The Harford family owned the Eight Bells in late Victorian / early Edwardian times. Charles Lloyd Harford was the owner in 1903, but twelve years earlier the pub was in the hands of the executors of Chas. Harford. Presumably the 1891 Charles Harford was the father of Charles Lloyd Harford. In 1891 the Eight Bells was a free house with an annual rateable value of £102.0s.0d. The high value reflecting its central position in Cheltenham. The annual rates had increased by £2.0s.0d. in 1903 to £104.0s.0d. It was then leased to Mitchell & Butlers, brewers of Cape Hill in Birmingham.
In 1969 Tesco occupied the building to the immediate right of the Eight Bells on the western corner of the High Street. A devasting fire took hold of Tesco which reached its height when there was an explosion from the basement. The inferno was so fierce that the landlady of the Eight Bells ran outside to the blazing supermarket screaming “Please save my pub.”
The premises is now generally known as a late-night music / clubbing venue and its days of trading predominately as a traditional pub ended several decades ago, with the name of the Eight Bells disappearing in the mid 1970’s. Since then, it has had many incarnations becoming Kings Club, Copperfields and it currently trades as the 2 Pigs.
Mitchell & Butlers brewery became part of Bass Charrington in 1967, becoming one of the infamous ‘Big Six’ national brewers of the late 1970’s. Draught Bass and Worthington Best Bitter were still on sale at the Two Pigs as late as 1996 when it was described by the Gloucestershire branch of CAMRA in their ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ as a ‘large town centre bar off the High Street. Shoppers and office workers make up the lunchtime customers whilst students predominate in the evenings. Good value food with large helpings. Live bands. A disco in the evenings.’
An article in the Cheltenham Chronicle dated 6th June 1975 was headed ‘Topless dancers of Church Street’ – “lunchtime sessions of boobs and beer have arrived in Cheltenham – at a new pub in the shadow of the parish church – where topless Go-Go dancers are attracting customers at lunchtime and in the evening. The new pub, in Church Street, introduces topless dancers to Cheltenham at lunchtime for the first time – and the manager claims ‘excellent relations’ with neighbouring businesses and shops. Part of the Sueshire group of pubs, Kings has a special licence which enables it to stay open until midnight for six nights of the week – and brings some nightlife to the town where most entertainment stops at 10.30 pm.’
Perhaps not surprisingly the lunchtime titillation had stopped by July 1976, the cover-up being ordered by the brewery to improve the pubs image. It was reported that a shapely dancer, aged 18, gave a farewell performance to a packed house. Manager of Kings Club told the Echo: “the topless dancers were a feature of lunchtime only because in the evening they tended to frighten away the girls. We hope we will see more girls in the place now. A lot of them didn’t want to come in while there were dancers.”
The Tippler: (No.9, September 1978): Pub News – Regulars at the former Eight Bells near St Mary’s Church in Cheltenham must sometimes wonder exactly which pub they are in. Over the last couple of years the pub has been renamed twice, first to Kings and now to the Copperfield. This time the improvement, for the real ale drinker at least, appears to be for the better as handpumps have been installed in the lounge to serve Draught Bass and Worthington PA.
Punch Taverns were the owners of the Two Pigs pub in 1998 which they leased to 3A Bars. In 2005 the owning pub company issued a Court repossession order to 3A bars after a dispute about rent appears. A mutual agreement was reached which enabled 3A to continue running the pub. The emphasis was now firmly on live music, the 2 Pigs being one of the few Cheltenham venues to support the local music scene. In November 2012 the future of the 2 Pigs was again uncertain as it was clear that it was suffering from under-investment and needed some refurbishment to bring it to an acceptable standard. The pub / club even tried to diversify and put on different events to attract new customers. This brought the following response from a loyal customer who wrote to the ‘Gloucestershire Echo’: “It might not be the most polished club aesthetically, but for people who go there like me, it’s about a night full of good music, no trouble and good service at a reasonable price.” Nick Binding, landlord at the 2 Pigs said: “The hardest thing is getting people to come out, and you can understand it. Money times are hard, and there isn’t much disposable income. It’s hard to compete with the supermarkets.”
In November 2016 an application was submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council for a sexual entertainment licence at the 2 Pigs for four race meetings at Cheltenham, including the 2017 Festival in March. The licensee of the 2 Pigs said that the sexual entertainment licence would only be used during racing times with entertainment from 5 pm until 5 am. Defending the application it was claimed that in previous years lap-dancing had taken place in five different venues in the town centre but the renewed application would ensure that sexual entertainment would only take place under one roof at the 2 Pigs. Not surprisingly there were concerns about the granting of a sexual entertainment licence which resulted in 58 objections being lodged with the council. One critic said: “The sex industry is a gross parody of sexual freedom. Lap dancing clubs are where men go back to a time when woman were chattels that did not need to be treated as human. There is nothing progressive or liberal about supporting sexism.” Defending the application, the licensee of 2 Pigs said: “The girls who are lap dancing choose to do it and it is their job. They are happy with what they are doing.” Councillors granted the licence with conditions attached. It emerged that any licensed venue in the town was able to host one sexual entertainment event per calendar month, for up to 24 hours at a time, without even having to inform the local authority, much less ask permission. One councillor said: “I fail to see what harm there is when the venue’s windows are blacked out and nobody can see what consenting adults are doing inside.” Ironically when the 2 Pigs submitted another application to renew the sexual entertainment licence a year later in 2017 there was only one letter of objection.
Landlords at the Eight Bells, etc. include:
1811 Moses Yearsley (Eight Bells, High Street)
1830,1844 Sarah Baylis
1856,1859 Elizabeth Wilson
1870,1883 Mrs Wirdnam
1885 George Burrows
1891 Samuel William Barsby
1902 James Foster
1903,1906 William Samuel Hawkes
1919 William Charles Barrett
1926,1927 Harry Moseley
1939 Alfred Evans
1976 Alun Davies (Manager, Kings)
2003 Mark Wardle (Two Pigs)
2012 Nick Binding