The Double Barrel was an early 1960’s brick-built estate pub, commissioned by West Country Breweries or the owning Whitbread group. In the 1980’s the pub traded briefly as the Pot and Canon, but then reverted back to its original identity. The original Double Barrel had an impressive three-dimensional sign with two upright wooden casks with a rifle positioned diagonally across the barrels. It is believed to have had an illuminated ‘West Country Ales’ sign in the supporting plinth which was late blanked over. Sadly this was removed when the pub was rebranded the Pot and Canon, replaced by a standard inn sign.

Courtesy Michael Wilkes

In 2003 the Double Barrel was bedecked with a colourful display of flowers, contributing towards Cheltenham’s bid in the Britain in Bloom competition. As part of the contest a community project called Warden Hill in Bloom was set up, and funds were raised through charitable family events at the pub and the play area in Salisbury Avenue. The pub manager said: “We’re going to have two or three tiers of hanging baskets all around the pub and concrete pots around the building. It will make the area nice and we’re doing our bit for Cheltenham in Bloom as well. We’ve raised £1,000 so far.”

The fortunes of the Double Barrel were still upbeat in 2005. A customer wrote to the Gloucestershire Echo’s ‘feedback’ review (18th November) commenting that the ‘choice of meats was really excellent and well-cooked, which is certainly what I prefer. The vegetables were fresh and the service from some really friendly staff was second to none. My husband was also pleased with his choice of beer.’ Charitable fund-raising events and quiz nights continued well into 2010. Proceeds were donated to various charities including Parkinsons UK, Clic Sargent Children’s Charity, Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre, Multiple Sclerosis Society and Sue Ryder Care.  The popularity of the Double Barrel seemed to be in decline by the spring of 2011 and it briefly closed.

The Double Barrel reopened on 1st July 2011 offering cheap national keg beers and lagers. The promotional material heralded ‘Great Value, Great Local.. All Day Every Day’. With John Smith’s Extra Smooth at £1.90 per pint the new tenants were obviously confident that cheap booze would bring the customers flocking into the Double Barrel. “Whether it’s a cool pint of lager, smooth pint of ale or a perfect gin and tonic, the new look and new prices will make it a place to be!” The obvious fact that these beers and lagers could be bought even cheaper in a supermarket and drunk at home seems to have been not fully taken into consideration, or naively overlooked seems incredulous. What incentive could there possibly be to entice local residents into the Double Barrel with bland and uninspiring beers and lagers? A well-thought out strategy of offering good real ales with good wholesome food with social events such as quiz nights would have invariably more attractive. It is always possible, however, that the strict restrictions on trade imposed by the owning pub company could be a contributory factor in the deliberate run-down of the pub with a long-term view of change of use with the claim of non-viability.

Cheap & Cheerful is not necessarily the best business strategy.

The Double Barrel called ‘last orders’ for the last time on Tuesday 27th August 2013. A spokesman for Enterprise Inns said: “As part of our ongoing business, we do from time to time identify a pub which may no longer have a long-term future in our estate. After careful consideration the decision has been taken to offer the Double Barrel freehold for sale, and the property will soon be on the market through Fleurets of Bristol, with no restrictions on future use and the benefits of its premises licence.” Indeed, the Double Barrel was marketed in October as a ‘purpose built public house with two bars, function room / skittle alley, car park and gardens. Three private bedrooms.’ There was also a small print stating that the property could be a development opportunity, subject to planning permission. Offers for the freehold or new free of trade lease were invited by 11th October 2013.

An ’West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque was removed from the annexe to the left of the building soon after closure. As can be seen by the accompanying photograph the plaque was in excellent condition.  Whoever removed the plaque either did with authorised permission or was a conscientious thief as the vacant hole was neatly replaced by brickwork.

Despite the optimism of the Double Barrel opening as a true free house to serve the residential community of Warden Hill, it was announced in June 2015 that the Mid Counties Co-operative store was to take over the ex-public house moving from their existing store on the opposite side of Salisbury Avenue. A spokesman for the Co-op said: “Our new store will be opening later this year and will be twice the size of our existing store. We feel a larger store will offer a much better fit for the community.” Ironically it was to become a community without a pub.

The new convenience store and integral Post Office was opened on Thursday 14th January 2016. The Mid Counties Co-operative invested £500,000 to convert the former Double Barrel to a 2,500 square feet store. The Gloucestershire Echo reported on 2nd January that the Co-op had announced that it had agreed with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to develop a ‘set of principles for developing pub sites in order to try and protect local pubs and had agreed not to stand in the way of community groups seeking to acquire and run a community pub’ and to listen to the local community and CAMRA branches, to assess the social value of the existing pub whenever it is offered a pub site to redevelop and only to redevelop a site by going through the planning process rather than relying on permitted development rights. Despite this there seems to have been little support from the local community, or a dedicated campaign by CAMRA, to save the Double Barrel.

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