The Imperial Vaults, 25 Stockwell Street, Glasgow.
When old crooked thatched roof dwellings and ancient tavern’s adorned Stockwell Street the Imperial Vaults first became a licensed business. Although under a different name the old howff was a thriving haunt of sailor’s and merchant’s. In the 1840s spirit dealer James Beekenridge sold claret, stouts, beer and hot ale, tea was also served at any time of the day and a large urn behind the bar stewed till closing time. Other spirit dealers had their names above the door of the old tavern like Wilson’s, Reid’s and Dunlop’s. James McCrone took over the business in 1867, he turned the tavern into a very successful concern, year after year the pennies rolled in and Mr McCrone opened a tobacconist business next door to his public house in Stockwell Street followed by another pub at 239 Stirling Road.
Mr McCrone was now residing in High John Street with his wife and family. His wife and children all worked in the pub at one time or another. When James passed away his took over the business but struggled to keep an eye on her husbands business concerns, one by one she sold them off but kept the old tavern in Stockwell Street until 1892. She sold the business to Henry J Brown.
Mr Brown a talented wine and spirit merchant completely transformed the interior of the pub, few traces of the old interior arrangement remained. A new staircase was built, leading to the fine rooms on the second flat. The bar counter and gantry arrangements were also changed, now the rich mahogany bar counter ran the full length of the premises, fifty men could now be served with plenty of elbow room. Two of the rooms upstairs were admirable adapted for the meetings of football clubs and masonic meetings. One of the rooms was more of a hall than a room.
Mr Brown’s alterations to the pub cost him a small fortune of £500, the outlay had been judiciously expended and no establishment in Stockwell Street looked tidier than the new Imperial Vaults. Mr Brown was well experienced for the conduct of such an establishment, for eleven years he was a member of the Glasgow Police Force in the Central district. His record throughout those years was impeachable, his character and friends in the right places added to him getting a certificate to sell wine and spirit. He was very familiar with the dark side of the neighbourhood which was going through massive structural changes. Henry stocked good quality liquors, beers and ales and some of the finest blends of whiskies including Bushmills and the best Edinburgh ales.
Henry J Brown was an Irishman and came to Glasgow about the time he joined the forces. Henry lived with his wife Mary and their children in a flat across the street, he still used his past training as a police officer during his time as a publican, this is probably why he lived across the streets from the pub, to keep an eye on it when he was absent or when the pub was closed, as licensed premises were always being burgled at that time. Henry sadly passed away in 1898, his wife Mary took the business. During the First World War Mary was licensee of both Stockwell Street and a pub on Gairbraid Street (Maryhill Road.) Her licence for Stockwell Street was under threat, as she appeared at the License Courts for various offences during these hard times and lost her certificate in 1919, however she got it back in 1920, the pub continued trading and stayed in the family until the late 1930s.