Upstairs downstairs makeover for The Battleaxes near Nailsea

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By Carol_Deacon | Friday, October 05, 2012, 13:16

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better The Battleaxes at Wraxall has had another makeover - upstairs and downstairs

The carvery has gone and has been replaced by table service; it is about to offer bed and breakfast in six boutique suites all with private bathrooms and the old cider-drinkers Backwell Bar has reopened as a sophisticated watering hole called The Shindig.

There are very few places in this part of North Somerset were you can get dressed up and go out for the evening but The Battleaxes which has had nearly half a million pounds spent on revamping the pub and restaurant is certainly one.

Fine food, good wine, best beers and friendly staff – what more could you want.

Two years ago The Battleaxes became part of The Flatcappers group which also owns The Castle Inn at Bradford on Avon and it reopened with a small fanfare in September 2010.

With new managing director Ben Paxton and general manager Fay Cowles, who both have extensive experience in the upmarket hotel trade, at the helm the latest changes are now almost complete.

The decor is still shabby chic and the furniture and fittings which were mostly bought on eBay include gaudy red and purple stripped Biba-style lamp shades.

The interior design is reminiscent of being somewhere between an American *****house and an old English hunting lodge!

Ben, aged 30, has been rolling up his sleeves to help finish the six first floor bedrooms which will all have en suite baths or showers.

He said: "We have already taken bookings for our new guest rooms which we hope to open in mid-November so we better get a wiggle on."

The newly restored Battleaxes has a playful eccentricity described as 'Cluedo country house meets traditional country pub'.

The walls are decorated with taxidermy and old gents club paintings and the rooms sport scrub top tables and comfortable, worn club chairs.

The floors are a combination of reclaimed pine boards and Indian flag and the loos are lovely – modern plumbing meets old-fashioned stately home elegance. 

It is certainly very homely and gives a warm and welcoming feel from the old flat caps hung on the hall stand to the Country Life periodicals left on the entrance table.

The Battleaxes employs 17 staff, 10 front-of-house and seven hands-on in the kitchen, and in total £400k has been spent on the restoration.

The building is on four levels:

  • Upstairs there are the letting bedrooms some with fabulous rural views;
  • On an oak paneled mezzanine floor is the club room which can seat 70, main kitchen, a door leading to the garden and baby changing area;
  • On the ground floor is a dining room for 60 diners and comfy lounge bar; and
  • The Shindig is on the lower floor with conservatory room, glass skylights and French reproduction artwork.

The club room can be used for a variety of functions from wedding breakfasts to private parties.

It recently played host to a sell-out performance of The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Wraxall Primary School PTA met monthly at the Battleaxes and Mondays is quiz night at The Shindig with teams of up to six paying £1 per person to win the pot.

And the Battleaxes is easy to get to – minutes from the city and nearest town.

It is approximately a 10-min drive from Bristol and the Nailsea bus stops outside.

From 10am-6pm chef Michael Vickery (no relation to the TV celebrity chef married to Fern Brittonl) offers breakfast, brunch and light bites including sandwiches and burgers.

The Flatcappers full breakfast costs £6.95 with sausage, hash browns, baked beans, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon, egg and toast.

And from 6-10pm the evening fare consists of fish, meat and vegetarian options from £7.95 upwards.

The most expensive dinner on offer is a Glastonbury rump steak with all the accompaniments at £15.95.

There is also a choice of four starters, three 'sharing boards' and six puddings.

Behind the bar is an extensive selection of real ales, beers and good wines.

They sell dark, malt real ale by Wickwar Brewery at £3.15 a pint and eight different red and white wines by the glass at £3.65.

And if you are feeling really extravagant - like a recent wedding party - they stock Laillier Cru champagne at £99 a bottle.

The Battleaxes is Grade II-I listed building which was once part of the Tyntesfield estate.

It was built as a Temperance house by the benevolent Matilda Blanche Gibbs, widow of wealthy merchant William Gibbs, in 1881.

She wanted the Victorian building as somewhere for estate workers to meet without drinking alcohol.

But at the outbreak of World War I the Temperance House was leased to Georges Brewery, later Courage Brewery, and then we presume the beer and cider flowed.

In World War II land girls and the walking wounded from the American hospital used to socialise at the pub.

Its name refers to the Tyntesfield coat-of-arms which is three battle axes.

When Courage's gave back the lease to the late Lord Wraxall (Richard Gibbs) in the 1960s he promptly sold the building.

It isn't on public record of how much Matilda's great grandson got from Courage tenant Mr A Bird for the freehold in 1962 but the average UK house price at the time was £2,950 and a new Ford Cortina cost £591.

For enquiries and booking or to arrange to look around call Fay on 01275 857473 or email

Click HERE to see more photos.



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