Sweet History landmark (photo)

Corn Exchange

Address: The Exchange, Corn Street, BS1 1JQ

Date: Georgian period (1714-1837)

The Exchange was built in 1741–43 by John Wood the Elder, with carvings by Thomas Paty.

This grand looking building was used by merchants of all types and many of those involved in trade with Guinea and West Indian would come here to do business. On both sides of the front entrance in Corn Street were a coffee house and tavern - both were four storeys high. Most African and American merchants preferred to do their business in the more relaxed atmosphere of the nearby coffee houses.

If you look inside the Corn Exchange you can see some interesting plasterwork in the main hall. Above the doors of the main chamber there are plaster carvings representing Africa, Asia and America. The American one is a figure of a woman with a head-dress of tobacco leaves. On the outside of the building there are carvings of African, American, Asian and European figures and animals, which represent Bristol’s foreign trade.

There are four large brass tables (nail shaped) outside the Corn Exchange on Corn Street. The brass nails have flat tops and raised edges which would have prevented coins from tumbling onto the pavement. They were used as handy tables for merchants to carry out their business and the phrase ‘paying on the nail’ may have come from this.

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