19 Westgate Street in 1936. The Fleece hotel opened in 1497 as one of the three ‘Great Inns’ built by the Abbey of St Peter (now the Cathedral) to cater for pilgrims who came to Gloucester to visit the tomb of King Edward II after his grisly murder in Berkeley Castle. There is a medieval undercroft beneath the Fleece Hotel which once traded as the Monk’s Retreat. It was a unique bar, part of a 12th century Benedictine Monastery, and it was once described as ‘the most curious bar in England’. For a time in the 1960’s the Monks Retreat was converted into a pseudo-German bier Keller with beer served in lidded steins.
Gloucester Journal: June 13th, 1874: Ashes which fell from the pipes of men playing in the skittle alley caused the recent fire at the Fleece Hotel. The fire started in some straw and did £220 worth of damage.
Gloucester Journal: January 19th, 1878 – Fined 10s. Collett Newman, late landlord of the Fleece, was charged with riding furiously through the streets on Saturday evening. Sergeant Maggs deposed that defendant was riding up and down Westgate Street at a rate of about nine miles an hour, between eight and nine o’clock. There were several hundred people in the street. Defendant said he was trying out a horse to prove it was not lame. Fined 10s. and costs for the defence.
The Citizen: Tuesday, 2nd November 1982 – Former hotelier dies: Mr Cyril Rich, who ran the Fleece Hotel, Gloucester, for more than 30 years, died on Saturday, aged 74. Born in Okehampton, Devon, he took over the family business from his father, who had bought the Fleece in 1908. He ran it from 1938 until he retired in 1975. Mr Rich, who died at his home in Stroud Road, retained an interest in the hotel which is currently being run by his son Cedric.
Mr Rich, a keen chess player in his younger days, when he represented Cornwall, was also a Freemason for 50 years and a Rotarian for 30. He is survived by his wife Sheilah, son Cedric and daughter Celia, as well as four grandchildren. A funeral service will be held at Gloucester Cathedral on Friday, followed by cremation.
Guest celebrities at the Fleece Hotel included Gracie Fields, Kim Philby (the spy who defected to Russia), Lord Howe and Margaret Thatcher.
In the courtyard of the Fleece Hotel a large wisteria covered the building and flowered profusely in the second week of May. The plant had an abundant water supply as there was an underground Roman well in the yard.
Cedric and Barbara Rich were sad when the 40 bedroomed hotel closed on 17th October 2002, it had been in the family since 1908.
For over two decades the building was left unoccupied and fell into a gradual state of dereliction. Vandals entered the empty hotel, and the roof was destroyed in an arson attack. The future for the old Fleece Hotel looked bleak.
The Dowdeswell Estate building and property developers are now slowly transforming the property back to its former glory as part of the Gloucester Rejuvenation Project.
This page will be updated with more details about the recent acquisition and refurbishment.
Landlords / Owners at the Fleece Hotel include:
1830 Henry Haviland
1856 H. Heyden
1859 John Tandy
1870 John Niblett (died after a short but painful illness aged 30)
1870 (April) Joseph Clissold
1885 Frederick S. Cable
1893 S.J. Rich
1902 James Samuel King
1906 Albert F. Eberle
1908,1919 Samuel James Rich
1927 Major. W. Stoyle
1908 – 1982 Cyril Rich
1982-Oct 2002 Cedric and Barbara Rich