A quick guide to Bristol’s more morbid spots
It turns out that a lot of places in Bristol are, in fact, haunted. Here’s a look at Bristol’s macabre past, with reported sightings of ghosts, stories of gruesome deaths and even the city’s historical penchant for reusing the skin of dead prisoners in order to upholster one of its many pubs. If you initially thought Bristol a charming city, here’s some death related facts to prove you wrong.
1. Pembroke Road, Clifton, BS8
The stuff of every Victorian terraced home-owner’s suburban nightmares can be found at the top of Pembroke Road, the pleasant junction that meets the Downs. In the 1700s, the Downs were a wasteland of criminal activity. Its most notorious visitor was Jenkins Protheroe, who would feign injury only to rob or murder those who stopped to help. He was then hung on the site, covered in tar, where he was left to rot. Inevitably, there’s been reported sightings of his ghost. Enjoy the green pastures of Clifton, if you dare.
2. The Christmas Steps, BS1 5BS
The next time you visit the Christmas Steps and rent the director’s cut of a cult American film noir from 20th Century Flicks, take a minute to reflect that they weren’t always the arty stairway they are now. Back in the 1660s, a gallows used to hang at the top of the Steps. People walking towards Colston Street would be greeted with the sound and sight of a man on the verge of death. Now that’s alternative.
3. SS Great Britain, BS1 6TY
Unsurprisingly, Brunel’s famous ship SS Great Britain has seen its fair share of gratuitous duelling and mysterious disappearances. The ship’s most well-known story is that of Captain John Grey. One of the longest-serving captains of the ship, he disappeared one night after becoming ill. He was never seen again. The mystery has never been solved. But now, allegedly, you can hear the heft of Captain John Grey’s boots upon the deck if you listen carefully enough.
4. Llandoger Trow, King Street BS1 4ER
Marauders, bandits, buccaneers, pirates – these are just some of the personalities you’ll meet on a night out in Bristol’s city centre, even now. The Llandoger Trow pub, from the mid 1600s, was a hub for this kind of professional. Home to around 15 ghosts, this is a boozy haunt famed for its literary and nautical history. Not least, it was the watering hole favoured by Blackbeard – perhaps one of the pub’s most notorious and murderous patrons.
It’s most famous phantom is that of an unnamed young man with a limp. If you come across him, you’ll be able to hear the distinct sound of his boots dragging along the floor. The ghost has been sighted stalking about near the windows of the pub by King Street’s night time visitors. Cynics would say that, given King Street to this day is a reputable haven for alcohol consumption and a general knees-up, these sources are hardly reliable. Keep a bleary eye out.
5. The Hatchet Inn, BS1 5NA
The Hatchet Inn is one of at least three pubs that claims to be the oldest in the city. Its large front door, covered in layers of paint and tar, is apparently made from human skin. Bristol’s authorities in the 1800s took to making use of criminals’ skin after they were hung. In the case of a man named John Horwood, authorities bound the notes on his trial with his own skin. The book has been on display at Bristol’s M Shed museum. The pub is more famous, now, for its heavy metal nights and reams of Butcombe.