Monday 6 July 2020

14 Gloucestershire venues with a fascinating history

From royal visits and literary links, to fiery deaths, underground tunnels, and England's oldest inn, discover 14 restaurants, pubs and hotels in Gloucestershire with a fascinating history.

Boasting much more than delicious food, tasty tipples and comfortable accommodation, Gloucestershire is home to plenty of historical hot spots with the oldest dating back to 947AD!

With their heritages encompassing everything from royal connections and historic battles, to ancient features and unauthenticated ghosts, there’s plenty to discover when delving into the past of the county’s restaurants, pubs and hotels.

SoGlos has dug deep into the archives to find 14 venues with a hidden history.

1. Egypt Mill

Before Egypt Mill existed on the banks of the River Frome, there stood a small corn mill, of which one wall still remains to this day. The earliest record of the hotel and restaurant dates back to 1656 when it was bought by a London haberdasher, George Hudson.

Richard Webb took over in 1675 when the building contained two fulling mills, a gig mill and a dyehouse, and assumed the name Pharaoh. It remains a mystery how the venue became known as ‘Egypt’, but is has been hypothesised that early Egyptian travellers settled on the river banks, thus giving the mill its current name.

2. Stonehouse Court Hotel

Now a picturesque hotel and restaurant, Stonehouse Court was once the town’s manor house and boasts a fascinating history which goes back to Anglo-Saxon times, when the rights and tenement of the manorial lordship were granted to William D’Ow by his cousin William the Conqueror.

The next thousand years saw manorial rights change hands numerous times, including a period of occupancy by the Earls of Arundel; a minor battle of the Wars of the Roses on the estate; and a devastating fire in 1908 which is responsible for Stonehouse Court’s unauthenticated ghost, butler John Henry who supposedly started the fire.

3. The Porch House

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Commonly thought to be England’s oldest inn and dating back to 947AD, The Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold is believed to have originally been a hospice, built on land owned by Evesham Abbey by order of Aethelmar, Duke of Cornwall.

Other notable points in its history include the mysterious disappearance of 13-year-old John Shellard, part of the Shellard family who took ownership of the building in the 16th century. What’s more, there are still visible symbols by the 16th century fireplace which are thought to have been made for protection against witches.

4. The Fountain Inn

A popular Gloucester watering hole, The Fountain Inn is one of the city’s oldest known sites connected with the brewing trade, and is said to have been an inn by the 14th century. It was once owned by Peter Poitevin, who is likely to be the bishop who crowned young King Henry III in 1216 at St Peter’s Abbey, now Gloucester Cathedral.

The pub boasts another royal connection, with a plaque in the courtyard commemorating a visit by William III; it’s alleged that the king rode his horse up the stairs to show his contempt for Jacobite rebels meeting there.

5. Eight Bells Inn

Located in the historic market town of Chipping Campden, the Eight Bells Inn dates back to the 14th century, when it was built to house the stonemasons who were working on the construction of St James’ Church.

After its initial purpose, the quintessential Cotswold inn was used to store the eight bells that were hung in the church’s tower, something which lead to its current name.

6. Café Rene

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Café Rene in Gloucester offers much more than live music, food and real ales, with its foundations part of the original Roman settlement in the city, and its heritage including ghosts, underground passages, and even an authentic Roman well which remains in the bar today.

Underground tunnels were created which connected to the cathedrals and key points across the city, and were invaluable to monks during the Reformation as escape routes. What’s more, Oliver Cromwell used the tunnels to escape from the Cavaliers during the Civil War.

7. The Dick Whittington

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Originally called Saint Nicholas’ House, The Dick Whittington in Gloucester dates back to the 15th century when it was owned by Richard Whittington, relation of the famous Dick Whittington, mayor of London and pantomime inspiration.

What’s more, there was a royal visit from Queen Elizabeth I in 1574 when the whole house was decorated specially, with paintings from the time still on display.

8. Trouble House

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An inn that has lived up to its name over the years, Trouble House in Tetbury dates back to circa 1754 when it was built by carpenter John Reeve, in a notoriously ‘troublesome’ area which was prone to flooding. The pub has suffered bad luck over the years, ranging from financial problems to deaths.

Notable events include getting caught up in the agricultural riots of 1830 and being set on fire; a bankrupt owner who allegedly hung himself from a beam in the pub, and another who is rumoured to have drowned himself in a nearby pond; and the appearance of Trouble House’s ghost, the Lady in Blue, in 1931.

9. The Kings Head Hotel

First known to be in existence as a coaching inn in the 14th century, The Kings Head Hotel in Cirencester is a building of special architectural and historical interest, and was home to a significant event in 1642 which was to affect the fate of the nation.

The incident, now depicted in a famous painting by John Beecham, saw Giles Lord Chandos arrive in Cirencester with the commission of array to enlist troops for King Charles I. When the townspeople rose against him, killing some of his company and burning his coach, Lord Chandos escaped to The Kings Head Hotel, and was thus spared death.

10. Hatherley Manor

A 17th century manor house on the cusp of the Cotswolds, it’s rumoured that Hatherley Manor was originally built for one of Oliver Cromwell’s illegitimate sons. What’s more, the site history is even older, stretching back more than 1,000 years to the time of Edward the Confessor.

During its fascinating heritage, Hatherley Manor has been in possession of Sir Matthew Wood, who was Lord Mayor of London two times; and Anthony Gilbert Jones, mayor of Gloucester three times. What’s more, Anthony’s son Charles patented the forerunner for the modern stepladder, while Jones and Co also drew up plans for the mass production of deckchairs.

11. Gupshill Manor

Built in 1431, Gupshill Manor’s extensive history is largely centred round the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, with the venue standing in the heart of what was perhaps the bloodiest battle during the War of the Roses.

Other events in its past include two great fires, one in the 17th century and one in the early 1900s that reduced the manor to more than half the size it is today. What’s more, visitors can still see ornately carved stonework in the building, which was stolen from Tewkesbury Monastery during King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the church.

12. The Lygon Arms

A hotel and restaurant in Broadway, The Lygon Arms boasts roots that date back to the 1300s, with notable points including an overnight stay by Oliver Cromwell in 1651, on the night before the Battle of Worcester, in a room now known as The Cromwell Room.

The venue is also linked to the Civil War which pitted King Charles I against parliament, with some of the action taking place within The Lygon Arms’ walls. What is now the King Charles I Suite was where the king and his supporters assembled; while on the other side of the war, the parliamentary army also stayed at The Lygon Arms in 1651.

13. The Royal Hop Pole

Now a JD Wetherspoons pub, The Royal Hop Pole in Tewkesbury was immortalised in Charles Dickens’ classic novel, The Pickwick Papers, when Mr Pickwick and Mr Ben Allen ‘stopped to dine’ and enjoyed bottled ale, Madeira and some port.

What’s more, following a visit by Princess Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary, in 1891, the pub was given permission to display a coat of arms above its porch, and the word ‘Royal’ was added to its name, which was formerly The Hop Pole.

14. The Kings Arms

Recently used for BBC’s period drama The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Kings Arms in Stow-on-the-Wold also has real-life connections to the past, with King Charles I staying at the venue in 1645, during the time of the Battle of Naseby.

By Kathryn Godfrey

© SoGlos
Tuesday 01 January 2019

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