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Why Ingleside House is ‘not just another Cotswold hotel’

Ingleside

Driven by the desire to offer something outside of the norm for the Cotswolds, new boutique hotel Ingleside House in Cirencester is certainly proving that customers want more than just a bed for the night. Just six months open and the clever business, which is home to an award-winning local restaurant and situated adjacent to a popular theatre, is motoring. Boutique Hotelier went down to check it out...

Ingleside House is not just ‘another Cotswold hotel’ and not just another hotel business that opened following the pandemic. Instead, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll discover a story of natural evolution, sensible decision-making and a genuine love of hospitality.

The history of the Grade-II listed building in Cirencester that is home to the new boutique hotel started life long before May this year, when Ingleside House opened to its first overnight guests. Dating from the late 18th century, The Beeches, as it was formerly known, was first owned by the Chester-Masters, landlords of the old Abbey Estates in which it was built. In 1942, the property was requisitioned for the remainder of World War II and became the offices of Dulci, a company which made weapon-components at its factories in the town.

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Just after the war, Cirencester Urban District Council purchased The Beeches, leasing it to Cirencester Community Association, which was formed to provide evening classes and a place for local clubs and societies to meet.

In 1960, Mrs Margaret Selby asked for temporary accommodation for 28 pupils in two rooms at The Beeches. By 1979 it had 100 pupils using five rooms, its Barn Theatre and gardens with a sub-lease granted by Cotswold District Council.

By 2007, the numbers attending Ingleside School had depleted significantly and thoughts turned to how the building could be put to better use to support its community. Three local people, Ian Carling, Andrew Brown and Rachel Wright came together and made the decision to bring a new events and conference centre to Cirencester.

Between them, the trio had connections to local musical groups, as well as many involved with the media and arts on both a professional and amateur basis, and the vision was to build a venue that not only provided facilities to the public and businesses within the town, but also offered a space for the arts in Cirencester.

In 2015, this vision was taken to the next level with the unveiling of The Barn Theatre. Ian Carling teamed up with Iwan Lewis, a performer from the West End with connections to the area, to discuss the potential of introducing a professional theatre to Cirencester. Over the next three years the idea for the Barn Theatre became a reality and opened to wide acclaim in March 2018.

Prior to this, at the end of 2016, The Vaults, which had been operating as a music venue, closed and relocated, freeing up space for more natural expansion and evolution across the site. In 2017, The Vaults was transformed into Teatro Bar and Restaurant in the former servants’ quarters of the building and since has grown to become a much-loved, award-winning restaurant, integral to the success of the business. 

With trading at both the Barn Theatre and Teatro Restaurant motoring, it was clear that the next viable step was to create a hotel from the rest of the building space that was being used as offices for local companies. When Covid struck, owner Ian, together with director Rachel, recognised the change in landscape and after a review of the business, the project for a new hotel commenced.  

Ingleside House opened in May 2021 after a sympathetic and extensive restoration that signalled a privately-funded investment of £1m.  

Owner Ian Carling says: “In Ingleside all the rooms are named after the important people that made Ingleside possible since 2007. For it is the people who make Ingleside what it is, just as much as the bricks and mortar.”

The build project

For first-time operators, building a hotel during a pandemic was understandably not an easy task. Ian and Rachel recruited Concorde BGW to head up the design and armed them with the brief to create ‘not just another grey and cream Cotswold hotel’.

“We were looking for colour, drama and individuality,” says Ian. “Ingleside House is a Grade II listed building. There were features that need to be kept, and many of these we wanted. But we were confined by some of the requirements and had to find ways to work with them to bring something stunning to Cirencester.

“Also building a hotel during the pandemic meant there were so many Zoom meetings! Concorde had excellent protocols in place to keep everyone safe,” he adds.

The hotel offers a total of 11 bedrooms, each one with striking individuality and a unique palette of colours, textures and furnishings, following on from the bold design of the reception and public areas that give an upmarket finish.

Rooms are fitted with luxury touches such as Nespresso machines and Dyson hairdryers. The reputation of the restaurant has helped feed business to the bedrooms since they opened in the spring, and while Ian admits it was a ‘slow start’, most weekends are now full. Teatro Restaurant continues to perform well with tables booked well in advance and a strong level of trade coming from a local customer base.

“It was slow to start but that is what we wanted,” he says, “we wanted to get to know how the building worked, how it worked with our guests and to get our staff comfortable and firing on all cylinders. We have hit each monthly target and are growing steadily.”

Average room rate is currently 20% lower than where they’d like it to be, however Ian is confident that when the hotel’s ‘launch offer’ ends it will be a steady climb to increase rates as its profile grows.

Further development is also on the agenda, with a new events space currently in the pipeline. The Pavilion will be an informal dining space, available for private hire, able to cater for up to 150 guests. “This will be in full swing shortly,” Ian adds.

While the acquisition of another site isn’t ‘off the table’, building standards at Ingleside House is priority right now. “Our focus is to continue to offer a top quality stay which is dramatically different. We can offer our guests something special tied in with our restaurant and The Barn Theatre,” Ian says.

Ingleside House

Owned by: Ian Carling, who works with director Rachel Wright
Opened in: May 2021
Investment: £1m
Bedrooms: 11
Facilities: Teatro Restaurant and Bar, The Barn Theatre, soon-to-launch The Pavilion

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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