Pay Up On The Nail

A Memory of Bristol

'Cash on the Nail' the man said. . . and a century or so ago in Bristol he really meant it. For the deal would have been clinched on one of Bristol's four famous nails standing outside the Corn Exchange on Corn Street or, from the late 1550s to 1771, under a covered walk outside All Saints Church before they were moved to today's well-known site.

The brass nails with their flat tops and raised edges to prevent coins tumbling onto the pavement, were made as convenient tables for merchants to carry out their business . . . hence the expressions 'nailing a deal' and cash on the nail. The oldest pillar hasn't got a date but experts say it is late Elizabethan. The second was given by Bristol merchant Robert Kitchen, who died in 1594. The two remaining nails are dated 1625 and 1631.

Robert Kitchen's nail was slightly bent when it was struck by a lorry in 1963. The pillar is so heavy that a crane had to be used to lift it before it could be replaced securely. A large crowd gathered, worried that someone might be making off with an important part of Bristol's history.

The workmen quickly reassured them. . . and the nail was replaced the next day.

A memory shared by Paul Townsend , on Dec 5th, 2009.

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