The Bull and Butcher, High Street

The Bull and Butcher Inn, licensee Albert Hawkins, and J. Barrow Haircutting and Shaving Saloon. The building to the left has an advertising board for ‘Antique Furniture Carefully Restores’, while that on the right is R.J.Beer’s Central Cycle Stores.

Barrow’s is a fairly modest building here, a late eighteenth or early nineteenth century facade probably concealing a much older structure. Although the quoin stones and the window tops seem rather grand, the quality of the brickwork seems rather suspect. The square windows are also slightly unusual, both implying that this building was adapted over many years, rather than built once to one coherent plan.

The Bull and Butcher is a very interesting building. The hipped gable could be seen on a number of other old Bridgwater buildings, including the original Maltshovel Inn and the Fountain Inn, although this one was delightfully small. Parallels may also be seen in the front of 32 Friarn Street (again, a larger, grander building), especially with the plat bands running between the upper storeys. The brickwork appears to be of a much better quality compared to Barrow’s, and has a Flemish Bond, meaning the brings go long-short-long-short etc. The form of the building looks older than the brickwork though, meaning an earlier structure was probably given a facelift with brick in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. The loft window is probably an eighteenth century enlargement of a smaller, older window, as the first storey window is probably an adaption of something much older, possibly a late medieval three light mullioned window (imagine the space split into three by two large stone or wooden bars). Note the big iron hoops that seem to be holding the sign up.

The name Bull and Butcher relates to Bridgwater’s ‘shambles’. A row of buildings once ran up the middle of the High Street, and on the north side of this a row of shops sold butchered meat. Hence this pub remembers this area’s history as a place where meat was once sold, and where its butchers went to have a pint. The first record of the pub seems to be in 1742 (see David Williams, Bridgwater Inns Past & Present). It finally closed in 1980.

The row consisting of the Bull and Butcher, Barrow’s, Beer’s and the final building in the row, the Old Oak Inn (not pictured), were all demolished in 1907 for a brand new four-unit building. This largely survives today, although the middle two units (where Barrow’s and Beer’s once stood) are now the entrance to the Angel Crescent Shopping Centre. Although the ground floors have been lost, the upper storeys partially survive at the back.

The above photograph seems to have been part of a series, for the next one see Squibbs’ History of Bridgwater, number 14, which shows the old cobbles in the street. They may have been taken in about 1905 before the demolition began. This particular photograph was printed on ‘Velox’ paper, indicating it was developed in the 1940s, long after the houses had been destroyed.

The New Bull and Butcher, c.1930. Next door can be seen W.H. Smith, Saddler; then next is B.E. Radford, Tailor; finally the Old Oak Inn.

MKP 5 April 2020