The 18th century Royal Oak was originally two cottages that were merged into one when it was opened as a pub. It is set in extensive grounds with views extending to the Vale of Evesham. The Royal Oak boasts its own tennis courts and, at the bottom of the garden, borders onto the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway.
Dennis Taylor emailed me and told me that his mother, when a young girl, used to give train drivers beer at the bottom of the garden. Steam and heritage diesel trains still pass by on route between Broadway and Cheltenham Race Course.
Bob Willison, the landlord of the Royal Oak from 1983 to 2000, converted the pub stables into a pottery studio. As well as running the Royal Oak he made all the pub’s tableware, plates, bowls, jugs, cups, etc., himself.
In 2000 the Royal Oak was put on the market with an asking price of £575,000 and regulars in the village organised a syndicate to buy it themselves. Contracts were exchanged on 26th June 2000. Roger Wasley, a member of the village syndicate said: “we want to preserve it as a country pub.. we don’t want one of the large chains coming in and turning it into a themed pub.”
In June 2001 the Royal Oak hosted the first Gretton Beer and Music Festival. The three day event celebrated the first anniversary of the pub being owned by a syndicate of locals. Twenty five beers were on offer including a specially produced Gretton Gold from the nearby Goffs Brewery. There were some excellent ales available including Oakham Ales Jeffrey Hudson Bitter for £1.60 a pint. A tug-of-war competition was organised by the retained fire fighters from Winchcombe. Twelve bands entertained the crowds ranging from blues, folk and rock music. The Gretton Beer and Music Festival held ten years later in July 2011 raised £1,700 for a Malawian charity for cancer treatment.
In November 2002 Goffs, the Winchcombe based independent brewery, announced that they had taken on the lease of the Royal Oak. Marcus Goff said: “The Royal Oak is a traditional inn which prides itself on the quality of its ales and good wholesome food. We think we have the necessary skills in both these areas to grow the inn’s already excellent reputation.”
Nick Bennett, a spokesman for Goffs Brewery, had the best intentions for the residents of Gretton and the success of the Royal Oak when he proposed that the adjoining two-acre field could be used in the summer months for events like showing films on giant screens, open air concerts or even for staging Shakespeare plays. The local press misinterpreted the plans and claimed that “an American style drive-in cinema is planned for an 18th century Gloucestershire Pub.” An enraged local resident wrote to the Gloucestershire Echo: “What could be less traditional than a huge screen in the middle of a field showing films, accompanied by soundtracks booming out the obscene expletives which we find in most modern films?” In reply Marcus Goff said: “It is not our intention to turn this historic pub into a drive-in movie theatre. Under no circumstances do we wish to upset our neighbours.”
The Royal Oak was acquired by Matthew and Wendy Brown in 2012, who were also running the Wesley House Restaurant in Winchcombe. They spent two months refurbishing the pub and brought in Rob Owen as head chef. Locally produced food was sourced wherever possible. Rob said: “I’m fed up of having nowhere to take my family to eat. There are places with amazing food but they’re not child friendly. The places which are child friendly serve terrible food.”
This page will be updated with additional information.
Owner in 1891: James Smart (free from brewery tie)
Rateable value in 1891: £22.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1891: Beerhouse
Owner in 1903: Mrs James Smart (free from brewery tie)
Rateable value in 1903: £20.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1903: Beerhouse
Closing time in 1903: 10pm
Landlords at the Royal Oak include:
1891 William Smart
1903 John Day
1915 William Keyte (previously at the Unicorn Inn, Winchcombe).
1939 Joseph F. Frost
1982 Tim Eager (moved to the Queens Head, Stow)
1983 – 2000 Bob and Cathy Williamson
2000 Neil Brennan