In 1911 the Fountain Inn's owner, George Gunter, bought a parcel of land next to the pub, from the Commissioner of Woods. After receiving permission in 1913, he built a slaughterhouse on it. Later, the building also served as a warehouse and distribution point for meat brought into the Forest on the railway.
Its construction formed part of a wider expansion of George’s farming operations in Yorkley and at around the same time he also built a meat-store and butcher’s shop in the east wing of the Fountain Inn, The store is now room 9 and the shop is room 8.
The slaughterhouse and shop were run by three of George and Margaret’s sons; Harry, Grantley and Frank, and they were trading as Gunter Bros from at least 1918, although Grantley Gunter was serving in the First World War at this time. According to David Gunter (Grantly’s grandson) the three Gunter brothers had all worked on the farming side of the family business from an early age.
Harry left the shop to run a dairy farm at Breams Cross, followed by Grantley, who moved to Cowmeadow Farm near English Bicknor in 1932 (David Gunter still runs the farm there). As well as running the butcher's shop, Frank leased a farm at Badham's Field in Yorkley, which his father and grandfather had also run before him. We're still researching how this arrangement worked in respect to the slaughterhouse.
In 1949 one of George’s sons (we don’t know which) applied for planning permission to extend the property by adding a ‘shed for the storage of implements’. The extension was brick built, with steel trusses and a corrugated asbestos cement roof. Planning was approved and the was extension built in 1950; although it does not appear that he actually owned the land.
When the building was being renovated, a large number of abattoir hooks, called gambrels, were recovered from the property and are now hanging from a beam in the Fountain Inn. When we first displayed them Rob Wilkins told me that, when he was a child, he and his friends used to work there and his story says a lot about early twentieth century attitudes to children. A pig would be hung up using the sharp hooks on a gambrel, which were pushed between the tendons in its hinds legs. While still alive, its throat was cut (in front of the children) who then had to collect the blood in a bucket and stir it continuously until it cooled; to stop it coagulating. It was used to make black pudding and there was a pudding-boiler in the bottom corner of (what is now) the rear car park. The children were paid in meat, which they took home to their mothers.
It appears the whole building fell out of regular use just a few years after the extension was built. In the 1970s and '80s the original stone section was used as changing rooms for Parkend Football Club and the lower extension was in occasional use as a vehicle workshop. The whole building was bought by Fordwater Pumping supplies in 1986 and converted into 3 units; The lower extension was let as a warehouse, and the two units in the original building were let as a kitchen revival shop (upstairs) and tearooms (downstairs).
In 1993, after struggling to find suitable tenants, we converted the upper two units into a hostel, called The Fountain Lodge. It opened in 1994. The lower unit continued to be let as a warehouse, but it was converted to an extension of the hostel in around 1997. As part of the conversion a doorway was knocked through to connect the original building and the 1950 extension.
By 2020 the hostel was becoming increasingly difficult to fill and we are now in the process of blocking the doorway back up, and converting the lower (extension) end into a holiday flat. A new roof was installed in November 2020. For the time being, we will continue to run the remainder of the building as a hostel.
When the roof was changed it was discovered that the lower section is constructed of PRC bricks. In most of the Forest coalmines, the coal seam lies near, or even next to, layers of clay which needed to be removed in order to access the coal. Rather than waste this incidental resource, some pits used it to make bricks. PRC stands for Princess Royal Colliery, which was located in Whitecroft, although the brickworks were a short distance away in Saunders Green. They began producing bricks in the 1930s, but contrary to popular belief, very little of the clay actually originated at the Princess Royal Colliery, and most of it was bought from other pits. The brickworks closed early in the early-1950s.