THE brewery which owns Bolton’s oldest pub has pledged not to “change its character” when it reopens.

Staff at the Ye Old Man and Scythe in Churchgate were shocked to find the Churchgate pub — thought to be one the fourth oldest in England — with its doors locked when they turned up for work on Monday.

Signs were placed in the windows telling regulars it was closed and staff claimed they were told by text message that they had lost their jobs.

The pub’s freehold owners Enterprise Inns say that the closure is temporary and they are “hopeful” that it will open again soon.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: “Enterprise Inns is very hopeful it’s going to be reopened in the near future.

“They don’t want to change anything and want to get it opened as soon as they can.

“They don’t want to change the pub’s character.”

The pub has a rich history and its first recorded mention was in 1251, making it one of the UK’s oldest public houses and the oldest in Bolton. It was rebuilt in 1636 and is a Grade II listed building.

In 1651 the Earl of Derby had a last drink and meal in the pub before being beheaded outside for his part in the Bolton Massacre during the English Civil War.

John Jewitt was the landlord until he tragically drowned while on holiday in Lanzarote.

Since then his widow, Jaycee, has been running the pub. Brian Tetlow, chairman of Bolton and District Civic Trust, said: “Because it’s unique it should be respected and accepted as a pub of special character.

“Its character should be retained at all costs.”

The pub employed seven staff.

Mrs Jewitt was unavailable for comment yesterday.