Some history of the Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps at Bristol in the county of Gloucestershire.


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To be honest I was not sure how to label this page. The tavern was known as the Three Sugar Loaves up until John Rouse became the publican in the 1870s. It traded as the Gaiety for many years, until the Three Sugar Loaves inn sign was restored in relatively recent times. In the 21st century the name changed to reflect its position on the Christmas Steps. In the 19th century there were several public-houses bearing the sign of the Three Sugar Loaves. The reason for the sign at this house was its close proximity to the sugar refinery of Thomas Fuidge and William Fripp. The 10-story factory was completely destroyed by fire in 1859, a disaster that threw 250 people out of work.

Bristol : Map extract showing the location of the Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps [1882]

Surveyed in 1882, this map extract shows the location of the Gaiety, as it was then known, near the bottom of Christmas Steps. In later years the tavern was extended into the corner building so it became a much larger public-house than it had been for generations. Note the other P.H. marked on Christmas Steps. A trade directory for 1879 shows that there was a fully-licensed house called the Rainbow and Dove, along with two beer retailers. The White Horse traded near the steps at the top of the alley. Older inn signs on this steep incline are the Adam and Eve and the Apple Tree, both of which were in existence in the mid-18th century.

Bristol : Plaque at the top of Christmas Steps [2005]

According to Veronica Smith, "until 1775 Christmas Steps was known as Queen Street." However, I have found references to this name in the mid-19th century so the old name somehow pervaded. An early name for the thoroughfare was Knifesmith Street or Knyfesmyth Street, on account of cutlers trading from here. Some Bristol historians suggest that the Middle English pronunciation of Knyfesmyth, with emphasis on the K sound, could be the origin of the street's name. In William Worcestre's 1480 itinerary of Bristol, he describes it as "knyfesmythstrete aliter [alius] Cristmastrete." Veronica Smith included information on the will of Robert Gradely, dated 1385, referring to "Knyzt-mass Street, possibly a combination of Knight and Mass as the Eucharist processions on holy days once took place here." Certainly, for those looking for streetscape romance, Christmas Steps is top-drawer. A plaque at the top of the steps [see above] informs the visitor that the steep-slanted steps were new made in September 1669 and were paid for by wealthy wine merchant, Jonathan Blackwell.

Bristol : Three Sugar Loaves in Matthews' New History of Bristol or Complete Guide and Bristol Directory [1793-4]

This is an early trade directory listing for the Three Sugar Loaves. Charles Emmett was recorded as publican in Matthews' New History of Bristol or Complete Guide and Bristol Directory 1793-4. He is possibly the man who married Hannah Smith at Olveston in January 1877. A Charles Emmett is recorded as a weighing porter at the Custom House in 1787. He died in 1807 and was buried in the nearby churchyard.

Some of the traders on Christmas Steps, referred to as St. Michael's Steps in the Bristol Mercury, fully embraced the city's celebration of Queen Victoria's coronation in 1838. Three arches of laurel were thrown across the street. On each side of the first arch, fitted up by George Maskell, licensee of the Three Sugar Loaves, the brilliant letters of V. R. formed part of a compositon of flowers surmounted by a crown. Hailing from Essex, George Maskell was both brewer and publican. He kept the Three Sugar Loaves with his wife Ann.

The official listed building entry for the Three Sugar Loaves is a "house and pair of attached houses, now one public-house. c.1710, altered late C18/early C19, converted late C20, exterior joinery dating from then." The interior has been meddled with over the years so do not expect to find original fittings. Not all of this is down to contemporary pub operators - the original interior was gutted by a disastrous fire in 1847. The neighbours must have been bricking it in case the flames spread to their properties. However, apart from the bakery next door, the damage was confined to the Three Sugar Loaves due to the quick work of the fire engines.

The publican at the time of the fire was Thomas Richards. He landed himself in serious trouble two years later in the restored Three Sugar Loaves when he allowed dog-fighting to be conducted in a first-floor room. The police raided the premises but the publican did a runner. The officers arrested a good deal of the men who received heavy fines from the magistrates. Indeed, the fines were such that I imagine some of them were unable to pay so faced a month in the gaol. At the time of the hearing the whereabouts of Thomas Richards was unknown but the Bench intimated that he would lose his licence over the matter. He must have had the gift of the gab for, when he did emerge, he managed to hang on to his licence. He was still recorded at the Three Sugar Loaves in the census of 1851 in which the enumerator recorded all the properties in Queen Street. Thomas Richards was running the Three Sugar Loaves with a barmaid named Louisa Huntley. The couple married two year later and would later run the Talbot Inn at Bedminster. Louisa came from a family of coopers.

The Dennis couple running the Three Sugar Loaves in the early 1850s, after living in Clifton, had previously kept a tavern at Bitton prior to moving to Christmas Steps. Devon-born Thomas Dennis died in March 1854 and the licence passed to his wife Mary who hailed from St. Columb Major in Cornwall. She married the butcher William Manning and moved to Hotwell Road. After a brief spell by Thomas Pope, there was a bit of a clearout. As can be seen from the following notices for sales the turnover of licensees during this period was rather alarming.

Bristol : Sale of household furniture and brewing utensils at the Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps [1856]

Bristol : Sale of furniture and effects at the Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps [1857]

The tavern's association with Cornish people continued when Simon Dumble took over as licensee. However, his stay was short, the licence of the house being transferred to John Davis in July 1861. Simon Dumble moved to the Seven Stars in Penn Street but remained there only for a brief period. In December 1861 his son, also named Simon, attempted to commit suicide by cutting his throat. His mother, also from Cornwall, promised to care for the 21 year-old so the police released him rather than charge him.

Bristol : Sale of furniture and effects at the Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps [1857]

The people coming and going were tenants, many of whom flitted about the city trying to seek their fortune at one place or another. The incoming for the Three Sugar Loaves was only around £30 so it was relatively easy for a tenant to raise the capital but created a fluidity of movement. However, the above notice shows that the freehold of the building was made available in January 1861. Either there was a typo or the inn sign was known as the Sugar Loaf at this time. There was a legal complexity in that the freehold building was subject to a free farm rent, a legacy of the antiquity of the original agreement. The notice provides a glimpse of the premises with trading areas being within a bar, parlour, tap-room, and club room.

John Gullick was the licensee of the Three Sugar Loaves during the late 1860s. Born at Wells in Somerset, he was a baker by trade and continued to operate this business on Christmas Steps, leaving his wife Mary Ann to tend to the tavern. The couple had earlier run the White Bear on Earl Street. At the Bristol Licensing Session held in September 1871 there was a discussion on the renewal of John Gullick's licence. Inspector Thatcher complained of the annoyance caused by the convivial held at the house. He told the magistrates that when the customers left the house they were very noisy and created disturbances. In reply John Gullick promised to conduct the convivial in a quieter manner and, as a result, the licence was renewed.

Bristol : Notice for an auction of the Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps [1872]

After seven years John and Mary Ann Gullick decided to sell up towards the end of 1872. The sale seemingly did not happen for John Gullick was still there in January 1873 when he was called as a witness in a case concerning the murder of William Claypole on the Welsh Back. Guiseppe Colletto, an Italian seaman, was charged with the murder of William Claypole, being accused of stabbing him in the abdomen. The sailor, along with Antonio Guiseppe, Guiseppe and Narino Scaperlando, were known to the publican as they had been drinking in the Three Sugar Loaves for several days. Indeed, in the company of two young women, they were in the pub on the night of the murder.

It transpired from the evidence of Tommaso Bugando, an Italian cook on board the Francisco, that the incident occurred when he, Joseph Colletto and an Englishman named Barker, left the Cross Keys and were walking to the Three Sugar Loaves. On their way they encountered a man and a woman walking towards them who, it was stated, were skylarking. This led to the woman treading on the foot of Bugando. He told the court that he said to the woman in English, and partly in Italian, as well as he could, "Look out where you are playing; if you want to skylark go into the middle of the road." The man with her, William Claypole, took umbrage and confronted him. After some argy-bargy Bugando and Barker walked on. However, on turning around, they saw Colletto with his left hand on the right shoulder of Claypole before running down the road shouting in Italian "Run, run, Joseph, make haste." Outside the pub Colletto stated that he had stabbed an Englishman. All three men then went into the Three Sugar Loaves. Both Colletto and Bugando were later apprehended in the Cross Keys.

On questioning at the police station, Colletto was set free but Bugando was detained. Angry at this, he sent for the ship's captain. After further questioning the police went out and re-arrested Colletto. All the seamen were detained until the Assizes where, after a long protracted hearing in which translators were deployed, the evidence seemed contradictory. Witnesses provided differing accounts, the lighting conditions making it difficult to identify the man who inflicted the fatal wound. Surprisingly, on the charge of murder, the jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty."

The Gullick family would later run the London Vaults at Tower Hill where Mary Ann died in July 1876, aged only 33. John Gullick re-married and remained as a highly popular landlord at the London Vaults.

Bristol : Notice for an auction of the trade fixtures, fitting and utensils of the Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps [1876]

A long lease for the Three Sugar Loaves was offered in September 1876, the price being £200. In December of the same year a large sale of furniture and fittings was again cleared from the premises. I often find these sale baffling. Looking at the sale items, you would think the next owner or tenant would require them to continue the business. Flogging the furniture is one thing but here the gas fittings and water pipes were going under the hammer. I can only imagine that the next occupier was going for a full refurbishment of the tavern.

Succeeding Frederick Wilkins, the new proprietor of the tavern was John Rouse who, along with his wife Mary Ann, was highly popular in Bristol for they were comedic actors who had trodden the boards of the city's theatres. Indeed, they had performed in some of London's major theatres in a range of comedy plays and farces. John Rouse was described by one theatre critic as "probably the most versatile of the popular low comedians seen on the Bristol stage," written after a successful performance at London's Drury Lane. He was also an acclaimed vocalist and many productions pencilled in a song in which he could flourish, much to the audience's delight.

Bristol : Advertisement for a production at the Theatre Royal [1860]

The Rouse couple, having lived out of suitcases for many years, opted to settle down in Bristol. John Rouse applied to the licensing magistrates for the transfer of the licence of the Three Sugar Loaves. However, he wanted a new inn sign to reflect his association with the theatre. The chairman of the Bench, described by G. Rennie Powell as "a broad-chested, narrow-minded, non-compromising Nonconformist, said: "The magistrates don't mind allowing the transfer, but they object to the name Gaiety." Mr. J. H. Clifton, the solicitor appearing for the John Rouse, in what was described as his customary delightful manner, explained that "the title did not in any way imply that which his worship probably had in his mind, but was the name of a high-class restaurant on The Strand and a rendezvous of the theatrical profession in London." He added that "the tavern had been known for half a century or more as the "Sugar Loaf," by reason of its proximity to the sugar refinery of Fuidge and Fripp but, as that building had been totally destroyed by fire almost two decades previously, the tavern's old title had ceased to be appropriate and his client was desirous of renaming it "The Gaiety." The Chairman said "Well, the magistrates don't like it! Why 'Gaiety'?" to which John Rouse blurted out, "Why Sugar Loaf?" which almost caused the case to be dismissed. However, the argument was unanswerable. Consequently, the Chairman growled "Granted," as though he were pitching offal to a bear. And so, the Three Sugar Loaves became the Gaiety Tavern, a title that would endure for over eighty years.

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When living in digs on the theatrical circuit Mary Ann Rouse told the census enumerator that her birthplace was in London. However, when she and John Rouse were questioned in 1881 she stated that she was born in Italy. I believe that the couple were still active in the theatre so probably installed a manager at the Gaiety whilst they lived nearby on Lower Park Row. They used part of the house to accommodate theatrical performers. In 1881 the rooms were occupied by the actors Clarence Holt and Rose Dale. Harriet Parsons, a barmaid at the Gaiety, also lived with the Rouse couple.

Bristol : Advertisements by John Rouse for the Gaiety Tavern on Christmas Steps [1878]

Bristol : Advertisement for Pocket Flasks by John Rouse of the Gaiety Tavern on Christmas Steps [1878]

Judging by the proliferation of newspaper advertisements, John Rouse was not a man to undersell himself. He clearly had an advertising budget with which to attract new customers, though by all accounts the house was fairly busy with all the friends he had made over the years. His refurbishment of the premises and the addition of luncheon rooms resulted in a completely different clientele from that which had been associated with the Three Sugar Loaves during the earlier years of the Victorian era. Never one to miss a trick, John Rouse also advertised pocket flasks that he sold to theatre-goers prior to the performance. A loss to sales at the theatre bar but extra ringing of the cash register in the Gaiety Tavern.

John Rouse expanded into sales within a theatre when Andrew Melville succeeded James Chute as manager of the Old Theatre Royal in King Street. In a bid to restore the fortunes of the theatre, the building underwent considerable renovation. The new refreshment bars were supplied by John Rouse.

In later years, one theatre commentator remarked that John Rouse gave up the Gaiety Tavern on account of his wife's failing health. However, whilst this may be true, it is possible that he could not commit fully to the role of publican. It is noticeable that he had returned to the stage and his engagements seemed to increase through the early 1880s. He appeared in a wide variety of theatre productions and probably had little time for his pet project. In the theatrical world John Rouse was seemingly as popular as he had ever been. In May 1883 the Bristol Dramatic Society presented him with a massive gold ring, "as a token of their appreciation of his kindly coaching for the late production of "Partners For Life," in aid of local medical charities, and of their regard for him as a gentleman ever ready to extend the hand of friendship to further a good cause."

After eight years, John Rouse's association with his luncheon bar on Christmas Steps came to an end. In November 1886 the licence of The Gaiety was transferred to William Thomas. John Rouse returned to London for the swansong of his career. He died in 1891 and was buried in Actors' Acre at Brookwood Cemetery in the parish of Woking. During the Victorian period there were restrictions on theatrical performances on Sundays and, as Brookwood was open for burials on the 'day of rest,' it became a popular burial ground for the acting profession.

Garton's Bristol Ales

William Thomas was only in charge of The Gaiety for a matter of months. In July 1887 the licence was transferred to John Trood, a former sweet shop proprietor. He was a tenant of Charles Garton and Co., the brewers based at Lawrence Hill. In August 1888 he was convicted for permitting his licensed premises to become the habitual resort of prostitutes. A problem for him was that the licence was up for renewal not too long after his court case so it was fresh in the memory of the magistrates. At the sessions an objection was raised by Supt. McKenzie to the renewal of the license to John Trood. He reminded the Bench of the publican's recent appearance in court. Another objection of the police was that the licensee, in consequence of physical weakness, was unable to manage the Gaiety properly. Mr. J. H. Clifton, appearing for Charles Garton and Co., said that he understood that Mr. Trood did not ask for a renewal of the license to himself, and his request, on behalf of the owners, was that the bench would allow the license to remain in the office in blank until October. He told the magistrates that the brewery became aware of the conviction against John Trood and subsequently served him with notice to quit. The solicitor added that "the owners had secured a very eligible tenant, who at the present time kept the Prince Leopold at Bath, viz., Mr. C. A. Best. Mr. Trood had consented to a transfer being applied for, and had entered into an agreement with Mr. Best, who was a most respectable man. He might say with regard to the singing which had been complained of, that Mr. Best proposed to have nothing whatever of the sort, and to have no adjunct to the ordinary business."

Bristol : Advertisement for the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults by Charles Best on Christmas Steps [1888]

It was not until October 1888 that the licence of The Gaiety was transferred to Charles Best. The solicitor representing the brewery had mistakenly said that he kept the Prince Leopold at Bath. In fact, he was running the Prince Leopold at Upton Lovell in Wiltshire. Born in 1863 at Barford-St. Martin in the same county, the son of a baker was running the Prince Leopold at the age of 24 when he married Amy Stevens in January 1888. She was the daughter of a publican so had some idea of the business. However, for one reason or another, the couple only remained at the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults for a short period. By the time of the census of 1891 they were running the St. Philips's Coffee House Tavern next to the Midland Inn on Midland Road from where Charles also worked as a carpenter. From there they moved to a grocery store at Southmead to the north of the city. During the Edwardian period Albert Best became a gardener at Pettigrove Gardens in Kingswood.

George Houghton succeeded Charles Best as licensee of the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults. He was another in possession of skilled hands for he also worked as a sculptor in wood and stone. In this profession he had followed in his father's footsteps. He had married Okehampton-born Ray Ruby at the Church of St. Augustine the Less in December 1884. The couple would later move to Swansea where Ray died at a very young age. The sculptor also died in Swansea during 1944.

Bristol : Christmas Steps and The Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults [c.1905]

This photograph of Christmas Steps, dating from around 1905, was taken by a local photographer, Fred Little, for the picture postcard market. The first building on the left was the premises of both the baker and confectioner, William Maggs, and the tobacconist, Charles Clarke. Next door is the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults. In October of 1905, there was a handover from Annie M. Jowett to Mary Woodbury, the latter would remain in charge for the rest of the Edwardian period. There are two large signs advertising Anglo-Bavarian Ales and Stout. These beers were made by the company that had acquired Charles Garton and Co. towards the end of the 19th century. As a result, the ales sold in the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults were initially brewed at Lawrence Hill but soon after the takeover would have been at Shepton Mallet in Somerset.

Shepton Mallet : Anglo-Bavarian Brewery

Tentatively stated to be the first lager brewery in the UK, the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery was based in the old Shepton Mallet Pale Ale Brewery, a beautiful Italianate-style building erected in 1864 for Morrice, Cox and Clarke of London. The brewery was renamed in 1872 following its acquisition by Hill, Garton and Company of Southampton. The brewery sold mainly to the export market but the company developed a network of UK agents in order to build a domestic base. The First World War was a disaster for the firm as a wave of anti-German sentiments spread throughout the UK. Customers simply refused to buy products with the Bavarian name on the label. The Bavarian name was dropped and the company traded simply as Anglo but the damage was done. The firm was wound up in the 1920s. There was a revival of the trading name when an entrepreneur rather foolishly tried to re-establish the business when another war with Germany was looming.

Pouring the Anglo-Bavarian beers in the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults during much of the Edwardian period was Mary Woodbury, along with her daughter Ethel. It was a fresh start for them after the death of husband/father, John Woodbury. The family had collectively kept the Grosvenor Arms on Grosvenor Road since 1884. John Woodbury had been for 30 years a member of the R.G.E.V. and served as a Company Sergeant-Major. He was also a long-standing member of the Beer, Spirit and Wine Trade Committee. His son, also named John, spent most of his career on the staff of the Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror.

Mary Ann Woodbury would leave the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults to run The Union on Hill Street, a house operated by Bristol Brewery Georges & Co. Ltd. Her daughter Ether, who had the wonderful middle name of Unity, married the soldier, Edwin John Warren, in January 1917. Born in Clifton, he was serving as a sergeant with the 1st/4th [City of Bristol] Battalion [T.F.] of the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was killed in March 1918 in Italy and was buried at Cimitero Maggiore di Padova.

Another serving soldier in the First World War was Alfred Butchers who, along with his wife Amelia, kept the Gaiety Wine and Spirit Vaults for a short spell before hostilities. He served with the Essex Regiment but, suffering with a hernia, he was discharged in 1917.

Bristol : Advertisement for the Gaiety Hotel on Christmas Steps by Edwin Faithfull [1916]

If all advertisements were like this it would save me a lot of time trying to find out where the publican came from. Here we can see that Edwin Faithfull had previously run the Hen and Chickens Hotel at Bedminster. But the striking element of the advert is the elevation of status to that of a hotel. He was quite young to be running the Hen and Chickens. Born in 1887 he had first started his career as an apprentice to a chocolatier.

Enamel Advertising Sign for W. J. Rogers Ltd. of Bristol

When the aforementioned Anglo-Bavarian Brewery was wound up the Gaiety Hotel was, I assume, acquired by W. J. Rogers Ltd. of Jacob Street. I do not have an exact date for this but the hostelry was certainly operated by this brewery. The firm were founded in 1845 and registered in July 1894 with 25 tied-houses. They increased the estate by 42 houses when they bought the Maesteg Brewery Co. Ltd four years later. Another forty houses were brought under their umbrella when, in 1922, the brewery acquired J. & T. Usher Ltd. of the New City Brewery at River Street off Horfield Road.

The Gaiety had far too many licensees, suggesting a difficult place to run successfully. A period of stability was ushered in with the arrival of the Courtenay family. Better known as Jack, John Courtenay kept the Gaiety with his wife Mary Ann. She was known to customers as Polly. Earlier in his career, Jack Courtenay, like his father George, had worked as a shoemaker. Indeed Polly's father, Henry Plumley, was also a shoemaker. The couple married in 1901. They remained at The Gaiety until 1935 when they moved to the Sceptre Hotel on Baldwin Street, leaving their son Stanley to take over The Gaiety. The licence was transferred to him in June 1935. Polly died at the Sceptre Hotel in 1937. She died at least see her son tie the knot with Irene Stokes in October of the previous year.

Bristol : Christmas Steps and the Simonds-operated Gaiety [c.1940s]

Not only was there a transfer of the licence in 1935; ownership of The Gaiety also changed as this was the year that W. J. Rogers Ltd. was acquired by H. & G. Simonds Ltd. a historic brewing firm founded in 1785 at Reading by William Blackall Simonds. I do not need to outline the history of this brewery as there is an online monument to this company where everything you could need to know is featured, and more!

Brewery Poster for H. & G. Simonds Ltd. of Reading

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Edward Dudbridge took over at The Gaiety just before war was declared in 1939. He would remain as licensee throughout the war. He and his wife Eliza later moved to Long Ashton in Somerset. The publican died in February 1953. Better known to his customers as Bertie, Edward Dudbridge, the son of a baker, was born in the city in 1896. However, by the time he was a teenager his parents were running the Foresters' Arms at Bedminster. In 1920 he married Eliza England and worked in the gas industry during the inter-war years.

Vivian and Maud Stevenson kept The Gaiety in the mid-1850s. They were tenants rather than managers employed by H. & G. Simonds Ltd. Born in 1896, Vivian McGuffie Stevenson served in Berkshire Yeomanry and Corps of Hussars during the First World War. He married Maud Alexandra Eley at Berkshire in 1927. By the time of the Second World War they were running the Railway Hotel on Market Street at Highbridge near Burnham-on-Sea. Vivian Stevenson died in January 1956.

The livery of The Gaiety would have changed again soon after 1960 when H. & G. Simonds Ltd. was acquired by Courage & Co. Ltd. in 1960 to form Courage, Barclay & Simonds Ltd. Inevitably, by the end of the decade the name was simplified and known only as Courage. The monolithic brewery concern mopped up Bristol Brewery Georges & Co. Ltd in 1961 so had a monopoly of beer drinking in Bristol.

Bristol : Fred and Didy Cannon formerly of the Gaiety on Christmas Steps [1987]

Fred and Didy Cannon were running The Gaiety in the 1960s. The image here dates from 1987 when the couple were celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary. Frederick Cannon was original a carpenter and joiner by trade. He first met Mildred Thompson in Clevedon, the couple marrying in January 1937. It was Mildred, better known as Didy, that held the licence of The Gaiety. She later joined their only son's business Inns Leisure. She was a dab hand with a paint brush and spent some of her retirement as an artist, between travelling with Fred to overseas destinations.

Bristol : Three Sugar Loaves on Christmas Steps [2005]

I am not sure when the inn sign of the Three Sugar Loaves was restored or, indeed, when the pub was extended into the neighbouring premises. Perhaps some readers/drinkers from Bristol can add to the story of this historic tavern. In more recent times, around 2016, the name was changed to the Christmas Steps, as can be seen from the photograph below.

Bristol : Christmas Steps [2019]

Licensees of the Three Sugar Loaves

1792 - Charles Emmett
1800 - William Lancaster
1823 - Thomas Hatchman
1826 - Ann Hatchman
1828 - Ferdinand Pitman
1834 - Thomas Speed
1837 - George Maskell
1842 - R. Hill
1844 - John Patrick
1847 - Thomas Richards
1854 - Thomas Dennis
1855 - Mary Dennis
1856 - Thomas Pope
1858 - William Bassett
1859 - R. E. Pleace
1860 - Simon Dumble
1861 - John Davis
1863 - Mary Tutton
1864 - Thomas Huband Clayton
1865 - Robert Locock
1867 - John Gullick
1877 - Frederick G. Wilkins
1878 - 1886 John Rouse
1886 - 1887 William Thomas
1887 - 1888 John Trood
1888 - 1891 Charles Albert Best
1891 - George Houghton
1893 - Walter E. Gregory
1894 - George Dalziel
1897 - Albert Milsom
1904 - Annie M. Jowett
1905 - Mary Ann Woodbury
1914 - Alfred George Butchers
1915 - Edwin Reginald Faithfull
1917 - Albert Legassick
1921 - Mary Hathaway
1927 - John 'Jack' Courtenay
1935 - Stanley George Courtenay
1939 - 1953 Edward Gilbert Dudbridge
1956 - Vivian McGuffie Stevenson
1964 - Mildred G. Cannon
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people.

Enamel Advertising Sign for Anglo Bavarian Brewery Amber Ale from Shepton Mallet

Simond's Enamel Advertisement Sign

Related Newspaper Articles

"Thomas Arnold and Amelia James were charged with violently assaulting a policeman in the execution of his duty. The complainant's face exhibited several marks of injuries, and it appeared from the statement of himself and witnesses, that the defendants were drinking at a public-house called the Three Sugar Loaves, when a dispute arose about broken glass; the landlord then called in the complainant for the purpose of quelling the disturbance, and on his proceeding to do so, the prisoners assaulted him in the most savage manner, Arnold cutting his face with glass. The magistrates fined Arnold £4 and costs, or to be imprisoned two months, and the woman 10s. and costs, which she immediately paid."
"Bristol Police : Monday"
Bristol Times and Mirror : March 28th 1840 Page 2

Note: no location was provided in the above report. Although it names the Three Sugar Loaves, there were several houses with this inn sign during this period.

"An alarming fire broke out on Tuesday night, on the premises of Mr. Richards, the Three Sugar Loaves, Christmas Steps, which threatened to be productive of very serious consequences. The alarm was first given about half-past 10, and the engines of the police and various fire-offices were speedily on the spot; but the building consisting principally of old and dry materials, it was impossible to get the flames under until nearly three o'clock Wednesday morning, when the interior of the house was almost destroyed. The house and shop of Mr. Merry, baker, which is contiguous, had a very narrow escape from destruction; the flames caught a portion of the roof, and a large quantity of flour lying in a loft was also destroyed. By the strenuous exertions the firemen, etc. the flames were prevented from extending further, and the fears at first entertained for much of the property in that thickly-populated neighbourhood were fortunately not realised. It is not known how the fire originated. We understand that Mr. Richards is in insured in the Imperial-office for £300; we are also informed the house is insured for a similar amount in the same office."
Bristol Mercury : September 4th 1847 Page 8

"Henry Nash, Francis Chamberlain, Robert Jones, Samuel Morgan, George Rich, William Jones, Evan Long, Thomas Porter, George Dowell, George Clement, Thomas Deffett, John Palmer, James Cooper, Isaac Miles, and Joseph Horsall, were charged with using a room at the Three Sugar Loaves public-house, Queen Street, St. Michael's, for the purpose of fighting two dogs, and with wantonly ill-treating, abusing, and torturing the said dogs. The proceedings were under Martin's Act. Police-Sergeant No.10, deposed - Last night a little before 10 o'clock I received information of a dog fight going on at the Three Sugar Loaves, St. Michael's. I went there with Police-Sergeants Summers and Elmes, and Constables Nos.46, 87, and 236. When we got to the house we proceeded upstairs. In room upstairs we found the whole of the prisoners now present. There were two dogs in the room fighting. - [The dogs were produced, they were two fine bitch bull-terriers of large make]" The prisoner, Deffett, had hold of one of the dogs. Previous to our going into the room, a female ran out of the bar and gave the alarm that the police were coming. There was a bucket of water in the room apparently for the purpose of washing the dogs. No one would own the dogs; the prisoner, Morgan, was in his shirt sleeves, as if he had been engaged in fighting the dogs. They were all alarmed by our coming on them and they tried to escape. The state of the dogs was very bad. One dog laid down quite exhausted and the other shook her as long she could, and then laid down also. At last we were able to separate them. There was a good deal of blood about their heads. The tables and chairs in the room had all been put aside, but I cannot say there was any ring, for when they heard we were coming there was a general endeavour to escape. Some did escape downstairs. All the rest we secured by shutting the door, and sending for more policemen, and took every man of them. We heard a noise of scuffling, like dogs fighting, before we went upstairs. The dogs in my opinion were ill-treated, abused, and tortured. I do not know who is the owner of the dogs. No one would claim them. I do not know if there were any bets on the fight. P.S. Summers corroborated this evidence. In answer to questions from the Mayor, he said one person made his escape; he thought it was the landlord the house. The house was kept by a man of the name of Richards. The prisoners were then severally called upon to state what they had to urge in their defence. It was a little ludicrous to find, by their statements, that the thing was altogether perfectly accidental. Nash, Chamberlain and Robert Jones bad been playing bagatelle for an hour before anyone came into the room; then one dropt in and then another, and at last came the dogs and they began fighting. The others all said that they had just "dropt in to take glass of beer;" not one had been in "more than a minute," and not one of them knew anything at all about the dogs or who they belonged to. The Magistrates made some observations on the brutal character of the transaction and fined each of the fifteen defendants 40s. and costs, or a month's imprisonment. Informations will be laid against the landlord of the public-house, and if he does not succeed in clearing himself he will be subjected to a heavy fine and will lose his licence. It is to be hoped that the example thus made will put a stop to such inhuman pastimes."
"Dog Fighting"
Bristol Times and Mirror : February 3rd 1849 Page 3

"In the case of Taylor v. Richards, Mr. Edlin represented the plaintiff, and Mr. Stone for the defendant. This was an action for damages for an assault said to have been committed by the defendant on the plaintiff. The plaintiff is a butcher, and the defendant is the landlord of the Three Sugar Loaves public-house, bottom of Christmas Street. It appears that on the first of March the plaintiff, in company with three acquaintances named Thomas, Jones, and Edwards, went to the Three Sugar Loaves, and ordered some gin and water, which they went upstairs to drink; whilst there the plaintiff got into conversation with a man named Parsley about a dog, and in the midst of it the defendant rushed upon him, and without having received any provocation struck him under the table; the plaintiff got up and told the defendant he should hear more of it; his jaw was much swollen, and he was unable to attend to business for some days. From the Monday till the Friday he was unable to eat anything but spoon meat. The plaintiff, in his cross-examination, admitted that he had been drinking, but denied that he was drunk. The landlord had not ordered him out of the room, nor had he challenged the landlord to fight. He did not offer the defendant any provocation for the assault which had been committed. Mr. Thomas was called in corroboration of the facts stated by the plaintiff. In his cross-examination he, however, admitted that Jones was drunk, that Edwards and himself were "middling," and that the plaintiff was also "middling." He likewise admitted that the plaintiff, himself, and the others remained in the house drinking and smoking for at least half an hour after the assault had been committed. Mr. Stone then addressed the jury for the defendant, who, he said, was one of the most peaceable landlords in the city. He should prove that the plaintiff, Jones, Edwards, and Thomas went into the Three Sugar Loaves, and that Taylor, who, as they had heard, was the worse for liquor, was in a quarrelsome humour, and offered to fight anyone in the room. The landlord, hearing a disturbance upstairs, went up into the room and told Taylor he would have no noise in the house, and, as he had been drinking elsewhere, and had got into a quarrelsome mood, he had better leave. Taylor refused to go out, put himself into a fighting attitude, and challenged the landlord to fight. The defendant then went to push him back, when the plaintiff tripped over Edwards's legs and fell down; he got up and said, "I'll make you pay for this," and sat down smoking and drinking for some time longer, after which he went away. The jury would thus see that it was a most paltry case, nothing but a pot-house quarrel, and a most contemptible action. The learned counsel called the defendant and three witnesses, named Parsley, Fish. and Hawkins, who made out his statement, and Mr. Edlin having replied, the learned Recorder carefully went through the evidence which had been adduced on either side, after which the jury consulted together for a few minutes, and then returned a verdict for the plaintiff, damages ¼. The learned Recorder said that each party must pay his own costs."
"Taylor v. Richards"
Bristol Mercury : April 16th 1853 Page 3

"John Bell was charged with stealing a poker and tongs, the property of Mr. Pope, of the Three Sugar Loaves tavern, Queen Street, St. Michael's. The prisoner entered the house on Friday and called for some beer, and directly upon his leaving the landlord missed the poker and tongs, which he had contrived to carry off in a large frail which he had with him. The articles were afterwards found at a broker's shop kept by Mrs. Lovell in the Horsefair, where the prisoner had sold them for 6d. Committed for a month to hard labour."
"Police Court"
Bristol Mercury : November 8th 1856 Page 7

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Bristol : Inn Sign of the Three Sugar Loaves [2005]

This signboard, featuring an illustration of a sugar loaf and cutting tongs, was hanging outside the building when I called in 2005. Bristol was a port that prospered on both the Atlantic slave trade and slave-produced commodities such as cotton, cocoa, rum and sugar. Bristol became a centre of sugar production where many sugar houses were established to store and process imported sugar. This tavern is said to have taken its name from a nearby sugar refinery that was destroyed by fire in 1859. Fires were a common hazard for such buildings. Indeed, as a result of fires, Bristol lost no less than eleven sugar houses between 1670 and 1859. The subsequent high cost of fire insurance led to the founding of the Bristol Fire Office in 1718. This was absorbed into the Sun Fire Office by 1837. Consumption of sugar can be traced back to the late Saxon period though it was a luxurious commodity. By Elizabethan times, the best sugars were sourced from Madeira, Morocco and the Canaries. However, production spread to the Americas following its introduction by explorers like Columbus. The African slave trade led to intensive sugar production in the English Caribbean and by the 18th century sugar had become relatively cheap, wiping out earlier centres of production in Venice and Sicily. Barbados and Jamaica became the main sugar producing islands in the 18th century where it was said that the rule was one slave for every acre of sugar.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Yesterday afternoon the coroner, J. B. Grindon, Esq., held an inquest at the Crown and Dove tavern, on the body of the newly-born infant of Emma Davis, a young girl aged 19, who had been in service at an hotel in Weston-super-Mare. She came to Bristol on Tuesday, and took lodgings at the Three Sugar Loaves Tavern, Queen Street, St. Michael's. Mrs. Mary Tutton, the landlady, stated at the inquest that the girl Davis came to her house on Tuesday, and asked for lodgings. She did not give her name. Witness accommodated her with a bed. She looked very indisposed, and she left the house on Thursday. From the condition in which the girl left the room, witness suspected that there was something wrong, and she communicated with the police. P.S. York said he went to No.5, Narrow Lewin's Mead, where Davis had gone on leaving the Three Sugar Loaves. He found her lying on a bed with her clothes on, and on the ground underneath he discovered the body of an infant, wrapped up in some clothes. He procured a cab, and took the infant and the mother to the Infirmary, and afterwards conveyed the latter to St. Peter' Hospital. Davis did not tell him she was the mother, Anne Lucas, of Lewin's Mead, stated that the girl Davis came there on Thursday morning to see her sister. She appeared to be very ill. She left about ten o'clock, and returns between twelve and one. Davis's sister then told witness that Emma Davis had brought great trouble and disgrace upon her. She asked her a few questions, and shortly afterwards Emma Davis took the dead body of the child from underneath her arm, and gave it to witness. She stated that it was born on Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Crosby Leonard, medical officer at the Infirmary, stated that he had made a post-mortem examination of the body, and he found no marks of internal or external injury. He could not say whether it was born alive or dead, but it had not gone its full time, and had never properly breathed. He had no reason for believing that the chlld's death was caused by any crime. The jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes."
"Alleged Concealment Of Birth By A Domestic Servant"
Bristol Mercury : February 28th 1863 Page 8

"John Trood, landlord of the Gaiety, answered an adjourned summons for permitting his licensed premises to become the habitual resort of prostitutes and allowing them to remain there for a longer time than was necessary for the purpose of obtaining refreshment. Mr. H. Reginald Wansbrough defended. Evidence was now called for the defence. Mr. C. G. Earle, watchmaker, Christmas Street, said that about twice a week he visited the defendant's house for a short time about 10 o'clock at night, and as far as he saw, the house was properly conducted. Twice, about a month or two ago, witness heard the defendant request women to leave the house, and refuse to serve them more drink, as the time for their stopping was limited to 10 minutes. It was not a quiet place at any time, and the last row was about a girl being turned out, before the defendant went there. It never was a pleasant neighbourhood, but he thought the house was well conducted when John Rouse kept it, Sir G. Edwards: "Were there these rows and disturbances when Mr. Rouse was there? Witness: "It was certainly a quieter house. I don't think Mr. Rouse did so much business, but I don't know that he objected to these girls being there." George Pitman, commission agent, Bishopston, said he was in the habit of going to the Gaiety very nearly every evening, On many occasions he had heard the defendant, his wife, and daughters request girls to leave. He had seen a notice there, and defendant called the girls' attention to it. Three weeks ago witness saw the defendant turn out three prostitutes. By the Clerk - Witness had to pass these girls to reach the upper bar, and on some occasions they had asked him to treat them. The Mayor expressed his surprise that these fresh witnesses, who were in court on Friday, had now been imported in breach of the definite understanding. Mr. Wansbrough said that these witnesses were only asked to give evidence while the case was going on. He complained that such latitude was given to the police, while persecuting respectable tradesmen who - except the chief constable and superintendents - were drawn from an altogether higher class of people. The Mayor said that the Watch Committee were always very careful about the character of the police, who would compare favourably with any body of men - he did not make excuses for them, and they thought him rather exacting, After further remarks, the magistrates clerk [Mr. T. Holmes Gore] said that, during Mr Wansbrough's seven years' practice there, no one had been more careful in the conduct of cases with regard to his duty toward the bench. Defendant's wife, who was next examined, proved that they had a notice fixed over the counter "Ladies are not allowed to remain more than ten minutes for refreshment." Witness, with her husband and daughters, called the attention of girls to that notice, and requested them to leave when they had been in the house long enough. Another witness named Davis, who had also been in court, was not examined. Amy and Florence Trood, defendant's daughters, corroborated their parents' evidence, but the former said that on one of the occasions, August l7th, she was at the theatre, P.C. Croker, 82A, recalled, proved receiving complaints from several neighbours about girls at the bottom of Christmas Steps, but without mentioning defendant's house, Girls had congregated more opposite the Gaiety and not near the other licensed house. The magistrates having consulted for some time, the Mayor said they had very carefully considered the whole of the evidence and decided to fine the defendant in £10, directing the clerk to endorse the license. On the application of Mr. Wansbrough the bench agreed to accept two sureties in £60 each as recognisances pending an appeal to Bristol quarter session."
"Gaiety Frequenters - A Conviction"
Bristol Mercury : August 27th 1888 Page 3

"George Houghton, landlord of the Gaiety public-house, Christmas Steps, was summoned for selling intoxicating liquors to a drunken person, namely, Michael Putney, on Tuesday, January 20th. Mr. J. H. Clifton [Clifton, Carter, & Co.] defended the accused. Evidence was given by Patrol Officer Slade, and P.C. 106 A., to the effect that on the night in question they saw three sailors, one of whom was drunk, go into the defendant's house. They followed to inform the landlord he must not serve the man who was intoxicated, but they found he had already been served with some rum. The landlord was not in the bar, but the attention of the landlady was drawn to the matter, and she at once took the liquor from the man, and returned him his money. Mr. Clifton said there was nothing in the appearance of the sailor to indicate that he was drunk. Mrs. Houghton, wife of the defendant, stated she did not see the man come in, but when the constables arrived and spoke to the sailor he did not appear the worse for liquor. Mr. Clifton said he had other witnesses who would give similar evidence, but on the suggestion of the magistrates they ware not called. Supt. Cann said there had been no complaint as to the conduct of the house since the defendant had held the licence. The Chairman stated they must fine the defendant, though they would only impose a penalty of 10s and costs, and would not endorse the licence."
"Licensing Cases"
Western Daily Press : February 5th 1891 Page 7

"Stanley George Courtenay [19], of the Gaiety public-house, Christmas Steps, appeared before the magistrates [Messrs R. E. Bush and J. Marks] at Bristol Police Court yesterday summoned with driving a motorcar to the danger of the public at Henbury Hill on Good Friday. He pleaded not guilty. A. J. Orme [Town Clerk's office] prosecuted. P.S. Greenslade [10C] said that on April 6th at 10.15 p.m., he was on duty at Passage Road, Westbury, in company with P.C. Palmer [71C]. In response to information he received he went to Henbury Hill, where he was informed an accident had occurred. The defendant informed witness that he was the driver of the car which was involved in the accident. After being cautioned, defendant made a statement. Marks showed that the car had skidded 19 paces before colliding with a wall and 14 paces after the collision. Theophilies Shepstone, of Passage Road, Westbury-on-Trym, said that was walking down Henbury Hill with his wife at about 9.50 p.m. on the day in question, when motor-car and motor-cycle passed them. In the car were several persons, who were shouting and waving to one another. The cycle was just leading the car when the car speeded up and went round a bend at 35 miles per hour. He heard a noise like the back-firing of a car, and going round the corner saw the motor-car across the road. He found one of the passengers had fallen out, and was later taken to the Infirmary. Mrs. Shepstone corroborated her husband's evidence. Defendant said he was coming down Henbury Hill at about 20 to 25 miles per hour, and in turning the bend heard a bang, and the car skidded. He immediately put on the brakes [four-wheeled] in an endeavour to bring the car to a standstill. The car spun to the right-hand side of the road, turning broadside, but not right over. The motorcycle passed him, but was not racing. He attributed the accident to the bursting of an off side tyre. Gilbert H. Webb, of the Garrick's Head, Broad Quay, who was in the car at the time of the accident, corroborated. A letter from defendant's employers stated that had been employed as a car driver since March, 1926, and was considered a most capable driver, having travelled nearly 56,000 miles without an accident. Defendant was fined £3 and ordered to pay £1 costs."
"Motor Collides With Henbury Wall"
Western Daily Press : April 28th 1928 Page 5

"It was the last night ashore for Gordon Ernest Symons due to sail from Avonmouth today. He lost his temper when his wife insisted on staying on at a public-house to finish a game of darts. At Bristol magistrates' court today Symons [36], of Bellevue Road, St. George, was said to have kicked a window at the Gaiety, Christmas Steps, last night. He admitted after the offence, was fined £5 with £13 3s. costs and compensation and told he could wait until the end of his new voyage - in seven weeks' time - before paying."
"His Last Night Ashore"
Bristol Evening Post : August 12th 1966 Page 31

Bristol : : Christmas Wishes from Gordon and Sandy at the Gaiety [1974]

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