Nostalgia: The Royal Oak led way by bringing the comedy club format into Chorley
The Royal Oak in Chorley has seen many changes and good times in its heyday.
But as it faces imminent demolition to make way for the redevelopment of Market Walk, former landlords Steve Taylor and Andy Stirling share their memories with the Guardian.
Steve, 60, was landlord from 1981 to 1989 with his then wife Kim, and was responsible for starting up one of the first comedy clubs outside London.
He says: “In the 1980s, no comedy clubs existed outside of London. In 1982 Chorley comedian Phil Cool came into our pub. Because I was into comedy I recognised him. He was about to make it big time and said he wanted somewhere to practice and work in his routine.
“So I started a comedy club downstairs in our cellar called Laughing Gas Comedy. We had this idea that every other Monday night there would be a guest comedian and anyone else who wanted to try out their material.
“It took a while to get going. Some nights we had 20 people in and other nights it was full. It depending on who the guest artist was.
“Then I went to London and brought some acts from there, such as Jo Brand, Jeremy Hardy, from Radio Four, Arnold Brown from the Comedy Store in London, Phil Cornwell from Stella Street, Felix Dexter, who was one of the first comedians on the circuit and Jenny Eclair.
“It was very relaxed and not as clinical as some comedy clubs.”
Steve, who now lives in Ramsbottom, adds the building had altered whilst he was in charge, as it was split in two.
He says: “It was a massive hotel with four separate bars which had different prices.
“The Tap Room was cheap, the Lounge was busy at weekends, we had an American bar which was very posh and upstairs was the banqueting suite which was used for weddings, dinners and meetings, holding around 200 people.
“But by 1982 it was cut in half and the other half was sold off to officers and a snooker hall. But even with the new split, it was a big pub.”
Steve, a father-of-one, left in 1989 as he got offered an opportunity to take over new entertainment at a Whitbread pub.
He adds: “The Royal Oak was such a wonderful pub. I would have stayed had I not got a job offer I could not refuse. Kim and I split up shortly after we left but we worked really well together at The Royal Oak.
“I was very happy there. All the staff wanted to be there and there was a real family atmosphere.”
Andy, 60, of Coppull, took over the pub from Steve in 1989 after working there for several years and renamed it Tut ‘n’ Shive.
He also turned the former cellar comedy club into a nightclub, called Abyss.
He says: “Back then Chorley was a busy town centre as it was the place to be.
“I changed the pub to Tut ‘n’ Shive named after the parts of the real ale barrel. We were in the days of cask ale revolution and I had 18 hand pump beers.
“I really enjoyed working there. I made some great friends and I still see them now. We were like one big family.”
Steve and Andy were offered the chance for one last walk around their favourite haunt ahead of its impending demolition.
Steve adds: “I can understand why it is being demolished as pubs are in the decline and things need to move on.
“People say it is a shame but they are not using the local pubs.”
Andy adds: “It is sad to see the old building go as it was a bit of history.”