The Stag and Hounds - Old Market
It was in the Old Market area that the market for Bristol
Castle was held from perhaps as early as the twelfth century. This market place was the first real suburb to be developed
outside the city walls, and it was here that markets and fairs flourished until the late nineteenth century.
Merchants, traders, pedlars and dealers of all kinds came to this
profitable trading post and problems of all kinds came with them. In Norman times a court was set up to deal summarily with
thieves and debtors and justice was swift, so swift in fact that the matter was dealt with before the dust had time to settle
on the malefactor’s feet. This justice was dispensed by the ancient Court of Pie Poudre, which in Norman French meant
"piedpoudre"—dusty feet.The old court was held in the open
air under an ancient oak tree and the Stag and Hounds Inn stands on the site of the court. There is no actual record
of when the court moved into the inn, though it was not uncommon for inquests, as well as petty sessions to take place in
Although the need for a market court lessened, tradition
dies hard and each year the court was ceremonially opened before the Stag and Hounds Inn when the members of the Corporation
who officiated were provided with toast, cheese and metheglin, while beer and cider were distributed to the common folk. The
scene was often a disorderly one and the roisterous onlookers got out of hand.
The yearly disturbance arising from the festivity led
to its suppression and 1870 saw the end of the ceremonial court opening. The Court still existed technically until 1973 and
annual proclamation was made on the last day of September under the portico of the inn, inviting all who had business before
the court to appear.
A minute later the court was declared adjourned. It
is always a pity when an ancient custom is arbitrarily abandoned and the only record of the Court of Pie Poudre is now on
a sign over the entrance to the Stag and Hounds.
There is no record of when the first licence was granted
to the Stag and Hounds, and Sketchley does not mention it in his 1775 Directory, so it is possible that at that time
the inn was a private house. It certainly was an inn by 1815 for the Directory of that year notes that Joseph Perrett, soap
boiler, was its innkeeper.
The inn is an old building erected or reconstructed
in the seventeenth century and as it stands today it is of exceptional interest. Externally its appearance is dramatic with
four plain pillars carrying the first floor and forming a covered way over the pavement.
There are old casement windows on the second and third
floor and the simple pavings on either side of the entrance doorway are unique on account of their depth which is three times
the width of the front member. Although the facade of the inn has been redecorated, all the old features have been retained
and it stands dramatically on this corner.
At one time the inn was flanked by houses but the two
and a half million pound underpass development swept away many houses and even streets around the inn leaving it isolated.