Pub of the week: The Palace

13 02 2013

There are not many pubs like the Palace Hotel in Old Market, or The Palace to give its latest incarnation its proper name. First of all there is the outside, built in 1869 to attract travellers from a railway station about 100 yards away in Midland Road, opened within just a few months of the Palace opening. It didn’t remain as a passenger station for very long but became a goods depot.

Then there is the inside, which for the unwary has a sloping floor, thought to have been installed in order to help hotel porters with trollies.

Palace Hotel inside

There are gold columns, gold cornices, even a gold throne on the stage area in one corner, alongside red and gold curtains, a red carpet, red ceiling, and walls in red patterned wallpaper.

Look up and there is a chandelier hanging from the high ceiling alongside no fewer than two dozen glitter balls.

The Palace reopened at the end of last year, and is not a pub for the faint-hearted. On the Sunday evening when I visited, the stereo was turned up full volume with some pop classics from Britney and Rihanna, the glitter balls doing their job.

Now a gay venue, there are Singalong Saturdays and Gameshow Saturdays, while a sign behind the bar warns: “Please do not feed the drag queen. Unless it’s vodka.”

The building in which The Palace takes up the sloping ground floor has planning permission for six flats. Fleurets are currently advertising it for sale at £400,000, but if it is sold thankfully the pub will not be affected.

The Palace

The Palace, 1-2 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0DF

Pub of the week: The Coach & Horses

23 01 2013

It’s always cause for celebration when a new pub opens or an old pub reopens. Both occasions are rare these days in Bristol and across the UK, so it’s with open arms that Old Market should welcome the reappearance of the Coach & Horses on Gloucester Lane.

On Saturday afternoon when I visited, the new locals were in boisterous mood, with one Beatles fan putting Here Comes the Sun on the jukebox three times in half an hour.

There is a rugby theme in the decor, with framed national and team shirts on the walls decorated in green flowery wallpaper that dominates the colour scheme.

A flat screen television on one bit of wall free of shirts shows live sport in a resolutely traditional pub that serves some cider straight from the barrel. Ales on tap are Butcombe and Doom Bar, while a rack behind the bar displays a selection of wines.

This isn’t the easiest pub to find, somewhat marooned halfway between West Street and Lamb Street, from where it can be spied via the graffiti on the outside.

If you’re in BS2, it’s certainly worth a detour to the reopened Coach & Horses, not least to welcome a new pub with open arms.

The Coach and Horses, Old Market

The Coach & Horses, 25 Gloucester Lane, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0DP

RIP The Seven Ways pub, Old Market

23 01 2013

The Seven Ways pub on New Street off Old Market is in its final death throes as it is ripped apart to make way for new flats. The new development on the site will, however, retain some of the external walls of the “unlisted building of merit” that dates back to 1891.

This architectural and cultural heritage assessment of the pub was carried out in 2010 and some of it makes for fascinating reading.

Take a look at plans for the pub when it opened and was called the New Swan:

New Swan plans - July 1891

The name Seven Ways is thought to originate from the convergence of seven ancient routes that once went on to Bristol, Gloucester and London.

According to the architectural study, in the olden days the municipal boundary between Bristol and Gloucestershire ran through the pub and other premises in New Street.

The Seven Ways closed eight years ago and has been empty ever since. In August 2010, it featured in this round-up of empty Bristol pubs when it looked like this:

Seven Ways - August 2010

The writers of the Avon Packet, Bristol’s definitive guide to watering holes, say that the problem for the Seven Ways is that there are just far too many pubs in this “particularly unpromising” corner of Old Market.

“It was a a shame to lose this one, though, since for a while back there it was home to Bristol’s Friendliest Landlady. And to a bloke who tried to buy @EasyMungo’s clothes. What wasn’t to like, eh? All this was, however, balanced by a permanently strange atmosphere like someone had just wandered in and stolen the television — so maybe the Seven Ways’ time had simply come. Or rather gone.”

This is what the Seven Ways looks like today:

The Seven Ways frontage held up by scaffolding

A glimpse inside

Seven Ways from behind

Channel 4’s The Fear filmed in Bristol

3 12 2012

New four-part crime drama The Fear, beginning tonight at 10pm on Channel 4, may be set among the criminal ganglands of Brighton, but much of the production was filmed in Bristol. Key scenes shot at St Mary Redcliffe, Old Market, Kings Weston House, the children’s playground on Redland Green and at various other city locations including including Napier Road in Eastville.

The Fear is the latest production to shoot in and around Bristol, following a recently screened episode of EastEnders that used a vacant council-owned shopping arcade in Keynsham for an explosive car crash scene, and the Doctor Who Christmas special, where film crews took over Corn Street and Portland Square in August for an episode which will be broadcast on BBC One on Christmas Day.

Ellie Cook, Creative England’s Production Liaison Manager for the South West, said: “We’re establishing a firm reputation in Bristol for being able to attract high quality film and television drama production. We have the skilled crew, we have the facilities and we have a terrific variety of locations, as The Fear proves.”

The Fear - Paul Nicholls, Peter Mullan and Harry Lloyd

The Old Market Quarter heritage trail

27 09 2012

The Old Market area of Bristol has the second highest number of listed buildings in Bristol. A surprise perhaps for an area of the city now more known for its seedier side than its proud history. But the proliferation of historic buildings has led to the creation of an Old Market Quarter heritage trail, which due to its popularity will soon be updated.

Produced by the Old Market Community Association, the heritage trail takes in locations including a 17th century pub where instant justice was dealt out to market day offenders at the Pie Poudre court, the house of the portrait painter to King George III and a regimental drill hall built on the site of Bristol’s last sugar refinery.

Leighton De Burca, Old Market’s own place-making director, told Gerry Brooke of The Post’s Bristol Times supplement that big things are being planned for the area which grew up below Bristol Castle, on the main road to Kingswood Forest and on to London.

“Old Market is home to a great number of specialist independent businesses, everything from bespoke tailors, beauty salons and sports retailers, as well as larger businesses such as hotels, media companies and offices.

“The Community Association has some great ideas and plans for the area, which has suffered over the years from poor urban planning.”

An exhibition at the Architecture Centre next month will feature Old Market, with work by both professional architects and community workers, and an audio loop about Dorothy Brown who has campaigned on behalf of the area for many years.

Here is a selection of the buildings on the Old Market Quarter heritage trail:

Arts West Side opens today in Old Market

31 03 2012

Arts West Side officially opens its doors today. The new Old Market venue has been redeveloped by the team from the Trinity Centre up the road with support from Bristol City Council, who have given the Trinity team a five-year lease on the building.

The opening day’s fun will include plenty of teas, coffees and cakes, and a photography exhibition by Khali Ackford

Number 6 West Street has been transformed into a new community resource, featuring a fully fitted downstairs cafe, gallery, meeting/office space and art room, which is hoped will be used for a variety of purposes from life drawing to all sorts of craft sessions.

The mural outside was painted by Bristol graffiti artists Silent Hobo and Mr Riks.

The Arts West Side project hopes to help reinvigorate the Old Market area, with the the new arts and community centre helping to increase the number of daytime visitors.

“As well as providing a community meeting point, this building will also offer opportunities for new start-up businesses and a focus for arts and other community activities,” said Anthony Negus, Bristol City Council cabinet member for housing, property services and regeneration.

“Rather than disposing of this property the council has opted to lease it out which brings a positive public benefit at no extra cost to taxpayers, helping to create stronger, more cohesive and more sustainable local communities.”

For more information, visit

Pub of the week: The Stag & Hounds

16 11 2011

Over recent years, the Stag & Hounds on Old Market has seen more changes of image than Madonna. Once hemmed in on all sides by other old shops and houses, and acting as the Pie Poudre Court to settle market disputes, the pub now stands marooned next to a rondabout and underpass.

The latest incarnation of the Stag is a metal pub from the owners of the Mothers’ Ruin, thankfully retaining the well which once delivered the water for the beer brewed here, but unfortunately no longer with the sign overlooking the road which shares the history of the fascinating Pie Poudre Court.

Hopefully this latest change to the pub will prove more successful than its last, when a short-lived Brazilian theme came to a juddering halt in a police raid where cocaine worth more than £11,000 was seized.

The Mothers’ Ruin team have been here since last month, and the Stag is looking all the better for it, although talking to two friends who work nearby elicited two gripes, the first that they serve no wine, the second that they accept no cards.

What they do have are dark corners to hide in, as well as a roof terrace, a piano by one of the doors, and a few animals including a snarling fox’s head positioned on the walls. Look out too for a gruesome giant eel if you can find it.

Over a pint of Bob, with Bombadier being the only other choice of ale, I enjoyed a lunch of sausage and mash last Thursday, trying not to be put off by the giant eel’s giant eyes or the loud metal music on the stereo.

Having once worked almost next door to the Stag for a few years, this is probably the Bristol pub that I have spent the most time in. While it’s great to see it open once more, it’s yet to return to its glory days.

The Stag & Hounds, 74 Old Market Street, Bristol.