Memories of judo club above pub
Dear Sir, — The Bears Head, which stood at the top of Market Street and High Street, Congleton, was an Accrington brick building and had a Romanesque archway at the front that was probably used for the horse drawn coaches bringing patrons in to have some liquid refreshments.
The name Sammy Burgess rings a bell, but I could be wrong. I definitely know that Stan Hancock ran it for many years before moving to The White Lion. What a charismatic gentleman he was.
At the rear of the pub was a huge yard with pig sties at the bottom. I often wonder if that yard was where the bear baiting took place many years ago; it was certainly big enough.
The Bears Head was such a busy pub that early, every morning Gerald would clear out all the empty bottles from the bar area and drain all the bottles into a glass which would, eventually fill a pint pot. That was his kick start to the day. After collecting his few shillings and the overspill from the drip trays, he was all set.
When Stan took the pub over he put round tables and colourful umbrellas advertising beer and Martini in the courtyard which gave the pub a very continental look. Stan was definitely ahead of his time. Congleton wasn’t ready for that yet, as jet travel to Spain was unheard of.
At the rear end of the courtyard, there was a small door with an entrance that went up a flight of rickety stairs. At the top of the stairs there was a fairly large room which must have been, at one time used for guests or servants. It certainly wasn’t open to the public.
The Chronicle had an advert stating that there was a judo club starting at the Bears Head under the instruction of a tenth dan black belt instructor. Five shillings to enrol and one shilling and sixpence for each two hour lesson.
Ken Hunt was the instructor and he was a professional. He had a few other colleagues with him, brown belts, orange belts and many assistants who were well experienced in the art of judo. The mats were made of a tightly stretched canvas over a thick layer of compacted sawdust or shavings that were kept into place with a surround of wood. It was great, and quite spongy.
Break falls: throw your legs in the air and land on your back while slapping your arm as hard as you could on the spongy mat. Most people just bent at the knees and collapsed backwards in a heap and banged their hand to make an effective noise. That was a very good elimination process, you have to learn to take the bumpy bits as well.
Hip throw, hip on seoni-nage, tai-otoshi and many more were the progressive throw stages of judo. Judo clubs were taking off all over, and then the tournaments began from local towns.
Sundays after church, a tournament would take place between two clubs and a randori would begin.
Bowing with respect the two opponents would grab each other by the cuff and elbow and battle it out. The winner would be judged by the adjudicator. Bowing with respect the two opponents would leave the holy mat.
Downstairs in the “tap room” of The Bears Head pub, the local yokels were complaining that their beer had white bits floating on the top, which eventually sunk to the bottom of the glass.
It seemed that the thundering pounding of bodies doing break falls on the upper floor was causing all the ancient dust and sawdust in the floorboards of the pub ceiling to be dislodged from all the nooks and crannies, allowing everyone in the bar to enjoy some of the ancient history of the Bears Head. — Yours faithfully,