Email received December 28th 2001 from Bill Thornhill. Geoff, my father Harry Thornhill was landlord of the Plough Inn in Cold Aston 1953-1979. I was about eighteen months when we moved to the pub and I grew up in the village until I moved away as a teenager.
Although we had electricity, water was a problem. My earliest memories are of a big white sink in the kitchen with a large water pump situated above it. This was the only water in the pub, we had no flush toilets or a bathroom. I can remember the tin bath every Sunday night in front of the living room fire. The other problem with the pump was that the water had been declared unfit to drink because of the lead pipes that connected it to the well.
I can also remember that the pub was only part of the business. In fact the ground area of the current public housed a public bar, lounge bar and shop / post office. The shop used to sell tinned food, sweets, clothes and shoes. Due to the water situation we could not sell fresh food such as cheese, bacon etc.
The other pub in the village, The Keepers Arms was a Cheltenham Original House run by Mrs Hathaway. In the mid to late 1950’s it was put on the market and bought by Hunt Edmunds. The Banbury Brewery then had two pubs in Cold Aston and indicated that it wanted to close one village pub. I don’t know what deal was struck, but the Plough Inn remained open and, upon closure, our village shop moved the the old Keepers.
The above-ground cellar (in the late ’50’s) was situated were the present day entrance to the gents toilets is. The barrels of Hunt Edmunds beers were loaded unto wooden trams around the whitewashed walls with crates of bottles stored underneath. With the customers sat in the bars some distance away it required many trips down the corridor to keep the glasses replenished, especially on busy darts nights. At this time the pub could boast two teams in the Bourton District Darts League.
The entrance door to the present pub has not moved. Prior to 1963 you entered into an ‘L’ shaped passage and on the left was the entrance to the public bar, at the bottom on the left the passage led to the cellar whilst immediately right was the door to the post office. Also on the right was a door to the small lounge bar, and straight ahead was the door to our living room. (which is now the serving bar and cellar).
Many changes and improvements were undertaken in 1963 by owners Hunt Edmunds with hot and cold water installed for the first time. New public toilets were installed in our old kitchen with the living room becoming the new serving bar and cellar. Our new living area was in the converted original cellar.
This was the start of a ‘golden decade’ for the Plough. Every weekend the pub used to be full. ‘Chicken in the basket’ was a big attraction and entertainment was provided by Maude on the piano (who reminded me of Les Dawson!)
The biggest change during this time was the acquisition of Hunt Edmunds by Bass Charrington who seemed intent on pushing sales of M&B Brew XI at the Plough. Gradually for various reasons, including the breakdown of my parents marriage, saw the pub slowly slip into decline. By the time of my fathers death it was only just covering costs. I declined the opportunity of becoming landlord and the property was put on the market by Bass and was sold at auction at the Old New Inn in Bourton on the Water for £79,000.
Gloucestershire Echo, 15th October 1997 – Restaurant opened: The Plough Inn in the Cotswolds village of Cold Aston has opened its long-awaited restaurant. The cosy 34-seater restaurant has the charm of oak beams and the atmosphere of the 16th century bar downstairs. It is now able to take bookings for the upstairs restaurant and private parties for any occasion are particularly welcome.
The restaurant is open every Friday and Saturday evening and every Sunday lunchtime with a set menu of three courses and coffee for £10.95. The Plough Inn still serves food seven days a week, lunch and evening sessions in the bar 12 to 2pm, 6.30 to 10pm. Christmas day lunch, Boxing Day lunch and Christmas parties are in the restaurant.
Gloucestershire Echo – Commercial Property, 5th October 1999 – Catering pair take reins at gourmet Cotswold pub: The Plough Inn at Cold Aston has been sold by the Cirencester office of national hotel and pub agents Robert Barry & Co. The new owners are Louise Newton and Todd Bignall, both of whom have been in the catering business for some eight years, including a period at the Lygon Arms in Broadway. Although the final sale price was not disclosed, Robert Barry & Co were originally asking £295,000.
Wilts & Glos Standard, 11th October 2001 – The magic of Thailand comes to rural pub: A Cold Aston pub’s new owners are to bring a touch of the exotic Orient to the heart of the Cotswolds countryside. David Slatford, 50, and his Thai wife, Kunlaya, 27, will add Thai food to the menu served at The Plough Inn after buying the 323-year-old pub for £385,000.
Kunlaya, who ran a small catering business in Thailand, is using her expertise to make some of the finest dishes from her eastern homeland. The couple, neither of who have any previous trade experience, met when Mr Slatford went to Thailand on holiday while working in Hong Kong. They have two children; Sarah, three, and Julie, one.
The Plough, built in 1678, presently closes on Mondays but the couple plan to reopen it on that day in order to hold a Thai food evening. They also plan to extend The Plough’s range of real ales.
Commercial Property, 20th March 2007 – Delightful pub is in new hands: A delightful 17th Century freehouse in the heart of the Cotswolds has been sold on behalf of a former actor and is set to reopen under new ownership with a new chef from a Michelin-starred establishment. The Bristol office of leading pub agents, Christie & Co., has sold The Plough on behalf of David Fennell, a former actor, who had owned the freehouse for over four years. He now plans to spend more time at his property in France and go back to acting.
The new owners of the Plough Inn are Philip and Annette Mason-Gordon, for whom this is a first purchase, although they have over 13 years’ experience in the hotel and catering industry in London and Oxford. They have employed a new chef, Karl Smith, who previously worked at the acclaimed Star Inn in Harome, North Yorkshire, which has a Michelin star for its restaurant and won the Egon Ronay Gastropub of the Year 2006 amongst many other awards.
The pub currently comprises a main bar and open plan dining areas to seat 45, as well as two-bedroom owner’s accommodation with roof terrace, a staff flat, trade car park and a raised front sun terrace to seat around 50 customers. The Plough is set in a large plot and has secured full planning permission for five en-suite letting units and staff accommodation to the rear of the plot.
The new owners, Philip and Annette Mason-Gordon intend to carry out an extensive refurbishment before reopening with a new chef. The Plough Inn was sold for an undisclosed figure after Christie & Co sought £575,000 for the freehold interest.
Gloucestershire Echo, 13th August 2012 – £500,000 plan to bring an old village pub back to life: When passionate foodie Nick Avery relaunches a village pub he hopes to combine two businesses close to his heart. The 33-year-old, who has bought the Plough Inn at Cold Aston, near Bourton on the Water, is investing £500,000 to turn around the fortunes of the ailing hostelry which has been closed for nearly two years. And he’ll give a huge boost to 600-acre arable Grove Farm, run by dad Chris, in the process.
“We’ll be growing a lot of our own veg and have access to sheep and cattle as we rent permanent grass land to farmer Alistair Baffon. There’s also a very high quality pheasant and partridge shoot on our land.”
Nick has been an integral part of the village and farm since his dad came from South Africa 20 years ago. Even though he ran his own business in office refurbishment for three years in Warwick, he regularly helps out on the land and has since moved back. But taking on this whole new career could be more of a gamble than most as the grade II listed pub, dating to the 1600’s, needs a complete overhaul.
“It’s a big decision to make and I didn’t do it light heartedly,” he said. “It’s been languishing for nearly two years because it was stripped out for refurbishment by its previous owners who then pulled out. Nobody wanted to buy it because it was going to be an awful lot of money to get it back into a functioning pub. It’s in a bit of a state and needs some TLC – but I relish a challenge and have a huge passion for food and produce.
“There’s going to be some significant extensions – with more space at the front for the restaurant, a total re-development of the internal layout, including the kitchen, a roof refurbishment and re-landscaping outside. My vision is to create a lively and commercially viable pub retaining its original character but with a contemporary feel.” He added: “There’s a lot of local goodwill – villagers have been nothing but helpful and really want it open. It’s always been part of the village’s fabric.”
Gloucestershire Echo, Friday 27th June 2014 – Reborn pub is a hit with real ale fans: Owners of a Cotswold pub are savouring the sweet taste of success after scooping a prestigious award. The Plough Inn at Cold Aston has been named Pub of the Year by the North Cotswolds branch of the Campaign for Real Ale. It comes just over a year after the 17th century venue was rescued by married couple Nick and Laura Avery. After being closed for three years, the pair spent 10 months renovating it before welcoming customers back.
Nick said: “We are delighted to receive the award. When we opened it was one of goals to get recognition from CAMRA, bit to get it within our first year is fantastic.”
Owner in 1891: Job Packer
Rateable value in 1891: £10.13s.0d.
Type of license in 1891: Beerhouse
Owner in 1903: Dunnell & Sons
Rateable value in 1903: £12.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1903: Beerhouse
Closing time in 1903: 10pm
Landlords at the Plough Inn include:
1891 Job Packer
1903 Francis Jacques
1939 Samuel Richard Trigg
1953-1979 Harry Thornhill
1993 Arthur King
1999 Louise Newton and Todd Bignall
2001 David and Kunlaya Slatford
2003-2007 David Fennell
2007 Philip and Annette Mason-Gordon
2012 Nick and Laura Avery