A beloved Bristol pub with connections to Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island has called last orders for the final time, leaving the future of the waterside black and white timbered building in doubt.
Bank Holiday drinkers enjoyed their final pints at the Llandoger Trow on Saturday night before it closed after serving the people of Bristol for almost 450 years as well as attracting fans of Daniel Defoe and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The British hospitality company Whitbread owns the building and said it was being sold as a going concern but many Bristolians are worried the age of the building and the cost of renovating it means many may be put off taking on the project.
The closure comes amid ongoing concern over the threat to pubs, with cost pressures and business rate increases contributing to a long-term decline across the country. The Llandoger Trow opened near Welsh Back, an area of the harbourside that took in boats from south Wales carrying slate, stone, timber and coal, in 1664.
Its first landlord was one Captain Hawkins, who ran the pub after retiring from sailing trows – flat-bottomed barges – across the Bristol Channel. Llandogo is a small village on the banks of the River Wye in Monmouthshire.
The pub initially occupied the building along with basket makers, tobacconists and grocers but over the years expanded.
Legend has it that Defoe met Alexander Selkirk, regarded as an inspiration for his marooned sailor, Crusoe, in the pub. The book was published 300 years ago on Tuesday.
It is impossible to be sure the pair did meet in the Trow but Selkirk’s rescuer, the sea captain and privateer Woodes Rogers, had a house around the corner from the pub in Queen’s Square.
Many, including Visit England, also believe that Stevenson based the Admiral Benbow, the pub in Treasure Island, on the Trow. Visit England also says the pirate Blackbeard – whose real name was Edward Teach – drank in the Trow, though there is research that suggests he left Bristol for Jamaica as a child.
Undisputedly, many famous actors have also passed through its doors. The Bristol Old Vic, which has recently undergone a restoration, is just up the road.
There are also claims that 15 ghosts haunt the pub, including a child whose footsteps can sometimes be heard, according to some. One of the bartenders described being tapped on the back while he worked in the cellar. Next morning, he was startled to find bruises on the spot where he felt the contact.
Whitbread said it hoped new owners would continue to run the building as a pub. A spokesperson said: “We understand the Trow is a much-loved Bristol landmark and it is being marketed as a going concern. The sale of course means the site will no longer be owned by Whitbread, but we remain absolutely committed to the Bristol community.”
Whitbread owns a hotel in the same block and is planning to open a steakhouse on the corner. The company said there had been interest from other pub operators.
Sheila Hannon, whose theatre company, Show of Strength, takes visitors on walking tours of the harbourside called Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers, said she worried the pub may lay unused or be turned into flats.
Looking out of one of the windows that jut out on to the street, she said: “You can almost see the frock coats, the peg legs, the parrots and the press gangs. It’s terrible to think that this pub may be lost.”
People taking Hannon’s tour used to have a drink in the pub. From now on they will have to simply gaze at it from the outside. “There’s so much of Bristol’s heritage, so many stories tied up with this pub,” she said.