As we approach the end of 2014 the future is looking bright for Gloucester.
At long last things seem to be moving on the King’s Quarter Development with the City Council and Stanhope having finally acquired the land needed from Aviva.
Meanwhile, the old Gloucester Prison has been bought by City and Country, a development group specialising in the conversion of listed and historic buildings.
I suspect that it will be a while before we see any positive fruits from any of this, but clearly people are willing to invest in the city, which is a very good sign.
Meanwhile, more immediate signs of this positive vibe in Gloucester can be seen with increasing numbers of new restaurants putting their faith in the city: the former Cafe Roma has been re-opened as Bella Roma; Fat Toni’s pizzeria opened in St Aldate Street, no doubt with an eye to the future with the King’s Quarter redevelopment; and an application has been put in for another new restaurant at the Quays, Bill’s Restaurant, which is a smaller chain than most in the area.
The thing that I have been watching with most interest though is the progress with the Gloucester Brewery and Wetherspoons developments at the Docks.
Gloucester Brewery is undoubtedly one of the city’s best success stories over recent years. To follow up their success in brewing they planned to open their own pub to serve as brewery tap, and where better to do that than the old Coots bar just across the courtyard from the brewery.
Unfortunately, Wetherspoons also had their eye on Coots and they won the battle. After a long period with no apparent evidence of them doing anything about it, Wetherspoons finally signed the contract earlier this month.
I am in two minds about Wetherspoons opening up in the Docks. I fear that the Docks are rapidly becoming just like every other new development anywhere in the country, chock-a-block with soulless franchise restaurants. Wetherspoons plays into that feeling, whereas a Gloucester Brewery pub would bring something special and unique to the city.
The good news, though, is that the brewery is still going to be opening a pub as well. They have plans to move their brewing operation to the other side of the canal, in the old Fox’s Malthouse, leaving the current brewery building to be converted into a bar and charcuterie.
The question is what impact will the new Wetherspoons have on this fledgling business and the other established pubs in the area, such as Fosters on the Docks and the Tall Ships?
There are two schools of thought here: the pessimists fear that the competition brought by Wetherspoons and their famously low prices will badly impact existing trade. A more optimistic viewpoint is that Wetherspoons will bring more people into the Docks and all of the businesses will benefit from this increased footfall. As it’s still Christmas I’m going to hope the optimists are right.
I have one other concern about the new Wetherspoons: the name. The Citizen reports that it is to be called The Lord High Constable of England.
At first sight it doesn’t seem to have a great deal to do with the city. According to that great fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, The Lord High Constable of England is the seventh of the Great Officers of State. The office is now in abeyance except during coronations, but originally the Lord High Constable of England was the commander of the royal armies and the Master of the Horse. He was also, in conjunction with the Earl Marshal, president of the Court of Chivalry or Court of Honour. In feudal times, martial law was administered in the court of the Lord High Constable.
And it does have a connection to Gloucester because the first holder of the title, from 1139-1143, was Miles of Gloucester, aka Miles Fitzwalter, who was also High Sheriff of Gloucester and who re-built the castle in Gloucester between 1110-1120 and founded Llanthony Secunda Priory in 1137.
My main concern about the name, however, is what are local drinkers likely to abbreviate it to?