The Duke of Sussex was on the western corner with St. Pauls Street South. The original building still stands today as part of an extended residential complex (Trinity Gate) which was built on site of the old skittle alley in 2004. The address is 40 Swindon Road.
Although the title of Duke of Sussex is now associated with Prince Harry, the original Duke of Sussex title was given to Prince Augustus Frederick in November 1801, he was the sixth son of King George III. The title became extinct after he died in 1843, and it was not revived until recent times.
Cheltenham Original Brewery were the owners of the Duke of Sussex in both 1891 and 1903. Licensed as an ale house it had an annual rateable value of £29.15s.0d. It remained tied to the Cheltenham Brewery in the successive ownership of the Original Brewery, Cheltenham & Hereford Ales, West Country Breweries and eventually passing to Whitbread (Flowers). The Duke of Sussex was within ‘smelling’ distance of the brewery, just a few yards further up Swindon Road. The town brewery also owned the nearby Caledonian Inn.
After many years as an ordinary Whitbread back street local it was bought by Joe & Peter Cassidy and Paul Boyce in the late 1980’s and for a decade traded as Cassidy’s Bar. The Gloucestershire branch of Campaign for Real Ale described Cassidy’s in their ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ (1996): ‘Refurbished and revitalised. Old air raid shelter serves as a basement bar. Wider choice of real ale during the winter skittles season.’ The beer on offer in 1996 was Boddingtons Bitter, a brand originally much loved when it came from the revered Strangeways Brewery – the Cream of Manchester – but had lost its appeal (and original taste) when taken over by Whitbread.
The St Pauls campus (Francis Close Hall) of the University of Gloucestershire, is almost opposite the pub. It was previously the St Pauls Teaching Training College. The Gloucestershire Echo reported in November 1998 of the cheeky exploits of college students, although the name of their place of learning is not given. As part of an annual initiation ceremony for new members of the college sports club, no doubt fuelled by over indulgence in alcohol, six men in their late teens were seen standing outside the pub completely naked for five minutes or so in biting winds and near freezing night-time temperatures. Landlord Dave Reid said: “It’s just one of the things lads get up tp. They’re good as gold most of the time. It’s a bit of harmless fun but I do my best to keep them inside because I suppose some people might be offended.”
Arkell’s of Swindon acquired Cassidy’s Bar in 1999. During June 2000 the pub was given a makeover and was refurbished. New signs appeared heralding the new image – the Pickled Duke. Perhaps the eccentric rebranding was to encourage the students across the road to use the pub. Arkell’s Brewery managing director James Arkell said, “We were unable to keep the previous name when we bought the pub last year so we needed to come up with a new name which reflected the building’s origins.” Unfortunately, the simple renaming back to the Duke of Sussex seemed to have been overlooked. In May 2001 the Pickled Duke sign was removed and the pub was reborn as Bar Cuba.
In frustration I wrote to Arkells Brewery and they replied: ‘To compete on the High Street and fulfil a need of a majority of customers in the young world of inner town centres, we have to attract customers. We believe Bar Cuba will do this and sell beer and other drink products.’ It appeared that the intended customer base was always going to be orientated towards the younger drinking clientele at the University. With a concentration of terraced housing nearby the pub could have attracted local custom and the pub might have thrived as a traditional local. Students opted to frequent the town centre late night venues and nightclubs, and the business model at Bar Cuba never met Arkell’s expectations.
In July 2002 it was on the market (freehold and contents) for £300,000 + VAT. It was described as being on a prominent corner position close to town centre with an open plan contemporary bar. Basement bar and beer terrace. The instructions gave details that it was a ‘development opportunity’. A planning application was submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council in September 2002 for the ‘erection of three, three-storey dwellings following demolition of existing extensions.’ The pub was converted to residential flats (Trinity Gate) in the late Summer of 2004. For some time after closure the words ‘Arkell’s Ales’ could still be seen painted on the back of the old pub. Regrettably the ghost wordings were later painted over.
Landlords at the Duke of Sussex include:
1844 W. Watts (Duke of Sussex, Back Street)
1856,1859 William Watts
1870 Thomas Morgan
1878 Daniel Evans
1883,1885 William Wintle
1891 Frank William Yeend
1891 J. Barter
1902 William Richard Mansell
1903 George Speck
1906 Philip Cooke
1919 William Bradley
1926,1927 Joseph Smith
1939 Thomas C. Turbyfield
1950 Harold Illes
1990 Debbie Boyce, Peter Cassidy & Joe Cassidy (Cassidy’s)
1997, 2000 David and Charmaine Reid
2001 Neil Phillips (Bar Cuba)