Work began on the construction of the Golden Valley Hotel in December 1971. The new hotel was strategically situated at a six acre-site at the intersection of the existing A40 with the under-construction Golden Valley by-pass which was due to be completed by February 1973. Careful planning assured a position well suited for tourists and travellers alike, being within a short distance from the M5 motorway. The plans were for a 100 bedroomed hotel and costs were estimated at £1 million. The banqueting room would be capable of holding 200 people with an anteroom for a further 100. In addition, a dining room would hold a further 160. There were also plans for the main entrance foyer to lead to a corridor into the centre of the hotel planned around a large courtyard with a landscaped Japanese style illuminated water and rock gardens. The directors of the project were Mr and Mrs D.S. Hutchinson of Mickleton who had experience in the building trade and had purchased and considerably enlarged the Three Ways Hotel in Mickleton. The privately owned Golden Valley Hotel opened in 1973.
Four years later the private company had gone into liquidation and in 1977 the Golden Valley Hotel was acquired by the Thistle Hotel Group, part of the Scottish & Newcastle brewery chain based in Edinburgh.
In January 1982 the producers of the popular Central TV programme ‘Crossroads’ were looking for a real-life replacement hotel that was suitable for outside filming. This followed a fire that had destroyed the original television set in a dramatic episode shown shortly before Christmas in 1981. The Golden Valley Hotel was being considered amongst others, the only downside being its distance from the Birmingham studios where all the inside shots were filmed and the potential noise level of nearby traffic on the Golden Valley by-pass. It was announced in February that filming tests carried out by Central TV suited all the necessary requirements and that the Golden Valley would be selected as the exterior of the new Crossroads Motel.
In March 1999 the hotel was renamed the Thistle Cheltenham. The new image was simply a marketing strategy by the Thistle Hotel Group to ‘strengthen the Thistle brand and ensure a more consistent approach to product and services throughout the hotel chain’. The operations manager at the previously named Golden Valley said: “The hotel’s new name means that guests will be able to easily identify and locate the Thistle Cheltenham.”
A brochure published in August 2000 described the Thistle Cheltenham as ‘set in attractive grounds on the edge of Cheltenham in the heart of the Cotswolds, this modern hotel provides excellent facilities for both business and leisure guests. 122 guest bedrooms including suites. Burford Room restaurant. New bar and lounge which features Meeting Base, private meeting booths by the hour. Otium Health and Leisure Club. Two floodlit tennis courts. Fourteen meeting plan rooms, the largest seating 400.’
An application was submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council in 2001 for a new 35-bedroom conference centre. The scheme was given the green light despite initial concerns about building development on the green belt. A council planning officer said: “It will meet a need which could not have been foreseen by the applicants when the bulk of the development was built in the 1970’s.”
A guest puffing surreptitiously on a cigarette during a Christmas party in 2006 set off the automatic alarm system causing the precautionary evacuation of more than 200 diners into the car park. A fire engine was sent to the Thistle Hotel at 10.45pm as a precaution. The guests had been enjoying local band The Ramrods who, ironically, had just performed a cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ They were allowed to return to their party when the ‘all clear’ was given after fifteen minutes waiting in the car park.
The Thistle hotel Christmas and New Year festivities did not quite go to plan a year later when several guests at a New Year’s Eve dinner and dance party fell ill with a viral outbreak. Sixteen guests were affected with the vomiting bug. The Environmental Heath department was notified. A spokeswoman for Thistle Hotels said: “All the affected guests were in good health and showed no symptoms when they arrived at the hotel. When guests began to develop symptoms a doctor was called to the hotel to treat them and all possible precautions were taken to prevent further infectons.”
Another makeover started in May 2008 which included a full refurbishment of the Burford restaurant, Cotswold room and the hotel’s lounge.
Irish comedian Frank Carson performed at the Thistle Cheltenham during the ‘Gold Cup’ Festival in March 2010. The Cheltenham race week is always popular with the Irish and Frank Carson went down a storm in front of the predominately Irish contingent who were staying at the hotel. Frank was famous for his catchphrases ‘It’s a cracker’ and ‘it’s the way I tell ‘em.’ Sadly Frank died two years later on 22nd February 2012. Nearly forty years earlier the legendary Dave Allen, another Irish comedian, starred in a top international cabaret evening at the Golden Valley Hotel on November 8th 1973.
The hotel changed its identity once more in 2015, rebranded to Jurys Inn. The significant refurbishment programme included the transformation of all 122 bedrooms with upgraded mattresses, pillows and bed linen. The new-look bedrooms were promoted with the slogan ‘Dream Bed’. Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards – Britain’s most famous ski-jumper – was ceremoniously paraded around Cheltenham town centre on a comfortable double bed attached to the back of a tricycle. It was hash tagged on ‘twitter’ as the #SnoozeCruise. The Jurys Inn opened for business in October 2015, boasting refurbished public areas including the lobby, bar, restaurant and leisure club. Guests benefited from new flat-screen multi-channel TV’s and free WiFi throughout the hotel. The cost of the refurbishment was in excess of £3 million. The on-going improvements continued through to March 2016.