Wilts & Glos Standard, Friday 10th May 1974 – Publican and wife are threatened and robbed: An elderly publican and wife were threatened with a carving knife by two masked men who broke into their bedroom in the early hours of Monday morning. The two robbers, wearing nylon stockings over their faces, warned the landlord of he Red Lion at Ampney St Peter, Mr Horace Wilkins, that if he did not do what he was told it would be ‘bad for his wife.’

They broke in through a kitchen window at the side of the house, awakened Mr and Mrs Wilkins and asked for the cash which they took from a small cupboard in the kitchen. After stealing about £100 they went into the public bar and took 2,000 cigarettes and five bottles of drink which they put in a crisp box.

Speaking after the ordeal on Monday, Mr Wilkins said he was none the worse for his experience but he was worried in case his wife would suffer from delayed shock. “The men told me if I did not co-operate my wife would suffer and they held her hostage. They were here about ten minutes, then when they went they told us to stay in the bedroom. I raised the alarm within two minutes and the police were here very quickly.”

When I am interviewed about my research into the history of Gloucestershire pubs and breweries I am usually asked the clichéd question: “What is your favourite pub?”  In Gloucestershire there are so many classic pubs it is not an easy question to answer. But there is one pub that, for me, stood out head and shoulders above the rest – the Red Lion at Ampney St Peter.

The tiny pub was a living time warp, lovingly looked after by owner John Barnard who bought it from Whitbread in 1975. Sadly John has now passed away and, in a way, the Red Lion died with him. When John ran the Red Lion is was totally unspoilt and its great strength lied in its simplicity. The interior had not changed for decades and the intimacy of this small roadside inn would have been familiar to generations of drinkers. The Red Lion was included in the CAMRA National Inventory of Pub Interiors of Outstanding Historic Interest, such was its importance.

The Tippler. Spring 1998. The magazine for the Gloucestershire Branch of CAMRA.

The much-loved late John Barnard behind ‘the bar’ at the Red Lion

The Red Lion had two distinct rooms but did not have a bar area. Behind a simple wooden bench were shelves containing bottles, optics and glasses and a wall mounted beer engine in the corner drew beer from the cellar. There was one table in the small bar, which encouraged conversation between people who would not usually speak to each other. Instead of chairs the pub had a simple line of benches and a simple window seat. A second room to the left of the entrance was equally cosy but has no bar. Of course the great irony is that there were once many pubs in Gloucestershire with such a simple and traditional layout, but ill conceived ‘improvements’ have decimated the heritage of our pub interiors.

Alan Stevens of CAMRA in Gloucester.
Alan Stevens and John Barnard.

John Barnard celebrated his 80th birthday on 18th September 2008. John was not keen on himself being the centre of attraction. One of the people who insisted on visiting John on his birthday was a brewery representative from Timothy Taylor’s brewery in Keighley. Yorkshire. John was highly regarded as a skilled cellarman and kept his beer in tip-top condition. The rep from Taylors Brewery confirmed that John keeps one of the very best pints of their ‘Landlord’ bitter outside their Yorkshire trading area.

The brewery rep from Timothy Taylor’s Keighley Brewery.
Locals celebrating John’s 80th Birthday.

Since John died the pub has been closed to the public. It is difficult to envisage how the unspoilt layout of the interior could be retained if the pub was to reopen as it is clearly not suited for a sustainable modern business. John effectively ran the Red Lion as a ‘hobby pub’ and the harsh reality is that it could never be the same again.

The pub sign bracket dated from the days of the Stroud Brewery (see above photo)

Map Reference: SP 089014

Licensing Details:

Owner in 1891: Messrs. Cook, Tetbury Brewery

Rateable Value in 1891: £17.7s.6d.

Type of licence in 1891: Alehouse

Owner in 1903: Messrs. Cook, Tetbury Brewery

Type of licence in 1903: Alehouse

Owner in 1913: Stroud Brewery Company

Landlords at the Red Lion include:

1891,1913 James Wilkins (listed as Red Lion, Eastington in 1913)

1974 Horace Wilkins

1975 – John Barnard (died Sunday 7th December 2014)

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