The Cross Hands is in the rural parish of Swindon, just outside Cheltenham Borough. As a result, closing time was historically set at 10 pm, an hour earlier than town pubs. It is worth noting that the population of Swindon Village was just 243 in 1891.
Harriet Yeend was the owner of the Cross Hands in 1891 and twelve years later the ownership had been transferred to Walter Yeend. The Cross Hands was a licensed ale house with an annual rateable value of £36.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903. Despite trading free from brewery tie, records show that the Cross Hands was a home-brewed ales pub. In 1856 T. Yeend is listed as a brewer and it is likely that the Yeend family continued brewing on the premises until at least 1906.
The pub was later acquired by the Cheltenham Original Brewery. The Cross Hands was demolished in 1960 in order that a new pub could be built on the site. It was a fine traditional twin gabled rendered building which should have never succumbed to the bulldozer. The replacement building, presumably commissioned by West Country Breweries, is of absolutely no architectural value whatsoever.
In 1974 Whitbread published a book, ‘Inn and Around’, celebrating their ‘250 favourite pubs. The modern Cross Hands is included in preference to some of their superb traditional inns. The book describes the Cross Hands, then a ‘Trophy Tavern’ thus: “Originally, the sign of crossed hands on an inn was a symbol of good fellowship, deriving from an early and popular sign – Cross in Hand. The sign at this particular inn, however, is different. It depicts a highwayman with crossed pistols – quite far removed from the sign of goodwill. The pub itself, though, retains the original spirit of welcome, starting with a magnificent chestnut tree on the lawn at the front. The Cross Hands has two bars – the Swedish and the African – and a restaurant called the Bavarian. In the African bar are various tribal masks which have been donated to the pub. The mood in the restaurant is one of cosy intimacy with units of four and two-seater tables, a comfortable aperitif bar and painted woodwork motifs. The building is of modern stonework, having been constructed 14 years ago. Before that, the building was said to have been an old coaching inn, which went under the same name. Perhaps in those days the crossed pistols bore more relevance.”
Swindon Village and the western fringes of Cheltenham have seen large scale development over the years. In 1986 concerns were expressed that the existing road junction at the Cross Hands was dangerous, prompting a councillor to remark that he had never seen a spot as dangerous as the junction. Councillor Richard Izett said: “When the Eagle Star and the new Sainsbury’s store open nearby the situation will become even worse. Traffic travels along at up to 70 mph,” he said. In the early stages of planning for the junction it was estimated that traffic lights would cost an estimated £50,000. A roundabout was ruled out.
There was a bomb hoax at the Cross Hands in October 1993. A call was taken at 10 pm informing that a bomb was to go off in 15 minutes. Customers and staff were evacuated to the car park, but it was a cold night. The police rang the Sainsbury’s store across the road to ask if the customers could keep warm in their cafeteria, but for some reason the request was turned down. The Cheltenham and District Bus Company came to the rescue by sending a heated double-decker bus to the car park. Eventually the all-clear was given. The bomb hoax may have been a revenge plot by a gang of masked raiders who had failed to break into the pub a year earlier, being interrupted by a pub cleaner who bravely grabbed a stool and gave chase.
A planning application was submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council in June 2008 for the construction of a two-storey extension at the northern end of the hotel. Pub chain Whitbread Group was seeking permission to put in 18 more bedrooms into the Premier Inn immediately behind the Cross Hands.
On 23rd April 2010 the Gloucestershire Echo featured an ‘Eating Out’ review of the Cross Hands Beefeater Grill. It noted that the ‘Cross Hands, a long-established favourite on the Tewkesbury Road, has reopened its doors after a refurbishment and with a new name – the Cross Hands Beefeater Grill. The restaurant and bar area have been given a makeover to create a cosy environment in a restful grey-green with soft lighting and warm furnishings. The new menu includes dishes such as baked Camembert, tandoori chicken and an indulgent chocolate layer cake.’ The General manager, Nigel Forrester, said: “The new look Cross Hands is warm, modern and stylish, and offers guests their own space to enjoy their meals.”
Landlords at the Cross Hands include:
1856 T. Yeend
1883 Harriet Yeend
1891,1906 Walter Yeend
1919 Mrs Janet E. Young
1927 Leo Augustus Green
1939 William Hy. Hole
1990,1994 Dave and Dee Rogers