Historic ‘time capsule’ Bristol pub the Kings Head to reopen under new owners for first time since Covid

The Kings Head dates from 1660 and boasts a unique snug area shaped like a tramcar
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One of central Bristol’s most historic pubs is reopening after closing its doors more than two years ago. The Grade II-listed Kings Head in Victoria Street closed in March 2020 due to Covid and it didn’t reopen. It was eventually put on the market in November 2021.

A traditional pub popular with real ale drinkers, the Kings Head dates from 1660. It boasts a unique snug area shaped like a tramcar with a mirrored back bar.

Many of the original pub fixtures and fittings are said to be the oldest in the UK and they are included in CAMRA’s National Inventory of historic pub interiors - the only pub to be listed. The bar dates from around 1865, with a series of arches and gilded green and black glass panels advertising various drink brands and long-lost breweries.

The tramcar bar at the back can accommodate up to 24 customers and has its very own serving hatch. And now the historic pub is preparing to reopen under new owners Bob Cary and Kelly Sidgwick from St Philips brewery Good Chemistry Brewing.

The Kings Head in Victoria Street has been closed since Covid but reopens under new owners next monthThe Kings Head in Victoria Street has been closed since Covid but reopens under new owners next month
The Kings Head in Victoria Street has been closed since Covid but reopens under new owners next month

“When we first visited the pub it had been shut for over two years due to Covid, so it was really a time capsule from the last tenants,” Kelly told Bristol World.

“We’re only making very minor changes like painting the ceiling and toilets, updating the wallpaper and light fittings, and replacing carpet. We’re making no changes to the listed elements of the building – because these are the amazing historical features that make the pub so special, and that everyone knows and loves about the place. We really want it to be a pub Bristolians can be proud of, and a ‘must-visit’ for anyone coming to Bristol.”

With an estimated 50 pubs a month closing their doors across the country, Kelly and Bob say they felt a particular duty to ensure that the Kings Head could re-open and welcome customers again. After many years under the ownership of a large pub company, this venture marks a return to being an independently owned freehouse.

The ‘Tramcar Bar’ at the Kings Head is one of the unique features at the 17th Century pubThe ‘Tramcar Bar’ at the Kings Head is one of the unique features at the 17th Century pub
The ‘Tramcar Bar’ at the Kings Head is one of the unique features at the 17th Century pub

The new team will offer cask and keg beer from local and national breweries including permanent Good Chemistry Brewing beers, alongside spirits, wines and non-alcoholic drinks.

Following the lead of its sister pub, the award-winning The Good Measure in Redland, the team at the Kings Head will create a ‘welcoming, inclusive atmosphere’.

Bob Cary, head brewer and co-owner of Good Chemistry Brewing, said: “Pubs provide a meeting point for communities, where people from different age groups and backgrounds can enjoy a shared space. At a time when many people have never felt more isolated, and haven’t been able to socialise in the ways they were used to, we want the revitalised Kings Head to offer that space once again.

“We can’t wait to bring beers from some of our favourite breweries to the cosy surroundings of this wonderful pub. Like so many valued and sometimes under-appreciated pubs, the Kings Head has been a place for Bristol people to get together for hundreds of years and we are so pleased to be able to carry on that tradition.”

Steve Bluff, Head of Redcliffe and Temple Business Improvement District (BID), said: “We’re delighted to see that the Kings Head will re-open under the management of well-respected Bristol brewery Good Chemistry Brewing. This historic pub is a key location in the heart of the fast-changing BID area and we look forward to working with Good Chemistry to help make Redcliffe a popular night-time economy destination for all.”

The Kings Head is expected to reopen in November.

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