Discover one fo Bristol's hidden gems. Still often referred to as a Tea Garden, Beese's was founded in 1846 by Mrs Anne Beese to provide refreshments to travellers and workers using or crossing the river. The Beese family also ran Conham Ferry.
The Conham Ferry simply crosses from Beese's to the steps on the Hanham side of the river. It is reputedly the oldest ferry-crossing on the River Avon. (we are delighted to carry on the tradition by operating the ferry during our opening hours.)
Beese's is an open secret, set besides a pleasantly wooded stretch of the River Avon. For some, a haven of tranquillity, where generations of city dwellers would put the cares of the city behind them for a time. Equally, in recent years, Beese's can be a lively place, whether its a friends get-together, a birthday or wedding celebration, or one of Beese's music nights. We are visited by families, ramblers, cyclists, dog walkers and, of course, river-users swimming or rowing leisurely by.
Long gone is the heavy industry, noise and pollution - Butler's Tar Works on one side and the Board Mills on the other - which once dominated the river valley. In their place, at Crew's Hole and St. Anne's, has come tree-planting and extensive new housing. The riverside park just past here, on a loop of the river at Conham, lies on the site of a former sewage works (you really wouldn't know!) which served part of Kingswood until 1968.
Just like Bristol City's Floating Harbour has changed since it's inception in 1809, so too has the stretch of the river from Netham Lock (which helps to control one end of the harbour's water) to Hanham (the next destination upstream of Beese's) and the river bank here is now often frequented by fishermen.
This area is full of history. The once dominant house at Conham, Conham Hall, was demolished in 1971, possibly because it was a really, really ugly building. Persecuted Baptists once held secret meetings in the woods nearby, and you can still see the crumbling remains of old copper works established here in the 18th century.
In the Victorian times, visitors to Beese's would take their tea in the house or the terrace immeadiately in front of the house which, although a major part of Beese's backdrop, are now both just for residential use. Back then a sign facing the river - "Bees Tea Gardens" - would inform you that you had reached your destination. Anne Beese was a lady who discouraged the drinking of alcohol and might be a tad peeved to see the quantities of beer, cider and wine that accompany Beese's Sunday roasts every summer weekend. Today the sign reads Beese's Riverside Bar which rather more accurately reflects the nature of the business it has become. Cream Teas are, of course, still a major part and can be enjoyed in the garden or the bar/restaurant building erected in the 1960's.
No doubt, back in the day, the railway navvies then working on Brunel's newly opened Great Western Railway would have been most appreciative of a nice cuppa. From the garden and decked area in front of Beese's you can sometimes hear and spot the train as they make a brief appearance between tunnels of St. Anne's and Broomhill.
In 1851, Thomas and Hannah Beese were living at 'The Ferry House' (a name in keeping with the river crossing here) along with their four children. Forty years later, their son George, who had eight children, was running the place. When he died in 1895, his wife continued the business. Gilbert Bruton was her ferryman, rowing customers across the river in an open boat. Today the boat is still open to the skies but does at least have an engine. Before World War II, this crossing cost just one penny... times change! There was at one point a small cabin on the Conham side, near the towpath, where you could buy sweets, chocolates and sandwiches (if there were any left).
The Beese children attended Crews Hole school on the other side of the river. But they were often late for classes in winter when the avon flooded - something the river still does today.
In the 1920's, the business was sold to the Plumpton family.
With our decking and marquee, Beese's is a popular venue for the wedding receptions as our unique location offers newly-weds something a little different.
Our fully-licensed free house and gardens are available for private bookings, corporate events, birthday parties and wedding receptions.