The Fountain Inn was converted from an old regency building by local builder Richard Carter in November 1980. I remember visiting the Fountain Inn soon after it opened and was amazed to discover that the beer range included both Donnington Ales from Stow on the Wold and Hook Norton Ales from Oxfordshire. I was in heaven. The enterprising landlord even kept Hook Norton Mild.
A year later in 1981 the Fountain Inn was being frequented by punks, skinheads and leather-clad bikers. After an incident when a member of staff was insulted, and a group started overturning ashtrays and using bad language a notice was put on the door banning punks. Owner Richard Carter told the Gloucestershire Echo: “I thought it was getting a bit hairy. I thought the best thing to do, rather than have my customers intimidated, was to throw them out. They made a mess and were damaging my property with their heavy boots and leather-studded jackets. I got fed up with it.”
The pub had a change of identity and re-opened as the Duck & Pheasant.
The tippler, (Gloucestershire CAMRA) May-June 1985: The Duck & Pheasant in North Place, Cheltenham is now owned by Courage (Western). Surprisingly and perhaps courageously the brewery have decided to keep on the previous excellent range of real ales (Boddington’s Bitter, Marston’s Pedigree, Hook Norton Bitter and Donnington SBA) as well as serving their own products (Courage Best and Directors Bitter and John Smiths Cask Bitter). They are usually pretty well kept, so if you want to ensure that the beers continue to be available why not pop along for a pint.
Incidentally we understand that Inn Leisure sold the pub because of lower than expected turnover. This was after paying out a considerable sum to convert Regency building into their standard Mock-Tudor style. Certainly trade did drop off quite a bit after the change – could it be that although they are a Cheltenham-based company Inn Leisure don’t really understand that Cheltenham drinkers are unlikely to be impressed by “trendy” pubs?
The pub then became the Rat & Parrot, The Courtyard, and ultimately became ‘the Parrot.’
In the 1996 edition of ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ compiled by the local CAMRA branch the Rat & Parrot was described as ‘one large room with a continental style aimed at the young executive with real ale prices to match.’ Beers on tap from the Scottish & Newcastle range were Courage Best Bitter, Theakston Best Bitter, XB and Old Peculier.
To confuse matters, in the mid-1990’s the Lansdown Hotel in Lansdown Road was trading as the Rat & Carrot.
In September 2001 the Rat & Parrot was on the market as part of a portfolio of 44 freehold pubs and bars as part of the rationalisation of Noble House Pub Company’s estate. The disposal followed the acquisition of 214 licensed properties from Scottish & Newcastle Retail. The Rat & Parrot was offered for £565,000. The pubs were being sold because they had been identified ‘as they did not form part of the Noble House core estate and were not considered suitable for conversion to the pubco’s brands or concept.’
The Rat & Parrot was a popular drinking spot for town centre workers and early evening revellers.
The pub was then re-branded as the Courtyard. This incarnation was short-lived and in March 2004 it was renamed the Parrot. A review in the local newspapers noted that ‘the venue’s fortunes have made a dramatic turnaround and transformed into The Parrot and remodelled as a bar / restaurant offering some of the best food of its kind outside Montpellier. The venue has been given a good makeover since it was bought, with stylish and, thankfully, comfortable wooden tables and chairs offering a relaxed eating and drinking experience in a light and airy environment that has space on its side. The menu has a strong Italian flavour, with pasta and pizza leading the way.’
In the summer of 2009, the Parrot introduced the legendary Bathams Bitter on tap from Brierley Hill in the Black Country. This was an amazing choice of beer, and the pub once again became a mecca for discerning ale lovers eager to sample this excellent and fabled brew. Bathams is a small family brewery with a small tied estate and a limited free trade. To get Bathams in Cheltenham was a real coup – and was the only pub in Gloucestershire to sell the West Midlands beer. A delighted customer wrote to the ‘Echo’ in praise of the food and beer at the Parrot: “We ate steak here, which was the most succulent fillet I have ever eaten. Also try the Bathams Ale – absolute nectar.”
In January 2011 the pub was rebranded the Parrot Bar & Grill and took out advertisements boasting that it was Cheltenham’s Newest Dedicated Steak House. It was an initiative by Paul Soden following the integration with the Café Rene group of companies from Gloucester. £50,000 was spent on the refurbishment. On the menu was Tomahawk Rib-Eye, Angus T-Bone, Cotswold Sirloin and Smoked Rack of Ribs. A review in the Gloucestershire Echo (August 2011) noted that the Parrot Bar & Grill had been transformed from a student bar to a brightly decorated eating house specialising in locally source steaks.
Another review in the Gloucestershire Echo in July 2013 was still complimentary about the Parrot Bar & Grill concluding that pub was a ‘meat eater’s paradise’ and the steak was the best in town. But following the untimely death of the licensee, John Hill, the reputation of the pub went downhill.
The Parrot had closed by September 2014 and the building was put up for sale with an asking price of £495,000. The property was unkept with rubbish and weeds disfiguring the front outdoor drinking area. An offer for the lease was made to the agent selling the property. Licensed property agents Christie & Co confirmed that the ‘pub could possibly converted into flats, subject to planning permission being obtained.’ The interior of the building was described as an ‘elegant Grade II listed property, which has a number of period features including decorative ceiling cornices.’ In January 2015 an application for change of use to retail business on the ground floor was submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council. The application claimed that [the public house] ‘has been closed for months and it has become apparent that it can no longer continue as a viable business.’ As far as I can ascertain there were no determined campaigns to save the Parrot from permanent closure.
It was announced in June 2015 that the building was to become a bespoke furniture store. Neptune showroom opened in North Place in the Spring of 2016. A spokesman for the company said: “We love using buildings which were community assets and re-purposing them, giving them the Neptune touch with some beautiful, comfortable and inspiring interiors.”