This is probably the time to admit publicly that as well as doing #EveryPubinBristol, I have a related mission to visit Every Street in Bristol.
It’s a great way to really get to know our new(ish) home and discover unexpected delights such as an Edward VIII postbox, Roman road remains, suburban substations built to resemble 1930s detached houses, Victorian urinals, municipal murals – you get the idea.
I’d like to pretend it’s something to do with psychogeography and liminal spaces but it’s actually much more to do with my completist tendencies. Anyway, there you go. Confession made.
This is background to explain why, the day after our Filton jaunt, we went out for a walk aimed at ticking streets rather than pubs. Because we felt we’d done our duty the previous day, and because of general seasonal overindulgence, I thought it would be a good opportunity to head into an area I expected to be a pub desert – the 1930s hinterlands between Westbury-on-Trym (AKA ‘WOT’) and Stoke Park.
Experience, and all that research I did into early 20th century town planning and licensing for 20th Century Pub, tells us that these sorts of areas tend to have either no pubs at all, or very large ones at major junctions.
As per my plan, we went through the centre of Westbury-on-Trym, and turned up a large suburban avenue. I had literally just said to Ray, “One thing we won’t find out here will be any pubs,” when we rounded the corner and saw not one but two pub signs close together, blowing in the wind. At a glance, both appeared to be modest sized boozers advertising real ale among other things.
We visited The Prince of Wales first, which had lovely George’s livery outside and inside, and reminded us of a backstreet London pub, perhaps in somewhere like Ealing.
There’s the outline of a two-bar layout arranged around a corner entrance, and although the partitions are long gone, it still felt cosy.
Two small bar areas with a reasonable number of customers make a place feel busy. It’s a Butcombe house, and the Butcombe bitter was nothing short of superb.
Excitingly (for us) there was also Timothy Taylor Landlord, in equally excellent condition. The beer was so good that we downloaded the CAMRA Good Beer Guide App to rate it.
We clinked glasses, delighted in the discovery and baffled as to why we hadn’t heard of this place. We would have stayed for more but there was another pub to visit, as well as some vague hope of getting back to ticking streets while the daylight lasted.
The Black Swan was perhaps cosier again – more like a village pub, with two small, packed front rooms and a larger (empty) space out the back. The beer wasn’t as exciting but was decent enough and the general mix of people coming and going was fun.
While we were there, we had a look at the excellent National Library of Scotland geo-referenced map of the area to see if we could determine why there appeared to be a village inn in the middle of 1930s suburbia. Sure enough, we found that we were on a little island of an older settlement, unnamed as far as we could tell, and that the Black Swan was marked on the 1880 map.
We also pondered the contrast with these two pubs with those we’d visited the day before at Filton. It seemed a good illustration of the point that it is easier to retain and create atmosphere and a sense of community in smaller pubs.
That is, regardless of the relative economic fortunes of Filton vs Westbury-on-Trym, the two WOT pubs had the advantage of smaller size and more sympathetic design and seemed better suited to 21st century preferences.
Pubs that can make it past their first hundred years are more likely to survive in the long term.