Mary-le-Port Street lost during the blitz now lies under modern-day Castle Park.
Mary-le-Port Street Summary
This street was first laid in 1490 and was named after the nearby church, but had no connection with a port or shipping — the church name really meant ‘St Mary of the Market’, the word ‘port’ coming from the Latin word for market, porta.
Until the 1880s (when the Baker, Baker premises were rebuilt), upper storeys of the gabled buildings overhung so much you could shake hands with people on the other side of the street. However, after the 1880s it still remained as a fragment of medieval Bristol and even into the 1930s seemed to be in its own enclosed world where time stood still, poles apart from the busy High Street and Dolphin Street. Some shops displayed their goods on the outside of their premises.
All buildings were destroyed on 24 November 1940, except 44—45 where Jones & Co. operated a snack bar, but this was demolished in the mid-1950s. The ruins of St Mary-le-Port Church were not cleared, the gaunt tower of which still remains today. The carriageway was removed in October 1963.
2-8 Jones & Co. Ltd.
(See entry under 56-65 Wine Street)
9-15 Baker, Baker & Co. Ltd.
(See entry under 49-55 Wine Street)
16 Bendalls Stores Ltd – Grocers
17 Raven Hotel. – Public House
Landlord: Dan Lyons – The Lyons family were landlords of several other pubs in Bristol.
18-20 G.H. Hodder & Co. Ltd. – Butchers, Grocery and Provisions
These premises were originally three Elizabethan buildings (No. 18 was a beef butcher, No. 19 sold wines/spirits/provisions and No.20 was a pork butcher) with internal access from one to the other. During the 1930s these buildings were converted to one large shop. The business was kept under the control of the Hodder family, with the sons and daughters actively involved in the business. The company had their own farm and slaughterhouse in Horfield. The majority of cafes, pubs, etc. in the area had goods supplied by Hodders.
21-22 Cavendish Furniture Co. Ltd.
(See entry under 42-43 Wine Street)
23 Wil-Sam-Mor. (William Samuel Morris Ltd) Wallpaper Merchants
This company’s main premises were across the road at 28-29, this shop previously being occupied by Modern Wallpaper Ltd, who were taken over by Wil-Sam-Mor in 1932. Modern Wallpaper also had premises in Bedminster and Bath, both acquired by Wil-Sam-Mor.
24-25 W.S. Cox & Son. – House Furnishers
This company also had premises at Redcliff Street. Upper floor: Singer Sewing Machine Co. /Offices.
26 Saxone Shoe Co.
(See entry under 46 Bridge Street)
27 Campbells Furniture
This was one of 150 branches the company had in England, Scotland and Wales. There was also an entrance in Bridge Street. The business moved to temporary premises in Baldwin Street immediately after the blitz of November 1940.
28-29 Wil-Sam-Mor (William Samuel Morris Ltd)
The company was founded by Mr William Samuel Morris in 1907 at 28 Mary-le-Port Street and as the company expanded No.29 was acquired. In 1920 the company commenced paint manufacturing at premises in Earl Street (moved to Broadmead in 1938) and it was then that the popular name of Wil-Sam-Mor was adopted. No.23 Mary-le-Port Street was acquired in 1932 and in 1938 the company decided to concentrate on the rapidly expanding retail wallpaper business and paint manufacturing discontinued (this was the time of Mr W.S. Morris’s retirement). Both of the premises in Mary-le-Port Street were destroyed in the blitz of November 1940. Temporary premises were used until after the war when new retail premises were obtained at 29 Merchant Street and a warehouse in Jacob Street.
30 Lipton Ltd. – Grocers
Branch of a very large chain of stores shops worldwide.
31 Mrs Phoebe Louise Smith. – Confectioner
32-37 Baker, Baker & Co. Ltd
(See entry under 49-55 Wine Street)
Between Nos 37 and 38 was a lane to the churchyard of St Mary-le-Port Church, known as Buttermarket Passage.
38-39 L..L.Jenkins. – Furniture Dealer
This company sold antique and second-hand furniture, as well as fireproof safes.
40 Mrs Emma Haynes. – Umbrellas
This business was involved in the sale of umbrellas only (and they may also have been made on the premises).
41 Campbells. – Wallpaper Merchants
(Proprietor: Northcott & Blake)
42 J.F. Liddington. – Wholesale Confectioners
Between Nos 42 and 43 was an arched doorway leading to the main entrance of St Mary-le-Port Church.
St Mary-le-Port Church – Rector: Revd W. Dodgson Sykes. The original church was built in 1170 and was rebuilt in the early part of the fifteenth century. The church was barely visible as it was surrounded by high buildings, access being from Mary-le-Port Street or a narrow lane with steps from Bridge Street. Nos 38-42 Mary-le-Port Street were built on the outer side of the north wall.
The brass eagle lectern in the church was originally given to the Cathedral in 1683, where it was regarded as an obstruction. However, it was saved and sold in 1803 to William Ady, but he could not dispose of it so eventually it was presented to St Mary-le-Port Church on condition it remained there forever — it was recovered in pieces the morning after the blitz of 24 November 1940.
The church suffered extensive damage in the war and was never repaired, although much of the 80ft tower (which pre-war had a peal of eight bells) remains today, still surrounded by buildings!. A postage stamp was produced by the GPO in 1968 depicting the blitzed tower, the picture taken from a painting by John Piper which is now in the Tate Gallery.
43 J.H. Dewhurst Ltd – Butchers
In Mary-le-Port Churchyard were the following premises/businesses, whose address was also 43 Mary-le-Port Street:- Mrs H. Edwards, Hat and Cap Manufacturer— St Mary-le-Port Church Rooms— Scholastic (goods entrance)
44-45 Jones & Co. Ltd. – Department Store
Stevens Bros, Grocers occupied these premises until the late 1930s prior to Jones & Co. occupying them as a furniture store. This building (and No.46) survived the war, being used as a snack bar by Jones & Co. during and after the war until its demolition in the mid-1950s.
46 Ideal Cleaners & Dyers (1933) Ltd. – Cleaners
The Canterbury Music Hall, Maryport Street, Bristol built in 1855.
The Music Hall hadn’t been open long though when it was destroyed by fire on the 24th of September 1859, and so important an event was it that the the local press rushed to report it in the same day’s edition saying:
‘At about a quarter before two o’clock this (Saturday) morning great alarm was created throughout the city by the breaking out of a fire at the Canterbury Music Hall, situated in Maryport-street. The conflagration was first discovered by the policeman on the beat, who lost no time in giving the alarm, but owing to the large quantity of woodwork in the building and its wooden stage, scenery, and adornments, the fire spread with fearful rapidity, and the large area was speedily filled by one dense mass of flame which soon broke through the roof, and placed the adjacent premises in the most imminent peril.
The police alarm was rapidly disseminated, and in a very short time the various fire-engines arrived in the following order: – The West of England, Police, Norwich Union, and Sun; and there being a plentiful supply of water from the Bristol Water Works Company’s mains, they at once commenced playing on the flames.
It soon became evident to the directors of the fire engines and police authorities that all attempts to save the Canterbury Music Hall must prove abortive, and their efforts were forthwith directed to the preservation of the adjoining properties. The extensive tobacco and snuff warehouses of the Messrs. W. D. and H. 0. Wills and Company caught at the back, as did also those of Messrs. Roughsedge and Summers, sodawater manufacturers; and those of Mr. Shuttlewood, hosier and haberdasher, Messrs. Laverton and Company, furniture manufacturers, and some of the houses which lie on the Eastern side of St. Maryleport Churchyard were placed in such peril that their preservation was at one time despaired of. The Messrs. Wills’s property was placed in such extreme jeopardy that the partners, who were early on the spot, together with some of the hands and many neighbours and friends, exerted themselves energetically for the preservation of the books and the more portable and valuable portions of the stock.
Fortunately, however, the efforts of the police and firemen were crowned with success, and at about a quarter before three o’clock the roof of the Canterbury-hall fell in with a crash, and, carrying with it the burning rafters and fittings, greatly diminished the violence of the conflagration. The well-directed efforts used soon extinguished the fire in the adjacent premises, and at the time at which we write (half-past three o’clock) it is hoped that the catastrophe has been confined to the entire destruction of the Canterbury-hall, and the damage we have named to the properties adjoining.
Mr. Superintendent Handcock and a strong body of police were on the ground, and kept the streets so clear that there was no impediment in the way of the firemens’ operations. It was a most fortunate thing that there was a strong westerly wind blowing; had the current been setting in an opposite direction, there can be little doubt (as the buildings leading to the bottom of the street are very old) that Maryport-street would have been destroyed to High street on the southern, if not indeed on the northern side. No estimate of the extent of the loss can be at present formed, nor could we find, amidst the excitement and confusion which prevailed, what insurance offices will be affected by the disaster. Owing to the extent and brilliance of the flames, the fire could be seen from most parts of the city and surrounding heights, and large numbers of citizens were attracted to the spot.
Subsequently to the above being written, the Messrs. Wills’s premises again caught, but the Norwich Union engine played heavily upon the the ignited spot, and soon extinguished the fire. The West of England, Sun, and Police engines are playing on the smouldering embers of the hall, and it is believed that all: further danger is at an end.’
After the fire the Music Hall was subsequently rebuilt but by 1863 it had been converted into a ‘Dining Room’.
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