Sweet History landmark (photo)

Hole in the Wall Pub

Address: Queen Square, BS1 4QZ

Date: Stuart period (1603-1714), Georgian period (1714-1837)

This pub used to be called the Coach and Horses and in the 18th century it was very popular with sailors of the port of Bristol. There is a small spy hole on the side of the building which is said to have been used by a lookout to warn the sailors drinking inside of any Customs men or Press Gangs coming towards the inn. During the 18th century conditions onboard ships were so horrible that no-one really wanted to go and work at sea. The Royal Navy would sometimes send teams of men to collect drunks and those who could not run away, and force (or press) them into serving in the Navy. Once on board ship and at sea the men couldn’t just go home, and lots of young men were forced into a life at sea this way. Sometimes there would also be raids by Customs Officers (Excise Men) searching for smugglers, and being able to see unwanted people coming through the spy hole was good news for the people inside the pub.

Press Gangs weren’t used for slave ships but sometimes the owners of slave ships would give money to pub owners around the Bristol Docks to get the sailors very drunk. The sailors then couldn’t afford to pay for what they had drunk and were forced to go and work on the slave ships rather than go to the debtors’ prison. Sailors weren’t keen on working on slave ships because the conditions were bad - many sailors died during the voyages and often the slaves would get angry and try to escape.

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