The Tunnel House is a classic Gloucestershire pub. It was originally built as the New Inn in the 1780’s for the navvies working on the two mile long Sapperton tunnel on the Thames & Severn canal. There was a huge loss of life during digging of the tunnel in 1788-90. The inn provided lodgings for the navvies and occasionally the Tunnel House was used as a makeshift mortuary. When the canal was operational the tunnel had to be negotiated by ‘legging’, a slow laborious and physically demanding process, which necessitated the consumption of several pints beer by the ‘leggers’ as means of compensation for the arduous task. The ornate southern portal of the canal tunnel is only a few yards from the inn.
The Tunnel House was badly damaged by fire on January 17th 1952. The ‘Standard’ reported on Saturday 26th 1952: ‘A second outbreak of fire at Tunnel House Inn early last Friday morning approximately 24 hours after firemen had been first called to the scene, completely destroyed the building, leaving only the bare walls standing. It was not until 4 o’clock the previous day that firemen from Cheltenham who had relieved the Cirencester brigade, left the scene, confident that the blaze had been extinguished, after hoses had been played on it all day. Workmen on Friday morning saw smoke again coming from the building and the Cirencester brigade were called. On their arrival they found the remaining part of the inn already in flames and within a few minutes of their arrival the roof collapsed into the basement. A strange feature of the fire is that the sign above the door was left intact and not even scorched.’ When the pub was eventually rebuilt the top floor was removed which gave the Tunnel House a different roof line.
The daughter of Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, Candida Lycett Green wrote in ‘The Oldie’: “Along the bar and around the two log fires are the most eclectic mix of people and objects imaginable. Hearty fresh faced Cirencester students, arty bearded and crocheted craftsmen, their women in felt hats with babies on their hips, horse girls in puffas and jods with Jilly Cooper giggles, local farm workers with tractor oil up to their armpits and nattily suited estate agents from Tetbury. There are piles of old copies of Hello!, stuffed weasels and otters, mad sofas, redundant dentists’ chairs, copper pans, old advertising signs, carnations in cut-glass vases, juke-box and fruit machines (seemingly soundless and on their lowest volume at lunch time anyway), good stew, postcards of pert gigantic breasts on sunny beaches and photographs of racehorses winning at Cheltenham….” The advertising signs that Candida refers to include Stroud Brewery and other brewery signs.
It is believed that the Trouble House is currently closed, hopefully only temporarily. (May 2022)
This page will be updated with additional information.
Map Reference: SO 965005
Owner in 1891: Earl Bathurst of Cirencester Park (free from brewery tie)
Rateable Value in 1891: £18.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1891: Alehouse
Owner in 1903: Earl Bathurst of Cirencester Park (free from brewery tie)
Rateable Value in 1903: £12.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1903: Alehouse
Closing time in 1903: 10pm
Landlords at the Tunnel House include:
1891,1903 Joseph Norton.
1913 Mr R.B. Norton
1952 Phillip George Brown
1981,1999 Chris Kite
2007 Andrew Freeland