History of The Ship Inn and Alveston

At the top of Alveston Hill on the old Bristol to Gloucester turnpike road stands the Grade II listed Ship Inn, once a bustling coaching inn at the centre of the old village, where wealthy Bristol shipbuilders, merchants and naval men built homes away from the city. Built in 1589 and originally a farm with 40 acres of land, this handsome alehouse was home for 100 years to the Doward family, innkeepers in Alveston and nearby Thornbury. Its Tudor origins were commemorated in a Royal Ventonware china ‘Olde English Inns’ series, which depicts The Ship in the 16th century. Some of the original features, including low beamed ceilings and flagstone floors, hark back to the origins of this historic inn.

Many of the adjoining buildings that make up The Ship today once served as accommodation, staff quarters and stables to support the coaching trade on the turnpike. What is now the A38 has always been a vital transport link, once part of a pre-Roman road called the Western Trackway connecting Gloucester with Bristol at Sea Mills, an important Roman port. The section from The Ship to Almondsbury Hill is known locally as the Ridgeway.

Important events in the village were held at The Ship, including Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations, when every adult and child in the parish was treated to a free meal having paraded behind the Alveston Band from the newly opened Jubilee Hall.

The Ship Inn has always been a hub of meeting and debate and in the 1780’s hosted the meetings of the South Gloucestershire Convivio-Medical Society, one of the earliest provincial medical societies in England. One member of the society and regular visitor to The Ship Inn was Edward Jenner, who achieved worldwide fame in the early 19th century through his pioneering work and discovery of a vaccination for smallpox. Voted one of the ‘100 Greatest Britons’ in 2002 in a BBC poll, his work is commemorated at the Jenner Museum in his former home, The Chantry, in nearby Berkeley.

Thornbury doctor E.M. Grace, brother of cricketer W.G. Grace, supervised converting the field next door to The Ship into a cricket pitch in 1871. Both brothers were keen cricketers and played in the first Test match against Australia in 1880, though W.G. Grace achieved greater fame. The Grace family ran the Thornbury Cricket Club for many years and the club still plays on this site today.

Today Alveston is a quiet commuter village within easy reach of the glorious countryside and pretty villages of South Gloucestershire. The Severn Valley and Estuary is rich in wildlife and the late Sir Peter Scott’s world-renowned Slimbridge Wetland Centre is just 13 miles away.

After a day spent exploring the countryside or enjoying the cricket, The Ship Inn is a welcome retreat for a leisurely pub meal with family and friends, or a sumptuous Sunday lunch in historic surroundings.


You can find The Ship Inn on Thornbury Road just off the A38 at Alveston, north of Bristol. For satnavs use the postcode BS35 3LL.