Wednesday 7th May 2014
This is yet other historic building in the area of North Redcliffe, although it hasn’t always been a pub. It was constructed as the shop and the workshop of Charles Cox, a wig-maker.
It became a pub in the 1850s and it is said that it was known as the Rabbit Warren. Was this is official title or just a nickname, I wonder? The reason I raise this question is that its landlord was then Simeon Pearce who also dealt in meat and game, which obviously included rabbits. It seems a very unusual name for a pub.
However all was resolved in 1859 when it became the Cornubia, the Latin name for Cornwall. It is thought that it was named after the paddle steamer of the same name that plied between Hayle and Bristol in the 1850s. Interestingly there is a pub of the same name in Hayle. I wonder how far upstream it came to berth; possibly close to the pub? Going off-subject, the P.S. Cornubia was purchased by the American Confederate forces and operated during their Civil War as a gun runner, no small history there!
As usual it is very difficult to ascertain what brewery owned it at the beginning yet Georges are the odds-on favourites for many reasons. Their brewery is but a few hundred metres away; later the pub became their brewery tap and that was before their take-over in 1961 by Courage, Barclay & Perkins. Should it have originated with another Bristol brewer it was almost certain to end up in the Georges stable, as they took over most of them through the years.
Should you visit the pub, and you should, you will notice that it has a curious location, set back a considerable distance from Victoria Street and invisible until you actually arrive outside. It is surrounded by the sides and backs of many ugly buildings constructed during the 1950s and 1960s. This came about as a result of blitz bombing during the Second World War. It was the only building in Victoria Street to survive. This area was full of manufacturing industries during the 1930s and was a major target.
Luckily both the pub and brewery survived that period. As mentioned above it was Georges’ tap and later under the Courage regime, it was used as a hospitality location for visitors to the brewery. It performed another function as a training base for pub staff. It must be remembered that in the 1990s, when I first visited the pub, the brewery was producing all of the Best Bitter and Director’s for the whole country, the Courage plants in London, Reading and Plymouth having closed by then.
There is a conundrum here as I cannot recollect the circumstances under how or when I visited the Cornubia. I did go round the brewery once and assume that was the occasion. However I’m sure it was in the evening so I ask the question: did it revert to being a pub in the evening? It would be great if anybody reading this could confirm one way or the other.
The last ten or so years of the pub’s existence have been rather turbulent. It started in December 2003 when City Centre Breweries purchased Smiles Brewery and Brewery Tap. Earlier Smiles had sold around 16 pubs to Youngs Brewery as they were in financial difficulties and the new owners of Smiles wanted to expand the number of outlets as they were capable of brewing a considerable amount of beer.
In 2004 they purchased the Cornubia, yet in the same year they went into receivership. They struggled on and closed the brewery behind the Brewery Tap and contracted to beers to the Highgate Brewery of Walsall. It still didn’t work and the Cornubia and the Brewery Tap closed abruptly on Thursday 13th July 2006 and a number of fixtures were removed from the pub.
However there was a knight in shining armour in the form of the Hidden Brewery of Salisbury who purchased it and reopened again by the late autumn. It was during the following few years that I visited the pub a lot. It had a very laid-back feel and with quite subdued lighting and comfortable seating along with a great range of beers, it couldn’t be beat. I well remember visiting the pub with Vaughan on a vinyl-only night. I was able to get the DJ to play some obscure albums that you wouldn’t normally hear.
This pub was my nearest equivalent to George Orwell’s “Moon under Water”, at least since the Railway Hotel in Basingstoke closed over 40 years ago. In 2010 new managers arrived, Phil and Jackie. I knew their previous pub, the Crown & Thistle in Gravesend, Kent. It was a smashing pub that once was crowned CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year. They liked the Cornubia so much they bought it in 2012.
However when I next visited I had quite a shock. It had become rather bright and garish with fairy lights hanging from the bar back and other parts of the pub. The front drinking area was much brighter and the white-painted walls were covered with old pump clips. We didn’t need reminding what beers we’ve missed, just those that we can drink at the time!
Outside the pub was decorated with innumerable flags of British origin; in fact quite over the top. I love my country but have never felt the need to prove it with ostentatious displays. Another change was to find a glass tank at the end of the room containing live turtles. After a while I felt sorry for the little creatures, having to put up with me staring at them most of the time.
Now, I realise we can’t live in the past and things can’t always be the same but I still rue the changes made here. However, don’t let that put you off, it’s still a very good pub and I suspect the beer range is better than ever. After all, BeerVisits is about the best places to drink beer and this is one of them.
When I perused the beers on offer that evening I thought that there had been a “tap take-over” by the Kingstone Brewery where I was to visit the following day.
However the barman informed me that they had a lot of beer in the cellar that had not settled, yet those from Kingstone had; so that’s why there were four on the bar. The Kingstone Brewery (Tintern, Monmouthshire) beers were: Tewdric’s Tipple (3.8%); Challenger (4.0%); Premium Stout (4.4%) and Humpty’s Fuddle (5.8%). Representing the city were two from Great Western Brewery (Hambrook, Bristol): Meerkat Mild (3.9%) and Moose River American Pale Ale (5.0%). From further afield were Prescott (Cheltenham, Glos.) Grand Prix (5.2%) and Hog’s Back (Tongham, Surrey) Hop Garden Gold (4.4%).
So, as can been seen, this is a very respectable beer list and you can always find a one to suite your palate in this notable pub. There are also up to five ciders. Another attraction is Acoustic Night on Thursdays. Food is limited to pasties, pies, pickled eggs and the like.
The Cornubia, 142 Temple Street, Bristol BS1 6EN. Tel: 0117 925 4415
Open: Monday-Saturday 12.00-23.00. Sunday / Bank Holidays: Closed
The pub is around ten minutes walk from Temple Meads station. Exit the station and walk down the station approach. Turn right at the bottom and when you get to the large Temple Circus roundabout you need continue forward along Victoria Street on the opposite side. If you walk along the road with the Novotel on your right, you will see the excellent King’s Head, also on the right (please see separate article). At this point turn right into Temple Street which bears left and, all of a sudden, the Cornubia will be visible on the left.
There are many bus routes that pass close by.