All Saints’ Lane is a narrow passage leading from Corn Street to the heart of Bristol’s Flower Market, and it is here that you will find the Rummer. The present inn has been known as the Rummer for over two hundred years but its history goes back much further than that. It is built on a portion of the site occupied as early as 1241 by an inn, then called the Greene Lattis, which gives it Bristol’s No. 1 Licence.
Many old inns have had a change of name in their long history but the Rummer must surely hold the record. The Green Lattis was so named because of the prominent use of the colour on lattices, windows and door posts of the inn. Undoubtedly the inn is one of the oldest hostelries in Bristol and one of the three principal Coaching Establishments, the two others being The Bush in Corn Street – long since demolished, and immortalized by Dickens – and the White Hart in Broad Street now replaced by the Grand Hotel.
The inn faced the High Street and extended backwards to the present All Saints’ Lane which was then known as Venney’s Lane, and it had a large inn-yard and stables at this point. The inn was given to the Church of All Saints in 1241 by its owner Alice Hayle, in the hope that prayers would be said for the repose of her soul.
We know that these early premises were rebuilt in 1440 when the vicar and churchwardens borrowed £100 for that purpose. In that century, one Thomas Abyndon, a churchwarden, occupied the house as its innkeeper and the inn became known as the Abyndon. By the sixteenth century it was variously referred to as the Green Lattis and the Abyndon, and one deed of 1647 even refers to it as the ‘Green Lettice, in the occupation of the Sheriff, Francis Gleed.’ The confusion of names was perpetuated when in 1565 the Jonas Inn was rebuilt and the Green Lattis incorporated in it; the newly built inn was called simply the New Inn, alias Jonas, alias Green Lattis.’
It was the building of the new Exchange in 1743 which finally fixed the old inn’s name and also gave it its present structure. The merchants of Bristol had long discussed the need for a suitable prestigious meeting place as a centre of activity for the commercial world. The site in Corn Street was chosen but there were a number of old properties to be bought up before the Exchange could be built.
In 1740 a conveyance was made between the owner Mrs Earle and the Corporation stating that, ‘as the building an exchange was highly necessary and that the opening of convenient passages to such Exchange by making a new street or streets.. it would be necessary to purchase several houses, lands, tenements.’ One of these new streets to be opened up was All Saints’ Lane which had been the courtyard to the Rummer Tavern but now would be a thoroughfare to it and the market which was also to be built at this time.
John Wood, the designer of the Exchange, continued this new approach to the Rummer as part of his Exchange scheme and at the same time set back and rebuilt the inn giving it an entrance into the Lane as well as retaining the one in High Street.
The oldest parts of the Rummer are the old cellars which were under the medieval hostelry on this site but the rest of the house is of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century with an entirely suitable panelled door and doorway with a pediment on brackets.
Ex-Landlord Mr Thomas describes the wells used by slaves who were kept down in the cellar, and tells of the strange find of an underground kitchen, fitted out with an old cauldron. The cellars run from here under Corn Street, forming part of the maze of tunnels beneathg old Bristol. it must be remembered that the main entrance to the inn was in the High Street and it was used until 1920 when it was converted into a shop. It was to this main entrance that the eighteenth century coaching trade came.
It was in 1784 that one John Palmer of Bath signed a contract with the Postmaster General for the carriage of mail by coaches. The first road on which this experiment was tried was between London and Bristol and on a memorable day, Augnst 8th 1784, the first coach arrived at the Rummer Tavern at eleven o’clock at night after the first fifteen hour journey from London. The Rummer was now in business as Bristol’s first coaching inn.
The coach office was the High Street entrance where tickets could be bought. Matthews 1793 Directory states, ‘London, a mail coach every day at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, also a balloon coach every afternoon at 12 o’clock; one to Birmingham every evening at 7 o’clock and to Bath one at 8 a.m. and another at 4 p.m.’ You can well imagine the intense activity at the Rummer with the comings and goings of all these coaches and their passengers.
There is an interesting receipt from 1812 signed by the landlady Sarah Poston acknowledging that one W. Harris had ordered.
3 bowls punch £1.11s.6d
We can only hope that Mr Harris and his friends had good heads.
The Rummer’s importance as a coaching inn continued until 1843 when on October 21st the last four-horse coach left for London. The Great Western Railway had by that time gained the confidence of the travelling public and the days of coach travel were over. The old coach office in High Street remained for some time, as a balcony had been erected over its doorway from which many political speeches were made, including those of Edmund Burke, Bristol’s most famous M.P.
In the days before the 1832 Parliamentary Reform Bill, the peculiarities of the voting system gave rise to many abuses. Inns were open for a week before polling day when freemen of the city could drink as much as they liked at the expense of the candidates.
This liberty soon led to rioting and mobs from opposing parties attacked anything and everything. The inns themselves came in for a lot of abuse and in 1830 the Rummer lost its shutters, door frames and part of the coach office itself when the opposing party objected to candidate Baillie’s supporters.
The Rummer and the earlier inns on this site have all played a part in Bristol’s history. It was the foremost inn in the area in a central position and Elizabeth I, Charles I and II and William III are all reputed to have been put up here on their civic visits. During the Civil War it also saw a good deal of action when it was held first by the Cavaliers and then by the Roundheads. An annalist says that Oliver Cromwell stayed here in 1649 ‘on his way to govern Ireland according to his Irish ideas.’
The social life of a city often centred around its inns. The first Freemasons’ Lodge dinner was held at the Rummer in 1735 and continued until 1812 when the Masons built their own Hall noted as, ‘an improvement in masonic affairs as by the removal from the Taverns, the dangers of the bottle were lessened.’ Boxing matches were promoted but never fought at the inn. Felix Farley’s Journal in 1755 told its readers of, ‘tickets to be had at the Rummer Tavern for a famous boxing match depending between John Harris and John Slack.’
Many literary meetings were held at the inn and the poet S.T. Coleridge published his magazine, ‘The Watchman’ from here; it folded after ten issues and the long-suffering Joseph Cottle, bookseller of High Street, had once again to save the impecunious poet from the debtors’ prison.
Although the Rummer has been altered internally over the years there are still some good things within its walls. It was John Wood who installed the lovely newelled staircase when he rebuilt the inn in 1743 and near the stairs are two other items of note. On a plinth in a prominent position is a magnificent rummer of beaten copper and wood which might well have served as an inn sign at some stage in its history.
The rummer was traditionally a large drinking vessel for rum which in those halcyon days they took in large measures and the sign of the rummer would have indicated a good drinking house. The imposing clock dating from about 1680 with a large japanned case and clear letters is typical of the sort which came to be known as Parliamentary Clocks. When in 1797 a tax of five shillings was put on all private clocks and watches, the public’s reaction was predictable; they refused to buy clocks and chose to rely on those in public places.
Large clocks were placed in inns almost as a public service. This one is a particularly fine specimen and pre-dates the Act by many years. In Mathew’s Guide to Bristol there is an interesting list of coaches to London, Wales and Birmingham, all of which started from The Rummer Tavern. – Preserved at the Art Gallery, from ‘Ye Almsyshowse’ in Venny Lane, is a portion of oak-work with quaint lettering that records: ‘That we may pray while we have -‘ The last word missing; for some years it must have been built into the wall dividing an early Inn from the Almshouse.
From this example with indications of ‘Drops’ on either side – it is more than likely to have spanned a passage way that led to the Conventual Building at the side. In 1962 the Beni Inns bought the Rummer and inaugurated their own brand of social revolution. They re-opened the entrance from High Street, created new bars and set up their first steak bar in the West Country. It was at the Rummer that the Beni Inns’ tradition began, of serving good steaks and preserving old, historic inns. It was a good day for Bristol when the Berni Brothers decided to settle here for without their enterprise there would have been fewer historic inns left in this historic city.
In latter years the large Rummer basement was used as a live music venue named ‘The Underground Club’.A Haunting Manifestation of a man dressed in contemporary clothing was seen in the cellar before quickly vanishing, while the ghost of a woman with long hair has been reported in the bar.
Sadly by 1999 The Rummer closed down and was boarded up for about 8 years!.
But thanks to a new owner Brett Hirt and manager Danny Walker it opened again.
RUMMER High Street (All Saints’ Lane) Past Landlords
1775 Thomas Taylor / 1800 Ann Hanson / 1812 – 37 Sarah Poston / 1840 – 44 William Bough 1848 John Pring / 1851 – 53 David Snow / 1854 – 75 Harriet Maria Froyne / 1877 – 89 Alfred Bailey 1891 – 1917 Felix Bailey / 1921 – 25 Mrs. Jessie Bailey / 1928 Albert Bailey / 1931 – 53 Ernest Bailey.
in 2005. The Rummer holds Bristol’s No. 1 Licence, how many old inns have had a change of name in their long history but the Rummer must surely hold the record. After almost a decade of being closed and boarded up, The Rummer reopened at the end of 2005 and has, once again, become one of central Bristol’s most popular watering holes.
Finally, The Rummer reopened its doors to the public on the 19th December 2005, after a two year restoration. The enterance has been restored to All Saints Lane, and the old High Street entrance remains closed.
The New Look Rummer Reviews
Best Bar in Bristol – I read the reviews, and the small amount of press the Rummer has had, but I still couldn’t find the place. Eventually I did ( All saints lane, off corn street) and I’ve been back every week. Great coffee in the day and storming spirits and cocktails at night. More whiskey than The Woods and better selection than Hotel Du Vin and the best house range I have ever seen. Good prices too. By: Bar Crawler.
Awesome – What a great find! Best drinks, best service and best atmosphere in Bristol. I know i’ll be in there most night. Well worth a look if you like your booze. Great selection of Rums, if this isn’t the best Rum collection on earth, i’d like to know where is. By: Dave
The Rummer – When I heard the Rummer had reopened I assumed it was a corporate wine bar…. I was wrong. This small independant bar, hidden away from corn street is a haven for real drinkers. The best spirit collection in Bristol and bartenders who seem to know everything they sell. Very reasonable pricing too. Would recommend to anybody wanting to retreat from the hectic corn street and baldwin scene. By: Simon.
Hidden gem in the city – I recently heard that the Rummer had been re opened as a ponsy bar, so i popped down last night for a drink, and found my new favorite place in Bristol. Its a haven away from the chav infested corn street, a real treat. We drank some awsome wine and didn’t break the bank doing so. We finished up by sampling some of the best rum ive ever had. A great night. By: James.
Click on link for the Rummer website www.therummer.co.uk
There’s a staggering 40 Rums to choose from It took two years, but the wait was worth it. The new-look Rummer opened last December, and the makeover is indeed stunning, with owner Brett Hirt and manager Danny Walker creating a venue in keeping with the affection which was held for this old girl by Bristolians. Chesterfield sofas surround the huge fireplace, the food is all sourced locally, and the bar has a selection of 13 bottled ales, beers, porters and stouts – including Nigerian Guinness at a whopping 7.5% ABV. The wine and spirits selection is massive, too.
There’s been an inn on this site since 1241.
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