs on the village during the First World War; the only casualty was a thrush (from the bomb dropped near the school, which is now preserved in the school) and the only physical damage was to the church clock.
Apparently the safest place to shelter was thought to be the cellars of the Shoulder of Mutton. Shrapnel damage can still be seen on the exterior on the pub today.