In England we are slowly emerging from lockdown. If all goes to plan, after three dry months, we will be able to buy a drink in a beer garden from next Monday and from May 17th pubs will be able to serve customers indoors again, The pub is a British institution and although I am not a great drinker I have missed being able to chat with friends over a glass of wine or two. This week our walking group went for a walk around central Bristol to learn more about the history of some of the historic pubs and make plans.
There are many candidates to be named as Bristol’s oldest pub. Personally, I think the Rummer has as good a case as most. It stands on the corner of St. Nicholas Market and All Saints Lane and has been known as the Rummer after a type of drinking glass for over two hundred years. But its history goes back much further. The present building is on the site of a much older inn, the Green Lattis which was given to the nearby church of Old Saints by its owner Alice Hayle in the hope that prayers would be said for the repose of her soul in 1241.
In the 18th century, Bristol merchants decided to build a corn exchange on a site next to the inn. The inn itself was rebuilt and became an important coaching inn. The London mail coach arrived every day at 4. p.m.
The Rummer’s other main claim to fame is as the first Berni Inn in the Country. The Berni brothers were Italian immigrants who had run a coffee shop in Exeter which was destroyed in the blitz. Frank visited America and was inspired by U.S. restaurant chains to open a steakhouse serving steak and chips. He was joined by his brothers, Arlo and Carlo. When the restaurant opened in 1956, food rationing had not long ended and the brothers were keen to create an atmosphere where people would not feel intimidated.
“If you have got cobwebs keep them” Alex Waugh, Berni Inn designer
The Great British menu 1960’s style
- Melon boat or prawn cocktail
- Steak, gammon or fish with chips and peas
- Black forest gateau, cheese board or ice cream
- coffee and after eight mint
The formula clearly worked by the time the brothers sold the chain in 1970 they had 147 restaurants, 19 in Bristol alone.
The oldest part is the cellar. The medieval cellar runs under Corn Street and forms part of the maze of tunnels which were used for smuggling wine and rum.
Now the Rummer is popular as an award winning cocktail bar and gin distillery.
The Hatchet Inn
The Hatchet also claims to be Bristol’s oldest Inn. A rather macabre legend is that there is a human skin under the pitch of the door.
It is situated in Frogmore Street close to Bristol docks. This obviously used to be a rough area as there used to be a cock fighting ring at the back. The Hatchet also used to host bare knuckle fighting.