The Elephant

20 St Nicholas Street. BS1.  May 1973 – 2006.

Elephant, St Nicholas St, Bristol, 2011

Elephant in 2011

The Elephant has traded under this name since at least 1787. It was rebuilt in 1866-7 with a splendid pub sign of an elephant’s head carved in stone on the first floor.Elephant, St Nicolas St, Bristol

It became gay in about 1973; the landlords were Mr and Mrs Smith and their flamboyant gay son. Later Ian Stephens bought the premises. The Elephant had a U-shaped bar, and in the 1970s a wood-and-glass partition between the bar and the street wall separated the interior into two bars: men drank to the left (as seen from the street), women to the right. This separation continued long after the partition was removed; only invited men ventured beyond the fireplace on the lesbian side.

From the first time I went there I was told the women gathered on one side of the semi-circular bar, the men on the other. I was never a regular there. (Jane)

Through most of the 1970s and ‘80s the bar was ruled by ‘Cilla’, boyfriend of Terry the manager, whose real name was Stephen. Cilla sported a Brillo perm and an acid tongue; woe betide the drinker who crossed him! In 2006 The Elephant went straight and reopened briefly as The Ivory with an upstairs restaurant. Then it became The Market Place, before reverting to The Elephant.

Berkeley (27.6.2011):

I was only thinking about the lovely Stephen from the Ellie yesterday, and how he was a real stereotype for me as a young gay man, and how you don’t see queens like that anymore, oh the jewellery and the perm, fantastic!

Chris Matthews (27.6.2011):

….and of course Ian Stevens shouting “splendid” while keeping a close eye on the till. I was away at the time of Cilla’s funeral, apparently it was standing room only, and people outside too!

Chris Leigh (Dec 2011):

The Ellie has a special meaning in my life. In 1975 I was rootless and stopped overnight in Bristol whilst driving from Cornwall to the midlands to job hunt. I bumped into a guy in the Elephant I’d known at work some years earlier, got chatting and introduced to his friends. That evening gave me an instant warm vibe about Bristol and its people. The next day I journeyed on to the midlands, didn’t like it so five days later returned to Bristol, and stayed. 37 years later I’m still here – producing this website! That visit to the Elephant changed the course of my life. I’d found home.

  6 Responses to “Elephant”

  1. There were a few barmen you had to be wary of. Try complaining that the beer was off and you’d probably get a stinging rebuke. “Well she hasn’t complained,” they might reply, pointing to someone else. Terry’s refrain at closing time was: “Let’s have your glasses, not your arses.”

  2. I sure miss jim,my greatest friend whom i met in the elephant,i was utterly devastated when i read of his death..what happened to his house and his cat??

  3. I have fondest memories of The Elephant from the late 70s to early 80s. I remember a guy called Don was manager before Steve and Terry. Such happy days, also remember I met a sweetie there by the name of Richard Baker. I wonder where you are today .

  4. What ever happened to Ian Stevens – I worked at Club Leo next door.

  5. The Elephant closed down again in very late 2014 or early 2015. Sat vacant for a while and has now become a tapas bar called The Boardroom. I spoke to a potential buyer (eccentric bloke) who said he had plans of turning it back into a gay bar but I’m guessing he decided against it or somebody else bought it. I work at Vodka Revs opposite so have seen this transition.

  6. There was a lovely barman you named Keith with his gold medallion and so friendly so many
    memories of my teenage days there

 Leave a Reply

(required)

(required)