St Werburgh’s Church

4 03 2013

The Bristol neighbourhood of St Werburgh’s is named after its parish church. But the church, now a climbing centre, was not built here on Mina Road. Rather, the fourteenth-century building was originally on Corn Street (see photo here) but removed brick by brick in 1878 when the road was widened.

St Werburgh's Church

For more facts about Bristol churches that have been destroyed or completely removed, visit

St Werburgh’s Sunday Roast Club

23 10 2012

The directions to the St Werburgh’s Sunday Roast Club were clear enough. Go through the tunnel, past the “Magic House”, through another tunnel, first on the left. Simple. Until I opened a door not into a dining room, but into what looked like somebody’s bedroom.

Rather foolishly, I had discounted the entrance to the kitchen, but through here, squeezing past two chatty chefs putting the finishing touches to the food, were the tables and chairs in a space that with its creeping foliage covering every inch of ceiling resembled a greenhouse more than a dining room.

This is Bocoso, standing for Bring Your Own, Cook Your Own, Smoke Your Own, found on a plot of land at the end of Boling Wells Lane opposite the St Werburgh’s City Farm orchards.

It is a place as curious as it is unique, with the conservatory restaurant – the nearest equivalent of which is The Ethicurean in Wrington  – alongside a kitchen, bar and even a small dance floor and stage, all owned by Pete, who sells wood burning stove heaters.

The St Werburgh’s Sunday Roast Club has made its home here in this most secluded of surrounds for the last few weeks. Run by chefs Colin Jones and George Thomson, it has immediately become my answer to that oft-asked question, where is the best Sunday lunch in Bristol?

There is not a sous vide in sight. Nor is there foam or any sort of fancy pants touches. This is just a proper old-fashioned traditional Sunday lunch done very well. Very well indeed.

My roast leg of pork with fresh herb stuffing had come from a pig reared on the City Farm. Accompanied by Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrots, mashed swede and gravy, it was one of those roasts which it was a shame to finish.

Roast beef and nut roast were the other main course options on Sunday, and I most certainly would have sampled the Moroccan orange and almond cake had my daughter not spotted all the fun happening across the road as Apple Day was being celebrated.

Our drinks came from Pete who was manning the bar next door (below), housing all sorts of curious oddities. He poured us two pints of Thatcher’s cider from the barrel, served with a dash of lemonade and a slice of lemon.

Roast lunch is £11 and children can be served half or three-quarter portions, with a different pudding each week for £3.50, and drinks not costing too much. I can’t remember exactly, as this isn’t the sort of place you get a card receipt. Pete has only had electricity here for a couple of years.

The directions that I followed to Bocoso were from Mina Road. Another set of directions from Muller Road takes you on a five-minute stroll along an overgrown path and then past some horses, sheep and geese.

Whatever directions you choose, when you find the St Werburgh’s Sunday Roast Club, it will be a journey worth every single wrong turning.

St Werburgh’s Sunday Roast Club, 5 Boiling Wells Lane, St Werburgh’s, Bristol, BS2 9XY

Telephone: 07934 394 011
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Pub of the week: The Duke of York, St Werburgh’s

31 05 2012

The last time I was in the Duke of York in St Werburgh’s was with two friends as we drunk the lethal pear cider Bee Sting putting the world to rights. Those friends now live in Henleaze with a beautiful three-month-old baby daughter and the days of drinking to excess on a school night are well behind them, at least until little Florence is out of nappies.

Since then, the Duke of York has been named in the Observer Food Monthly as one of the UK’s best pubs (read more here) but I haven’t visited it since Polly and Alan became responsible adults. I returned last Saturday afternoon after seeing Garage Band, a Mayfest show which was staged just around the corner in a garage on Conduit Place.

While writing a few preliminary thoughts in my notebook, the entire cast walked in. I quickly took my reporter’s card out of my trilby hat, but at least was able to thank them for putting on a great show as the curtain (garage door) came down without them having a chance to be applauded.

The Duke of York is well known for being covered outside floor to roof with graffiti. Inside, you could spend hours looking at everything affixed to the walls and ceiling, which includes mullet Top Trumps, flyers, foliage, and of course the requisite pump clips of past beers and ciders.

There are also dominos in a corner of one wall, but you don’t need to take them down to play a game in the Duke of York, for there is a skittles alley downstairs and a pool table upstairs.

Ciders are the aforementioned Bee Sting, Stowford Press, Apples & Pears, and Thatchers Gold and Dry. Ales are Zero Degrees Pale Ale, Innocence and Inntrigue from Plain Ales, Arbor Ales Hunny Beer, and Guinevere, a bitter I had never previously encountered, made by Goffs Brewery in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.

There is also Guinness and seven lagers from Amstel to Staropramen, in a pub that on a hot Saturday afternoon was virtually deserted save for me and the band, but at other times is among the liveliest in St Werburgh’s, and that’s saying something.

The Duke of York, 2 Jubilee Road, St Werburgh’s, Bristol, BS2 9RS.

Mayfest 2012: Garage Band

26 05 2012

The first task of Garage Band was to find the garage where it was being staged. Turns out that not many garages in St Werburgh’s stage a Mayfest show at 2pm in the afternoon, and if that’s not clue enough, the smell of a barbecue was like catnip on a hot day.

Garage Band, written, designed and directed by Richard Allen, is inspired by Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder.

Set during a band practise in a garage in Conduit Place, just round the corner from the Duke of York pub, the lead singer takes us back to a strange accident involving an object falling from the sky, and then tries to piece his memory back together.

David Reeves, credited in the programme as simply The Singer, is a convincingly gawky and thickly bespectacled lead in the image of Elvis Costello or Buddy Holly, with a vacant sense of otherness.

Covers of songs by bands such as Grandaddy and Weezer are interspersed with flashes of memories, as the band’s bass player (Alec Hughes) and drummer (Joseph Varley) prat about in increasingly ludicrous situations.

Garage Band told a story of someone living in a very damaged mind, and might have benefitted from being darker.

Instead, the issues in this fun and original production were dealt with by humour and kindness, with a constantly versatile and surprising set squeezed into a garage you should try to find.

Garage Band is being performed tomorrow (Sunday, May 27) at 2pm and 6pm. For more information, visit

Pub of the week: The Victoria (St Werburgh’s)

29 02 2012

All I knew about the Victoria in St Werburgh’s before visiting last week a few days after it reopened was that this pub’s sign used to depict Vicky Pollard, the baby-swapping-for-a-Westlife-CD Bristol schoolgirl made famous by Matt Lucas in Little Britain.

That sign is now gone, and the Silent Hobo’s portrait of Vicky has now been placed with Victoria, Queen Victoria, an unsmiling black and white photograph of “the Grandmother of Europe” now a much more subtle option.

Far from modernising this pub, its new owners have refurbished it by simply tarting up what was here before, and this is very much still a drinkers pub.

There is a fresh new red patterned carpet and a dark wood bar curving around the main room, a smaller room off of which has a pool table. The other entertainment on offer here is a juke box, fruit machine and a television which when I visited was playing pop videos from a music channel.

I ordered a Doom Bar, but the barrel had just run out so I was left with no ale option other than Gem, the third tap also out of action. The three ciders on tap fared better: Stowford Press, Blackthorn and Thatcher’s Gold.

On an unfeasibly warm Saturday evening in February, the beer garden out the front was a particularly popular spot. It’s a welcome return for the Victoria, Vicky or no Vicky.

UPDATE, February 29 2012, 9.08am. According to Guriben on Twitter, “The Victoria had a *massive* refurb this time round, not just ‘simply tarted up’.” If that is the case, then apologies. My memory must be failing me. Mine’s a Blackthorn.

The Victoria, 40 James Street, St Werburgh’s, Bristol. 0117 941 3682.

Pub of the week: The Miner’s Arms

8 06 2011

Soon after I arrived in Bristol as a young journalist four years’ ago, I was sent on an assignment to Stapleton Road train station on a vox-pop, a somewhat futile exercise where unsuspecting members of the public are randomly approached and asked for their opinions on an important issue of the day.

As there was nobody on the platform to ask a question long since disappeared from my memory, I headed to the Coach House pub over the road from the station entrance, where unbeknown to me a wake was drawing to a close.

I asked a man at the bar a question, which he stumblingly answered. I then asked him his name and where he lived. He couldn’t remember either. His place of residence on later investigation turned out to be St Werburgh’s, but while we were talking he was unable to tell me this (St Wobble was the closest he got I think), and me being new to Bristol I was completely unable to help him.

Since that sorry episode and low point of my journalistic career, I have grown to enjoy St Werburgh’s and enjoy spending time there, especially with my friends Polly and Alan who live on Tyne Street and whose home I house-sat for a fortnight last year.

I would vouch, however, that St Werburgh’s is a part of Bristol that even many seasoned residents would struggle to find or describe. Its out-on-a-limb feel is part of what gives the area its special character.

The Miner’s Arms on Mina Road near the Bristol Climbing Centre is a Dawkins Taverns pub and like the others in this group (Clifton’s Portcullis and Victoria, and Kingsdown’s Hillgrove and Green Man), there is an extensive choice of real ale.

On tap when I visited yesterday after work was St Austell Tribute, Butcombe Gold, Doom Bar, Exmoor Ale, Fire Island Lighthouse and Hop Back Crop Circle. A fine selection, but unfortunately no Dawkins ales due to a tied lease with the Punch pub company.

This is a popular pub, with most of the people drinking yesterday seeming to know each other. There is space here for several tables outside, while inside is the classic pub decoration of beer mats as well as a tin Will’s cigarette advert.

In the back room there is a pool table, while the main room benefits from a fireplace, not needed currently but for which one is very grateful in the winter.

The Miner’s Arms summer beer festival is happening this weekend, with more than 25 ales and ciders to sample, many of which have been chosen by the pub’s regulars.

On Saturday, music and a movie projected onto the back of the pub will provide extra entertainment. Up the road on Saturday, it’s also the City Farm Summer Fair, all the more reason to get yourself to and acquainted with St Werburgh’s.

The Miner’s Arms, 136 Mina Road, St Werburgh’s, Bristol. 0117 987 9074.

St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe

17 11 2010

I can never decide whether St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe is more like a creation by Antonio Gaudi or something from Hobbiton. Tree roots and bones burst up through the floors, with the cafe looking both inside and outside like an organic being, not man-made but created from and part of the earth on which it stands.

This is a community cafe at heart in one of the most community-minded areas of Bristol. Inside, the cafe is decorated in bunting made by the residents of nearby Sevier Street. Each resident was given the opportunity to design and make a collaged portrait of themselves on a piece of bunting. The finished exhibition of bunting was displayed at the Sevier Street street party in September and is now on display in the cafe.

When I met my friend Paul at the cafe this afternoon, we shared the space with young parents and their children, as well as people on their laptops. In one corner, there is a computer for anyone to use, charging 50p per half-hour on the internet.

As much food here as possible is organic, fairtrade, wild and local, with eggs, meat, vegetables and salads from the farm.

Their recently-introduced autumn menu includes hot pot; pumpkin, black bean and goat’s cheese burrito; black-eye bean and pearl barley cassoulet; and speciality hummus with marinated olives served with pitta bread.

If you want to get a real taste of the food, they are hosting a Tasty Tales at Twilight event on next Saturday, November 27. There will be five courses accompanied by “wild foraged tipples”. After the food, guests will be entertained over coffee, whiskey or chocolate by folk singer Lizzy Murray. Email

St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe, Watercress Road, St Werburgh’s. 0117 908 0798.

This weekend in Bristol

11 06 2010

There is a cornucopia of delights to be had in Bristol this weekend, June 12 and 13. There is a music festival in Totterdown, a fair in St Werburgh’s, an arts trail in Easton, live music in Castle Park, open studios in Stokes Croft, and also the small matter of the start of the World Cup. Here are some highlights:

Totterdown Music Festival This year’s event will be taking place on Saturday between 1pm and 9pm, and Sunday between 12.30pm and 7pm on Henry Street. Babyhead are headlining on Saturday, and The Exhibition on Sunday. Refreshments and a barbecue will be available  from the Shakespeare pub. For more information, visit

St Werburgh’s City Farm Summer Fair Come and celebrate 30 years of St Werburgh’s City Farm. The theme of this year’s fair is ‘bees and bikes’. There will be a carnival procession at 4pm, live music, kids activities, workshops, stalls, cabaret, cider, real ale, a family area, talks and more. Adult tickets cost £5, 12-17 £1 and under-12s free. The fair is on Saturday from midday to 7pm. There will be no entry after 6pm and no dogs allowed, except guide dogs. For more information, visit

Easton Arts Trail The fourth Easton Arts Trail takes place on Saturday and Sunday in venues and houses across Easton. Pick up your map from St Mark’s Church cafe, the Thali Cafe, the Greenbank pub or Chelsea Inn. Group exhibitions this year are happening at St Mark’s Church, Greenbank pub and Trinity Arts Centre. There are also guided walks. For more information, visit

Topshop Bandstand Picnic The bandstand in Castle Park will play hosts to actual bands on Sunday, raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, which funds specialist units in NHS hospitals to treat teenagers with cancer. The event will be hosted by T4’s Jameela Jamil. Acts playing include Charlotte Hatherley (right), formally of Ash; Chew Lips; Slow Club; and Goldheart Assembly. Tickets cost £10 from Topshop in Cabot Circus. For more information, visit

Jamaica Street Open Studios The 43 artists who work at the Jamaica Street Studios make this Stokes Croft landmark one of the largest artist-led studios outside London. This weekend, its illustrators, fine artists, photographers, jewellery makers and more will be showcasing their work at the latest open studios. Peek inside the iconic building, meet the artists and buy an original piece of work. Taking place Saturday and Sunday, 11am-6pm.

Two new murals in St Werburgh’s

19 05 2010

Two new murals have recently appeared close to each other in St Werburgh’s. The first is on the side of the Park Hostel overooking Mina Road Park. The second is on the other side of Mina Road, above the fantastic Spokesman bicycle shop.

The Park Hostel piece is by Tom Hine, who told the St Werburgh’s community website: “I actually approached the building’s owners to ask permission to paint the wall, which they more than happy for me to do. The character is loosely based on a sketch I did of someone I met travelling, although in person he maybe didn’t look like such an intense Persian sorcerer! This piece reflects some of my earlier work and also more current stuff, particularly the use of more abstract colour.” For more of Tom’s work, visit his website here.

The colurful depiction of cyclists above the Spokesman by Silent Hobo (whose website is here) was commissioned by owners Balty and Rachel.