My fondest memories of the Bell Inn are from the mid to late 1970’s when Walter Morley was the landlord. I was in my late teens at the time and I had already got a taste for Donnington Ales. The Bell Inn was the nearest Donnington pub from my home in Bishop’s Cleeve, about eight miles away. To get to the Bell I cycled via Gotherington and Gretton – a pleasant cycle ride on back roads which avoided the steep climb to Winchcombe via Cleeve Hill. The cycle ride to Winchcombe was always very pleasant but the return journey was often done in a state of semi-inebriation – but I have lived to tale the tale!
The entrance to the pub was on the side of the building. To the left was the public bar and the lounge bar, facing Gretton Road, was accessed through a partitioning sliding glass door. The lounge was only opened when the pub got busy, usually on Friday and Saturday nights. One of the great attractions of the Bell was the old style juke box in the lounge where I spent many a happy hour playing classic records from the 1960’s and early 1970’s. The toilets were outside the main building.
I seem to recall that when I first frequented the Bell the Donnington Ales were kept under light blanket pressure but traditional handpumps were later installed and the pub became a regular in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. I think the only food I ever ate at the Bell Inn was bags of crisps, nuts, and their speciality – jars of cockles!
The Bell Inn had a long tradition of auctioning fruit and vegetables during harvest time to benefit the local community. Boxes of apples, onions, swedes, cabbages, carrots, leeks, potatoes and beans were sold alongside jars of freshly pickled onions, walnuts and chutney. Marrows and pumpkins were also regularly on offer. In addition to the fresh fruit and vegetables local businesses also donated items for the charity auction. During its latter years the harvest time auction could raise over £1,000.
When Walter Morley died in 1987 his daughter Diane and husband Hugh Marsh took over the running of the Bell Inn. Soon afterwards the pub was sold by the Donnington Brewery to Hugh and Diane although the excellent Donnington beers were still available. As a freehouse, the Bell Inn gained a place in the 2002 CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
When Hugh and Diane Marsh retired from the Bell Inn in January 2002 after 17 years of pulling pints the pub was put up for sale. At that time prospective new owners Ralph Guilor and Chris Bullingham planned to refurbish the Bell Inn with the intention of keep it trading as normal. Mr Guilor told the Gloucestershire Echo that there were ‘no plans to close the pub’ but a planning application had been submitted to Tewkesbury Borough Council so he and his business partner could keep their long term options open. If their application was accepted it gave them the green light to convert the pub into two homes and build a new dwelling in the pubs beer garden.
The entire contents of the Bell Inn went under the auctioneers hammer in January 2002. The large firemen’s bell, which took pride of place behind the bar for many years, was sold to Winchcombe Light Shop for £410. Presumably the black and white Donnington Ales Bell Inn pub sign was sold as well. Does anyone know of its whereabouts?
In February 2002 Tewkesbury Borough Council planners gave permission for the Bell Inn to be converted into residential homes. The Gloucestershire Echo reported that members of the council’s development and enforcement committee unanimously voted for the plan to go ahead after postponing their decision to visit the site.
The decision was taken despite the fact there were objections from residents that the Bell Inn played an important community role.
In March 2007 the property was on the market and the particulars of sale described a ‘sympathetically restored Cotswold stone cottage’ with lounge, dining room, kitchen/breakfast room, workshop, three double bedrooms and bathroom. Double glazing, central heating, garage and mature gardens. The asking price was £298,000.
Owner in 1891: Richard Iles Arkell, Donnington Brewery
Rateable value in 1891: £13.10s.0d.
Type of licence in 1891: Alehouse
Owner in 1903: Richard Iles Arkell, Donnington Brewery
Rateable value in 1903: £13.10s.0d.
Type of licence in 1903: Alehouse
Closing time in 1903: 11pm
Landlords at the Bell Inn include:
1891 George Darben
1902,1927 George William Pullom
1965-1987 Walter and Betty Morley
1984-2001 Hugh and Diane Marsh (Diane died September 1998)