The 17th century Fleece Inn was once tied to Witchell’s Tetbury Brewery. Thomas Witchell did not own many pubs and the Fleece Inn was a rare outlet. Witchell’s were subsequently acquired by Warns, a rival Tetbury brewery.

The Stroud Brewery later owned the pub. An old photograph shows the gabled end of the pub with the painted lettering: ‘The Fleece Inn. Warn & Sons. Celebrated Ales, Wines & Spirits.’

When the landlady Miss Mary Jotcham retired from  the Fleece Inn in 1953 it brought to an end over a hundred years association with the Jotcham family. The Stroud Brewery Courier reported in December 1947 of ‘a grand old lady, who kept one of the Company’s houses for 53 years was the late Mrs Jotcham of the Fleece at Hillesley. Mrs Jotcham died in 1940, but the public house was kept in the family with Mrs Jotcham’s daughter taking on the licence.

Dursley Gazette, 3rd July 1998 – Change on the menu: Internal alterations at The Fleece in Hillesley will start on Monday when removal of a wall will give an enlarged bar area which will be more welcoming. The work is expected to take and it represents one of several changes licensees Rchard and Clare Poole are undertaking. The pair, who have been at the pub for four months, have just introduced theme cuisine evenings. They dropped their regular menu, staged a curry evening – and attracted 60 customers. “We would like to have a theme evening every two or three months, not too regularly,” Clare explained, “otherwise it loses its appeal.”

The Gazette, 28th August 1998 – All fired up! Landlords Richard and Clare Poole felt a Cotswold stone fire-place would be just the thing in their extended bar at The Fleece Inn in Hillesley. But the planners reckoned it would ‘not be in keeping’ and camr up with the idea of an iron surround instead. But when plaster was chipped away on the end wall to allow for wiring it revealed… a stone fire-place. “It seemed totally ridiculous to say we couldn’t have it when it was there all the time,” laughed Mr Poole.

He says he is not quite sure how old the building is, but said: “I think it must be one of the oldest buildings in the village because it was an inn where the old stage-coaches used to call.” Three and a half weeks of work have just been completed to give an extended bar incorporating into what was former landlady Celia Rollo’s private lounge by demolishing a wall. Another new feature of the enlarged bar area is a pool table, while satellite TV will be added soon.

The Gazette, Thursday 22nd February 2007 – Fleece Inn is saved (by Liza-Jane Gillespie): Residents in Hillesley who feared last orders had been called for their popular village pub were told this week, The Fleece Inn is not closing. Fears about the future of the Fleece Inn in Hillesley began soon after Christmas last year when the pub closed without warning. During the last two months villagers say the pub has hardly opened, leading them to believe its owners, Scottish and Newcastle Brewery, had called time.

The Fleece Inn is the only pub in Hillesley and is the last amenity in the village after the closure of the garage and the post office several years ago. Terry Mountford, who has lived in the village for almost 20 years, said: “A board has appeared outside recently saying ‘lease this pub’, but apart from that nobody knows what is going on.”

Since its closure two months ago rumours have been circulating in Hillesley that Scottish & Newcastle are going to sell the pub for development. However this week a spokesman from the company denied these claims, “We are actively looking to recruit someone to take on the pub and we hope it won’t be too long before we can re-open it.”

Stroud District Council. Planning application. September 2007 -Fleece Inn, Hillesley: Refurbishment of public house including alterations and formation of toilet block to rear elevation and lobby to car park entrance (S.07/1701/LBC)

The Gazette – Thursday 12th April 2007 – Shear delight as the Fleece Inn reopens (by Liza-Jane Gillespie): The last pub in Hillesley has re-opened its doors after months of uncertainty. The Fleece inn was opened to villagers last Friday, 6th April, after being closed in December. Andrew Starling, 22, of Hawkesbury Upton, is the new manager and has previously worked at the Fleece. He said he took on the popular local pub after hearing that it might be closed for good.

Mr Starling said: “I’ve been travelling for six months to New Zealand and Austrailia, and while I was travelling I had people phoning me telling me the Fleece was up for sale. So I decided to put myself forward to get involved. I was in negotiations with Scottish and Newcastle Brewery while I was out in Australia.”

Since its closure last year The Fleece Inn has undergone some refurbishment, including fresh paintwork and a new beer garden, and during its first week of re-opening it has been well received by local people. Mr Starling said: “We had an excellent response on Friday. Lots of villagers came and they all enjoyed being able to walk to their local.” Despite not serving food Mr Starling said that was something which he hoped would start very soon with local produce and traditional home-cooked dishes.

Fears about the future of the Fleece Inn began soon after Christmas last year, when the pub closed without warning. During the last three months the pub has hardly opened, leaving villagers to believe its owners, Scottish and Newcastle Brewery, were selling the land for development. The Gazette reported in February that Scottish and Newcastle Brewery had no intention of closing the pub and were just waiting to find a new manager and last Friday, 6th April, the only pub in the village was serving pints once again.

The Gazette, Thursday 31st July 2008 – Top hygiene award given to local pub: A village pub has been praised for achieving the highest rating in a council hygiene inspection. The Fleece Inn, Hillesley, is only the fourth pub in the Stroud district to achieve five-star rating “It’s a fantastic achievement for a pub to get five stars,” said Andrew Starling, who took over as landlord of the Fleece Inn earlier this year.

The Gazette, 7th May 2011 – A new flavour: A married couple are bringing a little taste of South Africa to rural Gloucestershire. Rhian and Mark Kirby have taken over as landlords of the Fleece Inn at Hillesley. Mark, a chef, is originally from South Africa, and although most of the meals will retain their English roots, he is including some specia;s from his home country on the menu.

The Gazette, 22nd September 2011 – Fleece is put on market: The Fleece Inn near Wotton-under-Edge is for sale after the chain which owned it went into liquidation. The pub, in Hawkesbury Road, Hillesley, is one of 37 R&L pubs to go on the market, through Christie & Co, after Price Waterhouse Coopers was appointed administrators. All bar two of the pubs are available freehold, with the remainder on very long leases. Many of them are investments, with tenants in place.

Neil Morgan, director and head of pubs at Christie & Co, said: “This instruction from the administrator includes many high quality outlets, benefiting from their almost exclusively freehold tenures. Our recent experience tells us that these pubs will be of significant interest to PubCo investors and to tenants looking to make the transition to owning their freehold.”

Advertisement. November 2011

The Gazette, Thursday 24th May, 2012 – Please put your money where your pint is: (by Liza-Jane Gillespie) Villagers hoping to buy their local pub are appealing for more people to join the venture. A group of residents from Hillesley are trying to raise £400,000 to buy The Fleece, their only village pub, after it was put up for sale last autumn. Last October The Fleece, along with 36 other pubs across the country, went up for sale after Retail and Licensed Properties No6 went into administration. Within a month of the announcement villagers formed a committee to try and save the pub.

Four couples, Gavin and Julie Bailey, Lance and Angela Doughty, Dean and Heather Gigg, and Nigel and Alwyn Vaughan, who all live in Hillesley, are now leading the community bid. However, the group need to raise £400,000 if their dream is to become a reality. The money will buy The Fleece, cover professional costs and allow the group to do some work on the pub and stock it.

So far 70 people have pledged money to buy shares in the venture, which will be known as The Hillesley Community Pub Ltd. There would be a small board of directors and a manager appointed. Nigel Vaughan, spokesman for the group, said: “We have progressed pretty well but we are still looking for a little bit more financial support. We urgently need some more investors and we are reaching out to anyone who would like to help us save this traditional English village pub.”

Initially the pub remained open but The Fleece was eventually closed at Easter. If everything goes according to plan the group hopes to have it open by July

The Gazette, 12th July 2012 – Cheers! Residents buy their village pub: (by Liza-Jane Gillespie) Villagers in Hillesley have successfully raised enough money to buy their local pub. In just eight months more than 100 people have stepped forward and put their money where their mouth is to stump up the cash to buy The Fleece Inn.

The Fleece Inn, along with 36 other pubs in the country, went up for sale last October when Retail and Licensed Properties No.6 went into administration. The pub eventually closed in April. However, locals do not have long to wait to set foot inside The Fleece again as it re-opens at the end of this month. Neil Vaughan, spokesman for the community group Hillesley Community Pub Ltd, that has bought the pub said: “We completed the contract on the 21st June and on 23rd June we had a big part at the pub to celebrate. Now we are doing a lot of work on The Fleece. A lot of volunteers are doing decorating work, cutting trees and the grass and getting the play area ready.” He continued: “We’ve also got tradesmen in, tidying up inside and sorting out various issues, improving the heating system and getting the kitchen sorted out.”

The Hillesley Community Pub Ltd, which is mde upof 100 shareholders, has already appointed a new manager and is looking to find a chef and other staff. Mr Vaughan said: “The whole aim is to have a traditional English-village country pub. Affordable is key, we’re not going to be one of those expensive gastro-pubs. Emphasis will be on fresh local produce.” The group also hopes that the pub wll become a community focus and a meeting place for local groups.

The Fleece will re-open on Friday 27th July.

The Gazette, 9th August 2013 – Community pub ‘has been great success’: A community pub is celebrating the end of its first year as a village venture. The Fleece Inn, at Hillesley, near Wotton-under-Edge, was bought by a group of more that 100 local people in 2012. Chairman Nigel Vaughan said inits first 12 months it had been well supported by Hillesley residents and folk from surrounding villages. “It has not been easy but we have learnt a lot and it is getting better all the time. It’s generally agreed it’s been a great success.”

The Gazette, 15t August 2013 – Bid to break in at pub: A community pub in Hillesley was the site of an attempted break-in two days after it celebrated its first year of business. Offenders smashed the window of the door to the Fleece Inn between midnight and 4am on Monday, 5th August, but did not enter the building. Sergeant Simon Davey said: “It’s a shame that somebody would attack an establishment that the community are trying to run and we are now looking to the community to help catch the people responsible.

The Gazette – Pub’s celebrations: Hillesley’s Fleece Inn is to celebrate two years as a community pub from Fridy 25th July to Sunday 27th July 2014. The pub is owned by 120 people from in and around the village after raising nearly £390,000. Live music and refreshments are planned for all three days as well as line-dancing and a tug-of-war competition at 5pm, with face painting on Saturday. A prize draw will raise money for local good causes.

Pub Olympics: Hillesley village is hosting its inaugural pub Olympcs with a chance to strike Easter gold. The Fleece Inn, owned by the community of Hillesley, will be holding the first FIO-lympics on Easter Saturday. among the events are table football, beer pong, quoits and skittles. The event is open to teams of two, at least one of which must be an adult. Entry is £10 for adults and £5 for under-16’s. The event starts at 2pm on 4th April 2015.

Gloucestershire Pubs Website Meeting – Geoff Sandles (left) and Dave Hedges (right) at the opening of the Fleece in July 2012. (we look a bit different now, ten years later!)

The Gazette, 22nd February 2018 – Landlords win prize after just 15 months in charge: (by Josh Wright). The new landlords of a popular community pub in Hillesley are celebrating after winning a CAMRA prize just 15 months in charge. Karen McGeoch and Rod Undy took over the Fleece Inn at the end of 2016 which had been run by villagers for the previous four years. Last week they were presented with a certificate after being named Dursley & District CAMRA Pub of the Year 2018. Before moving to England to run The Fleece they ran a CAMRA award winning micro-pub in Mumbles near Swansea.

Villagers joined together to purchase the pub after it was put up for sale in 2011 and ran it through an organisation known as Hillesley Community Pub Limited. Having successfully run the pub as a community enterprise since 2012, the Fleece’s unique management concept was beginning to falter and the hunt for new tenanys was started. Karen said: “We were actually about to sign a lease for a new business venture in Swansea when one of the shareholders who just happens to have a holiday property in Mumbles told us about The Fleece. As we were in the [Cotswolds] area the following week we decided to have a look – and here we are today.”

The official presentation of the certficate from a representative of the Dursley branch of CAMRA, Peter Corfield, took place at the Fleece on Saturday 10th February with music from the Roselly’s following to help kick-off celebrations.

The Gazette, 30th August 2018 – ‘Community hub’ gains Pub of the Year accolade: (by Matty Airey) A pub in Hillesley has scooped the South West CAMRA Pub of the Year award. In just under two years since taking the Fleece Inn on, current tenants Karen McGeoch and Rod Undy have transformed the place into a bustling community hub. Rod said: “We are absolutely delighted to have come this far in such a short space of time.”

Gareth MacDonald, Regional Director for South West CAMRA, said: “It is truly incredible to see how much work Rod and Karen have put into this pub over the last two years. Supported by very friendly welcoming staff, this rural pub offers something for everyone and has become a genuine hub in the community. I am genuinely delighted that all this hard work has resulted in CAMRA branches from the region bestowing on it this well deserved award.”

Rod said: “The community purhased the pub in 2012 and for four years tried to run it themselves, but things did not go to plan and eventually they decided to hand over the business to tenants.”

Since taking over, the couple have improved the project range, including improving the range and quality of wines, to appeal to a wider customer base. In addition to developing the drinks selection, the couple both believe that creating the right atmosphere is essential. “From the moment a customer walks through the door they should feel welcome. Just a simple smile goes a long way,” said Karen.

The Gazette, Thursday 20th December 2018 – Prince Charles calls into popular pub for a pint: (by Phaedre Watson) Regulars at a village pub near Wotton-under-Edge were treated to a rather special visitor when Prince Charles popped in to chat to locals about their thriving local. The Prince paid a visit to the Fleece Inn, a community pub supported by the Pub is the Hib initiative, and met members of the societies and clubs that use the vibrant village local in Hillesley, near Wotton.

He was greeted by pupils from Hillesley Primary School, who brought a broad smile to the Prince’s face with their exquisite singing. After greeting crowds who had braved the sub-zero temperatures to welcome the future king, the Prince spent an hour in the pub talking to regulars and learning about the flourishing pub.

Regulars paid tribute to landlord and landlady Rod Undy and Karen McGeoch, who became tenant landlords in late 2016, and under their watchful eye the business was named CAMRA Pub of the Year 2018 for the South West Region.

Map Reference: ST 770897

Owner in 1891: Thomas Witchell, Tetbury

Rateable Value in 1891: £10.0s.0d.

Type of licence in 1891: Alehouse

Owner in 1903: Thomas Witchell, Tetbury

Rateable Value in 1903: £10.0s.0d.

Type of licence in 1903: Alehouse

Closing time in 1903: 10pm

Owner in 1953: Stroud Brewery Company

Owner in 2007: Scottish and Newcastle

Landlords at The Fleece include:

1856 L. Roach

1885 William Gunning

1881 Ephraim Tavender

1891 Frederick Jotcham

1902,1953  Miss Mary Ann Jotcham (Mrs Mary Ann Jotcham in 1939)

1997 Celia Rollo

1998,2000 Richard and Clare Poole

2003 Kim and Cliff Williams

2007 Andrew Starling

2015 Sue-Alice Grant

2016 (Nov) Rod Undy and Karen McGeoch

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