A Hidden Gem By The Harbour

The minute I first saw Merchants’ Almshouse, it was love at first sight. I still clearly remember the day. One morning back in early 2014, I replied to a guy on Facebook who was advertising household items for sale. We made contact and agreed to meet in the evening to view the items in person. He gave me the address, explained that once I arrived on site, I would find an old pink house, a black steel gate and a buzzer. I had lived in Bristol for 4 years and thought I knew places to stay in Bristol city centre like the back of my hand – how wrong was I!

The appointment was for 6pm, but I arrived a few minutes earlier, just in case I didn’t find the place (you know, Bristol can always throw up a surprise). It was dark, I wondered around and around the area for about 20 minutes, resulting in being late despite planning in time for getting lost! It turned out I was right next to the property and but could not see it. Then, the guy came down to meet me.

Although I knew the area pretty well, I had never realised that there was a property right there, with places to stay in Bristol city centre. I reckon my mind was just ignoring the existence of that property. Thinking back, I may have thought that it was a derelict place, or an old building that was dismissed or something – therefore I excluded that it could have been the place I was looking for.

The guy met me at the gate, we shook hands and he let me into the courtyard. I was confused and amazed at the same time, I was already in love! Standing by the entrance of the courtyard, I started looking around to get my bearings. It was like being in a gated sub-dimension of Bristol city centre, weird but fascinating. The building was under refurbishment and was a disaster, like an abandoned building occupied by squatters.

“Do you really live here?” I asked the guy. He said smiling “Yes, why?” I tried to hide a sort of embarrassment. While I was still looking around and amazed by the surrealistic situation, I followed him into his flat. He had been living there with his girlfriend for 7 years, but they were planning on leaving the country soon. They brought out a bottle of wine, we sat on the sofa and they started telling me about the place.

They considered themselves really lucky for having secured  their flat. The location was amazing and rent really low. They explained to me that the building was designed to offer affordable places to stay (in Bristol city centre, unbelievable!) but it was recently bought by a developer who was going to refurbish it completely and rent it out at “modern” prices.

I always wanted to live in the city centre but I just could not afford it. Therefore, after viewing and bargaining some of the items they wanted to get rid of, I asked if I could have the contact of their new landlord. As you may imagine, I contacted the landlord the following day. What happened next I’ll write about in a new post soon.