Ten things you can’t do in Bristol anymore
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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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Staying at the Grosvenor Hotel
Earmarked for demolition today, 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.
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?
7. Shopping at Debenhams or M&S in Broadmead
Two recent closures in Broadmead, the familiar Debenhams store closed in May 2021. A London-based company 33 Horsefair Limited has since taken over the landmark store though it has revealed little as to what it intends to do with the building.
Broadmead’s M&S store was a mainstay for 70 years in the shopping district, eventually closing on January 8, 2022. In November of that year, Bristol charity, Artspace Lifespace announced it would help breathe new life into the former store with an art exhibition.
It tweeted: “In partnership with @GlobalGoalsCtre, Artspace Lifespace is taking on the old Marks and Spencer’s building in Broadmead. We’re going to fill this space with art, performance, green initiatives and educational resources.”
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.
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.