A historic pub has been the venue for countless karaoke nights, birthdays and special memories for years.

Located on Litherland Road, the Jawbone Tavern has been in the heart of the community for decades and has served thousands of customers.

Once owned by a Liverpool FC title winner, and reportedly home to ghosts, the property is said to be Bootle’s oldest pub.

Opened in 1802, the pub has survived two world wars and enormous change and is still standing today despite the challenges the coronavirus crisis has brought.

We speak to the pub’s current owner, Harry Sandle, and local historian, Steven Horton, to hear more about the pub, and about its controversial battle to serve dockers during the war years.

Liverpool FC winner turned landlord



L-R) Scot Jock McNab and local lads Walter Wadsworth (Bootle) and Tom Bromilow (Kirkdale) who played in Liverpool's first back-to-back league championship sides in the early 1920s
L-R) Scot Jock McNab and local lads Walter Wadsworth (Bootle) and Tom Bromilow (Kirkdale) who played in Liverpool’s first back-to-back league championship sides in the early 1920s

Mr Horton, who runs Liverpool Hidden History on Facebook, said was the pub was named in connection to the whaling vessels that sailed from local docks, and there was a blubber processing plant in Litherland Road.

During World War II, the pub was run by Jock McNab – a midfielder for Liverpool FC in the title winning sides of 1922 and 1923.

After his success on the pitch, Jock hung up his boots and retired to work in the pub. With accommodation above the business and a good wage coming in from the pub, it would have been a good role for him financially after his footballing career.

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Mr Sandle said: “The Merton, round the corner from us, was also seconded as a hospital for the American soldiers during the war, and a lot of the Americans used to come into the Jawbone.

“Apparently the soldiers that were in the hospital would be short of money, but they would come in for a pint and pawn their watches to Jock so they could get a drink. Apparently Jock had a safe full of American watches and he made a fortune from it, a lot of them didn’t have the money to get them back off him.

“They were all exchanged for a couple of pints.

“We heard he was a bit of a character [Jock]. He died in 1953, but before that all the Liverpool and Everton footballers would come in and see him – the likes of Dixie Dean.”

Fight to serve dockers



Two men talking as they stand in princes Dock in Central Liverpool. Behind them is the famous Royal Liver Building.
Circa 1966.
Two men talking as they stand in princes Dock in Central Liverpool. Behind them is the famous Royal Liver Building. Circa 1966.

During the war years, Jock risked his business to be able to serve his most loyal customers – the dock workers.

Because of a curfew imposed during the war, pubs had to close at 9pm, but Jock fought for his customers in front of magistrates and nearly lost his licence.

Harry said: “During the war there was a curfew at 9pm, a bit like what we saw last year, and pubs had to close by then.

“He decided to open a bit later because the dock workers would finish later on their shifts, and he used to stay open for them.”

Steven added: “In the war there was a gentleman’s agreement that pubs would close at 9pm, to help with the war efforts. I think it was to get people home, not drunk, and for them to be ready to be up and productive the next day.

“The landlord was keeping it open later and he said in front of the magistrates people should be allowed a drink. Ultimately speaking, the dockers were working all sorts of hours and he was essentially saying they should be allowed one drink after finishing their shifts.

“He does seem to be quite a character in the locality.”

He added: “It got him nowhere though, and he was allowed to keep his licence on the proviso he closed at 9pm in future.”

Ghostly sightings



Dating back to 1802, The Jawbone Tavern is located on a corner plot on Litherland Road in Bootle
Dating back to 1802, The Jawbone Tavern is located on a corner plot on Litherland Road in Bootle

As well as being seeped in wartime history, the Jawbone Tavern is also one of Merseyside’s most haunted pubs.

Harry said: “As far as I know it was Lord Derby’s hunting lodges, it had a well inside of it. There was a lake underneath this area and they used to bring up fresh water from the well.

“Reportedly, the pub has been haunted for many years, and someone fell through the well and died. There’s a number of different hauntings, I’ve been here since 1987 so I’m probably one of the longest landlords round here.

“Over the years there’s been lots of things. I’ve seen things move inexplicably, curtains drawn, people have seen or heard lots of things. There have also been reports of pianos playing upstairs when there’s no piano.

“But it’s only the living that can harm you, the dead can’t harm you.”

The pub is believed to be the oldest in Bootle and Harry said it will still be there for customers following lockdown.

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