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Site updated 30/07/2020 23:04:25
We Are Very Amused
This little gem of a pub is on the corner, next to The Lido. The two are inextricably linked and when we took it over in 2004 the former Clifton Pool was derelict, and the pub in grave danger of becoming the same after a revolving-door of tenants and an uncaring Pubco.
It is one of only 212 Grade II* listed buildings in Bristol.
In Hot Water
In fact, both enterprises have had precarious histories. Those ambitious Victorians over-reached themselves in establishing the Clifton pool and with time and money running out they were forced to carve off one corner of their building to save the project. Bristol brewers Georges stepped in to buy the plot and The Victoria opened its doors in 1856 under Mary Ann Hacke. The pub had relatively few landlords for it’s first 120 years; it must have prospered despite its diminutive size. However, the Lido, by now Council-owned closed in the eighties and must have affected custom. Scandalously, a deal was struck to sell the Lido off for housing but a concerted effort by local residents saw this off. Neglected, the pub itself went on a seesaw ride in the 1990s as different licensees came and went. It is still fondly remembered as ‘The Elvis pub’ by many regulars!
Eventually, restaurateur Arne Ringner (of Glassboat fame) took on the arduous task of restoring the lido. The result is superb and a huge success as a pool and fine dining restaurant under Freddie Bird.
The lido was still defunct and so was the pub when Glen Dawkins bought the lease in 2004.
“I remember just stumbling across this vast derelict building (the lido) one day hidden away on the backstreets of Clifton, yet only yards from Whiteladies Road. This was when I first moved to Bristol a dozen years before I took on the pub. I’ve always had an internal ‘pubometer’ and this must have guided me there as it was lovely to find a street-corner pub there too. However, my general sense of direction is atrocious so when I went for an official viewing of it when it went on the market I got completely lost and ended up a quarter of an hour late!
We still get people saying “I’ve lived round the corner for years and never knew you were here!”
Like all five of our Bristol pubs it was a Georges house, passing through Courage, Ushers and InnSpired hands. The freehold now resides with new pubco Red Oak; as things go around they come around and our contact is the same guy I was dealing with for Punch at The Miner’s Arms many years ago. We are hoping to come to agreement soon on smartening up the stucco frontage of this lovely pub. It looked quite good when the lido was in ruins but not so now! Internally, the pub had suffered from the bland 1970s corporate Courage refit and some bizarre later additions. I had in mind a proper Victorian interior (in fact inspired by The One Tun in The City of London-since sadly much altered) and spent some time doing it up. It was gratifying when the heritage guys considered listing the back bar but I had to ‘fess up it was all of five years old!”
The pub was the first of ours to go from managed to tenanted in 2015, still under the aegis of Dawkins but allowing the entrepreneurial spirit of the landlords to flourish. Funnily enough, the former managers Paul & Dee Tanner are now the tenants of The Portcullis up the road, a pub once run by their daughter…keeping up?
Before you enter for a pint, look up and see the lion gazing down on you from the roof!