The History of Old Inns & Pubs of Bristol

The Stag and Hounds - Old Market - 1982

Historic Inns
Smiles Brewery
Warmley Pubs
Longwell Green Pubs
Oldland Common Pubs
Queen's Head Willsbridge
King William IV Staple Hill
Red Lion Staple Hill
Portcullis Staple Hill
Old Mail House Staple Hill
The Crown Staple Hill
Fir Tree Staple Hill
Lamb Inn
Hole in the Wall
Bear and Rugged Staff
The Angel
The Albion
The Bell
The Bank Tavern
The Assize Courts
The Full Moon
The Greyhound
The Hatchet Inn
The King's Head
The Bunch of Grapes
Old Duke
The Lamplighters
The Llandoger Trow
The Nova Scotia
The Old England
The Ostrich
Palace Hotel
The Rummer
The Seven Stars
The Shakespeare
The Louisiana
The Stag and Hounds
The White Hart
The White Lion
Ye Shakespeare
The Three Horseshoes

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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 a hostelry.

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.

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The main bar of the Stag and Hounds today with its new veneered panelling, cast-iron tables and jukebox, gives no hint of the architectural gems still left in the interior of this old house.

It is a pity that the original Jacobean seventeenth century staircase is now partitioned off from the front bar as its twisted balusters and other details are reminiscent of the one in the Full Moon which is of similar date. The landlord will always allow those interested to see it but one can only regret that it does not still sweep up to all the floors in full view of the customers.

There is also on the first floor, a room panelled in typical eighteenth century style but this like the staircase, is shut off from the public bar.

The inn has another unsuspected item. In an outhouse across a paved back yard is an early example of an installation for raising water from a well. This old iron pump, operated by a wheel six foot in diameter, is in fine condition and all its parts still move.

The well must be very deep as when the underpass was constructed engineers hit water at a depth of thirty feet. This old pumping arrangement is unique in Bristol and it should be a better known feature of the old inn.

Across the yard, high up on a wall, is a small blind window which was pointed out by the landlord’s young son as a ‘monk’s hiding hole’. The minute window is in a small room set between floors and is only accessible through a trap-door in what is now a bathroom. It could possibly be a survival from the days of priest-hunting but one would like to see some documentary evidence before making a definitive statement.

Old Market Street is the widest thoroughfare in Bristol and until 1940 it was one of the busiest and most interesting. Today it has been ravaged by traffic and neglect and typifies the devastation that can come when an area ceases to function as a living part of a city.

The street’s main development came in the late seventeenth century following the destruction of the castle by Cromwell. Many of the seventeenth and eighteenth century houses remain, somewhat altered and neglected, but the Secretary of State has ruled that a conservation policy should be adopted for the whole street so its future looks brighter despite the present-day dilapidations.

The best houses in Old Market are undoubtedly the inns and the Stag and Hounds has been well-preserved.

The whole area is a survival of medieval Bristol Castle and its market and when the restoration and preservation of all its buildings is complete it will be one of the most historically interesting parts of Bristol.

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