Tales from Latimer (3) – Tailors Court

16May11

You won’t know about this unless you’ve been there … Just off Broad Street in Bristol there’s a tiny little lane called Tailors Court. You have to look quite carefully or you’ll miss it. It’s an ancient little medieval street, one of the few survivors of the Blitz and the postwar planners.

Among the many interesting things down here – it’s also the entrance to St John’s graveyard, not normally open to the public – is the Merchant Taylors Hall, built in the 18th century and with an elaborate “shell hood” (pictured) over the door with the coat of arms of the Company of Merchant Tailors.

This was a guild; you couldn’t tail in Bristol until you’d served a seven-year apprenticeship, learning all about the tailoring. In return, the Company made charitable bequests and looked after its members and their families.

The Tailors Company, like all the others, was dying out by the early 19th century. John Latimer, in his Annals of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century, says the last surviving Merchant Tailor in Bristol was a Mr Isaac Amos (was he Jewish?), who died in 1824.

Amos had for many years been the sole surviving member of the Company.

Mr. Amos, so long as he lived, carried out the ancient customs of the guild with great gravity. He yearly elected himself master, and allowed himself £10 10s for serving “an extra time”; summoned himself to committee meetings, and paid himself £12 12s for his attendances; audited his own accounts, and rewarded himself with £2 2s therefor; and finally put into his pocket various trifling gratuities authorised by established precedents.

The Hall nowadays is part of an office building that got knocked through from Broad Street. In the late 19tn century it was a Temperance Hall. Temperance was big at the time; when the American temperance campaigner came to Bristol and held monster meetings at the Colston Hall in 1883, some 36,000 Bristolians pledged to avoid alcohol. Latimer tells us that several pubs went out of business.

If you can’t find Tailors Court, go into Horts pub on Broad Street and stand out in its rear smoking area. That’s Tailors Court.

More Latimer (mostly stuff that’s not in his books) live and direct, this coming Thursday at Arnos Vale. Bring a friend.

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One Response to “Tales from Latimer (3) – Tailors Court”

  1. 1 Martin

    I often show people that doorway as I went to Merchant Taylors’ School in Middlesex, originally founded by the worshipful company in the City of London. The almshouse in Broadmead, now Azuza at the entrance to the Galleries, was also Merchant Taylors’, but you probably already knew that.

    As a bonus fact, it is believed that the etymology of the phrase “at sixes and sevens” also has a Merchant Taylors’ link. In the fifteenth century the Merchant Taylors’ and the Merchant Skinners’ companies were in disagreement over order of precedence, and from then on have taken alternating positions in the Lord Mayor’s Parade.


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