A sad loss to the fabric of Bury’s drinking culture was the recent closure and sale of the Dusty Miller on Crostons Road. On the face of it, this is just another out of town boozer that has become a victim of changing times and tides. However, the Dusty’s contribution to local beer history is far greater than at first it might appear. Even though it dates from 1834 it was not historically significant, although its 3-room layout was somewhat unusual and the split room serving bar is becoming a rarity. No, the importance of the Dusty lies in the history woven through its brickwork: of its customers and its one time role as an important destination pub for real ale seekers.
An impressive list of Bury’s most well-known characters have propped up and, in some case, fallen over its bar stools over the years. Indeed Eddie, the once eager legal beagle, and his faithful sidekick Trumpet Dave were weaned on the pumps there. And Eddie’s own esteemed father, the Oberst, has put in many years’ faithful service in there as well. Not to mention CAMRA legend, Stuart the Glass. At a time when beer choice was very limited, its acquisition by Moorhouses offered a unique alternative to other offerings in the town. Its progress was steady, as was the norm in the old school of pub management.
However, the Dusty was always balanced on something of a cliff edge. The surrounding area was never gentrified and in its heyday relied on light industry to supply its customers. When that declined, the pubs remained something of an anachronism, full of strip acts and hardy drunks. The Dusty was tame compared to the likes of the Blue Bell that had to have reinforced glass to cope with all the damage wrought but, having been banned from his chosen local, you would come across the odd headcase in there. When it was run as a tight ship, it was never a real problem and you got used to hearing some interesting conversations about the merits of Moroccan Black.
The reinvigoration of Bury town centre, the general decline of corner street pubs and changes in personal further weakened the Dusty’s position. I reported back in 2012 how it had been given an unexpected lift with Britain’s self-proclaimed most controversial landlord, Nick Hogan, taking the helm. I said I was expecting fireworks, but sadly his reign proved more of a damp squib. It’s fair to say than from his disastrous so-called celebrity opening night (more people were interested in chatting to the Oberst than the alleged celebrity) to his ill-judged remodel along the lines of an American diner, it was pretty much a plunge to the bottom. As the last man standing, it had a window of opportunity to cash in on that status but, with the locals leaving in droves, the clock was ticking down.
In many ways the fate of the Dusty is symbolic of a familiar picture: a victim of changing times and bad management. But for its ex-regulars its closing is far more significant and marks the end of an era. For it wasn’t just another local, it was THEIR local.