'Guerilla artist' targets historic Bristol monuments
One of Bristol's historic brass nails has been damaged by a "guerrilla" artist who scrubbed off years of grime and laid the monument out as a dinner table.
The artist, who goes by the name of Tobias, went to Corn Street in the middle of the night armed with cleaning materials and a plate, cutlery and wine glass.
He scrubbed off the patina of centuries before setting out the dinner plate and glass of wine.
The wine glass was still full when St Nicholas Market warden Roy Ridout arrived for work.
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His job involves looking after the market and its immediate environment.
He said: "I came into Corn Street at 6.20am and there was a china plate on one of the nails and a glass with a gold rim full of wine.
"I wasn't best pleased. The nail itself was white where it had been cleaned with something.
"I have been trying to get it off. It's vandalism, not art. He's taken the patina off the top."
The four nails in front of Bristol's old Exchange building are nearly 400 years old. The phrase "pay on the nail" came from these nails that merchants literally put their money on when trading.
They are grade 1 listed monuments.
Markets manager Steve Morris, 53, said: "I am disappointed that someone feels they can use a historic monument for public art.
"The city encourages public art in the right place but this is part of the city's heritage.
"Merchants used to trade her and pay cash 'on the nail'.
"I think they are very important and it's a shame people think they can use them for public art."
Tobias, 43, said it took him two hours to clean the nail, starting at 2am.
He called his work "Dinner for One" and said he wanted to show that things could have other uses.
He said: "I used an organic cleaner. I don't want to be accused of criminal damage.
"It's about finding things in Bristol that can be made to have other uses."
He added: "I've cleaned off three to four hundred years of grime. It now looks like a table-top now."
Tobias, which stands for The Obscure Bristol Independent Art Sector, said he had other ideas planned.
He said: "I look at Banksy's work and I think how can I improve things around us."
The four brass pillars which stand in front of the Exchange in Corn Street originally stood on the north side of All Saints Church in a closed-in walk called the Merchants' Tolzey.
It was here that Bristol merchants met for business and the nails were used for the exchange of money - hence the phrase "pay down upon the nail".
The first pillar is the oldest, dating from the Elizabethan period and the inscription round its edge has worn away.
The second pillar was a gift of Alderman Robert Kitchen, a former Bristol mayor and merchant, who died in September 1594.
The third pillar was made by Thomas Hobson of Bristol and given to the city by Nicholas Crisp of London in 1625.
The fourth pillar was given in 1631 by merchant George White.
The nails were placed in their current position in 1722.