Ten things you can’t do in Bristol anymore

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Here are 10 things BristolWorld has picked out to jog your memory, let us know of any pastimes you miss around the city

There are plenty of pastimes that were once part of the fabric of Bristol’s life which you sadly can’t do anymore.

We’ve sieved through the archives to bring you some great memories from over the decades, from spending ages deciding on your Woolworth’s pick ‘n’ mix to picking yourself up from the lost ice rink on Frogmore Street.

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Here are 10 things BristolWorld has picked out to jog your memory, let us know of any pastimes you miss around the city.

1. Riding Rosie the Elephant at Bristol Zoo

In September, we waved farewell to the last residents at Bristol Zoo as it closed the doors to its Clifton site after 186 years of history - many of its inhabitants will be rehomed at a larger site in South Gloucestershire. Over the years plenty of exotic animals had called the zoo home, perhaps most famously Alfred the Gorilla who arrived in 1930 but the site’s elephants were also a big attraction and until the 60s children were allowed to hitch a ride on the world’s largest land animals.

Children sitting on a “howdah” riding on Rosie in the gardens with a keeper walking beside her. Rosie is wearing a decorated blanketChildren sitting on a “howdah” riding on Rosie in the gardens with a keeper walking beside her. Rosie is wearing a decorated blanket
Children sitting on a “howdah” riding on Rosie in the gardens with a keeper walking beside her. Rosie is wearing a decorated blanket | Harvey Barton & Son Ltd

2. Lost nightclubs

Do you remember clambering the stairs at the Dug Out, which closed in 1986, or spending the early 90s inside Locarno before it closed and became the O2 Academy? Bristol’s nightlife has been transformed over the years with many clubs rebranding or closing completely, which do you miss the most?

3. Watching Bristol Rovers at the Eastville Stadium

The Gas played their home games at the Ville, built in 1896 and featuring a running track where you could watch the Greyhounds racing. Its close proximity to a gas holder would mean the smell of gas would blanket the ground, spawning one of the club’s nicknames.

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Financial difficulties meant the club left the ground in 1986. It was also the home for the British Bulldogs Speedway team and the city’s short-lived American football team, Bristol Bombers. The record attendance was 39,462.

Eastville Stadium and the nearby gas holders.Eastville Stadium and the nearby gas holders.
Eastville Stadium and the nearby gas holders. | Archive Bristol

4. Staying at the Grosvenor Hotel

Now partially demolished, the Grosvenor Hotel was once one of the city’s grandest hotels just a hop away from Bristol Temple Meads station. The hotel was opened in 1875 and at its peak, the 70-bedroom hotel would have been one of the first grandeur sights greeting newcomers to the city with all the hallmarks of Brunel thanks to it being designed by his former assistant, architect S C Fripp.

Records show that 100 years ago it would cost guests eight shillings and sixpence for bed and breakfast, which is about £35 in today’s money. But the hotel hit hard times with it becoming isolated by road infrastructure which also saw a fly-over taking vehicles close to bedroom windows. It changed hands several times over the decades and notably appeared in the 1979 film Radio On.

In the late 1980s, it became a bed and breakfast for the homeless before, in 1993, closing its doors on safety grounds. On October 18, 2022, a fire ripped through the old hotel, leaving the structure in tatters.

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The Grosvenor Hotel near Temple MeadsThe Grosvenor Hotel near Temple Meads
The Grosvenor Hotel near Temple Meads | Mark Taylor

5. Ice skating at Frogmore Street

Bristol’s first indoor ice rink at Frogmore Street closed its doors after 46 years in 2012. There was a large campaign launched by visitors to save the rink but to no avail. It was also home to Bristol’s ice hockey team, Bristol Pitbulls.

6. Travelling with Bristol Tramways

There have been plans floated around in recent council meetings proposing a return of tram travel in the city. Bristol Tramways began operating in the city from 1875 with horsedrawn carriages later upgraded to electric trams in 1895. They ceased to operate in 1941 when a Luftwaffe Good Friday bombing raid destroyed the system’s main power supply cables along with a chunk of St Phillip’s Bridge and other prominent buildings in the city. Would you like to see trams return to Bristol?

Trams were in operation in the city until a German air raid destroyed the power supply.Trams were in operation in the city until a German air raid destroyed the power supply.
Trams were in operation in the city until a German air raid destroyed the power supply. | Know Your Place

7. Shopping at Debenhams or M&S in Broadmead

The Debenhams and M&S stores were mainstays of Broadmead for decades. M&S eventually closed in January 2022 and last year reopened as Sparks, an independent store of makers and workshops. Debenhams closed in May 2021 and has been empty since, now earmarked for demolition to make way for new tower blocks of apartments.

8. Woolworths

Nine Woolworths stores have opened in Bristol - the first being the Broadmead store which opened in 1911 and was the company’s 10th UK opening. Today, a Greggs occupies the site. The same site was also used for the city’s last Woolworths opening when The Galleries shopping centre was opened in 1991. The retailer went bust in late 2008, resulting in the closure of all 807 Woolworths stores in the UK.

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Shoppers pass a Woolworths shop on it’s last day of trading on December 27, 2008.Shoppers pass a Woolworths shop on it’s last day of trading on December 27, 2008.
Shoppers pass a Woolworths shop on it’s last day of trading on December 27, 2008. | Getty Images

9. Planet Kids

If you celebrated a birthday during the 90s as a kid then chances are you spent an afternoon at Planet Kids on Brunel Way. The trip wasn’t well spent unless you returned with friction burn and a bloody nose from a ball pit scuffle.

The amusement spot was also home to a bowling alley, arcade and restaurant.

10. Going over the old Flyover

The Temple Meads Flyover was taken down in 1998 as part of road changes in that area. It was built in 1968 and would take passengers from Temple Way to Redcliffe. It was only intended as a temporary structure but would stand for 30 years.

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