The Twelve Bells has origins that go back to the 16th century. There is reference in 1846 to a beer house called ‘The Bell’ at Crickley. I am assuming that this is an early reference to the Twelve Bells. There is also a mention of ‘The Three Bells’ in Witcombe. By 1891 the number of bells in the pub had quadrupled to twelve! The name of the pub is a bit of a mystery. Witcombe Church only had two bells in 1891, and four more were added in 1901 in memory of the late Elizabeth Caroline Hicks Beach. Gloucester Cathedral, however, has twelve bells but the City of Gloucester is six miles or so to the west. To confuse matters further the pub sign had a painting of Cirencester Church!
The landlord in 1891, George Hawkins, also ran the village bakery from the pub. In the 1960’s the Twelve Bells was enlarged and an adjoining farm workers cottage became part of the pub. In 1966 a T-bone steak with chips and mushrooms cost just £14s.6d.
The Citizen: 13th April, 1971 – Boycott threat as support for sacked licensee grows – With no sign of a brewery reprieve for Mr. Morris Billington, the popular licensee who is under notice to quit the Twelve Bells Inn at Witcombe, some of the customers and staff are now threatening to boycott the place when he leaves. Today, Mr Billington, who had a row with the brewery about a new sign they wanted to put up learned, through The Citizen, why he had been given notice to quit the pub by the end of the year.
A press statement issued by Whitbread Flowers at their Cheltenham headquarters said: “It is perfectly true that as a result of a series of incidents during the past year or two, it was suggested to Mr Billington last December that he should give the company notice and perhaps start afresh in the trade with another brewery company. As Mr Billington refused to do this, he was, in accordance with the terms of his agreement, given 12 months notice to vacate the Twelve Bells. Mr Billington has appealed to both the Western district and the national committees of the National Federation of Licensed Victuallers, who are aware of all the circumstances. When Mr Billington leaves the Twelve Bells, preference will be given to applications from our existing tenants.”
Mr Billington, who said he had not been told before why he was given notice, commented: “It is nice at least to know why I have been ordered to quit. But I am doing my utmost to stay.”
Since the village petition for him to stay was publicised over the weekend, first in The Citizen, he has been inundated with calls from well-wishers, and a second petition is going around. Some of his customers say they will no longer support the Twelve Bels if he goes and today Mrs Anne Parry, who has worked in the kitchen there for over two years said: “The day Mr and Mrs Billington leave, I shall walk out too. We are all very happy out here. A lot of our customers say they won’t come out if Mr Billington has to go. People come here from long distances, from Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud, because they like the good service, the good food and the good atmosphere.”
The Twelve Bells was once on the main route from Gloucester to Cirencester on Ermin Street, an ancient Roman Road. When the Brockworth by-pass was opened in the winter of 2005 the Twelve Bells lost most of its passing trade – it is now on a B-road. However, the Twelve Bells is still a popular Beefeater restaurant and has an adjoining Premier Inn.
This page will be updated with additional information.
Map Reference: SO 904157
Rateable Value in 1891: £15.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1891: Beerhouse
Owner in 1891: Benjamin Trimmer (leased Arnold Perrett & Co. Ltd., Wickwar Brewery)
Rateable Value in 1903: £15.0s.0d.
Type of licence in 1903: Beerhouse
Owner in 1903: Benjamin Trimmer (leased Arnold Perrett & Co. Ltd., Wickwar Brewery)
Closing time in 1903: 10pm
Owner in 2005: Whitbread Group Plc.
Landlords at the Twelve Bells include:
1846 Arthur Rogers (Bell, Crickley) (Arthur Rogers had left by 1849)
1885 Mrs Wager
1891 George Hawkins
1897,1906 Leonard Steel
1919 Mrs Louisa Steel
1927 William Joseph Lashford
1939 G.C. Long
1962 Mr Billington
1981 Morris Billington
1999 James Bond