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A little bit of Chicago in Bristol

A little bit of Chicago in Bristol (Update 2020)

Art Deco style Green tiled fascade


 I know it’s not architectural reclamation or antiques but quite interesting never the less. I stumbled upon this great Green tiled facade in the Old Market area of Bristol a few Months ago. After driving and walking past it for many, many years it just so happened  I stopped to answer the phone and there it was. Yes I am aware that I am probably the only person in Bristol that hasn't noticed it, but there you are.


Bristol City Councils excellent resource Know Your Place dates the building  between 1900 & 1946, I'd probably narrow that down to between 1920 - 1930. The Green tiled exterior (AKA Faience) is a style used in commercial buildings such as shops, pubs from about 1900 right through to the war period. This one has a slight touch of Art Deco about it with the stepped brickwork around the logo and the tiles being rounded at the corners.


I decided to try and find out some more about 'Swift & Company Ltd' perhaps they are a local Bristol Company? After a bit of googling I came across a Brazilian company called JBS who have a meat division called Swift & Company. That particular Swift company originated in the later part of the 1800's & were based in Chicago. Eventually I came across an image of the new Swift Company operation in California (well it was new in 1920) with an identical logo as my mystery building in Old Market, Bristol.


Swift & company original signs


It transpires that Swift & Company were a very innovative and forward thinking company, being based in Mid Western USA they had a great distances to transport their product to lucrative East & West USA markets as well as the potentially huge markets of Europe & South America.  The owner Gustav Swift was one of the original innovators of the refrigerated box car giving the company the ability to ship already butchered meat not only across the USA but also to international markets using similar refrigerated shipping from the British Company Weddel's.  Swift were also very early innovators of 'Assembly line' practices and 'Just In Time' inventory, pre-dating both Ford & Piggly Wiggly Stores.  By the 1920's when our little building was probably constructed & in daily use in Old Market Swift & Company was probably the largest meat packing Company in the world.




A bit more info comes from Jo Amey (The tile lady) down in Bournemouth. The tiles for the Bristol site were most likely made by a Bournemouth Company Carter & Carter. Jo has very kindly provided a photo of another Swift & Co frontage made by Carter & Carter, as well as a tiled Pub frontage (also Poole harbour) most likely by the same Company, thanks Jo.

 Swift & Co (Jo Riley)

Tiled Pub Front (Jo Amey)

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peter - April 4, 2022

you may be pleased to hear i am taking over this building to clean up to its original state and open an antiques center,seems a good building for it ,Even keeping the name.
Regards peter

PATRICK COOMBS - November 9, 2021

The little blue door on the side of this building, let to some alms houses known as Flooks Court, where my Father was born in 1917. It consisted of about 20 small dwellings, with no electric gas or running water..Water was supplied by a communal well!!

Jo Amey - February 4, 2020

There was a very similar warehouse in Bournemouth for Swift and Co with the same logo and lettering. The faience was made locally by Carter and Co of Poole so presumably they made the faience for this one as well. The Bournemouth building was demolished in the 1980’s but I have a couple of photos of it.

Tom Bee - November 1, 2019

Came across this article while researching Swift and Company Limited.
If anyone is interested, this company had a meat-market/distributor in Edinburgh early 1900s right up until the 1950s or thereabouts.
I have a photograph of the ‘shop’ front and staff c.1918. My uncle is shown

Helen Davison - January 13, 2019

Hi, I’m fairly new to Bristol and while having a nose around Easton I spotted this building. I was looking online for more info and came across your post. Thanks for the info!

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