History of the Oakle Street Hotel or Silent Whistle at Oakle Street in Churcham in the county of Gloucestershire.


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Some history of the Oakle Street Hotel

The Oakle Street Hotel in the parish of Churcham stood on the western side of the road from which it took its name. This is thought to derive from an avenue of oak trees that once stood here. Oakle Street is ancient for it was once a Roman route connecting Ermine Way and the Gloucester branch of the Via Julia, the main link between Isca Augusta at Caerleon with Calleva Atrebatum at Silchester.

I believe that the Oakle Street Hotel was built by Wintle's Brewery Limited. The Forest Steam Brewery were certainly recorded as the building's owners by 1891, some twelve years after the hotel was opened. An application for a new licence for the Oakle Street Hotel was made in 1878 but it was a full calendar year before the magistrates were satisfied with the outbuildings of the house. The Bench wanted to be satisfied that adequate provision for horses and livestock was made in order for the hotel to be considered a public convenience next to the railway station. A deputy of the magistrates was sent to inspect the premises before the application for a licence by Mr. G. W. Haines on behalf of Henry Wheeler of Churcham. Mr. Haines handed in a numerously-signed petition from the parishioners of Churcham and told the Bench that Henry Wheeler had the confidence of local people. Furthermore, Mr. Vallinder, a church warden, spoke as to the good character of the applicant. Accordingly, a licence for the Oakle Street Hotel was granted on August 30th 1879.

Former Oakle Street Hotel at Churcham in Gloucestershire [2018]

Once the case for the licence of the Oakle Street Hotel was settled a grand opening night was planned. The event was celebrated with a public dinner at five o'clock on Friday October 10th, 1879. Tickets for the event were priced at three shillings each. The dinner was followed by a public meeting in the large room at which several local dignitaries were invited to speak.

At the time of the grand opening Henry Wheeler was forty years old. Both he and his wife Thirza hailed from Chippenham. The couple moved to Oakle Street as a result of Henry working for the railway company as a porter. He had previously worked at Paddington. The couple's elder children were all born in London. Henry's father Joseph worked as a brewer so he would have had some form of experience with the licensed trade at an early age. Henry Wheeler was appointed as station master but when the opportunity of running the Oakle Street Hotel arose Henry and Thirza made the decision to settle in the parish rather than move again with the railway company.

Annual Fete and Gala at the Oakle Street Hotel at Churcham in Gloucestershire [1886]

Henry and Thirza Wheeler played a key role in making the Oakle Street Hotel a cornerstone of the local social and sporting scene. The key event in the calendar was the Annual Fête and Gala which boosted the pub's trade considerably. For example, in 1890 special trains from Gloucester and other parts of the railway line brought many hundreds of visitors to Oakle Street, a matter of yards from the hotel. The fine weather ensured a bumper crowd. The events started at 10am when members of the Court Royal Oak paraded before sitting down to a dinner provided by the Wheeler family. The Mitcheldean Brass Band played throughout the afternoon where, on the field, in addition to amusements such as coconut bowling, games such as Aunt Sally were keenly contested. Several cups were awarded to the winners of the horse races held later in the day. There were also foot races and a tug-of-war between the villages of Churcham and Minsterworth.

During other times of the year the Oakle Street Hotel hosted a range of gatherings and events. Pigeon shooting matches were popular at Oakle Street in the late 19th century. Churcham Cricket Club held most of their social gatherings in the hotel, the annual dinner being particularly popular in the pub. The Longford Hounds often met at the Oakle Street Hotel.

I assume that Henry and Thirza Wheeler were tenants rather than managers of the hotel. My reasoning being that, by 1894, they made enough money to move to the nearby Oakle Farm where they lived and worked for many years. They would regularly ride in a light trap to attend Walmore Hill Chapel. Henry Wheeler lived a long life and died in February 1918, aged 79.

Walter and Annabella Bennett were running the Oakle Street Hotel at the turn of the 20th century. Walter was local to the Forest of Dean having been born in Ruardean in 1868. His wife however was from South Shields in County Durham so would have had an unfamiliar accent to the locals. The hotel was still busy enough for the couple to employ Esther Rea as a domestic servant and Nellie Burford as a barmaid. The Bennett family would later move to Mitcheldean from where Walter worked as a travelling salesman for Wintle's Brewery, possibly a case of redeployment by his employers.

More details of the Oakle Street Hotel to follow.....

Related Newspaper Articles

"At the Gloucester County Court, on Tuesday, his Honour Judge Ellicott and a jury had before them a claim for damages arising out alleged brutality to a filly which had resulted in its death. The plaintiff was Mr. Haile, the owner of the filly, and the defendant Mr. Tombs, a horsebreaker in charge of the animal. Mr. Langley-Smith, in opening the case for the plaintiff, said that his client lived at Gamage Court, Lower Ley, Westbury, while the defendant was the landlord of the Oakle Street Hotel, Churcham, and also carried on the business of a horsebreaker. The plaintiff claimed the sum of £l7, being the value of a two-year-old filly entrusted to the defendant by the plaintiff for the purpose of being trained, but in consequence of the gross ill-treatment by the defendant the filly had to be destroyed; and also for breach of contract upon the failure of the defendant to train the filly as agreed. The value of the filly was estimated at £l2, and the damages for the breach of the contract £5. On the 4th of May last his [Mr. Langley-Smith's] client sent three colts to Mr. Tombs, one a two-year-old filly, with instructions to break them. By that was meant fit for harness and for riding and driving. Nothing seemed to have occurred to these colts, or to the one in particular in respect to which the action was brought until the 11th of May, when Mr. Tombs, accompanied by man named Lewis, brought the filly into a yard to break her, but she refused to go. Mr. Tombs went into the harness room and fetched a thick holly stick with a knob on the end. With it he beat the animal about the head and shoulders and then took her off the brake. He next strapped the two fore legs of the animal together, and then with the same stick beat the animal for an hour and a half. On the 16th, notwithstanding all that beating, he told Lewis to take the animal out again to ride, and to put a saddle upon it, and to drive her through Minsterworth. The tying of the fore legs must have impeded the animal's method of locomotion, for on the way the animal lay down in the road and there it stopped for two hours. The evidence would show that the animal was apparently unable to move along the road. The animal was taken home at eleven o'clock, and on the 13th the animal had apparently got so very bad that Mr. Tombs sent for Mr. Holtham, veterinary surgeon, of Gloucester, by telegram saying "Come over to see mare once." Mr. Holtham went down to see the filly and gave directions to what should be done to it. He explained to Mr. Haile his opinion as to the condition of the filly, and in consequence of that explanation Mr. Holtham asked for a gun and shot the animal. Mr. Holtham would not have adopted that extraordinary course unless the animal had been so injured and damaged as to render it necessary. Had the animal lived and been properly broken, Mr. Haile estimated its value would have been £2O. Mr. Haile having given evidence, William Lewis, a groom formerly in the employ of Mr. Tombs, gave evidence, and bore out Mr. Langley-Smith's statement as to the beating of the horse. On a second occasion Mr. Tombs had beaten the filly for half-an-hour with an ash stick. Afterwards Mr. Tombs told him there would probably be a row about it, and he was to make the case as good as possible in court. Mr. Treasure : Do you know that it has been alleged that you had beaten this filly? No, I didn't. In cross examination witness said it was the worst tempered animal he had ever met. Mr. Holtbam, veterinary surgeon, said that an examination of the pony showed that the pony was exceedingly stiff, especially with regard to the off-fore leg. The near eye was nearly closed, the near ear swollen, a large bruise and swelling on the off-fore leg and also on the off-hind leg, The animal was in a serious condition, in great pain, and almost "tucked up." He considered it had been severely dealt with, and ill-used with a stick, to which Mr. Tombs replied that the animal came in late on the previous night in the state in which he had found it. On the 15th May the pony was in a worse condition, and a few days later witness decided it ought be shot, being the most humane thing to do. A post-mortem examination showed great extravasation of blood around the near knee. The shoulder was very much bruised and large quantities of pus were found in the muscle, while the flank was also much bruised and contained pus. In condition it was very much wasted, and did not think it would have lived but a very few hours after he saw it last. It had evidently been ill-treated by somebody, and the bruises corresponded with blows from a stick, which must have been used to an unnecessary extent. The falling down in the road would, however, aggravate the disease. The pony was a very nice one, but its age was against its market value, and he should place it £l2. Cross-examined Mr. Holtham stated that the falling of the filly was probably caused by the formation of pus in the fore legs. The beating of the horse's head must have been the primary cause of the swelling. His Honour: Death was the result of shock to the system from violence caused jointly by the beating and by falling down in the road, but which was the prime cause he could not say. Miss Mary B. Bowden, of Minsterworth Court, and Annie Butler, her housemaid, gave evidence as to the plunging and falling of the filly in the highway. It did not appear to hurt itself. Mr. Treasure, in addressing the jury, having denied that the death of the filly was caused by violence called Defendant, who stated that he had been a horsebreaker since 1892, and had broken over 300 horses since then. The contract was that the three fillies should be broken in for 50s. [Mr. Haile to find hay] in a fortnight. He admitted beating the pony for about 20 minutes with the holly stick, but that was on the near side, and not the off, where the injuries were found. It was the worst-tempered horse he had ever had in his charge, and hobbling was frequently resorted to in such cases. Witness sent his man Lewis out with the filly for a drive, but he went a long drive round Minsterworth against witness's instructions, and the filly was brought back in an injured state, with cuts on the hocks. Cross-examined by Mr. Langley-Smith: Fruitless endeavours were made to find out how the injuries were caused [Mr. Langley-Smith: There was not a tittle of evidence], but nothing could be found about the matter, and he presumed that the falling down to rid herself of the harness accounted for them. When he dismissed Lewis he gave him no reason for so doing, and Lewis did not ask for one. He told Lewis that it would be a law-job and he had better make the best of it. Richard Cole, and Charles Henry Jones, farmers, who saw the animal after the alleged beating, said they saw no signs of any ill-treatment it might have previously received. Several witnesses were called who saw the animal falling and plunging in the road, and their evidence was to the effect that it must have been injured by the heavy way in which it fell. One witness said he saw the horse fall some thirty or forty times. Mr. Langley-Smith having addressed the jury, his Honour pointed out that as regarded the £5 claimed for breach of contract that could not be entertained because the subject-matter of the claim had become defunct, and similarly in the counter-claim only two-thirds of the 50s. could claimed, i.e. 33s. After retirement of about ten minutes the jury returned and gave a verdict for the £l2 for the filly, and 33s. on the counter-claim in accordance with his Honour's above ruling. Mr. Treasure intimated that n order would be necessary, and was granted the rate at £1 a month."
"Action Against an Oakle Street Publican"
Gloucester Journal : August 26th 1899 Page 2

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Related Newspaper Articles

"John Thorn, carrier and baker, of Churcham, was summoned by Mr. William Lewis Williams, landlord of the Oakle Street Hotel, for refusing to quit licensed premises on the 18th March. Prosecutor said on the date named Thorn came into the hotel in the evening and asked for a pint of beer on trust. This witness refused to allow him. Thorn remained in the house for the remainder of the evening, behaving in a rude and annoying fashion, and when witness asked him to leave at 10 o'clock he refused to do so, and took off his hat and coat to fight him. Defendant, who pleaded not guilty, was fined £1 and 14s. costs, or 14 days."
"County Police Intelligence"
Gloucester Journal : April 6th 1895 Page 3

"A very enjoyable dinner, followed by a musical evening, was held at the Oakle Street Hotel on Thursday evening. Mr. B. H. Mayo [of Arnold Perrett and Co.] was the chair, and was ably supported by Dr. Fisher. After the repast was served, songs were rendered by Messrs. Mills, Jones, Vallis, Smith, Wheeler, Brinkworth, and Miss Phelps, Miss Smith accompanying. The toast of "The King" was proposed by the Chairman, also that of "The Host and Hostess" who had contributed to their enjoyment. It was proposed to make the dinner an annual affair. The evening closed with the National Anthem. An apology was received from Mr. D. Wheeler, of Bleak House, was unable to attend owing to illness."
Gloucester Journal : April 8th 1911 Page 11

"At Gloucester County Police Court on Saturday, before Colonel J. F. Curtis-Hayward and other magistrates, John Phelps, licensee of the Oakle Street Hotel, Churcham, was summoned for selling whisky at a price above the maximum on January 13. Mr. G. Trevor Wellington prosecuted on behalf of the Ministry of Food, and Mr. A. Lionel Lane appeared tor the defendant, who pleaded guilty. Mr. Wellington explained that Inspector Whyton, accompanied by ex-P.C. Protherough and another friend, partook three drops of whisky, for which they were charged 9d. each, an overcharge of 4d. in respect to one-fifth of a noggin supplied. He asked the Bench to deal with the case in such a way as to protect the public. Mr. Lane said the defendant had held the license for eleven years and had been a licensee for 20 years, and this was the first case ever brought against him. The whisky was first supplied in the private bar, in which the defendant was entitled to charge 9d. for a drop of whisky. Inadvertently, the defendant made the same charge when the Inspector went into the public bar and ordered similar drinks. The Bench imposed a fine of £l5 and £8 8s. costs."
"Heavy Fine at Gloucester"
Gloucestershire Chronicle : June 19th 1920 Page 2

"Joseph Houldey, 29 Carmarthen Street, was charged at Gloucester County Sessions on Saturday with stealing on February 21st a £1 Treasury note, the property of Thomas Henry Gabb. Mr. A. Lionel Lane represented the accused. Prosecutor, who is a shoeing and general smith, living at Stone End Cottages, Churcham, stated that on the date in question he commenced work at the Stone End Forge at 8 o'clock in the morning, hanging up his coat inside the shop. In one of the inside pockets of the coat was a wallet containing six £1 notes. Between 9 o'clock and 9.15 the defendant visited the forge with a horse to be shod. While witness was shoeing the horse the defendant was in the shop where his [witness's] coat was hanging and which was separated from the forge wall. Defendant left with the horse at 10.20. He was the first customer that morning. and during the time witness was shoeing the horse no one else visited the premises. A little later he missed two notes, and procuring a cycle, he rode to Mr. Harvey's, Oakle Street, where the accused was employed. He there saw the defendant, and told him he had lost two £1 notes since he came to the shop that morning. Accused denied having them, and as witness was leaving he remarked, "I hope you will find them." Witness thereupon returned to the forge and on making a search found a £1 note on the floor behind a bucket underneath where his coat had been hanging. He again saw the accused, and told him if would own up to the theft he would keep it quiet. Defendant, however, denied the theft, and stated that after leaving the forge he visited Oakle Street, changed a £1 note, had a pint of beer, and bought some cigarettes. Cross-examined: He was quite certain that accused told him he had changed a £1 note at Oakle Street. Defendant did not mention a 10s. note. Cecil Herbert Gardner, licensee of the Oakle Street Hotel stated that about 10.30 on February 21st defendant visited the hotel and called for a pint of beer and two packets of Woodbine cigarettes, with which witness supplied him. Defendant tendered a note in payment, but witness could not quite remember whether it was a £l note or 10s. note. About an hour afterwards, however, in consequence of what was told, he looked in his till, and there found two £1 and no 10s. notes. The next day he met the accused at the railway station, and he there told him [witness] that he changed a 10s. note and not a £1 note at the hotel the previous day. Cross examined: There were no Treasury notes in the till when he opened the hotel on the morning of February 21st. The first Treasury note he cashed that day was the one tendered by the accused, and immediately afterwards another note [a £1 note] was tendered him by another customer, and he gave him in change a 10s. note and the remainder in silver. Thus his opinion was that the 10 shilling note was tendered by the accused. P.C. Pinnions deposed that on February 21st in consequence of a complaint received, he interviewed the defendant at Churcham, and told him he was making inquiries respecting the theft of a £1 note from the forge at Churcham. He replied: "I do not know anything about it." Witness told him he had reason to believe that had been to the forge, and he replied: "Yes, I took a horse there to be shod." Witness asked the accused to accompany him to the Minsterworth Police Station, and defendant expressed his readiness to do so. At the Police Station, when charged, he replied: "I am innocent of what I am accused of." On the way to Gloucester Police Station accused said: I went to the Oakle Street Hotel called for two pints of beer, and two packets of Woodbines, and paid for them with a 10s. note." Witness had seen Mr. Gardner, the licensee, prior to arresting the accused. This concluded the case for the prosecution, and Mr. Lane submitted that the evidence was not sufficiently strong to commit the accused for trial at Quarter Sessions. The Bench did not think a prima facie case had been established, and the accused was accordingly discharged."
"Charge Against Gloucester Man Dismissed"
Gloucester Citizen : February 26th 1921 Page 6

West Country Ales Ceramic Plaque

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Licensees of this pub

1879 - 1894 Henry Wheeler
1894 - William Lewis Williams
1899 - J. J. Haynes
1900 - Walter Thomas Bennett
1906 - Evan C. Pugh
1914 - John Phelps
1927 - George Goatman
1939 - Albert Lane
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.


Map showing the location of the Oakle Street Hotel at Churcham in Gloucestershire [1903]

This map extract dated 1903 shows the location of the Oakle Street Hotel at Churcham. Other named buildings straddling the road at Oakle Street are New House, Noble's Farm, Yewtree Cottage, Hook's Farm, Bleak House, Oakle Green Farm and, of course, the Railway Station. Ley Brook flows past The Hill and meanders around Clay Hill to the south-east of the pub. Starting close to Yewtree Cottage, a footpath connected Oakle Street with the Church of Saint Andrew at Churcham. Note that the cartographer has indicated that the road running north to south is an old Roman road. This was a short road, connecting Ermine Way and the Gloucester branch of the Via Julia, the main link between Isca Augusta at Caerleon with Calleva Atrebatum at Silchester.

Inn Sign

Inn Sign of the Silent Whistle, formerly the Oakle Street Hotel at Churcham in Gloucestershire [c.1980s]

The pub's latter name of the Silent Whistle was a reference to the fact that trains no longer stopped at the adjacent railway station. Opened in 1851 by the South Wales Railway the station was on the line from Gloucester to Chepstow. The South Wales Railway later became part of the Great Western Railway. The Beeching cuts did for the station which closed in 1964. I am not sure when the Oakle Street Hotel became the Silent Whistle. This image probably dates from the mid-late 1980s and is part of a collection of inn sign slides kindly donated to me. There are other instances of pubs changing names to mark the closure of a nearby railway station. For example, The Ghost Train at Purton near Swindon suffered a similar Beeching closure in the 1960s. And like the Silent Whistle, the former Courage-operated Railway Hotel has also been converted into a private house.

Genealogy Connections

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Cassandra Wilson