162 High Street in 1830 directory.
The Fleece Hotel, which opened in 1783, was situated directly in front of the Original Brewery and was one of Cheltenham’s finest coaching inns. the Fleece Hotel was shamefully demolished with the neighbouring Grammar School in 1967 and replaced with an ugly concrete shopping precinct that became a constant reminder of the official vandalism endorsed by Cheltenham planners in the 1960’s.
After Whitbread brewery closed in 1997 the entire area has been redeveloped as part of the Brewery Quarter. The ugly and unloved concrete precinct has now been demolished and a brand new Premier Inn now stands on the exact spot as the old Fleece Hotel.
Rowe’s Illustrated Cheltenham Directory of 1850 describes the Fleece Hotel:
‘adjoining Gardner’s Original Brewery is the Fleece Hotel, where every accommodation is afforded for families; it is also well known as a Commercial and Coaching House. Mr Yearsley, the proprietor, is also a Wine Merchant and possesses a stock of the choicest vintages, the excellence of which has occasioned a well-earned celebrity to attach to this hotel. On ‘the road’ the Fleece Hotel of Cheltenham has become a synoneme for comfort, good living, and the general excellence of its appointments.
The Town Commissioners, in whose hands the municipal government of the town is vested, hold stated meetings in the large room of this hotel. They hold their powers in right of an Act of Parliament, passed in the 1st and 2nd George VI., which authorizes them to enact such bye-laws as may be necessary; they have recently been revised and published. This body has the superintendence of the paving and lighting of the town, and are empowered to levy rates for those purposes. They formerly maintained the Police Force, but since the establishment of the County Constabulary, their force has been limited to a few beadles, to see the proper observance of the bye-laws.’
The Fleece was a prestigious and well-appointed hotel, its status being confirmed by high rateable values. The annual RV in 1891 was a substantial £297.10s.0d., increasing by nearly £43 to £340.0s.0d. in 1903. Only the Queens Hotel in the Promenade and the Fleece Hotel in the High Street could boast higher rateable values. The Queens Hotels rates were some £340 more per annum, having the distinction of having the highest rateable value in the whole of Gloucestershire in 1891/1903 – £680.0s.0d.
It is possible that the forty-three pounds increase in rateable value from 1891 to 1903 is attributable because of reconstruction of the Fleece Hotel. At some stage the building was substantially enlarged from its original position to the immediate left of Gardners Original Brewery to incorporate an extension in similar architectural style fronting the High Street and Henrietta Street.
The 1891 Annuaire for Cheltenham tells us that anyone with a package for Gloucester, the South West or South Wales should take it to the Carrier’s Office at the Fleece Hotel, for dispatch via the 11 am or 6 pm daily coach.
For centuries the yard immediately behind the Fleece Hotel was the venue for Cheltenham’s Thursday market. Here livestock was bought and sold. Some of the customers staying at the hotel would have been agricultural merchants. Perhaps other guests were simply visiting the Regency town, maybe to taste the spa waters. Whether or not after paying considerable fees to stay in a plush town centre hotel they would be happy to greet the day by the sound and smell of farm animals and the overpowering stench of brewing is open to question. At least overnight guests staying at the new Premier Inn no longer have to put up with the aromas of mashed barley or boiling hops emanating from the brewery.
Landlords /Proprietors at the Fleece Hotel include:
1830 Thomas Hurlston (Fleece Inn)
1844 James Flack (Fleece Hotel Tap)
1850 Mr. Yearsley
1856 Miss Jane Corrie
1859,1870 Henry Nicholls
1878 George Jonas Atkins
1883 E. A. Atkins
1885 Mrs George J. Atkins
1891 Morris Hart
1903,1906 Thomas Goldsworthy Mitchell
1919 Miss M. Collins (manageress)
1927 Miss I.F. Bishop (manageress)