Goodbye to the Cattle Market Tavern

In May Bristol City Council demolished the Cattle Market Tavern to help make way for the university’s new Temple Quarter campus. Built in 1910, this is not the first time the Tavern was pulled down as it was rebuilt in 1915 when G.W.R. extended Temple Meads over most of the old cattle market. The Cattle Market Tavern won’t be forgotten though. A group of students are currently researching the history of the site and our artists- in-residence will start work soon to help capture stories of the area including those that used to drink at the Cattle Market Tavern.

4 thoughts on “Goodbye to the Cattle Market Tavern

  1. The photos of the the Temple Meads Royal Mail sorting office bring back memories. As a young lad at the Bristol Grammar School I knew about the tunnels connecting the sorting office to the platforms of the railway station and, as an undergraduate, of doing a Christmas temp job there in Dec 1955 in the parcel sort section (top floor) with Peter Rawlings, who as a medic student did a free surgery in the midnight break. As a special treat we were allowed to drink part of the contents of a broken sherry bottle accidentally damaged in transit. We knew each other while doing our TA time in the UTC – he had done his service in the RN and I did my service in the Kings African Rifles. We had a wonderful time there.

    I was a commoner paying my own way (hence tending to earn money in the vacations) and thereby a somewhat unusual Bristol student where nearly everybody else was on some form of scholarship or grant aid. Having done Nat Service we were older than most of our fellow undergraduates. Before Nat Service, I had turned down my place(s) at Oxford in favour of the special honours degree course which got me into the Colonial Land Survey Service and exempted me from all but the final exams to become a Chartered Surveyor. My final thesis was based on Geodetic work done on the 30th Arc of Meridian running through East Africa.

  2. I recall the Cattle Market Tavern (although not particularly well) from the mid-Seventies, when I would have been about 15 or 16. The then landlord, Tom Bowman, married my aunt Edna, who had been widowed for a number of years. She must have been in her mid to late fifties and he, maybe, slightly older. I’m not sure the family altogether approved. I used to visit occasionally with my father (Edna’s brother).

    It was a sprawling warren of a building and to say it was scruffy is something of an understatement. I think it had two bars (the lounge bar having the odd table and chair), but it is the public bar that I remember. It had a strange canopy affair above the bar, constructed from what looked like the same wicker branch type material as sheep hurdles and was adorned, for some unfathomable reason, by a sombrero and a plastic alligator, the whole lot being set off by a fringe of fairy lights, a goodly number of which had failed. A story (possible apocryphal) had it that at some point it had parted company with the wall and crashed down onto the bar releasing a cloud of dust to rival a volcanic eruption.

    I never tried it but apparently the beer was excellent, the reason being the cellar’s proximity to the Feeder canal, ensuring an even year-round temperature. The downside of this was that it occasionally flooded. It was fondly known as the “Heinz 57 pub” as it allegedly sold 57 varieties of beer (most of them obviously, bottled). From memory, it also had a strange licence, possible dating from the times of the cattle market, whereby it could open at all times of the day and night (unusual then) during the week, but not at all at weekends.

    Tom Bowman was an interesting character, in some ways a typical pub landlord of his day. Scratchy, a chain smoker and inveterate (and not terribly successful) backer of the horses, he and my aunt kept the pub until (I believe) 1975, when they moved to a small retirement flat in Henleaze.

    In some ways it was iconic, capturing the spirit of its age. Sad to learn that it has gone forever.

    Peter Tandy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *