Ringing the changes at historic hostelry

This Is Wiltshire: The Bell The Bell

PLANS to bring one of Swindon’s most historic pubs back to life has been approved by the council.

The Bell, in Old Town, closed in February after struggling for several years but an application has been accepted to re-open it as a hotel with a public restaurant and bar.

When completed the hotel will have 25 bedrooms as well as a new health suite, open to members of the public.

Developers originally wanted to convert the unit into shops but the proposals were withdrawn due to delays in planning.

After working with the council, Bell Arcade Ltd, run by John Slattery and Chris O’Connell, drew up the new design and hope to have the venue back to its former glory with the year.

John said: “It’s really nice to have everything sorted. Once we started to talk to the council and were able to talk with them it became much better.

“We are pleased with what we have got and we think when it is open it will do well. There will be several small extensions and new windows to bring it up to date.

“We are currently working on several other projects and then we will start work on the Bell. It’s important that we don’t rush it so we get it right.”

The Bell is believed to be one of the oldest pubs in the town, posibly dating back 500 years, but has suffered hard times more recently.

It re-opened last November following a refurbishment after being closed for a year, only to close its doors again three months later.

As it stands, the exact form the bar area will take once it opens has yet to be decided but it will serve food and alcohol.

John said: “As it stands we are still to have discussions on the bar area and how much of a focus there will be on food.

“What I can say is it will not be a late-night club style bar. It will have a far more relaxed atmosphere.

“We are giving it a lot more care and attention than it has previously had so we hope it will be a thriving business for many years to come.”

There is also the possibility of adding an extra shop unit to the building on the adjacent courtyard. Early pictures of the building show a shop in what is now an empty space and John says it is possible they will seek to add a unit there in the future.

He said: “The indication we got from the council is that they would be interested in the future if we were to look at doing something.

“We have a photo of when it used to be a shop but anything we did would be run past English Heritage to make sure it is in keeping with the rest of the shop front.”

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