The Beehive Inn is a late 18th century building designed by the architect John Forbes who was also responsible for building the Pittville Pump Room and St. Pauls Church in Cheltenham. Some original exterior features have been retained including a partial wooden facade featuring decorative bar windows and a plasterboard name panel featuring an engraved beehive sign.
A balloon ascent took place at Montpellier Gardens on September 22nd 1837. The Great Nassau Balloon took over four hours to inflate and when it eventually rose into the air it carried a gentleman called Garrett and a Mrs Graham across Cheltenham and finally landed somewhere near Hartpury. But what made the ascent particularly noteworthy was that a second basket was suspended from the main one and in it contained a monkey named Mademoiselle Jennie. Passing in the skies over Lansdown the rope holding the smaller basket was cut and Jennie the monkey spiralled downwards. An experimental parachute fortuitously opened, and Jennie floated gently to earth. The monkey was then taken to the Beehive Inn where Jennie was later reunited with Mr Garrett and Mrs Graham. The Beehive Inn celebrated the 175th anniversary of the balloon ascent and the safe retrieval of Jennie the monkey in April 2012 with a Victorian themed party.
The Beehive once boasted its own brewery. An advertisement from 1851 reads: “Beehive Brewery, Cheltenham. J. Carter, Wine and Spirit Merchant and Genuine Ale Brewer. Montpellier Villas. Families supplied with genuine home brewed ale and beer in large or small casks and sent to any part of the town. Dealer in malt and hops”. William Carter is recorded as brewer at the Beehive Inn eight years later in 1859.
Harriet Carter is listed in the 1891 licensing book as the owner of the Beehive Inn. She was possibly the wife of William Carter who was a brewer at the Beehive Inn. The 1891 reference give detail that it was then a free house. Sometime in the next twelve years the Beehive Inn was purchased by the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery of Shepton Mallet, Somerset who are recorded as owners in 1903. The annual rateable value of the Beehive Inn was £34.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903 and it had ale house status.
The Bavarian theme was dropped from the title with the obvious negative connotations relating to Germany during the First World War. The renamed Anglo Brewery ceased trading in 1921 and their estate was sold to the Cheltenham Original Brewery. The Beehive in Montpellier then had a long association with the Cheltenham brewery, evolving from the Original Brewery to Cheltenham & Hereford to West Country Breweries and then into the corporate Whitbread / Whitbread Flowers ownership. A legacy of its past connection with the Cheltenham brewery is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that still remains in situ.
Enterprise Inns (Stonegate) are the outright owners of the Beehive Inn. The lease of the Beehive was put on the market in 1988 and was bought by Darren Hiscox, Paul Helliwell and Christopher Rood who set up Slak Ltd. (a subsidiary of Hatton Group). The businessmen later bought the Garricks Head and Phoenix Inn. The Beehive has a large upstairs dining room, which was redecorated 2001 in a colour scheme of imperial maroon and azure. It was described in an ‘eating out’ review in March 2001 as ‘high-ceilinged with a medieval style chandelier and sweeping blue drapes which has the unmistakeable feel of a banqueting hall.’
The Beehive Inn won a place in the 2006 Michelin Eating Out in Pubs guide, describing the pub as ‘cosy and snug’ and ‘worth going the extra mile for’. The cooking was described as ‘good and honest, with up-to-date dishes.’
In June 2006 licensing officers at Cheltenham Borough Council gave permission for the Beehive to stay open until 4am during Cheltenham race week and on New Year’s Day. Permission was initially refused arguing that residents would be disturbed by the extra noise but pending an appeal the council had a change of heart and approved the new hours. A spokesman for the council said: “This decision to settle the agreement wasn’t made in isolation. It followed close consultation with concerned residents and we understand the result is to most people’s satisfaction.”
An angry resident of Montpellier Villas wrote to the Gloucestershire Echo in September 2007 claiming that ‘what used to be a friendly, quiet neighbourhood pub has become a meeting point for loud individuals with little regard for people living nearby. On any given day and particularly in the evening, pub customers park their cars all over the area on double yellow lines and on the pavements making it impossible for residents to get in or out of their own garages. The list goes on and on, from the ridiculous bright lights outside the front of the pub to the noise level from inside and particularly the garden and people standing outside the front of the pub at all hours.”
In September 2008 the upstairs dining room had another major refurbishment with the walls stripped back to the brickwork and refitted whilst carefully retaining the original features. The dining room was described as ‘making the most of the Regency features to create a slightly formal but by no means stuffy atmosphere. Sturdy wooden chairs and tables are reminiscent of university dining halls but put you at your ease.’
The owning company of the leasehold went into liquidation in April 2009. Foxmile Ltd., with Darren Hiscox as director, had taken on the business from Slak Ltd. Mr Hiscox said: “Sometimes a business runs down naturally when there is no need for it anymore. It just depends on the nature of the company.” He added, “We were unable to come to arrangement with Enterprise Inns over how to take the business forward and, as such, the situation was unsustainable.” The difficulties arose from a dispute with the Tivoli (previously the Phoenix) which affected the viability of other pubs in the ex-Slak pub estate.
The lease of the Beehive Inn was taken on by a new company Ashtop Ltd, which was incorporated in September 2008.
Steve and Belinda Herbert took over the running of the Beehive in February 2014. Steve had built an enviable reputation as being one of the best landlords in Gloucestershire based on his 12 years tenure of the Old Spot in Dursley. Whilst at the Old Spot Steve and Belinda secured a clutch of awards which culminated with the prestigious and heralded accolade of the Old Spot being named the Campaign for Real Ale National Pub of the Year 2007. Steve told the ‘Gloucestershire Echo’: “The Beehive has tremendous potential. It’s a fantastic community pub with a great local feel to it. We have had many happy years at the Old Spot but part of us felt we had taken the business as far as we could. When we saw there was an opening to take the Beehive on, we jumped at the chance.” Steve added, “The food is also something we are looking to develop. We’ve got this fantastic dining room upstairs with 55 covers and some blindingly good dishes but a lot of people don’t even know it is there. We really do think the place has tremendous potential and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Adam Henson, TV celebrity and owner of the Cotswold Farm Park near Guiting Power, gave an insight of his life as a television presenter, farmer and keeper of rare breeds at the Beehive on 19th March 2014. Adam was also promoting his branded beer – Rare Breed brewed by Butcombe Brewery. Steve Herbert said: “I’ve held such evenings with Adam before and any event that he hosts is always fascinating and extremely informative.”
Tragically Steve Herbert suddenly passed away in January 2016, aged just 45. The ‘Gloucestershire Echo’ commented, ‘Steve was a publican of the old school who recognised the importance of keeping his customers happy, be they his regulars or passing trade, while keeping a firm grip on order and service great beer and cracking food. In my visits to the Beehive during the Herbert years it was evident Steve exported these virtues to Cheltenham. Businessman, yes, but above all Steve was a thoroughly good bloke.
Landlords at the Beehive include:
1844 James Carter
1856 J. Ladley
1859,1870 William Carter. Listed as a brewer in 1859
1878 Thomas Vincent
1883 J. Mustoe
1885 John James Wheeler
1891 Henry Dredge
1902,1926 Henry John Hitchman Edwards
1927 William E. Machin
1998 Darren Hiscox, Paul Helliwell and Christopher Rood (Slak Ltd)
2001, 2002 Scott Graff (manager)
2008-2014 Matt Walker (manager) (See Brown Jug, Bath Road)
2014-2016 Steve and Belinda Herbert