bristol pubs

Sticking up and the secrets hidden in pubs

On Saturday 8 March 1975, a 16-year-old boy wrote an autobiographical note on a piece of thin chipboard and concealed it in the skittle alley at The Lord Nelson pub in Barton Hill, Bristol.

Gary Wait wrote this on 8.3.1975
I am 16, I am pretty tall, I have blue eyes and dark blonde hair. I came down here, the Lord Nelson, 3 times a week to stick up. I had 1 pound a night. I wrote this so some day I might find it and read it. I am doing this job so I can pay off some money I owe on my moped, I got £117 to pay. My favourite uncle is Tony Wait he’s the one who helped me when I was in trouble with my bike. I am going to hide this so if I find this is will bring back some happy times.

We’ve written about sticking up before but for those who don’t know about West Country skittles, here’s a recap: when two pub teams get together to play, they pay local lads to sit in a sort of cubby hole at the far end of the skittle alley and pop out to stand up the pins between turns.

Unfortunately, The Lord Nelson has been closed for some years and is in the process of being turned into flats – hence our desire to see the nearby Rhubarb Tavern survive.

The process of refurbishment and partial demolition is how we know about Gary’s note. Workers in the process of taking apart the skittle alley found it and it was shared on local Facebook groups – did anyone know Gary?

After a day or so, Gary’s sister, Julie Tucker, came forward with bad news:

Facebook post: Julie taking possession of the note with the message: "So much gratitude to the lovely guys I met today at the Lord Nelson pub who took the time to trace anyone associated with a note they found during their building works. The note was written by my brother Gary Wait in 1975 and has been hidden under tyres in the skittle alley for 47 years. It means so much to me I can’t really put it into words. Gary died in a road accident in 1979. He would be ‘chuffed’ to see his big sister taking it home."

We try to resist being sentimental about the closure and demolition pubs, partly because it happens so often you’d need constant therapy to cope if you let it get to you.

But it’s hard not to feel this story.

How many people have lived and worked in this pub since it was built in the 19th century? How many boys sat at the end of the skittle alley over the course of decades?

Cellars, cupboards, attics, floor cavities, hollow walls… It’s terrible to think of how often stuff like this has ended up in skips, or pulverised with sledgehammers.

2 replies on “Sticking up and the secrets hidden in pubs”

Whenever I see a pub being demolished it makes me think of all the things that must have happened in it, since it was built. All the stag nights, wedding celebrations, wetting the baby’s head, ‘the I first met her in the pub’s. All the goodbyes: wakes, break-ups, the last night out before the long sleep, the sending the boys off to war. Drinking to the ones that didn’t come back. So much emotion, so many stories, unknown, untold. The centres of community, in a way we can only dream and reminisce of, today.

I have fond memories of being the “sticker upper” at the old Eagle Star social club when I was in my teens. I don’t know many pubs back there with the skittle alley still intact.

Comments are closed.