History of The Fleece Inn
Landlord of the Flece Inn, Nigel Smith, is happy to talk about the history (to anyone who'll listen!). Private tours & talks can be booked on 01386 831173.
"On behalf of our Probus Club Members who attended the presentation on the history of The Fleece and Lunch yesterday, I wish to express our thanks for what was both an interesting and enjoyable visit. Nigel, you brought over 600 years of local history alive with your talk and the lunch was excellent. The beer tasting session was an opportunity for the few who participated to try something different. "
The Fleece Inn is without equal in England and has played an enormous part in six centuries of Cotswold history.
It was originally built as a longhouse in the time of Chaucer by a farmer named Byrd and remained in the ownership of a single family for virtually the whole time. It has remained largely undisturbed in its architecture since the mid 17th century.
A pub steeped in history like The Fleece has many stories to tell. The building was already 71 years old when the Lancastrians marched by on their way to final defeat in the Wars of the Roses at the Battle of Tewksbury, and it was 200 years old when the Gunpowder Plotters rode past on their ill-fated attempt to blow up Parliament.
But it's the people who make a pub and its last private owner, Miss Lola Taplin, whose character is most stamped on The Fleece (or 'The Ark' as is was known to the local folk).
A direct descendent of the man who built the inn, she lived in it for all her 77 years until she passed away in 1977 in front of the fire in the snug. Lola bequeathed the inn to The National Trust making it the first pub in the country to be owned by the charity.
Lola Taplin is fondly remembered in The Fleece and local folklore has it that she still watches over the pub and its people in the incarnation of an owl that sits on the ridge of the thatched barn.
Tragically The Fleece itself nearly passed into history at midday on 27th February 2004, when a spark from a chimney set fire to its thatch and aged timbers.
Precious antiques were rescued by the locals while fire fighters tackled the blaze to save the inn from total destruction.
A massive renovation programme followed, the first since the 17th century. The Fleece was carefully restored to retain its integrity and traditional features; the atmosphere and architecture have also remained unchanged. The Pewter collection that has been on open display for over 300 years has been restored and the witch circles repainted, in accordance with local tradition, to prevent witches from entering down the chimneys.