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Bedminster
Bedminster Down, Headley Park, Southville & Windmill Hill

 

“For the casual visitor the absolute joy of his time spent in Bedminster—a city within a city, locked within the embrace of Bristol’s Georgian splendour—is to be found in the wonderful people that inhabit this vibrant and exciting suburb . . . never in all my travels have I encountered a population more effusive in their welcome, more diligent in their attentiveness, more concerned with the well-being and enjoyment of those that pass through their magnificent city: what is it in their imprisonment that has set these fine people free?” Timothy Cocksfoot Bury Me in BS3: Life and Love in the Southern Suburbs (avonpacket Press, 1934)
 

 The first thing you need to know about Bemmy is that it is enormous. Big enough to be a city in its own right, Bedminster stretches from Southville at its northern tip via Windmill Hill and all the way down to the edge of vile Hartcliffe in the south. Basically, it’s all of this:

Southland again

The Beautiful South

 
The Southland

Cassie stares into the abyss

Forty-three pubs for you to choose from, so where to start? Well thats what were here for: in true Bemmy spirit, weve basically brought everybody together and started a mass brawl, a Royal Rumble if you like (but this is avonpacket, so categorised), from which Bemmys Finest Boozer must ultimately emerge triumphant. Cool!

Now pay attention cos this is a bit complicated. The draw has been made for the First Round of this curious contest and, owing to the sheer dizzying size of Bedminsters pub community, has been split into two equivalent groups, the Brunel Group (below) and the Gerry Gow Group (this way), as follows:

Brunel Group

Apple Tree Assembly Barley Mow Bell Inn
Black Cat Enterprise
General Elliott
Jolly Colliers Little Grosvenor London Inn Miners Arms Old Globe Park House Plough
Plough & Windmill
Princess of Wales
Red Cow Rising Sun
 Robert Fitzharding
Victoria Park White Horse

Your Bemmy and welcome to it . . .

Welcome to Bemmy

Gerry Gow Group

Albert Inn Avon Packet Bay Brunel Coronation Cross Hands
Fox Hare
Hen & Chicken Imp
Kings Head
Lounge Café Bar Masonic Maytree Rope Walk Spotted Cow Tap & Barrel Terrace Café Bar Three Lions Tobacco Factory Café Bar
White Hart
Windmill

Of the original 43 contesting pubs, 18 winners will emerge from these two groups to contest two further knockout rounds and the Final. And then youll be able to tell everybody you meet that the bestest pub in Bemmy, by which its possible we may mean the Bemmiest pub in Bemmy, is the . . .  But were getting ahead of ourselves.

Round One – Brunel Group
 

Pubs Which Are Startlingly Jolly
(Jolly Colliers vs Princess of Wales vs Robert Fitzharding)

 

Princess of Wales

Clunk Click

Next up it’s the pits, so to speak, the Jolly Colliers and a lexicographical triumph, for while its not unusual for a pub to append an adjective to its name, it’s rare indeed for such an exercise in vanity so effectively to capture the true essence of the place, as it does here. Well done to all concerned, especially the Silver Fox, wholl sometimes pop in and sign fivers for you.

 

Kicking off then with a trio to send the first-time Bemmy visitor’s spirits soaring, however briefly and misleadingly, although we can’t help wondering whether the enormous, borderline hysterical crowds we always seem to encounter at the Princess of Wales haven’t simply been trapped for years by the enormous slobbering hound that guards the front door and are just trying to keep spirits up. Either that or it’s a religious thing.
 

Jolly Colliers

The Silver Fox

 

The winner in the Startlingly Jolly stakes, though, and the first through to the second round, can only be the Robert Fitzharding, a ginormous Wetherspoons lagermarket wherein an effusively friendly rabble neck cut-price Anschluss (pound a pint!) amidst a shambles of dirty plates and discarded newspapers. Surprisingly lovely. And now, by way of contrast . . .

Gibbering Cider Pubs
(Apple Tree vs Barley Mow vs Little Grosvenor)

Barley Mow

Dawn of the Dead

Which leads us, perhaps not entirely
unexpectedly, to . . .

Pubs Where We've Watched Old
Men Scrapping Over A Pint
(
Red Cow vs Bell Inn)

Now whod have though that both of these would have closed down eh?

 

A pair of dilapidated care-in-the-community theme pubs that do absolutely nothing to detract from the cider pub’s reputation for serving putrid cloudy yellow gunk to rotting derelicts who give a whole new meaning to the concept of the Living Dead, the Apple Tree and the Barley Mow make their fellow traveller in synaptic suicide the Little Grosvenor seem like the Llandoger Trow by comparison.
 

Apple Tree

Day of the Dead

 

The Bell Inn was a bit of a stop-start enterprise for years, if were honest. Cursed by a location not only at the top of the (once) ludicrously over-pubbed East Street but also, lethally, immediately opposite the very bus stop from which Hartcliffes Hordes would erupt every Saturday night to wreak their unique brand of murderous pillage, it was never the most promising of propositions.
 

Red Cow

Malago-a-go-go

 
Red Cow B & B

Red Cow, 2010

 But really, what was the point in knocking down the Red Cow? And building a B & B in its place? Surreal.

 

Anyway, we are truly sorry for our loss here because we really used to love this place. It had a quaint little tiled roof above the bar for one thing, as though trying to convince us that our fizzy half of bass was being drawn from some ancient well rather than a factory in Poland. It also had a pushchair count which was high even for this part of town, and if you were lucky on a Sunday afternoon you could enjoy the sight of a pair of pie-eyed pensioners slowly brawling in the public bar. What wasn’t to like? But honestly, even we cant let through a pub thats been demolished . . .

 
Red Cow, in history

Red Cow, 1986

 

Rising Sun

Tower of Power

Right then, Windmill Hill and Bedminster Down. Two of Bemmys further-flung outposts, neither of which enjoys the most glittering reputation in the cosmopolitan centre (by which we suppose we mean North Street).

 

 
Pubs Which Are Friendlier Than
You'd Think
(Assembly vs Miners Arms vs
Rising Sun)

Miners Arms

Vanilla Ice

 

But before rushing to judgment, there are some bright spots out here as well, perhaps the most surprising of which comes courtesy of the Miners Arms, which confounded our prejudices on our last visit by being dominated not by the scowling skinheads wed conditioned ourselves to expect (so whereve they all gone then eh?) but by a crowd of excited yummy mummies preparing to hit the town in their Saturday evening glad rags.

 

Raymend. Or somewhere

Welcome to Bemmy

 

 

Meanwhile, over on The Hill (as no-one calls it), the Rising Sun, despite its challengingly-high wheelchair-count, has never made us feel anything other than entirely welcome, despite our (apparent) appalling attitude to the disabled. All the more unfortunate for both of these, then, that theyve lost out to East Streets legendary Assembly, for reasons which will become clear when we get to Round Two . . .

Pubs Which Are Unfriendlier
Than You'd Think)
(
Black Cat vs London Inn vs
Victoria Park)

An unremarkable trio characterised by being at all times heaving with rabid, dead-eyed soaks  and, in the case of the Victoria Park (back in its unlamented Raymend incarnation) writing its own review by displaying notices exhorting the local children please to stop smashing up the toilets. As for the London Inn, that ornate (some would say pedantic) exterior conceals what may be Bemmys pikiest pub  quite a feat!

 
London Inn, 1997  

Sometimes, the London looks like this. Nice shoes

Up, up and away with the London Inn

Needless to say, they've not always got a balloon on the go here . . .

All of which means that, as much by default as anything else (and pending our checking out whether theyve done anything to the Raymend other than change its name) its the Black Cat that makes it through.

Pubs Which Are Just As Friendly As You'd Think
(Enterprise vs Park House vs Plough)

Our already-voiced enthusiasm for the Miners Arms notwithstanding, it really is hard to think of Bedminster Down as anything but desolate. A funnelling of A roads, some shabby business parks, a few scattered settlements so far from the centre of Bemmy that we’re virtually in the scary badlands of BS4 (and beyond that, Somerset, where dragons dwell) . . . what did you think the pubs were gonna be like eh?

Enterprise, 2006

Last orders please

One of Bemmy’s more boisterous boozers — if also, surprisingly, one of its cleanest — this once-imposing old mausoleum crossed its final frontier some time in 2005 after one-too-many visits from the local firearms unit.
 

 

In fact, two emphatically closed pubs dominate this barren wasteland and we’re kicking things off down Hartcliffe Road — now theres a clue — with the Enterprise.
 

Enterprise, but not as we know it

Time at the bar

Work in progress

Boldly Going

This being South Bristol, that could only mean one thing couldn’t it? And they haven’t disappointed us either: step forward er, some flats we don’t know the name of. Now who would live in a place like this? No-one from round here, that’s who.

 


There then followed a lengthy spell glowering malevolently through shuttered eyes over the smashed-up portables and burnt-out sofas which littered its enormous empty car park, before there commenced some much-needed, er, renovation work.
 

Enterprise Flats, 2008

There goes the neighbourhood

Just up the road, meanwhile, the gothically decrepit Plough has undergone a similar transformation.

Pictured below in what presumably passed as happier times, this place succumbed to the relentless march of, well, speculative buy-to-let development (how did that go again?) at about the same time as its bigger, badder neighbour.
 
Plough

Ursa Minor

 
Plough. For the last time

Pop up more flats

However, where the Enterprise was sort of thriving, this place had been clearly failing ever since they decided to go head-to-head with the intense West Street competition by laying on a lavish array of entertainments including a display of Bristol City ticket stubs and a portable TV showing cartoons.

Really, you spoil us. Or rather, you spoiled us. We just wonder how excruciatingly bad our experiences in both of these must have been for them to have lost out to the powerfully depressing (indeed, boarded-up) Park House.

Pubs Which Have Crushed Our Spirit
(General Elliott vs Old Globe)

Essentially the same pub in competition with itself over in the retail wonderland of East Street and
Bedminster Parade.

When the older of the avonpackets was a mere boy growing up in Bedminster he was so frightened of the Old Globe — something to do with pagans, as usual — that he preferred to risk his neck in the terrifyingly violent Nelson over the road . . . in the process completely overlooking the never-knowingly-cleaned and lavishly depressing General Elliott, which has finally bitten the dust (in fact is now a chip shop) and left the Globe as the sole surviving representative of East Street’s once-formidable gaggle of Saturday afternoon horse-racing and access-visit pubs.

General Elliott

Punny

 
Plough & Windmill

Ursa major

Pure Pubs
For
Pub People
(
Plough & Windmill vs
White Horse)

Over on West Street, meanwhile, and another example of the same pub in competition with itself: the White Horse just about edges it over the Plough & Windmill, but since both of these are currently closed, who, really, could possibly give a shit?

Now Click HERE for the remainder
of Round One
– the Gerry Gow Group
 

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