The Caledonian Inn, on the corner of Swindon Road and King Street, was once a home-brewed ale pub. There are references to a brewery at the premises in 1870 and 1883. A contemporary advertisement read: “Caledonian Brewery, King Street. Opposite the Training College, Cheltenham. William Holland, successor to the late Chas. Grant. Brewer. Families supplied with casks at any part of the town. Orders received at the brewery office.”
The executors of the late John Swann were the official owners of the Caledonian Inn in 1891. John Swann had previously leased it to the Cheltenham Original Brewery. Licensed as a beer house, the Caledonian Inn had an annual rateable value of £23.5s.0d. Cheltenham Original Brewery had added the Caledonian Inn into their expanding pub estate by 1903.
The Caledonian Inn once boasted superb etched brewery windows proudly advertising ales from the Cheltenham Original Brewery, with the distinctive castle tower emblem. On the night of 11th December 1940 random German bombs were dropped on Cheltenham and one landed in Swindon Road near the gate house of Francis Close Hall (now the University of Gloucestershire). Substantial damage was done to the road surface and the Cotswold stone wall in front of the college collapsed. Almost certainly the Caledonian Inn took the full brunt of the blast and the windows must have blown in. Perhaps the decorative etched windows were a casualty of the Luftwaffe bombing raid.
The Caledonian Inn last traded in about 1982. When it closed the Caledonian was a gay bar, with attitudes towards homosexual men being far less tolerant that they are today.
The Caledonian was due to be demolished as part of the extension of northern relief road but, despite all odds, it still survives.
For almost 40 years the pub has been allowed to deteriorate and is now in a very sorry state of dereliction. The decaying pub was given a lick of paint in 2007 and a tree was removed from the roof, but the structure is still in a critical condition. Pigeons have gained access through holes in the roof to roost and the accumulation of droppings must now be a significant environmental health hazard.
As the Caledonian Inn stands directly opposite the front gates of the University of Gloucestershire (Francis Close Hall) it is somewhat surprising that the building has not been utilised for student use, perhaps even as a coffee bar. No doubt the Junior Common Room bars within the University offer alcoholic drinks far cheaper than an adjoining pub could compete with, but it seems a shame that with the regular passing of students the old pub has fallen into such an advanced state of dereliction.
Landlords at the Caledonian (Brewery) Inn include:
1844 Charles Grant
1870 W. Holland (Caledonian Brewery)
1883 H. Knight – listed as a brewer (Caledonian Brewery)
1891 James William Bowd
1903 Frederick John Marshall
1919,1927 Rose Emley Cooper
1939 Joseph Cooper