The Horse & Groom has been a pub since at least 1856, but the actual building dates back to 1714. It was once tied to Hitchman’s Brewery of Chipping Norton, then passing through takeovers to the ownership of Hunt Edmunds of Banbury and then Bass Charrington. In 1996 it was bought by Fiona Davies, wife of designer and businessman George Davies. The following year the Horse & Groom went through a comprehensive refurbishment with internal reconfiguration.
In February 2005 a planning application was submitted for change of use to residential. It was alleged that the pub had been run down with the cessation of meals and imposed limited opening times. Thankfully the application was withdrawn by George Davies after a vociferous campaign to save the pub. It was purchased by Tom and Will Greenstock, brothers who turned the fortunes of the Horse & Groom around to such an extent the pub that it was named Pub of the Year in the 2015 Good Pub Guide.
The Horse & Groom is now owned by Butcombe Brewery (Liberation Group).
Wilts & Glos Standard, 30th September 1997 – ‘Down your local’ by Bill Charlton (edit): For months builders have been re-shaping the interior of the ancient Horse and Groom which has been looking down on the village of Bourton-on-the-Hill since 1714, the last 100 years as a pub. The free house was taken over by former Leicestershire fireman Ian Waterfield last January from long-term resident Joe Aizpuru, who retired to nearby Moreton. A new floor has been laid, walls have come down and corridors removed to create just the right situation for Ian’s first pub venture, which he and wife Melanie have been dreaming about for years.
Melanie has had the kitchen enlarged, modernised and moved to a new site to enable her to pursue her love of cooking. With a 34-seater restaurant, she is drawing in local and passing trade with wide-ranging bar snacks, and a main menu. Trade is booming and the couple’s warm welcome has attracted not only passing trade but people in the immediate area.
Whilst all the upheaval has been going on – the pub was closed for a month – a warm interior re-decoration programme was also in progress, with not only visitors’ bedrooms being given individual looks, but an interior designer brightening up bathrooms, other rooms, and walls with distinctive hand-painted decoration.
The restaurant and bar is divided by a lounge area, used by customers both having a drink or waiting for a meal. A good stock of beer, including such popular brews as Hook Norton and Old Speckled Hen from Morlands keeps everyone happy. Both Ian and Melanie report they are well satisfied the way their new venture is going.
Gloucestershire Echo, 26th February 1999 – Pub sign faces axe: The Horse & Groom restaurant at Bourton-on-the-Hill could be told to take down its sign. On Wednesday members of Cotswold District Council’s development control sub-committee (north) will decide whether to issue an enforcement notice to have unauthorised additions to the Grade II listed building removed. They include a sign with ‘Horse and Groom Restaurant and Hotel’ on it.
Cotswold Journal, Thursday 10th February 2005 – Village will fight for pub: A Cotswold village may lose its pub if the wife of a millionaire tycoon is given permission to convert it into a private home. Fiona Davies, wide of designer and businessman George Davies, has applied to Cotswold District Council for permission to change the use of the Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill. Villagers have been called to a public meeting on Saturday to discuss the proposal, which could see the village lose one of its last remaining services.
Chairman of the parish council Patricia Hayes said that since the village had lost its shop several years ago its remaining facilities should be closely guarded. “It’s absolutely vital that the pub should be regenerated and become an asset to the village and the area.”
Stephen Wright, director of the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council, said any loss of services in rural areas was to be regretted. “In the past we’ve worked with Cotswold District Council to resist changing the use of pubs to provide housing. Pubs are often the last bastion of providing community facilities and they provide economic benefits and jobs.”
Mr Davies found fame and fortune by establishing the Next fashion chain and then designing the George range for Asda. These successes were followed by the Per Una ladies’ range, which he sold to Marks & Spencer for £125 million. His wife, who lives in Snowshill, bought the Cotswold-stone pub in 1996.
Gloucestershire Echo, Tuesday 15th February 2005 – Don’t close our village pub – plea: Angry residents have vowed to fight plans by the wife of fashion tycoon George Davies to turn their village pub into a house. Fiona Davies wants to convert the Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill into a home. The pub, bought by Mrs Davies in 1996, has stopped serving food and only opens 11 hours a week. Nearly 100 people packed into the Old School Hall for a public meeting.
Alexia Monroe, who lives next to the pub, said: “Mr Davies says the pub isn’t working. It was a thriving pub. There was an excellent restaurant and people used to go in all the time. But when they stopped serving food it died on its feet.” Resident Diane Brereton said: “Mr and Mrs Davies seem to have their own agenda, they’re putting the needs of the family before the needs of the village.”
Maggie Dillon-Godfrey, who helped the couple launch the Horse & Groom, said: “When George first opened the pub he said he wanted to be a centre for the village. They had an excellent chef but the rest of the staff had no training. You would wait half the night for your wine to arrive. No wonder he thought it wasn’t working.”
Neither Mr or Mrs Davies attended the meeting.
Cotswold Journal, 7th April 2005 – Village delighted as pub plan is halted: Fashion tycoon George Davies has called time on plans to convert a village pub into a private house due to an “unpleasant” response from villagers. Millionaire designer George’s wife, Fiona, had applied to Cotswold District Council for permission to change the use of the Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill. The application provoked a storm of protest from villagers, who vowed to fight the scheme, which they said would deprive their community of a much needed facility. About 50 residents wrote letters of objection to planners and the parish council also expressed its concerns about the scheme.
The plan was due to be discussed at a meeting of the district council’s planning committee yesterday but was taken off the agenda after the council received a letter from Mr Davies withdrawing the application. He wrote: “The adverse publicity has been very unpleasant. In the short to medium term Mrs Fiona Davies is prepared to maintain the village pub to give the villagers an opportunity to use this facility, which they have been so vociferous about.”
District councillor Rod Hooper, who is on the planning committee, said residents must have a fair opportunity to show their support for the pub. “I feel that they should open every day and produce food like the previous owners, when it was a good going concern and an asset to the community.
The Standard, 4th August 2005 – Village gets its heart back: The wife of a clothing tycoon who tried to turn a village’s last amenity into housing has walked away from the planning battle. Now villagers in Bourton-on-the-Hill are toasting more good news after the Horse & Groom was taken over by brothers Tom and Will Greenstock who promptly vowed to its former glory.
New owners Tom, 29, and Will, 26, are the sons of Gill and Rob Greenstock, proprietors of Ilmington’s Howard Arms, who have run several award-winning establishments. Following their parents into the hospitality business, Tom became assistant manager and Will second chef at the Howard Arms. Seeking a freehold pub for themselves, they chose the Horse & Groom because it is a “fabulous building” in a “great location”.
They will create an outdoor seating area, reopen the five bed and breakfast rooms and re-convert the second floor, which had been converted to a flat, back into a bar. Tom said: “Whilst we aim to put the Horse & Groom on the map as a dining pub, we are the only pub in Bourton-on-the-Hill, so we also want to create a friendly place for the locals to come and drink.”
The Tippler. Magazine of the Gloucestershire Branches of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale). Spring 2006: ‘Horse & Groom Alive & Kicking (by Peter White): The Horse & Groom pub, Bourton-on-the-Hill is alive and kicking. Last year the then owners of the pub applied for a change of use, after a period of gradually running the business down. There was much opposition to this application from villagers and CAMRA alike, and thankfully the owners, seeing sense, withdrew the application and put the pub up for sale instead.
In stepped the Greenstock family who own the very successful Howard Arms in Ilmington, Warwickshire, and recently voted Good Pub Guide UK Dining Pub of the Year 2005. The Horse & Groom was saved, and a tasteful refurbishment and since been carried out throughout the building with plenty of room for diners and drinkers alike to enjoy a totally smoke-free atmosphere.
Our North Cotswold sub-branch of CAMRA made its first official visit there on 24th November. Two real ales were available. Everards Tiger is a regular there, and is always supplemented with a guest beer.
Gloucestershire Echo, 20th September 2006 – Brothers save a pub and earn their spot in the limelight: Brothers who saved a pub from closure with the help of residents have earned a spot in a top guide. Tom and Will Greenstock landed a mention of the Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill in the Michelin Eating Out in Pubs 2007 Guide. The guide singles out hostelries serving “great food in informal surroundings”.
Tom said: “We’ve certainly been made to feel very welcome and we were there at the right time to save it. It was up to us to get it right from the start. Being in the guide is a real feather in our cap. Everyone’s worked so hart so it’s great to have such a reward.”
The Standard, 22nd October 2008 – Horse & Groom wins regional dining award: It was drinks all round at a Cotswolds pub after it won a prestigious regional award. The Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill was chosen from dozens of pubs in the county to be named Gloucestershire Dining Pub of the Year 2009 by judges at the Good Pub Guide.
Gloucestershire Echo, 4th May 2011 – Keira’s down the pub to meet her new boyfriend’s parents: Actress Keira Knightley was introduced to her new boyfriend’s family at a Gloucestershire pub. The 26-year-old was spotted dining with the parents of rock star James Righton, 27, at the Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill.
Gloucestershire Echo, Wednesday 20th November 2013 – Pub car park work uncovers Iron Age skeleton: Human remains have been discovered near a Cotswold pub during works to build a car park. The body of an Iron Age man – dubbed Rusty – was unearthed on land bought by the owners of the Horse & Groom, in Bourton-on-the-Hill.
Tom Greenstock, who took over the pub with his brother Will in 2005, said: “It was found in a foetal position. It is believed that it dates from the late Iron Age (approximately 100BC) and, although the gender is yet to be confirmed, it is thought likely to be a male. The skeleton appears to have had a full burial, something that is relatively rare for this period. Having been carefully excavated and exhumed, Rusty, as he has been nicknamed, will be sent to a specialist osteo-archaeological laboratory for further analysis, to determine the age and, we hope, the death.
It is expected that Rusty’s final resting place will be the Corinium Museum, in Cirencester. Works will continue on the site but it is not expected that more human remains will be discovered. The archaeology team will finish by Christmas and the car park could be completed by summer 2014.
Gloucestershire Echo, Saturday 5th September 2015 – Tom and Will are toasting Pub of the Year honour: A Cotswold pub has been named Pub of the Year in the Good Pub Guide. The Horse & Groom, at Bourton-on-the-Hill, beat thousands of others across the UK to win the title. It is run by two brothers, Tom and Will Greenstock, aged 39 and 36, who have been at the helm for 10 years. Tom said “We’re still absolutely chuffed to bits. It’s not properly sunk in yet. We have been here for ten years and picked up a few awards which was really lovely, but this is like nothing before.” It was also named the County Dining Pub of the Year.
The pub is described as an ideal place for a quiet lunch or evening entertainment with open fire and wood-burning stove.
The Horse & Groom is now owned by Butcombe (Libertion Group)
Map Reference: SP 173325
Owner in 1891: A.B. Freeman-Mitford (free from brewery tie)
Rateable value in 1891: £15.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1891: Alehouse
Owner in 1903: Hitchman & Co., Brewers, Chipping Norton
Rateable value in 1903: £15.3s.4d.
Type of licence in 1903: Alehouse
Closing time in 1903: 10pm
Landlords at the Horse & Groom include:
1856 S. Darling
1885,1903 Seth Dyde
1906,1927 Albert O. Fardon
1939 Frank Gaden
1996 Joe Aizpuru
1997 (Jan). Ian and Melanie Waterfield
2000 Linda Balhatchet
2008 Tom and Tim Greenstock