The Berkeley Arms is an architectural gem. It is a three storey stepped gabled building that dates back to about 1560. The first reference to the Berkeley Arms is in 1869. It is likely that the pub was trading as the Queens Arms before that date.
Gibson Kemp, the landlord in 2000, had a claim to fame. He took over from drummer Ringo Starr in the band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes when Ringo left to join the Beatles. During Gibson’s and his wife Tina’s tenancy at the Berkeley Arms they were convinced that the pub was being visited by a popular ex landlady, Ruby Jones, who had passed away in 1993. A barmaid was discussing the late landlady with a regular at the bar when six glasses flew off a 3 feet high shelf behind her and hit her on the legs. On another occasion the lights flickered when Ruby was brought up in conversation and the barmaid once felt someone or something push her in the back as if to move her out of the way but no one was there.
There are stories of hauntings and paranormal activity at the Berkeley Arms. The following article is from Gloucestershire and Avon Life, November 1975.
‘As far back as the 1880’s on cold winter evenings when the bar is quiet with few visitors, and the upper floors are temporarily vacant, it has been possible under certain conditions to hear the heavy tread of a person’s footsteps from the large front upper room, down the passageway which leads to the rear of the building. Visitors using the bathroom have also often remarked upon unusual ‘tapping’ noises echoing from above them – noises which the owners are unable to locate.
These manifestations – more the tapping than the footsteps – are most definitely the work of a poltergeist, a spirit notorious for making irritating, and sometimes frightening, bangs, crashes and knockings. Another favourite trick of the poltergeist is to move, and occasionally throw, inanimate objects, although no reports of this have ever been recorded at the Berkeley Arms.
At one o’clock one winter morning in 1969, Mrs Colin Putter, wife of the licensee at that time, was passing along the same corridor where the footsteps were heard, when ‘something’ flitted past her in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, no one was with her at the time but whether it was imagination, shadows or what, she was very shaken and frightened, and refused to use that part of the building ever again after dark.
One item which may – or may not – be relevant. At the top of the building there is a flight of stairs which until 1974, led to a plain brick wall. Then the wall was opened disclosing a small room. It was full of rubbish but two volumes of ‘The History of England’ published c.1820 were found in immaculate condition.
Perhaps the books were the proud possessions of the man whose heavy footsteps can still be heard walking along the passage. He may have wanted to preserve his prized volumes forever – in a room behind a wall. Could the ghost be that of a man looking for his treasured books or guarding them against meddling hands? Unfortunately there is very little evidence, as yet, to support what can be no more than guesswork. But perhaps one day someone will find the explanation of the haunting of the Berkeley Arms.’
Owner in 1891: Cheltenham Original Brewery
Rateable value in 1891: £18.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1891: Beerhouse
Owner in 1903: Cheltenham Original Brewery
Rateable value in 1903: £24.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1903: Beerhouse
Closing time in 1903: 11pm
Owner in 2008,2022: Wadworth & Co., Brewers, Devizes
Landlords at the Berkeley Arms include:
1863-1893 Amos Webb
1893-1906 William H. Dee
1906-1933 Mary Ann Dee
1933-1963 Frank Dee
1963-1964 Frederick Turner
1964-1965 Paul Blaaser
1965-1966 John Chandler
1966-1967 Herbert Birch
1967-1968 Kenneth Jones
1968 Frederick Adamson
1968-1969 Colin Rutter
1969-1975 Philip Jones
1975-1993 Philip and Ruby Jones (Ruby died in August 1993)
1997 Kevin and Debbie Thomas
2000,2001 Gibson and Tina Kemp
2006 Ian Phillips