The building is located on the eastern corner of Clarence Street and Crescent Place. It last traded as The Stable.
Jabez Dee was the owner of the Great Western in 1891. He leased it to Godsell & Sons of the Salmon Springs Brewery which was located just to the north of Stroud. Classified as an ale house, the Great Western had a substantial annual rateable value of £46.15s.0d. indicative of its central position within the town. Godsell’s had took full ownership of the property in 1903, the rateable value having increased by five pounds and five shillings to £51.0s.0d. For those late Victorian and early Edwardian beer drinkers partial to a pint or two of Godsell’s Ales (or God Sells Ales as was it affectionally known) the brewery also owned the Brave Old Oak, Elephant & Castle and Railway in Tewkesbury Road, the Burton Brewery in St James Square, the Calcutta and Lansdown Inn in Gloucester Road, the Fountain Inn in Bath Road, the Horse & Groom in St Georges Place, the Kings Arms in King Street, the Old Packhorse in Burton Street, the Seven Stars in Henrietta Street, the Somerset Inn in Moorend Street, the Spread Eagle in the High Street and the Vine Tree in Albion Street.
In November 1970 the Great Western was renamed the Royal Crescent. The Gloucestershire Echo gave the following account:
‘London born publican Mr F.A. Turner, has missed becoming ‘king’ of a second Royal Hotel by one word. Mr Turner was manager of the Royal Hotel in High Street, Cheltenham, when it was demolished in 1958. Woolworths store now stands on the site. Since then he has managed the Great Western Hotel, almost opposite the old Cheltenham central police station on the corner of Clarence Street and Crescent Place. The Great Western has now become the Royal Crescent Hotel, Mr Michael Whitbread, a director of Whitbread Flowers Ltd, performed the name changing ceremony by unveiling the new pub sign painted by company artist John Cook. The Royal appellation remains particularly appropriate for this spot. The pub takes its new name from the nearby crescent, backing onto Royal Well which is notable for its regency architecture. In 1830 the 11-year-old Princess Victoria stayed for an afternoon at No. 18, where she visited the Duke of Gloucester. The old police station was formerly the Royal Clarence Hotel after a visit from the Duchess of Clarence, later Queen Adelaide.’
In May 1996 it became Cork’s Wine Bar. In 1997 the property was bought by Roger Wright-Morris as an investment after retiring from his London legal practice.
On 25th February 2001 Jim Thompson’s Oriental bar opened for business at the refurbished 40 Clarence Street. The official opening was officiated by comedian Frank Carson, the father of Tony Carson who had established the Jim Thompson brand. The Cheltenham branch was the latest addition to eight award winning restaurants already established in London and Oxford. An advertisement led with ‘The first thing you notice as you walk through the double glass doors is that you’re in unusual surroundings for an eating house. The décor is much more than an Asiatic bazaar with all manner of interesting artifacts hanging from the ceiling and perched about the place.’ It continued, ‘Specialities from Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, The Philippines, Burma, Vietnam, Singapore pepper the menu like a gourmet tour of South East Asia.’ Jim Thompson was apparently a larger than life character who left his native United States after the Second World War and travelled to Thailand where he had many adventures. He founded a successful silk company and built himself a large house in Bangkok. On Easter Sunday in 1967 he set off to explore the jungled mountains of central Malaysia, disappeared and was never heard of again.
In autumn 2006 it was announced that Jim Thompson’s restaurant was to be revamped. It closed on 9th October. A spokesman said that the décor was looking tired and would be brought up to date. The ground floor was to be turned into a bar and the Asian cuisine expanded to include English food. He said: “The idea is to make the bar more of a destination in itself, rather than a place to have a drink before a meal. We want people who don’t necessarily want food to have a drink at the bar.” It was rebranded as Dragonfly and opened in late November 2006. Buddhist monks were called in to bless the new themed restaurant and bar. A review of Dragonfly noted that ‘Out has gone the cluttered souvenir shop look and Dragonfly is sleek with black chrysanthemum wallpaper and cushions in beautiful Thai fabrics.’
The Orchid chain who owned the Dragonfly went into administration late in 2008, and property owner Roger Wright-Morris was keen to continue the successful business model under similar lines. It was re-named the D-Fly and opened early in 2009. A review in the Gloucestershire Echo noted that ‘the décor downstairs hasn’t changed radically – it still has the same comfy booths with luxuriously-coloured silk cushions to sit on, dark wood floors and tables and low lights. However, the first floor has been transformed into the Buzz Venue – a designated space which has been reserved for private parties or business meetings – and is no longer just an extension of the restaurant which is now concentrated downstairs.’ The review concluded: ‘D-Fly is leading the way as a trendy place to meet friends for sushi and impress your date with tasty Thai food. The prices have gone up a bit since it was rebranded, but if you’re watching the pennies there are special £5 lunch deals to be had in the bar between 11am and 3pm.’
D-Fly was used as a meeting place for religious meetings in February 2010. The Godfirst Church, part of the mainstream Christian network New Frontiers, met in the upstairs room to watch a religious service projected on a big screen. One church member said: “It’s a perfect place for a church meeting. It takes the church back to its roots. An upper room is where Jesus would meet with his followers, long before Christians built buildings and drew parish boundaries around them.”
D-Fly closed in June 2012 with the loss of five full-time jobs. The building was left unoccupied for over two years. In September 2014 Marchella De Angelis, who also owned Cotswolds 88 Hotel in Painswick, relaunched the premises as Ange Noir (French for Black Angel). Marchella told the Gloucestershire Echo: “Opulence, modern fusion and style is the theme. At Ange Noir you are invited to experience music, pleasure and taste in a setting where an element of fantasia and mischief has been applied with a play on colours and textiles using a variety of materials with wall art from the de Angelis and Garner collection which has been archived by the Victorian & Albert Museum.” She added that the club lounge was aiming for an air of elegant decadence and sophistication and its food menu would feature Japanese cuisine with a menu of sake and Japanese rice wine. “I wanted a have a building with its own ‘wow factor’ and completing this project has been a labour of love. The night spot, with original art on the walls and riveted steel and leather stools will cater to a sophisticated clientele who can eat and dance in style.” A strict dress code banned tracksuits, flip-flops, hoodies, dirty trainers and mens’ shorts.
The Stable opened at 40 Clarence Street on 16th December 2015. The business was founded in 2007 when Richard Cooper and his wife Nikki brought a dilapidated hotel in Bridport and turned its fortunes around sourcing real cider from small scale producers and concentrating on serving excellent quality pizzas and pies. The Stable brand soon had thirteen restaurants around the South West, including Bristol, Bath and Cardiff. The Cheltenham restaurant was the first to be opened in Gloucestershire. Richard Cooper told the Gloucestershire Echo: “I think people needed and wanted a change over the last few years. A big selling point we have is our much more relaxed, casual approach to dining which is the trend at the moment.” He added, “The building used to be a private club type thing. It was quite dark and we’re opening it all up and showing the Georgian splendour of the place. We’re going back to basics and I think Cheltenham will really warm to it.”
Sadly, probably due to a combination of the Coronavirus pandemic and the decrease in trade, the Stable Bar has now closed.
Throughout all these refurbishments and rebranding of the premises it is pleasing to report that the two West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West ceramic plaques have been left untouched and are still in situ. I cannot think of another Gloucestershire pub that is graced with two of these colourful plaques.
Landlords at the Great Western / Royal Crescent include:
1859 John Griffin
1870 Daniel Evans
1878,1885 Edwin Shipway
1891 Sarah Woodhouse
1892 Miss E. Woodhouse
1902 Herbert Geo. Robertson
1903 James Duffy
1906 James Duff
1919,1927 Thomas Parker
1939 Geo. Barnet Green
1958,1970 Mr F.A. Turner (previously at the Royal Hotel, High Street, Cheltenham)