The railway station at Lansdown opened on 24th June 1840 with the completion of the Bromsgrove to Cheltenham section of the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway. The Midland Railway had absorbed the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway just five years later, and the construction of the Midland Hotel directly opposite the station was completed in 1847. Throughout the pubs’ history it has always kept its association with the railway, listed as the Midland Railway Hotel in 1885 and the Midland Family & Commercial Hotel in 1903. In more recent years it has lost its hotel status, becoming known simply as the Midland.
Harriet Boudet was the owner of the Midland Hotel in both 1891 and 1903. It was licensed as an ale house and traded free from brewery ties. The annual rateable value rose significantly from late Victorian times to the advent of the Edwardian era – a substantial jump of thirty-eight pounds and five shillings from £42.10s.0d. in 1891 to £80.15s.0d. in 1903. The hotel later became tied to the Cheltenham Original Brewery, ownership then eventually transferred to West Country Brewery Holdings Ltd and then to Whitbread.
The Midland is now owned by a Pub Company. Pub Solutions (South West) now appear to be the owners, although this could be a subsidiary of Ei Publican Partnerships, previously trading as Enterprise Inns.
A charity event was held at the Midland Hotel in September 2002 to raise funds for the County Air Ambulance. The local newspaper ‘Gloucestershire Echo’ described the event, organised by local bikers’, as a ‘runaway success’. The report claimed that ‘more than 100 bikers’ roared into the car park at the Midland Hotel.’ The evening also featured a raffle, live-music and a competition to find the best beer belly. It was stated that more than £50 was raised for the charity, which equates to less than a 50p donation from each motorcyclist. Hardly a runaway success unless the total raised was £500 and the report was erroneous.
The leasehold of the Midland was offered in May 2003 by direction of Enterprise Inns. It was described as a Regency style pub of public bar and games room, lounge bar, function room / skittle alley with four-bedroom owners’ accommodation. A new ten-year lease agreement was on offer with a required capital of £20,000.
On Saturday 15th November 2003 there was an ‘evening of darts’ promotion at the Midland Hotel with Bobby George.
The Midland still offers accommodation. It has ten rooms consisting of one twin room with a private shower, three triples, five twin rooms and one single room. There are two separate shower rooms with toilet facilities and a separate cloakroom.
The Midland is a wet-led pub. When Sandra Oattes took on the running of the Midland in 2017 she made it clear that previous attempts to bring it more up-market had failed, telling the ‘Gloucestershire Echo’, “It’s a locals’ boozer, it’s never going to be anything else.”
Without doubt the busiest time of the year at the Midland are during the Cheltenham race meetings when thousands of people use the railway station to get to the town and then catch buses to Cheltenham racecourse. The Midland offers a convenient place for liquid refreshment both before and after a day at the races. A temporary marquee is erected in the forecourt of the pub. In recent years during the March Cheltenham Festival bookmakers Betfair have placed huge banners over the front of the pub, obscuring the windows, temporarily transforming the Midland to the Betfair Arms. During this busy time the pub opens at half past seven in the morning. Betfair have offered a 20 per cent discount on draught beers sold at the ‘Betfair Arms’ during their sponsorship. About 30,000 pints are sold and the four days of the March festival can make around four months’ worth of profits.
When the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival was cancelled in 2001 because of the outbreak of Foot & Mouth the hospitality sector in the town suffered. The assistant manager at the Midland said: “Normally we’d be rushed off our feet, but we’ve had one customer in today. I don’t reckon it will be any better for the rest of the week.” The Cheltenham Festival of 2020 took place despite fears that large gatherings could cause the spread of coronavirus. It was one of the last major events in the UK before enforced lockdown.
The racing fraternity are usually good humoured in nature, although occasionally boisterous and intoxicated after spending a day at the races. On at least two occasions football hooligans have deliberately set out to cause trouble. Bournemouth supporters went into the Midland Hotel before the match with Cheltenham Town FC in February 2007. Witnesses claimed that the away fans attacked the pub causing the local ‘Robin’s’ fans to retaliate. Fighting broke out and it was reported that more than 50 thugs had running battles outside the pub which brought traffic to a standstill. The landlord of the Midland Hotel said: “A group came in the pub for a drink and as they were leaving a Cheltenham fan said something to them. As they went down Gloucester Road a fight broke out. We always get away fans in here, but I haven’t seen trouble like this for years.”
The lease on the Midland was put up for sale in April 2012 for £239,000. John Dix told the ‘Gloucestershire Echo’: “It is a going concern and we have no plans to close the doors. It is still profitable, and we are just trying to get a value on it and it will only be sold if we get the right price. Trade has changed since we took over five years ago and we tend to do a lot more accommodation that we used to and less on the wet (beer) side.” John sold the lease to mother and daughter Lyn Wallbank and Kate Hammond.
The Midland closed in June 2017 but reopened again in the autumn.
As part of the 2019 Cheltenham Paint Festival artist WD Street Art was commissioned to paint a 3D mural on the Roman Road facade of the Midland. It is a truly stunning work of art.
The pictorial representation of a locomotive on the front of the pub would have been fine if the artist had done a little research and depicted a locomotive design associated with the Midland Railway, maybe a Compound, Black Five or Jubilee. Instead the loco appears to resemble a Russian E-Ye 2-10-0 loco, and those engines certainly never ran between Birmingham and Cheltenham. At least the artist did not fall into the trap of drawing a Great Western Railway designed loco on the façade of the Midland which would have caused derision from railway enthusiasts from far and wide.
Landlords at the Midland Hotel include:
1870 David Parker (referred to as the Midland Railway Inn, 1 Bradfield Villas, Gloucester Rd.)
1878 William Maynard
1883 E. Russell
1885 Charles Edward Russell
1891 Charles Arundell
1902 John William Arundell
1903,1919 John Cowlin
1927 Charles Waghorne
1960’s Pete Waghorne
1993,1998 Kevin Medcraff
2003,2007 Russell Coglan
2007,2012 John Dix
2014 Lyn Wallbank and her daughter Kate Hammond
2017 David and Sandra Oattes