One of Bristol’s most famous pubs has been taken on by new owners who are carrying out a £500,000 renovation ahead of its reopening.
The Hatchet in Frogmore Street closed when the first lockdown began in March 2020 and stayed shut since, after former tenant Butcombe Brewery surrendered its lease.
Concerns about the iconic inn’s future began to surface as other pubs across the city gradually reopened, but those fears will now be allayed as a new chapter in its century-spanning history beckons.
Jon Bassett, managing director of Cardiff-based pub operator JW Bassett, has shared his future vision for the The Hatchet after putting pen to paper on a 20-year lease with the Wellington Pub Company, which owns the building.
The 51-year-old, who runs five bars in Wales, said he wants to keep the “unbelievable” character of the building intact while making improvements throughout.
“We’re not looking to make any drastic changes, we just want to improve on what was already here,” said Jon, who hopes to have the doors open by late June.
“We used to drink at this pub a lot back in the day and we’ve always loved it. It’s such an institution in Bristol and the character of it is just unbelievable.
“It’s the perfect size and has a great garden, as well as being located on the doorstep of the O2 Academy, Hippodrome and Bristol Beacon.”
Jon and his team are currently developing the first floor of the pub, which has in the past been used to host occasional live music performances and club nights.
This function room will welcome three pool tables, a new bar and dining area serving food all day and television screens showing Sky Sports and BT Sports.
Downstairs, the bar will be redecorated and new furniture will be added – as will a carvery serving a roast every Sunday – while the spacious garden area will be “refreshed”.
The food menu will focus on “speedy, high quality pub grub” with dishes catered towards those enjoying a quick bite to eat before heading to one of the nearby venues.
To wash the food down there will be 20 keg lines and four cask lines showcasing national and local breweries.
Jon is not able to make any structural changes to the building because it is listed, but aesthetically much of its inside areas are set to look unrecognisable following the work.
“Of course there’s a degree of trepidation when taking on such a major project, especially after the year we’ve had, but it’s such an iconic pub which really has the X Factor,” added Jon, who used to run The Crown in St Nicholas Market.
“It’s always been a fantastic pub with incredible potential and we can’t wait to get the doors open.
“If we didn’t go for it I know I’d end up regretting it.”
The Hatchet was first licenced in 1606, with its name inspired by the woodsmen of the nearby Clifton Wood.
During the 18th Century, the pub was known for its cock-fighting ring which later became a bare-knuckle boxing venue, producing local champions Benjamin Brain, Jem Belcher and Henry Pearce.
It’s believed that the pub is haunted and it is said the door of the inn is made of human flesh beneath the tar. It’s also reputed that pirates including Blackbeard have supped their ale at the pub.
In more recent times, The Hatchet has become one of Bristol’s leading rock and alternative venues, frequented by fans of the genre.
Jon hopes to have the renovation completed in summer, before showing off the new look in late June.