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Site updated 30/07/2020 23:04:25
A short history
From Bridge to Beverage
These days pubs get converted to housing all the time. In Victorian times it was often the other way round (they did a lot of good things, them Victorians!). The Portcullis was originally a house, built in Georgian times on this fine crescent in one of the most beautiful spots in the country. Where the bar is now would have been stables, as they are garages now for many of our neighbours. Therefore there is no underground cellar; the beers are kept in cooled room adjacent to the bar.
The earliest recorded licensee is John Evans from 1826 and the pub itself is Grade II listed.
One of the smallest pubs in the city; the upper room is a welcome overflow and the recently refurbished secret beer garden a boon in summer. The terrace at the front is a prime spot too.
It lays claim to being the last truly traditional public house in Clifton Village; an area of Bristol that maintains its distinct identity.
The Clifton Suspension bridge is yards away; a stunning monument to the ingenuity of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Pub [not so] Merry-go-round
The pub trade was sent into a state of flux by the 1989 Beer Orders; an attempt by the Government to break the monopoly of the (then) Big Six brewers. That there are now a Big Four speaks volumes but it did create opportunities, good and bad!
Courage responded to the stipulation that they should sell thousands of pubs by an infamous ‘pubs for breweries’ swap with rival Grand Metropolitan-Watneys. The latter’s Western division was Ushers of Trowbridge so the pub became branded under their logo. That was about the limit of investment in the pub for twenty years!
A management buyout of Ushers eventually led to takeover by venture capitalists and closure of the Ushers brewery (a sad loss to the families employed, perhaps less so to drinkers!)-which was bought by a German ‘entrepreneur’, dismantled and sold to the govt. of North Korea where it is now the largest brewery!!
The pub was sadly closed when we took on the lease in 2007. Many tried to make it work but high rents and a small trading space were against them. The last incarnation as wine bar/bistro gave us nice wooden and slate flooring but a garish white backbar and glass-tiled upstairs room.
We fitted a traditional backbar and six real ales. Ned (now head of training for BrewDog and stepson of the current incumbents) and wife Nats (daughter thereof) made it a success and when they left their Assistant Manager Joe took over, tasking it to new heights. Paul & Dee from The Victoria down the road have been tenants since late 2015, injecting their own style and enthusiasm to this fabulous little pub.