Sunday 27th April 2014
This pub has been on my radar for the last few years. I often visit Bristol and the Barley Mow is just five minutes walk away from the Ibis Temple Meads Hotel that I tend to use when in the city. It’s in the district of St Philips and this part is also known as The Dings. It was once very industrial with Avonside Engineering being located in the area when the pub was built.
Avonside Engineering, makers of steam engines for factories, ships and also locomotives for railways, moved away to larger premises in 1905, yet by then the area was well established as a network of streets with terraced houses and of course, many pubs to serve the residents. There were around eight just in the immediate area around what is now the Barley Mow, which is the last pub remaining in the area.
Another major contribution to the development of the area was the establishment of the St Philips railway station, the terminus of the Midland Railway in the city. It opened in 1870 and closed to passenger traffic in 1953, by which time it only handled local trains.
The Midland’s long distance expresses ran through to the Great Western Railway’s Temple Meads station as they were mostly destined for the South West and continued on that railway. However a tangible reminder of the old station’s existence is found in the name of Midland Road, a few streets away. The old station finally closed in 1967 when it ceased handling goods traffic.
It is said there was a pub on the site in the early 1800s. This may well have been true but I have found no evidence for the claim and I wonder where the trade would have come from.
It is believed the pub opened in 1879 and looking at the building that seems to be correct. Any which way, that is the date of the first recorded licensee. An interesting feature of the location is that there is Jewish cemetery almost opposite that opened in the 1740s, with its first burial in 1762, and the last in 1944.
Until 2008 the pub was known as the Duke of York when it acquired its present yet traditional name. It is now under the ownership of the Bristol Beer Factory, who took over in 2013. They have really smartened the pub up, both outside and inside.
I have found it very difficult to plot its life from opening to its purchase by the present owners. It was probably once a George’s Brewery pub, which was taken over in 1961 by Courage and closed in 1999. More information on its provenance would be gratefully received.
When I visited there three cask beers from the owner’s brewery: Bristol Beer Factory (Bristol) Sunrise Golden Ale (4.4%); Independence American Pale Ale (4.6%) and Nova (3.8%), a “herby and floral ale”.
As there are normally eight hand pumps in use that left a further five ales for my delectation and these were: Cottage Brewing (Lovington, Somerset) Southern Bitter (3.7%) and Duchess (4.2%); Yeovil Ales (Lufton, Somerset) Ruby (4.5%) and Twisted Oak (Wrington, Somerset) Sheriff Fatman American Pale Ale (5.0%). The name of this must be derived from the song of the same name by Carter USM. Finally, not from Somerset, was Magic Rock (Huddersfield, West Yorks) Chilpotle Punchline Chocolate Porter (5.4%).
The pub has one main room that was once at least two. The walls are painted in a light cream colour and are home to many framed photographs, paintings and posters. Below there is wooden panelling to waist height which is painted blue.
The furniture is wooden with at least one church pew seat. Candles and flowers decorate each table and there is a lovely mirror over a fireplace at one end. There are also some ornate glass light shades hanging from the ceiling.
Additionally they sell nine keg beers and one keg cider, if you like that sort of thing. The average price of these compared with the cask offerings is more or less double and that is in a city that doesn’t have cheap ales.
Why you want a beer however well brewed, with the addition of sterile manufactured CO2 is beyond me, especially at twice the price! It would be very appropriate if these were served in mugs!
There is a full menu and notwithstanding my comments above, this pub is well worth visiting by reason of its extremely fine selection of cask beers.
The Barley Mow, 39 Barton Road, St Philips, Bristol BS2 0LF. Tel: 0117 930 4709
Open: Monday-Thursday 12.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday 12.00-23.30; Sunday 12.00-22.00
Food is served: Monday-Saturday 12.00-15.00, 17.00-21.00;
Sunday 12.00-15.00 when roasts are available.
The best way to approach the pub is from Temple Meads station. Assuming you are arriving through the exit gates from the platforms, keep walking out of the exit in front of you, signed for the car park. Do not go left into the main station approach.
Once out of the main building you will be crossing Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s original terminus station, now bereft of tracks. Keep following the path to the first intersection.
Turn right in to another path which crosses the river on an aluminium footbridge.
Keep walking with the Ibis Hotel on your left until you reach the junction with Barton Road. Turn left and you will find the Barley Mow on the right after a right-hand curve in the road.