These memories were recalled and recorded in April 2020.
Jim McKenzie writes:
“My parents Jim and Cathy McKenzie ran the Plough Inn as tenants of West Country Ales [subsequently acquired by Whitbread] from March 1963 until April 1967 when Whitbread decided to close it as not viable.
We moved in the day after Jube Pontin and his wife retired from running the Plough. They moved into the small cottage to the left of the pub. The cottage is no longer there and was much closer to the road than the garage is today with a path from the road to the front door and a tiny piece of garden. That day the snow was still piled high at the sides of the road from the A46 to the village, but the thaw had started (I remember that myself as a seven year old). The only rooms upstairs were 3 bedrooms, 1 for mum and dad, one for my sister at the back and one that I shared with my brother (on the left as you look at the property). There was no bathroom or inside toilet so we had to use the pub toilets at the rear of the property. Also, no kitchen, only cold running water; the only source of heating was a fire in the public bar and in the sitting room. The bar area had red quarry tiles; there were flag stones on the other floors but whilst we were there the brewery paid for a red resin type material to be poured over them so not very attractive. The exception is the room over the cellar which had floor boards but may have had woodworm or dry rot as the cellar was damp.
The main reason for the drop off in trade was due to the breathalyser being brought in so people were reluctant to travel and insufficient custom from the village meant it was losing money. Mum and Dad become friends with the Watsons who owned the garage in Hillesley and in particular with their son Ian. Ian worked at RR in Filton and would encourage a lot of his friends there to come out on a weekend, that’s why the breathalyser had such an impact! Even though my Dad was also driving lorries as well we left in April 67 and went to Dursley to run the Cross Keys.
Apparently there were a number of pubs that needed renovation and in the Wotton area Whitbread only had enough money to do one property so the money was spent on the Fleece at Hillesley. This maybe because there was a competitor’s pub in Hillesley (The Portcullis which closed years ago). As the licence was granted to my Dad maybe it just expired some time after we left.”
Michael Gardner, son of Margaret who until March 2020 lived at Cotswold View, was at school with Jim McKenzie junior. Michael remembers the pub had a youth club for a short time. Jim says: “families were allowed to use the ground floor room at the left as you went in as there was no bar. We had a football table installed in there and a dartboard so it was probably a kind of youth club that we would use until my dad threw us out!” Michael says: [after the pub closed] “Mrs Thelma Furley who ran the Post office stores then opened an Off-Licence”. “As an aside to this, Mum lived in the little cottage next to the Plough with her Auntie Alice (Frankcom). Mum was a young teenager at the time so it would have been around 1945.”
Simon Lee, current owner of the Plough House, has documentation dating back to 1878 and writes:
“In 1963 West Country Breweries Ltd (acquired by Whitbread & Co Ltd in that year) sold part of the Plough’s land to William Kingston. This included an orchard which looks as if it was behind Rock Cottage, Farage Cottage and Kingston Barn as well as an area which is now part of the farm yard behind us. See the attached photo of the land in question. In July 1968 West Country Breweries Ltd sold the Plough Inn to Mrs Anna Ruth Grange, from Malmesbury. As far as I can ascertain, Mrs Grange never actually lived here. She gifted the Plough to her husband David John Hudson Grange in October 1973.” “In November 1975 Mr and Mrs HR Smith [Betty and Roy] became resident”.