St Austell Bull Ring

Old image of the Bullring and the Red Bank, St Austell
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Old image of the Bullring and the Red Bank, St Austell

Outside the Red Bank and the Churchyard is the Bull Ring, so called because of the bull-baitings formerly held on this spot ; it is reported that a great lady in the neighbourhood erected a stand, from time to time, to view the sport, and that it rested, by special arrangement, on the Churchyard wall

It was only in 1835 that this popular but barbarous pastime was prohibited by Act of Parliament. It had then been for seven centuries a recognized British sport, and not among the ” lower orders” only ; Queen Elizabeth, for example, enjoyed it.

This area was also a transport interchange for horse-drawn clay wagons, on the route to Charlestown Harbour. Wagon collected here prior to negotiating the very steep East Hill – with 2 extra horses coupled to each wagon! As a result the Bull Ring became quite congested – here is an extract from the Cornish Guardian, 10th July 1908.

Police and Clay Waggoners
(To the Editor)
”Sir, The question regarding the very stringent conditions under which clay waggoners who, in their daily routine, have to pass through the streets of St Austell are at present labouring is one which should appeal to every reader of this paper. As everyone knows china clay is the staple industry of Mid-Cornwall, and without it St Austell and the surrounding villages would become almost nonentities. Yet, in spite of this, the poor driver of a clay waggon is driven from pillar to post, and looked on in the town almost as an undesirable. A new trial has now been added to the lot of these unfortunate individuals in the form of an official order that all coupling up shall be done in the Bull Ring instead of at East Hill. Probably ever since clay has been conveyed through St Austell streets the clay waggons have been drawn up at the bottom of East Hill, until a fellow waggoner has come along, and then by [[Image:Heart BullRing1.JPG|thumb|right|400px|alt=The Bull Ring|Old photograph of the Bull Ring in the centre of St Austell]]the unite efforts of the hoses from both waggons the waggon is got up the hill. No one will deny that this coupling up business in a town like St Austell is a nuisance, yet it has to be done, for no two or three ordinary horses can draw the waggons, loaded as they are, up steep ascents without help. Then if it has to be done why not do it where the least inconvenience is caused? Under the present conditions the Bull Ring is blocked morning and afternoon, and it is no rare occurrence to see eight or ten waggons drawn up in this, the main thoroughfare in the town. It is obvious that the police – for the new arrangements are by their orders – would be much better advised to let the waggoners continue to halt at the bottom of the hill as heretofore.Apart from the fact that the waggoners who have no easy task to negotiate their cumbersome vehicles through the narrow streets, are placed at a decided disadvantage by the new order, when one takes into consideration that, three streets adjoin the Bull Ring, besides the main entrance to the town from the station, it must be admitted that the ruling for the authorities in this case is decidedly erratic.”
CLAYBOY
St Austell, July 1908

This photo shows how the Bullring looked before the building of the Red Bank in St Austell
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This photo shows how the Bullring looked before the building of the Red Bank in St Austell

The old photo is taken before the building of the Red Bank in 1878. In 1886 the road was widened by levelling part of the churchyard on the north side and taking a slice of the ground on the east side.

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