The Scariest Pub in Town

The Bristol and Exeter pub, Bridgwater.

By Bailey

When I was growing up in Bridgwater, Somerset, there were lots of pubs, and my parents took care to educate me on the merits and quirks of each one. The Bristol and Exeter, aka the B&E, was one of the few pubs that deserved a flat-out warning: I was never to go there. It was, they said, the haunt of scrumpy casualties, so addled by their constant intake of super-strength, mindbending ‘natch’ that they’d probably eat my face as soon as look at me.

The B&E certainly never looked very welcoming as nicotine-stained curtains made it impossible to see inside. Once, walking home from my waitering job after midnight, a nervous seventeen year-old, I was passing the B&E when the door flew open with a bang. I had to leap clear as two rather poorly-looking women rolled out, mid-fight, and tumbled into the gutter, where one proceeded to throttle the other, pulling at her hair and screaming and swearing in the fruitiest fashion. This was not atypical.

Now I hear from the parents that, forty-years after it began, the ‘real ale revolution’ has hit the B&E. It is under new management and so cask ales from Moles are on offer; the impenetrable screening curtains have gone; and there is even the promise of free Wi-Fi.

Next time I go home, will I be able to overcome years of fear and conditioning and actually cross the threshold? And is Bridgwater poorer for the loss of an authentic rough pub of the old school?

Picture to follow when my Mum has popped round and taken one for me. Thanks for the pic, Mum! (The pub is now pink!?)

10 replies on “The Scariest Pub in Town”

Some of my home town’s scarier pubs have closed, it’s with mixed feelings that I realise I never had a single pint in them.

The curry-house created out of one of them is pretty good – you can even bring your own booze too.

There’s still a few pretty scary pubs, even some new “pop up” places in closed-down shops.
The heady mix of karaoke, poker, & unhealthy quantities of cheap booze hasn’t appealed enough for me yet!

One man’s scary pub is another man’s oasis….

Seriously though, a lot of the ‘scary pubs’ from my life and childhood aren’t there any more; statistics in the tax hikes, smoking ban and credit crunch fallout. These pubs were probably strugglign for years before all that finished them off.
Despite this, if people are going to ‘estate’ pubs or the like, then in closing them you’ve taken something away from someone. I can’t think of any around me that have ‘re-launched’ in recent years, however.

We do have a pub about a mile from my house that has a ‘locals only’ sign on the door, though!

The only times I’ve ever been in a pub where a fight broke out, the pub closed soon afterwards – a functioning pub where regulars (and the landlord/lady) accept a bit of argy-bargy as a normal thing is a bit of a rarity.

The other thing is swearing, which I think is a real class marker. I was in a Spoons at lunchtime once; it was quiet, so the sound of two blokes in overalls bemoaning their lot came over loud and clear –
I said, F___ off! I’ve been working on this f___ing thing all f___ing morning, you want me to f___ing start all over again? F___ that!
And so on. Normal banter, really.

The main thing it made me feel was nostalgic – I haven’t worked with people who talk like that for f___ing ages. Unfortunately I was with my ten-year-old daughter at the time, and she was a bit freaked out – not so much by the word itself as the level of aggression it carries. To be fair, the guy apologised when he saw us, which was nice, but it put a bit of a damper on our lunch.

Anyway, I guess that’s another definition of “rough pub” – a pub where your ten-year-old daughter will hear things you’d rather she didn’t. Not very long ago that would have been a definition of “pub”…

I was once barred from a town’s rough pub.

Mind you for a bet I had walked in and say to the landlord ” I say, stout-hearted yeoman, a pint of your foaming ale and don’t dawdle as I have important matters to attend to this very day ”

” Fuck off you’re barred ” was all he said.

I think my bon mot was lost on him.

It was an interesting experience going to the B&E with my other half a few years ago. I was like walking into someones front room, a place where strangers may be tolerated if they behave by the unwritten, unspoken rules of the place.
If I remember rightly, the cider was ok.

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