Ahh, ye olde English tavern. Was there ever a better place to be in, night or day? We are graced with many a grand establishment in Bristol, many that have stood strong for hundreds of years.

We've spent A LOT of time in Bristol pubs and restaurants, so thought it high time to pay a proper tribute to some of the oldest and dearest. We sent Charlie Harding to delve down into the depths of Bristol's boozing past, and with a little help from the guys at Bristol Archives, we managed to source some crackin' photos. 

So quench your thirst for knowledge aplenty, and delve into former times spent by wenches who bismirched themselves in the same watering holes. 

Llandoger Trow

The Llandoger Trow, named after the local village that built flat-bottom boats, is one of Bristol's famous historical pubs. Built in the 1600s, the building was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War and is said to have been the location that inspired characters in both Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. Its iconic black and white frontage, death-defying steps to the front door and copious amounts of outside seating make it a popular pub to this day. Look out for the child ghost with the leg braces that is said to haunt the rooms upstairs.

The Hatchet Inn

The Hatchet Inn is allegedly the oldest pub Bristol, and has heaps of history to back up that claim. Having held a licence since 1606, the building played host to a range of blood sports including bare knuckle boxing (a homage to which can be seen on the wall of the pub from the garden), dog fighting, cock fighting and a rat pit. Not wanting to end the murky past there, the walls and front door are said to be lined with human skin and then covered with wood and plaster. The building was also, allegedly, a brothel in the past and is (of course) haunted.

Seven Stars

The Seven Stars has been serving the public since the 1600s, and has links to the abolition of slavery. In late 1787, the Quaker anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson visited The Seven Stars pub and, with the help of the landlord Thomas Clarkson, reported the terrible conditions both sailors and slaves were being subjected to. It also became a meeting point for activists fighting the trade.

The Grain Barge

Before upcycling was trendy, the Grain Barge started its life in 1936 as an engineless barge being towed to and from Cardiff, laden with barley and wheat. Bought and refitted in 2007 with as much reclaimed material as possible, this Bristol Beer Factory pub boasts three levels and one of the best riverside views in the city.

The Ostrich Inn

The Ostrich was built around 1745, and was one of the many harbourside pubs frequented by sailors, merchants and dockside workers during the slave trade era. One of its walls has been partly knocked down so that part of the caves under Redcliffe are visible - well worth a visit to see. With outside seating that stretches to the edge of the harbour, you can get a sense of how the place looked nearly 300 years ago.

The Corn Exchange

The Exchange was initially built and finished 1743, and was used by merchants to do business. The building still boasts some of the original plaster work. Although no longer a pub, it used to sport a coffee house and tavern, and back in the 60's was a concert venue that hosted the likes of The Yard Birds and The Rolling Stones. Look for the four bronze tables outside, installed to provide a location for business matters. The tables were designed with a lip so coins wouldn't roll away. The oldest table hasn't been dated, but experts think it was installed in the 1500s - with the last table installed in 1631.

The Drawbridge

Above the clock outside The Drawbridge pub is a copy of a figurehead, originally featured on the front of a Victorian paddle steamer called The Demerara. The figurehead features a man wearing a feather headdress, skirt, spear and holding a still unidentified plant. After it's first home was demolished, the figurehead changed hands a few times, and was recovered in the 1940s, but was sadly too decayed to save. The unidentified plant, however, did the rounds for a few years until it was bought for the price of a pint in the 1940s, and eventually donated to the Bristol Museum.

Hole in the Wall Pub

Although you would be forgiven for thinking this seemingly modern building wasn’t particularly historical, The Hole in the Wall was incredibly popular with sailors throughout the 18th century. The pub, originally called The Coach and Horses, became known as The Hole in the Wall due to the spy hole that was located on the side of the building. Sadly, I struggled to find out if you could still find the spy hole but I am sure people would be happy to help you look for it as long as you phrase yourself properly. 

The Stag and Hounds

Built originally as a house, this building was converted into a pub in the 18th century. It looks pretty out of place on the corner of Old Market, and this is due to the dual carriageway and underpass that was built alongside.To the rear of the pub there is a well, and hand-pump that still works to this day - one of a kind in Bristol. Sadly the buiilding has been sold on but we hope it stays as it is for as long as possible. 

Hotel Du Vin

Built in the 1700s as a sugar refinery, Hotel Du Vin at Lewins Mead has come a long way from its industrial start. When the factory was in full, operation it provided what was considered to be a luxury item at the time to the UK. The historical walking tour, Eat Walk Talk Bristol, starts its route here. The walk is a great way to see some of the more interesting buildings housing bars and pubs across the city.

Published -18th September 2017