The Restoration Inn was owned by Clarence Mason Dobell & Cyrus Faulkner Dobell in 1891 and 1903. The premise licence was for an ale house and during that time the annual rateable value remained constant at £97.15s.0d. Dobell’s was free from brewery tie.
The 15th century Restoration Inn, located on the eastern side of the junction of Grosvenor Street (click to see road map), is probably Cheltenham’s oldest pub. It was trading when Cheltenham was just a small linear settlement straddled along the River Chelt. It is thought that the landlord in c1660 changed the name of the pub in honour of the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne of England. In the second half of the nineteenth century the firm of John Dobell & Co. acquired the Restoration Inn. John Dobell & Co had been founded in 1836 as a wine and spirit merchant and operated from bonded warehouse in the Lower High Street. The business built up a small chain of pubs of which four were in Cheltenham – the White Hart, Britannia, St Albans and the Restoration. All of these took on a distinct corporate identity, featuring sparse surroundings, the best quality drinks, the widest choice, the largest measures and the lowest prices in town. The pubs attracted all members of society, both rich and poor. In 1958 the business of Dobell’s was acquired by Friary, Holroyd and Healey Ltd of Guildford. They, in turn, were taken over by Allied Breweries in 1964. For the next twenty five years or so the Restoration was an Ind Coope selling Double Diamond keg beer.
Over the years internal refurbishment and modernisation have altered the original layout of the pub beyond all recognition.
The Citizen, Monday October 4th, 1982: Facelift for Historic Building – The oldest standing building in Cheltenham – the Restoration Inn – is to undergo a spot of restoration. The pub has been bought by Inn Leisure Ltd., the Gloucestershire based company which owns 20 wine bars and real ale public houses including Corkers in Barton Street, the largest wine bar in the Southwest of England. Managing director Mr Michael Cannon, has promised that every facet possible of the original character of the pub will be retained.
July 1983: A thousand balloons were launched today to mark the reopening of one of Cheltenham’s oldest public houses. About £400,000 have been invested in the redevelopment of the Restoration Inn in Grosvenor Street. The 15th century inn is believed to be the oldest building in the town centre, but fell into disrepair after it closed down almost two years ago. Cheltenham based Inn Leisure took over the site and renovation began at the end of last year.
Gloucestershire Echo, 22nd November 1999 – Drinkers in CS gas scare: More than 100 drinkers fled after CS spray was set off at a Cheltenham town centre pub. The Restoration Inn in High Street was packed with drinkers when the spray was used to attack a doorman at 9.45pm last night. The spray attacks the eyes, nose and throat and is used by police to disable violent people. It spread inside the busy bar and customers ran for the exits, coughing and wiping tears from their eyes.
Gloucestershire Echo, 11th January 2002 – Fire wrecks pub kitchen: Customers had to be evacuated from a town centre pub after fire spread in the kitchen. It is believed cooking oil left unattended on the hob started the fire at the Restoration Inn in Cheltenham High Street. A woman in her 30’s who was in the kitchen tried to put out the flames with an extinguisher but was overcome by smoke.
Fire and emergency services were called to the scene and helped the woman out. She was given oxygen and taken to Cheltenham General Hospital having suffered serious smoke inhalation. Fire service Station Officer David Lane said: “She did the right thing by using dry powder to put out the fire, but the smoke became too think and she caught a lot of it.”
A pall of acrid grey smoke could be seen rising from the back of the pub yesterday lunchtime. Three fire engines and 5 firefighters put out the flames and hacked the kitchen roof open with pikes and axes to let the smoke out. Gallons of water were then poured inside the premises to extinguish all remains of the fire. Firefighters used two hose reels and four breathing apparatus during the operation.
Mr Lane said: “We had to take all the cladding and boarding out to make sure there wasn’t any smoke trapped inside. We also helped the woman with our oxygen therapy unit before she was taken in the ambulance.”
Police were called out to divert traffic from the High Street down St James Street to protect fire crews. The High Street reopened one hour after the 1.30pm incident.
Gloucestershire Echo, 1st October 2004 – Drinkers evacuated as blaze breaks out in pub: Drinkers had to be evacuated from Cheltenham’s historic Restoration pub when a fire broke out in a boiler room. An aerosol can is thought to have exploded, causing the blaze at 3.30pm yesterday. A member of staff was taken to hospital and 20 people were evacuated. An investigation is being launched into the cause of the blaze.
Gloucestershire Echo, 14th October 2004 – Pub is restored to former glory: The Restoration pub is due to reopen tomorrow following a fire earlier this month. Workmen have been busy at the 15th century inn in Cheltenham High Street since the blaze on October 1st. It was hoped it would be ready for last night’s England football match but owners underestimated the work. Although the boiler rom fire only damaged a small area, smoke billowed into the bar covering everything with soot. The whole interior needed repainting and the electrics fixing.
Manager Tracy Parnell said: “The bar area was the main thing. We’ve had a paint job all the way round. We’ve also got to paint the outside and put new lights up so it’s like a mini refit.”
Tracy said the fire had cost two weeks’ business but provided a chance to renovate the pub. She said: “we’ve just got to finish off now, it’s not too bad. It’s just a shame we missed the two England games.”
Gloucestershire Echo, 31st December 2004 – Man seriously injured after falling down hatch: A man was seriously injured after plummeting down a trapdoor outside the Restoration pub. Customers in the inn watched in horror as the man plunged through the trapdoor in the pavement yesterday. A police spokesman said the 61-year old from Derby appeared to have fallen 3ft down the hatch into the cellar. He was taken to Cheltenham General Hospital suffering from abdominal injuries which were not thought to be life-threatening.
A spokesman for Barracuda Group, which owns the pub, said: “We’ve got the Environmental Health officers on site and we’re working closely with them and our suppliers to establish how this accident happened.”
Gloucestershire Echo, 9th August 2006 – Date set for trial of town pub: The owners of the Restoration pub in Cheltenham will have to wait until December to stand trial. Bosses are in trouble after a pedestrian fell through a cellar door in the pavement. Barracuda Group Limited denied seven health and safety charges at an earlier hearing at Cheltenham Magistrates Court in May. Allegations relate to whether the firm properly examined the safety risks on the premises.
Cheltenham Borough Council. Planning. 26th June 2007 – Restoration Inn, 57 High Street, Cheltenham: ‘Internal alterations to bar and servery’.
Gloucestershire Echo, 12th October 2007 – Pub Talk – Varsity throws open its doors to uni students: Varsity has opened in the former Restoration pub in Cheltenham High Street. Aimed squarely at the student market, Varsity retains the 16th century frontage and parlour but opens out to a large open space in the main bar. This space was particularly appreciated by the stilt-walking juggler at the opening, who had to bend almost double in the older part of the pub. Even on its first night the place was packed out with students, including a band of pirates. One of the cut throats, Melanie Beckett said: “We used to come here before, it’s much nicer now.”
In keeping with its name, you can even do your homework in Varsity. There is free wi-fi web access, to allow the clientele to download their latest essay from t’internet.
Once past the Tudor entrance (and the free champagne on opening) you are in a large student bar; lots of space for vertical drinking, a big bar selling the usual range of branded beers, ciders and sticky spirits and alcopops. The music is pumped up high, you can cram in with a gang of mates and make as much noise as you like and there’s loads more room for more people to check out the talent.
Manager Nick Richardson said: “This is the only pub in the Varsity chain to keep its old name, because we realise the heritage of the pub. We have a V-card system. It costs £2 to buy and gives up to 25 per cent of drinks and food.
Gloucestershire Echo, 29th May 2010 – Pair will restore pub back to former glory (by Fiona Dryden): A student sports bar is returning to its roots. New managers at the Varsity, in Cheltenham High Street, say they want to change the venue back to the Restoration – as it was known before it was given a makeover in 2007.
Steven Holmes and his father-in-law are taking on the new venture. “We’re going back to a more traditional style and doing away with some of our screens,” said Steven. The pair are preparing to shut the pub for a short period on June 6th. They hope to re-open in time for the World Cup, but Steven said: “Of course we want the spin-off trade from the World Cup, but we’re moving away from being a sports bar because people tend to turn up for 90 minutes and leave when a match is finished. That means we have few regulars and that’s not good for drinkers. We will still have screens, but not as many. We’re ripping up the floor and putting an old wooden one down with some carpeting in places and we’re changing the decor. The colour scheme has yet to be decided, but we’re thinking of burgundy and cream at the moment.”
The menu is set to change, with a move away from cheap chips and burgers. Steven, who has recently returned from Dubai where he was working, said: “It’s been very student orientated – so lots of cheap food. It will still be reasonably priced, but there will be more on offer to suit different tastes. We’re also going to add more real ales so we’ll have 12 in total and Peroni on tap. We’re really excited about the changes we’re making. It’s costing in the region of £100,000, but we hope those people who appreciate traditional pubs will enjoy coming here and make it a regular stop.”
Dale Chapman, a former regular at the Restoration, said: “It will be great to see the Restoration back to how it used to be. I think a lot of old customers have been put off by the students. Hopefully we will have a return to how it used to be. It was a cracking pub with real character.”
Gloucestershire Echo, Thursday 7th December 2017 – Restoring pride to the oldest pub in town (by Conor Gogarty): Cheltenham’s oldest pub is “unrecognisable” after undergoing a revamp. The Old Restoration, on the High Street, was established in 1661. Husband and wife managers Ian and Tracy Newbold, say there has been “shock” from customers at the recent facelift.
Mr Newbold said: “The refurbishment has been talked about since the Butcombe Brewery took over in July 2016. Over the last five years it has gone through three or four different owners. We went into administration, but the pub has pretty much always remained open, which is pretty cool.”
The recent work included a facelift for the pub’s front, while new seating, tables and furniture were brought in. Mr Newbold said: “There was a lack of unity because we had gone through so many changes. Now it is traditional with a modern twist. There has been a fantastic reception.” The Old Restoration now stocks more than 20 craft beers and ales, with six Butcombe drinks on draught. A games room with retro video games and table football has also been a popular addition.
Displayed on a wall is the pub’s old sign. Ahead of a previous revamp more than a decade ago, a customer stole the sign and gave it back to Mr Newbold once work was finished, because he had been scared it would be lost.
The Restoration Inn is now owned by Butcombe Brewery.
Landlords / Proprietors of the Restoration Inn include:
1891,1903 Clarence Mason Dobell & Cyrus Faulkner Dobell
1999,2002 Karen Leeming (manager)
2004 Tracy Parnell (manager)
2004,2006 Ian Newbold
2007 Nick Richardson (Varsity at the Restoration)
2017 Ian and Tracy Newbold