ACTOR Ricky Tomlinson headed back to a venue of importance in his life story to open a relaunched pub and hotel on Tuesday.

JD Wetherspoon has spent £2.63 million renovating and extending The Bull & Stirrup, on Upper Northgate Street, Chester, creating 75 new jobs.

Prior to finding fame with shows including The Royle Family, Mr Tomlinson was a strike leader. He was involved in the first national building workers’ strike for better employment rights, in 1972. 

The upstairs room at the pub was the meeting place for Mr Tomlinson and the Shrewsbury Pickets, who took part in a strike committee and helped to organise the action.

Led by Mr Tomlinson and his late friend Des Warren, the group was demanding a basic weekly pay of £30 and 35-hour working week from the National Federation of Building Trades Employers.

They also sought to abolish the 'Lump Labour Scheme', which institutionalised casual cash-paid daily labour without employment rights.

The employers rejected the demands and following subsequent strikes Mr Tomlinson and Mr Warren were imprisoned after the Government accused them of plotting to intimidate workers.

The prosecution claimed the flying pickets were “like a swarm of Apache Indians” when they swooped in Shropshire. 

A witness claimed they had chanted “Kill! Kill! Kill!”.

But Mr Tomlinson, who pulled a pint at the revamped pub’s launch, said: “We chanted ‘kill, kill, kill the lump’ but they left that bit off. We wanted to end the lump. 

“But the idea that it was violent is ridiculous. I’ve seen rougher kids’ parties.”

Mr Tomlinson is still seeking a pardon for the Shrewsbury strikers, for what campaigners believe was a miscarriage of justice.

Originally designed by W. M. Boden, the three-storey, red brick, Grade II listed building was built as a hotel in 1889, on the site of the Bull & Stirrup Inn, recorded a century earlier in 1789.

The ‘Bull’ name is believed to refer to the cattle market in Upper Northgate Street and the ‘Stirrup’ refers to the stirrup cup, presented to a person on horseback with their feet in the stirrups about to leave, as ‘one for the road’.

The hotel, which comprises of 11 rooms, is set on the first and second floor levels of the building. 

Historical photos and details of local history – plus artwork and images of local scenes and characters of the area – are displayed in the venue. 

There are also information boards relating to events, including details of Mr Tomlinson’s story.

Commissioned artwork pieces include a montage on canvas, by Cheshire artist Diana Bernice Tackley, and a rustic iron sculpture Taurus The Bull, on display in the garden, made by artisan blacksmiths at the British Ironworks Centre, Shropshire.