79 Castle Street in early directories, 80 Castle Street in 1927 Kellys. The Black Horse closed with compensation on the 3rd March 1922. The Kings Arms in the adjacent building was closed in 1924. The two pubs were then amalgamated and re-opened as the ‘Black Horse Commercial Hotel’ in 1927, owned by the Cirencester Brewery Company. The Black Horse is reputedly haunted.
Gloucester Journal January 1870: William Arnold was summonsed for assaulting Joel Berry of the Black Horse Inn, Cirencester. He was also charged by Superintendent Chipp of being drunk and refusing to quit the house when requested to do so. Committed for a month for the first offence and, for the second offence was given fourteen days imprisonment.
Cotswold Life: October 1975: Scratches on a bedroom window: By Mark Coote.
If age is any criterion, Cirencester is old enough to have ghosts for there was an important settlement there when the Romans inhabited Britain. The Black Horse in Castle Street doesn’t date from Roman times – but it is reputed to have ghosts. Built in the early 1500’s with the local Cotswold stone, it is an attractive-looking building and I felt no peculiar atmosphere when I visited it recently. However, several residents through the years have often reported strange feelings and images but none is so vivid as that experienced by a Miss Ruby Bower, daughter of the then licensee, about 40 years ago.
On the 13th August 1933, Miss Bower arrived at the Black Horse for a holiday, taking a break from her studies. Her room was of medium size, rather low and dark, with a small-latticed window at one end. When she retired to bed, she read for a while, and finally went to sleep. At exactly midnight, she suddenly woke in a cold sweat, and from the corner of her eye could see that the entire room was filled with a greenish lurid light. Puzzled, and rather unnerved, she sat up and was confronted by a figure. The figure was that of a woman clad in a long fawn-coloured dress, a white apron and a mop cap. At first, Miss Bower assumed that a guest at the inn had overshot her room and had accidentally walked into the end room. It was not long, however, before she realized that the ‘visitor’ was not of flesh and blood. The female apparition was hostile and stared at Ruby as she menacingly approached the bed. All attempts to turn away or shout for help proved futile, and she found herself hypnotised by the gaze of the spectral image. The terrified girl, finally taking hold of herself, screamed, whereupon the apparition and the ghastly light faded into the wall. Her parents came to her room and found her in a state of shock, but eventually Ruby fell asleep again and was disturbed no more.
On one of the little panes of glass in the window, some writing appeared, apparently scratched on by the ghost. The words were written upside-down. A clear capital ‘W’ and the word ‘John’ was repeated a few times. The mysterious writing, which still remains on the same window today (1975), was examined by an expert and was thought to be that of a child’s hand. No other proof apart from that just mentioned has ever been established.
The actual identity of this female apparition has never really been solved. Legend has it that in this building a rich wool merchant, apparently a woman, hid a large amount of treasure in one of the rooms. The merchant is still supposed to be looking for it although up to now has had no luck.’
A few decades ago, a well-known medium was taken to the Black Horse and when approaching three separate rooms told the landlord that she could not enter any of them because they felt ‘hostile’ towards her. When she came to the alleged ‘haunted room’, however, she assured all present that there was nothing in the room to be afraid of, and that the woman in the fawn-coloured dress experienced by miss Ruby Bower was merely an hallucination. But her imagination cannot be blamed for the writing which appeared on the window, and which still remains a complete mystery.
The present landlord, Mr John Griffiths, who has occupied the Black Horse for 17 years, has never witnessed anything ‘out of the ordinary, although he knows of people who have slept in the ‘haunted room’, and have been suddenly woken during the early hours by strange ‘goings-on’, including noises of someone walking. Perhaps, someday the reputed merchant’s treasure will be found, and the restless spirit put to rest – forever!
In the ‘Wilts & Glos Standard’ of Thursday 11th July 1996 the truth was revealed. In the ‘Nostalgia’ column edited by Gerry Stribbling, Mr Jack Court wrote to the newspaper and admitted that he was responsible for the scratched name in the window. He said: “I reckon the lady in question must have had a few too many.” He explained that his childhood playroom had been an attic in the Kings Arms next door to the Black Horse. “One day I scratched my Christian name and part of my surname into the window there.” He added: “When the Kings Arms closed in about 1925, it and the Black Horse, which had then been closed for some years, were knocked into one larger pub and it was in my old playroom that this lady was staying in. The pub was called the Black Horse to avoid any confusion with the Kings Head in the Market Place.”
Gloucestershire CAMRA. Real Ale in Gloucestershire (1996): Black Horse, Castle Street – ‘Town centre two-bar pub, frequently refurbished. Popular for lunchtime food.’ Beers – Boddingtons Bitter, Courage Best Bitter, Whitbread Flowers Original.
August 31st, 2002 – Planning application: Eldridge Pope & Co. Plc. The Black Horse, 17 Castle Street ‘additional external signage, one wall mounted and one projecting.’ Refuse.
Email from Gerald Ford. 22nd December 2004: I believe I have in my possession, purchased from a book dealer some years ago, the hotel register (“Visitors Book”) – that could be that of the Black Horse at Cirencester for the years 1924-1939. The hotel name is not shown on the book, and I notice that, according to your notes, the hotel was closed in 1922 and re-opened in 1927 after amalgamation with the Kings Arms. I put the book away and thought no more about it, having at first visited Tewkesbury. However, after considerable research, including diaries held by the University of Texas, I have now established that a famous visitor – Grahame Greene – whose signature appears in the book, stayed with his brother at the Black Horse in Cirencester on 3rd October, 1932. This entry is in the same book which has the entries from 1924. There are other names in the book, including Lady Ottoline Morrell.
Wilts & Glos Standard: Thursday, June 7th 2007 – Hotel book tells story: By Tom Shepherd. (edit) A visitors’ book signed by famous British novelist and playwright Graham Greene proves he stayed at a Cirencester pub in 1932. The book, up for auction in South Cerney on June 21st, is also signed by the author’s brother, giving number 4 as their room for the night. Although it gives no provenance of location, Graham Greene’s diaries confirm that on October 3rd, 1932, the brothers lunched in Northleach and then, finding there was no bus, walked on to Cirencester and stayed at The Black Horse in Castle Street. Having walked 24 miles in total Greene, author of The End of the Affair, noted only that they had baths, supper and that they went to bed to read and sleep.
Gloucestershire Echo: Saturday December 10th, 2005 – Pubs bar girl who admitted hurling brick: (edit) A 16-year-old girl has been barred from all the pubs in Cirencester after she threw a brick through a town centre bar’s window. Gloucester Youth Court hear the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was asked to leave the Black Horse at 10.30pm because she was underage. She responded by smashing the window, and was arrested. Magistrates gave her a five-month referral order after she admitted causing criminal damage.
Wilts & Glos Standard. June 15th, 2006 – As the country is gripped by World Cup fever, one Cirencester pub is taking a stand against the football competition. The Black Horse in Castle Street is a World Cup free zone this summer and landlady Mandy Huckle said it has had a positive response from customers. She said: “We are very patriotic here and we are supporting England but customers asked me for this. There are 28 pubs in Cirencester and 27 are showing the football – I have no competition really. We had all sorts of people in on Saturday, it wasn’t any different to normal. People came in and saw the match wasn’t on and the regulars all came in after it had finished. I don’t know anything about football and all the customers wanted it so I thought I would do something a bit different.”
Owner in 1891: Cirencester Brewery
Rateable Value in 1891: £15.0s.0d.
Type of license in 1891: Alehouse
Owner in 1903: Cirencester Brewery
Rateable Value in 1903: £15.0s.0d.
Type of license in 1903: Alehouse
Closing time in 1903: 11pm
Landlords at the Black Horse include:
1820 John Sealey
1830,1840 Thomas Kimber (Black Horse Tavern)
1856 E. Merchant
1870,1871 Joel Berry
1885 Charles Legg
1889,1891 Richard Barry
1902,1913 Robert Chappell (1913 – R. Chappell)
1919 Frederick Sackley
1927 William George Thornton
1958,1975 John Griffiths
1998 Stewart Dobson
1999 Steve Jenson
2006,2021 Mandy Huckle
The following is taken from the Black Horse website.
Here at the Black Horse we aim to make sure all our guests have a great time and enjoy their visit – whether one of our locals or a first time visitor.
We sit at the heart of our community and at the gateway to the Cotswolds – the largest Area of Outstanding Beauty in Britain. We’re really the perfect place to pop into whilst exploring the area.
Visitors can be assured of a wide choice of drinks on arrival here – try one of our ales, lagers or craft beers, or for the wine drinkers we have a selection available by the glass or the bottle. There’s also soft drinks and spirits on hand for those fancying a G&T or a cool cola.
The menu is also jam packed – from our curry nights on a Thursday through to Sunday Roast dinners – we have something to cater for all tastes.
With parking on site and three en-suite rooms for overnight guests, what are you waiting for?