The hotel dates back to 1820 when it was known as the Ram, then the Ram & County Inn. It re-opened on 30th January 1937 after extensive refurbishment as the New County Hotel. The hotel retains some of its original features. The lounge bar has rich wooden panelling.
The Ram Hotel was the city’s first commercial premises to have a telephone. In April 1887 the Western Counties & South Wales Telephone Company established an exchange at 9 Berkeley Street. Reporting the event, the Gloucester Journal wrote:
“During the past few days the Ram Hotel and the Exchange have been connected by a wire and the success of the telephonic system of communication has been demonstrated. Not only is the conversation carried on with intelligible distinctness, but whistling, hard breathing and other tests have been introduced with equally satisfactory results.”
An invitation to local people was extended to pop along to the Ram, try the phone and wonder at the technological advance. But few did, Gloucesterians were unimpressed and plainly thought there was no future for the phone.
In due course the hotel was renamed the Ram & County, then after refurbishment it became the New County Hotel on 30th January 1937. Charles Burge was the manager of the 45 bed-room hotel which boasted an art-deco interior styling in the ballroom.
The New County once hosted Saturday night dinner dances –until the Second World War interrupted proceedings, the hotel held regular dances with the resident band – Al Durrant’s Broadcast Six. Admission was 7 shillings and 6 pence (38p!).
The Beatles played in Gloucestershire at the beginning of their momentous career as international ambassadors of British pop music. In early 1963, The Beatles played The Regal theatre in Gloucester’s King’s Square, supporting American star Chris “Let’s Dance” Montez. The Citizen’s reporter, Hugh Worsnip, interviewed the band at the New County Hotel after the show.
The Beatles signed their names in his notepad – which was he threw out six months later. He can, however, remember the set list from the night, when the Fab Four had been promoted from the bottom of the bill to closing the first half. They played I Saw Her Standing There, Love Me Do, Misery, Taste of Honey, Do You Want to Know a Secret? and Please Please Me.
The Citizen, 9th June 1978 – 34 guests had food poisoning: Thirty-four guests who went to a dinner at the New County Hotel, Gloucester, later suffered from food poisoning, the City Health Committee was told last night. A salmonella infection was isolated, and efforts made to trace all the hundred diners. Twenty-eight of the 34 who suffered poisoning were tested and given positive results together with two members of the hotel’s kitchen staff.
It was not possible to confirm exactly the source of the infection, but it was thought to be fresh turkeys delivered to the hotel on February 16th, two days before the dinner.
The Citizen, Wednesday 17th March 1982. Advertising feature. ‘There is a tavern in the town’: (edit) The traditional English pub has been undergoing a tremendous revival and from this seek central Gloucester has a brand new pub in the welcoming old style. The County Tavern, at the New County Hotel, combines oak beams of the Elizabethan era with the cosiness of the Victorian snug. Its oak panelling, brasses and books and rugs on the boarded floor make it feel as though it’s been there for centuries.
Not only is there a sweeping pub bar offering real ale straight from wooden barrels, uniquely sitting on the bar, but there’s a separate wine bar in its own special area, reminiscent of a Victorian conservatory. The County Tavern also serves a wide range of hot and cold food from another counter, separated from the drinks bars. This will be available at lunchtimes and in the evenings, every day except Sundays.
The County Tavern was the idea of Peter Eyles, managing director of Norfolk Capitol Group, who wanted to give the centre of Gloucester a new meeting place, traditional but smart.
The opening of the County Tavern in Gloucester is only one of a number of exciting new projects being undertaken by the Norfolk Capitol Group. The Group, with the recent acquisition of the Angel Hotel in Cardiff, now owns 14 hotels throughout England and Wales, and has major plans for expansion and development in the next two years.
The Citizen, 25th July 1984 – ‘Offers’ invited for hotel: Offers are being invited for the New County Hotel in Southgate Street, Gloucester. The hotel is owned by the Norfolk Capital Group, whose managing director, Mr Peter Eyles, told The Citizen he did not want to comment on whether the New County was up for sale. “Whether or not we wish to sell it is our business,” he said.
The manager of the New County, David Vasey, said” “The hotel is up for offer. That is all I know. It is something which is being done through our head office in London, and that is all I can tell you.”
The Citizen: Friday, 23rd July 1982 – New manager: Mr David Vasey (28) has taken over as general manager of the New County Hotel, Southgate Street, Gloucester. Mr Vasey, who comes from Lincoln, spent two years at the Royal York Hotel in Bath as deputy manager before taking up the new position. He is married and he and his wife, Diane, are expecting their first child later in the year. Mr Vasey said he was looking forward to his new job.
The Citizen: Friday, 9th January 1987 – Barrel roll for charity: Staff at the New County Hotel will be rolling out the barrel in Gloucester at 6 pm tomorrow evening. Seven of them will push a 22-gallon barrel along the pavements for about two miles, calling at 18 pubs on the way. Organisers Warren Davis and Tim Willis said that with sponsorship and collections on the way they hope to raise about £500 for the Spring Centre, a playgroup in the grounds of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital for children with special needs.
The Citizen, Wednesday October 18th 1989. Advertisement feature – The New County Hotel and County Bistro (edit): One of Gloucester’s premier and best loved hostelries, the New County Hotel, is about to take on a new lease of life as a hotel and restaurant combined. The County Bistro, to give the restaurant its full title, has been tastefully decorated throughout in Royal Blue and Lemon.
A massive refurbishment programme costing three quarters of a million pounds which began last year has given the historic city hotel a much lighter look, and helped to create a relaxed, informal atmosphere in which guests and visitors can enjoy the friendly, but fully professional, service available to them.
The New County is part of the Cambrian Lake Hotel Group. In charge of the New County and County Bistro are Patrick and Tina Hoban. Assisted by an enthusiastic and skilled staff, they intend to make sure that all their customers get the very best value for money.
The Citizen, 22nd June 1992 – Offers sought for city hotel: Potential new owners of one of Gloucester’s oldest and most prestigious hotels are today being invited to make offers for it. Possible proprietors of the 160-year New County Hotel on Southgate Street are being asked by the receivers to put in bids. But there ids no price being put on the hotel, which is part of a group which went into receivership in April, or on the parent group as a whole.
A spokesman for receivers Stoy Hayward said: “Offers are being invited from interested parties for both individual hotels and the group. We’ll then decide how to proceed.”
The sale was sparked after the parent company Cambrian Lake Ltd, which owned other hotels in London, was put into receivership by its banks on April 3rd. Last week an advert was placed in the Financial Times for new owners of the 39-bed hotel, its sister hotels or the whole group.
New County general manager Tina Hoban said the hotel was trading as usual as the question of its ownership was sorted out.
The Citizen, 24th June 2006 – A Gloucester hotel has been sold after its owner feared his inexperience in the tourism industry would see the business go under. The New County Hotel was sold to the large London-based corporation London Edinburgh Inns on Thursday for an undisclosed sum.
Shaheen Iqbal, managing director of Marigold Hotels, which had owned the hotel for just seven months before selling up said he found it difficult to part with the business. But he said his main business was in the fashion industry, in London, and he felt that running the New County, the only hotel he owned was out of his league.
He said: “I’m not a hotelier at the end of the day and when this big hotel group wanted to buy it I thought it would be for the best, for both the hotel and the people who work there.”
London Edinburgh Inns owns more than 300 businesses, the majority of which are pubs.
The Citizen, 2nd June 2008 – Checking out, shock closure of city hotel: A historic city centre hotel shuts its doors for good today. The New County Hotel has closed leading to 13 full-time and six part time workers losing their jobs. Shocked workers were told last week after the company which owns the hotel, George of Colchester, fell into administration on May 7th. One angry staff member, who did not wish to be named, said: “We are all very disappointed about the way this has been handled, it came as a big shock to us all and it was totally out of the blue.”
The Citizen, 7th November 2008 – Flats plan for hotel gets OK: A historic city centre hotel will be transformed into flats. The New County Hotel is set to be turned into ten apartments and a restaurant. Despite concerns from Gloucester Civic Trust Design Committee about the loss of a hotel within the city centre and protection of the medieval cellars, members of Gloucester City Council Planning Committee granted planning permission for it to be converted during a meeting on Tuesday night.
Councillors agreed with planning officers that a restaurant would bring increased vitality and vibrancy to Southgate Street and the provision of flats would fit with policies of securing the re-population of the city centre.
The Citizen, 7th December 2009 – Hotel is ready to face world again: One of Gloucester’s landmark buildings is back on public view again after months hidden by scaffolding. The New County Hotel has been given a facelift, with new windows fitted and a new coat of paint.
The hotel closed in April 2008 after the company which owned it, George of Colchester, fell into administration. The building is now owned by Starcrest UK Ltd, which has been getting it back into use.
Planning permission for a ground floor restaurant and ten private flats was granted last year, but the hotel’s future still remains in doubt.
An application to create a lifestyle hotel on the site – with fantasy rooms and an adult-themed restaurant – was rejected by Gloucester City Council earlier this year. However, the company behind those plans, Mystique, still plans to open the private members club at the hotel, believe planning permission is not a legal requirement for the project.
The Citizen, Wednesday 16th December 2009 – Front Page Headline -Sex Hotel’s In Full Swing! A controversial new hotel has opened its doors in Gloucester. Mystiques Hotel & Restaurant, the former New County Hotel in Southgate Street, welcomed its first guests on Saturday.
The Citizen, Wednesday 16th December 2009 – Comment. “Is this really what Gloucester needs?” (edit): Gloucester can now boast its very own sex club and what a shame that is for the city. It is a shame the planning authority seems powerless to prevent this building being turned into a sex club. The real issue here is not the nature of the place but the location and the fact that it is such a missed opportunity for the former New County Hotel. A busy street in the centre of a historic city is not the right place for this type of venue. Families walk past every day and what will day trippers to the city think when they see a ‘swingers club’ up and running. There is, of course, a possibility that it will become a honeypot for people with alternative sexual lifestyles from across the UK which, again, is not ideal for Gloucester. We don’t want sex tourists in the city at any cost.
The Citizen, 18th December 2009 – “This place is almost like a boutique hotel’ by reporter Jenni Silver.
“I’ll admit I was a little nervous walking in to Club Mystique on my own, But the apprehension soon melted when a friendly doorman ushered me in and showed me the way to the bar. The old New County was not a pretty sight so the renovated front bar makes a huge difference. On the night I visited there were not many people about. The décor was modern, tasteful and nothing to suggest it was any different to any other independent hotel.
“The next morning when I visited again there were a few more in there, a group of older women with shopping bags and a woman with a pushchair, no sign of the alleged sex perverts or so called deviants. During my tour of the hotel, Mystique boss Harry Sykes showed me the historic ballroom, now used for alternative parties. Again nothing seedy to see, a pole in the corner but no different to the décor in most of the bars along the Eastgate Street strip.
“While the lifestyle club might not be to everyone’s taste, the hotel bar is friendly and open. There are not many city centre bars where a woman can sit alone for a quiet drink and feel safe, welcome and comfortable, but Club Mystique ticks all those boxes.”
The Citizen, 19th December 2009 – Mystique boss feels vindicated: The owner of Club Mystique said he feels vindicated after planning officers said the hotel was free to operate. Harry Sykes opened the hotel, which will host adult-themed events, last weekend. Yesterday planning officers at Gloucester City Council said they were granting a certificate of lawful use following external legal advice.
Originally the council’s planning committee had refused permission for a private members’ club. But Mr Sykes changed the way the business will operate and applied instead for the ‘certificate’ to determine whether the building’s use would require planning in the light of these changes. One significant change is that it will no longer be a private members’ club.
The Citizen, 19th December 2009 – Letters: “I was disappointed with The Citizen (Dec 16th) about the ‘sex hotel’ in Southgate Street. Whatever way The Citizen stirs up controversy in how it names this venture on its front page, it is obviously in demand for the owners to have spent so much time and money on doing such a fantastic job of doing up one of the city’s worst eyesores. No one should allow their personal morals to get in the way, and I wish Mystique the very best in this bold new venture. As with so many things in life, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go in it. Let’s all grow up a little here, and be thankful that investment is coming to Gloucester, and stop using unreasonable hype as a reason to stop this from happening.” Steve Haines, Gloucester.
The Citizen, 7th May 2010 – The controversial sex hotel has closed. The former New County Hotel, renamed Club Mystique, was changed to a venue for people with alternative sexual lifestyles last year. But it has been closed since Tuesday – just five months after opening – sparking rumours it will be closed for good.
Mark Jones, a leader at the City Church of Gloucester, who submitted objections to planners at the time of the hotel’s opening, said people had been praying for it to close.
The Citizen, 12th October 2010 – ‘High standard’ hotel will open: The New County Hotel is set to reopen at the beginning of November. The former ‘lifestyle’ hotel in Southgate Street was due to open its doors in August, but an extensive refurbishment has seen the opening delayed.
Kieran McCulry, from West Inns Ltd which now owns the hotel, said: “We are doing a total refurbishment here. The bar is now a bar and diner, and we have a completely new reception, and all the bedrooms are now being refurbished. We are looking to open within the first 10 days of November, and we will have a definite date at the end of October.”
There are currently posters on the outside of the 39-bedroom hotel saying it is “opening soon”.
The Citizen, Monday 15th November 2010 – Hotel for ‘beautiful old building in city: Tradition and quality will be injected back into a controversial city hotel as it prepares to open its doors again. The city’s former sex hotel is to shed its controversial past and reopen as a “quality” venue on November 25th.
Under the ownership of independent pub company London & Provincial Pub Co. Ltd., the hotel will have 39 bedrooms with en-suites, a bar-diner and function rooms for weddings and conferences. Project manager Aileen McDonald said: “It will be the new New County Hotel. Nothing old will be left in it. It is all being refurbished.
The Citizen, 13th August 2015 – Hotel maestro finds a new project to tackle: Property developer Tony Clark is hoping to give The New County Hotel a fresh lease of life after taking on the business last month. Mr Clark, who has spent 23 years as a hotelier in Cheltenham said: “The New County Hotel has been performing very poorly over the last few years and various companies have not been able to make a go of it. We feel we can turn it around and with our skills we can bring more guests to the hotel and footfall into the city centre.”
The restaurant and bar area is being re-branded with a new look and menu. Mr Clark said: “It has always been open to the public as well as guests but we felt the expensive hotel prices put people off. We will be bringing the prices down with classic pub meals at around £5 to attract regular customers. The restaurant and bar will be run as a separate entity to the hotel.
Mr Clark is hoping that all work on the hotel will be completed by the end of the year.
The Citizen, 18th April 2019 – Hotel planning extension to increase room numbers: Visitors to Gloucester will have a few more rooms to rest their heads if a city centre hotel gets approval to convert outbuildings. Owners of the New County Hotel want to turn the existing rear storage buildings into four additional rooms. The planning application said: “While the redundant storage building to the rear of the hotel is not listed, the proposed works will involve minor internal alterations to the listed New County Hotel to create access to the new bedrooms.” The extension will provide an extra 175sq m of space.
Gloucestershire Live, Thursday 6th June 2019. Planning: Archaeologists have warned planned building work at a city hotel risks disturbing human remains. The New County Hotel wants to use a storage building at its rear for four new bedrooms. An application has been made to Gloucester City Council extensions and alterations, close to the medieval cemetery of the Blackfriars Dominican friary.
In an submission to the city council, city archaeologist Andrew Armstrong said: “I would be concerned that any development or demolition below a certain level should only take place after archaeological work to record and advance understanding of any heritage assets which will be lost.”
1937 Charles Burge
2001 Stewart Williams
2003 Matthew Roberts