There has been an inn at the junction of Highworth Road and Ermin Street for at least 250 years, and probably longer. Church St Margaret stands on the Roman road from the Marlborough Downs to Cheltenham, a prime location to serve the needs of passing traffic.
The earliest history of The Crown Inn is lost in the mists of time, but we do know that the building was sold in 1767 for the princely sum of £60. At that time the inn was picturesquely called The Sow and Piggs.
In 1792, The Sow and Piggs became The Crown Inn, a name which publicans have long used to show loyalty to the monarch. At the same time we were gaining a crown, King Louis XIV of France was losing his -and his head into the bargain! And maybe there’s a connection. Was the name change meant to reassure patrons that foreign revolutions wouldn’t spread to Church St Margaret?
In 1832, under the ownership of the Pavy family, the inn was rebuilt. A new building replaced the old one, with the typical features of a Georgian coaching station. Signs of the impressive arch, pretty courtyard and stable blocks are all clearly visible today, adding greatly to the Crown’s character.
Arkells and Crocodiles
In 1863, the Crown gained a full license and five years later was sold to up-and-coming brewery Arkells. John Arkell had built a new life in Canada, but returned to Church St Margaret to marry his fiancée.
It’s around this time when – as legend has it – the inhabitants of the village became known as ‘crocodiles’. According to the Evening Advertiser’s 1856 report, a local resident was surprised at night by ‘a monster lying across his path.’ This was sought out by his neighbours armed with ‘spades, pickaxes, prongs, choppers.’ A 1901 version of the story claims that the monster (a crocodile) was not only real, but that its stuffed remains had turned up in an ice house!
Berni Inn to present day
During the 1970s, the Crown was owned by Berni Inns. The Italian-born Berni brothers brought the concept of chain pub-restaurants to the UK, paving the way for the likes of Wetherspoons. They offered affordable dining and a splash of American-style 70s glamour. You can see a copy of our 1970s menu here, though sadly we can no longer offer a soup starter for 15p!
Eventually, the Crown reverted to Arkells, with whom it has remained ever since.
After 250 years, The Crown Inn is still proud to offer its customers a warm fire and a warmer welcome. As you sink one of our locally-brewed ales, or tuck into a hearty meal, raise your glass to the many travellers and locals who have gone before!