|Forest of Dean Pubs - Placenames beginning with L
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Bell Inn, Church Street
The Bell Inn, on the eastern side of Church Street, was located between the Kings Head and St. Ethelbert’s Church. The earliest reference to the Bell Inn is in 1779.
An inventory was made up in 1898 of ‘the fixtures and fittings in the four bedrooms, middle tap room, shop, front tap room, parlour, bar, cellar and garden’ of the Bell Inn. The entire value was £111.1s.6d. The stock and contents were also valued at £165.16s.6d., which included ‘barrels and bottles of beer and cider, mineral waters and half a bottle of port.’ If these figures are correct, the stock was valued more than the actual property!
The Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean owned and supplied their beer to the Bell Inn. Francis Wintle, proprietor of the brewery, owned the pub in 1891 and 1903. The Bell, an alehouse, had an annual rateable value of £21.10s.0d. and closed each night at 10 pm. There are no references after 1927 suggesting that the Bell Inn had closed soon afterwards.
Heather Hurley in her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ (Logaston Press 2004) suggests that the property now known as the Old Victoria Inn was once the Bell Inn. However, there is a Bell House a little further down the hill towards St Ethelbert’s Church. Bell House was put on the market with an asking price of £379,000 in January 2012. The estate agent’s ‘blurb’ described Bell House as a beautifully presented period family home lovingly restored. ‘Internally the house maintains many original features including Inglenook fireplace, flagstone floors and original floor-boards’. An original bread oven located in the attached workshop / studio. The accommodation consists of sitting room, dining room, kitchen / breakfast room, snug, hall, utility room, three double bedrooms (one en-suite) and a spacious family bathroom. The south-facing garden, to the rear of the property overlooks open fields. A notable feature is a vaulted cellar beneath the kitchen which extends to the front of the building and is accessed from steps at the rear.
Landlords at the Bell Inn include:
Cross Keys, Silver Street GL14 3NN
George Hotel / Belfry, Broad Street GL14 4JS
The Belfry has a history that can be traced back to at least 1785 when there was an inn on the corner of Broad Street and George Lane trading under the name of the Golden Heart. In 1808 it was known as the Heart Inn. When William Wood was the innkeeper the name was changed to the George – perhaps to commemorate George IV’s coronation in 1820.
The George was once a Wintle’s Forest Brewery tied house. Francis Wintle, of the Mitcheldean based brewery, owned the pub in 1891 and 1903. The annual rateable value of the George, an alehouse, was set at £21.10s.0d. and closing time was 10 pm.
When the George Hotel was put up for sale in 1937, the particulars read thus: All that messuage or Inn known as the George Hotel situate at Littledean in the County of Gloucester and all outbuildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging, comprising in the rear a paved yard approached by pair of folding doors, stone outbuilding consisting of stabling for three with loft over, pot house wood store, urinal, vegetable garden, range of old buildings etc. And also a small orchard and all other outbuildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging together with the site thereof, and the land occupied therewith which said premises are now in the occupation of Thomas Mountjoy as tenant.
The Cheltenham Original Brewery acquired the George Inn when Wintle’s Brewery was voluntarily wound up on 7th May 1937. As the holding company the Cheltenham Brewery secured 93 licensed properties from the insolvent Forest Brewery. Until quite recently the pub sign of the Belfry was housed in an ornamental iron bracket bearing the ‘Castle’ emblem of the Cheltenham / West Country Breweries. It has since been replaced with a standard bracket. Whether or not the metalwork was replaced due to corrosion, or if it was damaged in an accident is not known. Its removal is a shame though, as there are only a few examples left. A similar pub sign bracket disappeared from the Yew Tree at Longhope some years ago. A survivor is the sign of the White Horse in Soudley.
A local newspaper reported in May 1980 that a matchbox model of the George Hotel had been presented to the landlords: ‘Despite a severe disability, Roy Johnson of Sharpridge, Littledean, has completed an intriguing model of the George Hotel. He presented it to the landlords Mr & Mrs Alvin Beard. Roy, formerly a sawyer, who lost the tops of three fingers in an accident at work, has been engaged in the construction of the model, using just one hand, which measures a yard square and is made up of around 16,000 matchsticks. Next on his agenda is a matchstick model of the goal house.’
Alvin and Ciss Beard ran the George Hotel for more than 20 years. They took over the George in 1961 and stayed there until 1980 when they moved to the Mount Pleasant in Cinderford where they stayed for another 10 years before taking retirement. To celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary on 20th March 2008 their two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, took them back to the Belfry.
In 1991 Whitbread sold the George Hotel. It had previously been closed and residents had missed their village local. It was bought by builder Keith Bell and in June 1992 the premises re-opened as the Belfry Hotel. Keith brought in the management team of John and Sioned Hamilton, along with award-winning chef Peter Teague to run the Belfry. The premises were expanded and modernised, and the developers retained many original features of the Georgian building.
The Belfry is a popular venue for cabaret style music. There have been tribute bands playing the music of Shirley Bassey, the Bee Gees, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, Celine Dion, Elvis Presley. However, the live music prompted some neighbours to complain about late night noise at weekends in September 1997. When residents heard the news that an outdoor party was being organised to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the owning company K.W. Bell & Sons a neighbour, living just yards away from the pub said “We have found out that Mr Bell has hired a marquee and booked all kinds of bands for an outdoor party. There are 250-odd guests invited.’ Another local said, “We don’t mind them putting entertainment on for guests at the weekend, but recently it has been too much. Not long ago it was five nights on the trot, really loud – karaoke, comedy, the lot.”
In May 2004 members of the Gloucester and Oxford branch of the Cliff Richard Fan Club held their 25th anniversary at the venue. They enjoyed a Cliff quiz and danced to a Cliff disco! Sir Cliff sent his own personal congratulations to the fan club – “you’ve done a great job – many thanks.’ They returned to the Belfry in May 2009 to celebrate 30 years… and listened and danced to yet more Cliff records and another Cliff disco! Local radio presenters from Severn Sound and BBC Radio Gloucestershire, who had been honoured by the club for playing Cliff’s hits on the radio, stepped up to speak at the microphone to the sounds of their original radio jingles.
The Belfry organises regular charity raising events. An annual Harvest Festival is held in October. A more unusual charity raising event took place at the Belfry on Friday 14th November 2014 when ‘a night of snail racing!’ raised money for Cancer Research UK. It was described as ‘Great fun for all the Family’. The Belfry also has an annual Easter beer festival organised by the Forest of Dean branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.
In an ‘Eating Out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in June 2014, reviewer Steve Watson wrote: ‘The Belfry in Littledean is always busy. It does weddings and christenings, Christmas parties, a Sunday carvery and has a busy hotel side, but it’s also busy for sport and food nights. It does everything!’ The review concluded with the observation, ‘There isn’t an overly creative menu or specials that make you go wow, but, what they do, they do brilliantly- affordable food, fantastic and friendly customer service, a clean and warm environment and a menu that the kids are going to be happy choosing food from as much as grandma.’
Landlords at the George Hotel / Belfry include:
Golden Heart, Broad Street
Kings Head, Broad Street GL14 3NH
The Kings Head is prominently located on the junction of Broad Street and Church Street overlooking the mini-roundabout on the A4151.
The inn dates back to the eighteenth century. In the 1851 census Joseph Sier of Littledean is entered as a builder (employing four men) and innkeeper of the Kings Head, Broad Street. A reference twelve years later in 1863 to the Queens Head may have been a mistake of the enumerator but it is possible that it had changed its name at that time when William Townsend was innkeeper.
The Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye owned the Kings Head in 1891 and 1903. The license of the Kings Head was designated alehouse status with an annual rateable value of £19.0s.0d. Closing time was 10 pm.
When the license of the Kings Head was transferred from William Glastonbury to Howard Beet in 1907 an inventory of the property gave details of a ‘club room, entrance hall, bar, commercial room, kitchen, back kitchen, sitting room, pantry, cellar, skittle alley, stable and garden.’
One of Alton Court Brewery’s beers was called Golden Hop and a painted advertisement for ‘Golden Hop on Draught’ was displayed in the bricked-up window on the Broad Street side of the Kings Head. There were only a handful of ACB pubs in Gloucestershire so beer drinkers must have appreciated downing a few pints of Golden Hop. There were also bottled beers called Golden Brown and Golden Crown.
The Alton Court Brewery was acquired by Stroud Brewery Company in 1956 and the Kings Head passed from their ownership through West Country Breweries to Whitbread. A surprising survivor, considering the recent history of the Kings Head, is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that remains in situ.
In February 1971 the Kings Head was the venue for a local ‘This is Your Life’ programme. The ‘programme’ was prepared and compiled by Mr Frank Middlecote and Mr Maurice Buffrey. Mr Hubert ‘Scubie’ Jaynes was quietly supping his usual pint and minding his own business when a loud voice said, ”Mr Jaynes, this is your life!”, which made him almost fall out of his chair! From then on a succession of friends and family came in to greet him, all recalling the incidents in the life of ‘our Scubie’.
The Kings Head closed down for a number of years in the early 1990’s. The Campaign for Real Ale 1996 publication ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ noted that the Kings Head, ‘a local corner pub, re-opened summer 1995 after being shut for two years. Trade now building up and entertainment, including live music, is being increasingly offered.’ At the time of the CAMRA survey Crown Buckley ales from Wales were on tap.
Towards the end of the 20th century it would be fair to say that the reputation of the Kings Head was causing concern. An unsavoury incident occurred when the landlord had his ear bitten and a barmaid was spat upon following an argument about the use of a pool table. The landlord was left with a two-inch scar around the back of his right ear.
The Kings Head had closed once again by 2005. In October 2006 an application was made to Forest of Dean District Council to convert the former Kings Head into five homes, including two one-bed flats. The skittle alley was to be removed to provide access to a rear courtyard. Permission was refused because of concerns of the proposed residents parking area and the restricted visibility gaining access to the busy road. On a site visit the committee had pretended they were in cars trying to leave the proposed parking area. One councillor said, “You’re pulling out onto a busy road with absolutely no idea of what’s coming along the road.” However, Councillor James Bevan (Con, Lydney) said that it would be a missed opportunity to turn the application down because of the parking. He said, “The place will deteriorate for quite a few years until someone comes up with something.”
In May 2008 planning permission was granted to convert the pub into three two-bedroom flats and two single-bedroom flats.
In November 2011 the building had fallen into such a terrible state of disrepair it was considered dangerous. Parish council chairman Henry Boughton remarked, “It’s time for the building to undergo a compulsory purchase and be demolished before it falls down by itself.” Pete Smith, who owned a butchers’ shop sharing the same building, complained that the walls he had painted and tiled six months ago were blistering and swelling with damp. He said, “There is a fire on the other side of the wall and when the pub was open you could feel the heat coming through. Now it’s the opposite. It’s in a terrible state now; all the plaster and ceilings are falling in. I have plans to sell my business but who wants to buy it when it is next to this?”
A humorous sign was tacked onto one of the boarded-up windows which read:
Me, the Kings Head…
Eventually the approved planning permission granted in 2008 expired and the derelict building was bought at auction by developer Alex Hurran, after Forest of Dean District Council threatened action to force the previous owner to make the Kings Head safe. A further application to demolish the butcher’s shop to make way for parking were approved in February 2017. Littledean Parish Council clerk Vicky Roberts said, “Some parishioners have commented on the sale of the Kings Head and the progress that has been made, so far, and that all comments have been positive. The parish council is pleased that the building has been sold to an individual who has already improved the appearance of the building, made safe the butcher’s shop window and is working hard to make it safe inside.”
Landlords at the Kings Head include:
Littledean House Hotel, Broad Street GL14 3JT
The Littledean House Hotel is a prominent building at the northern end of Broad Street. It was built in 1740 and was originally intended to be a coaching inn. It was used as a private residence of wealthy landowners and was converted to a guest house that first opened in 1903. In 1906 the boarding house became the Littledean Guest House. In the 1920’s and 1930’s the 80 roomed guest-house specialised in vegetarian meals.
In a 1951 brochure the Littledean Guest House had grounds extending to 12 acres with ‘spacious lawns amid beautiful scenery at 600 feet altitude.’ Guest could enjoy ‘our own milk and dairy produce’. Attractions included two hard tennis courts, riding, bowls, putting, billiards and snooker, table tennis, dancing and a library. ‘An ideal centre for the Royal Forest of Dean and Lower Reaches of the River Severn and the Lovely Wye Valley.’
Santokh Singh, who had previously owned the Mount Pleasant and the Swan in Cinderford, bought the Littledean House Hotel in 2004. He also owned the Oaklands Club in Cinderford. In an advertisement in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in September 2015 he said, “My recipe for running a successful pub is very simple. You serve good beer, good food and make people feel welcome when they come in.” In 2010 Santokh Singh leased the Littledean House Hotel to Richard and Kate Bond.
The Littledean House Hotel hosted the first Littledean Beer Festival in April 2011, the weekend of the Royal Wedding. Organised by the Forest of Dean branch of the Campaign for Real Ale this has become an annual event but is now held at the Belfry.
Nelson (Inn), 6A Broad Street GL14 3NH
James Pritchard was a shopkeeper in Littledean in 1837 – perhaps the Nelson was little more than a village shop selling beer for off sales only.
New Inn, Littledean Hill
The occupier of the New Inn in 1869 was Daniel Meredith, and Mary Ann Meredith owned the New Inn in 1891 and 1903. The license clearly stipulated that the beer house was restricted to the sale of intoxicating liquor on the premises only. The New Inn was free of brewery tie and had an annual rateable value of £9.10s.0d., with closing time at 10 pm.
The New Inn closed on 27th April, 1927. The compensation paid was enormous for a simple beer house, a whopping £1,198.17s.0d. As the house itself was only worth about £300 in 1927 it is difficult to see why compensation was paid at such a high value.
Swan Inn, The Ruffitt GL14 3LF
The Ruffitt is part of an old turnpike road that once was the main route from Newnham on Severn into the Forest of Dean via Littledean Hill. The Swan Inn was located at the southern and bottom end of the Ruffitt near the junction with High Street, just a few yards from the Littledean House Hotel. From here there is a steep climb up the Ruffitt to Littledean Hill.
The Swan Inn had an annual rateable value of just £8.0s.0d. For reasons not known the premises was rated as an alehouse in 1891 and a humble beer house in 1903; maybe just an administrative error in the Victorian licensing administration. Mrs Susan Goold owned the Swan Inn and it was run as a free house. Henry Wilks was the occupying landlord in 1891 (he was also there in an earlier 1876 listing), and he was succeeded by Joseph Phelps as landlord in 1903.
Joseph Phelps was also employed as a wagoner and was found guilty of causing cruelty to his horses. The Forest of Dean Mercury reported in May 1901 that a policeman had stopped Phelps and his employee Frederick Jackson when they were leading two horses pulling an excessively loaded wagon with two tons of stone. Both horses were old and not fit for heavy work and one was found to have severe lacerations underneath the saddle causing the animal much pain. On another charge Frederick Jackson was found guilty of being drunk in charge of a horse and wagon. Joseph Phelps was fined £2 with costs of £13.10s.0d for cruelty to animals. He argued that it would be more humane to destroy the horse rather than face the full penalty. Frederick Jackson was fined ten shillings for being drunk in charge of a horse.
There is no mention of the Swan Inn after 1903, which suggests that it might have closed by the outbreak of the First World War. The property is now residential but still retains the name of the Old Swan.
Victoria Inn, Church Street
The Old Victoria Inn was put on the market in October 2003 with an asking price of £250,000. The sale particulars detailed, – entrance porch, kitchen / dining area, lounge, master bedroom with en-suite shower room, two further double bedrooms, attic room, bathroom, large garden and double garage.
On a Saturday morning early in August 2007 a hit and run lorry driver caused serious damage to the 13th century building. A neighbour said that the incident happened about eight o’clock. “I heard a huge bang and looked out to see a lorry had hit the overhang while it was trying to pass another lorry. He then reversed away from the wall and drove off.” The incident exposed the original timbers that had not been seen in living memory. Listed building approval had to be obtained before the building was renovated. Richard Haines, of builders Haines & Son, said that: “we will start by taking out the old timbers, many of which are in a bad state. We have to find seasoned oak to repair the frame and then we will fill the spaces with plaster, just as it was done originally.”
Cross Inn, Dursley Cross GL17 0ND
The hamlets of Dursley Cross and Ganders Green lie to the north of Longhope village on the northern side of the A40 Gloucester to Ross road. The settlements are on the southern slopes of May Hill. The present-day route of the A40 through the parish was constructed in the mid to late 1820’s. In the 18th Century the route taken from Gloucester, through Longhope, towards Ross on Wye and Wales took a curving course through narrow and very steep lanes on which a ‘wayside cross marked a crossroads at Dursley Cross.’ Today the route the original highway is hardly discernible and can only be identified by the line of a public footpath. The sign of the Cross Inn was on the original line of the ancient Gloucester to Ross road, and the building today – now a private residence called Dursley Cross House – is in an isolated location at the end of a short track.
In 1891 Ann Drinkwater was the owner of the Cross Inn, with Mary Aston in occupancy. It was an alehouse, free of brewery tie, with an annual rateable value of £9.10s.0d. It seems that Mrs Drinkwater sold the Cross Inn to Francis Wintle as in 1903 the Forest Brewery of Mitcheldean had bought the pub. Closing time was set at 10 pm.
When the property estate of the Wintle’s Forest Brewery was put up for sale in 1923 the inventory of the Dursley Cross Inn described the premises as ‘freehold and fully licensed substantial stone building’, On the ground floor there was a bar, large club room, store room, kitchen and pantry. There were three bedrooms and a lumber room upstairs. The basement had ‘cellarage for beers, wines and spirits’. To the outside of the Dursley Cross Inn was a ‘nice vegetable garden, pot house, closet, three pig cots and a two-stall stable. Included in this holding is a small piece of garden ground in fir patches, a few minutes walk from the house.’ The rent in 1923 was £24.0s.0d. per annum.
It closed as a pub in the late 1950’s / early 1960’s. No doubt its demise was because of its out-of-the-way location and the lack of car parking might have been a contributory factor. In her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ (Logaston Press, 2004), Heather Hurley wrote, ‘The ancient cross-roads at Dursley was marked with a stone cross. The remains now consist of a ‘base partly buried in the grass by a fence. It was moved here by the then publican of the Dursley Cross Inn from its position on a nearby grassy platt in order to enlarge the car park.’
Landlords at the Cross Inn include:
Farmers Boy, Ross Road, Upper Boxbush GL17 0LP
The Farmers Boy is located on the north side of the A40 Ross Road in the hamlet of Boxbush. It is about one mile north of Longhope.
The Compton family owned the Farmers Boy for generations. George Compton is listed there in 1876 and is detailed as the owner of the Farmers Boy in the 1903 licensing book. Sydney J. Compton is recorded there in 1927 and 1939. When the licence of the Farmers Boy was amended in 1949 so that wines and spirits could be consumed on the premises, Sidney Compton was the owner. It is known that Sidney’s father and his grandfather had been owners of the inn, presumably Sydney and George. One slight discrepancy in the Compton family’s long association with the Farmers Boy is that the 1891 licensing book lists James Bircher as the owner.
The Farmers Boy had an annual rateable value of £10.0s.0d. in 1891 and in 1903 and was designated a beer house. It seems likely that throughout its history the Farmers Boy has never been owned or leased to a brewery. It was trading free of brewery tie in late Victorian / early Edwardian times when closing time was at 10 pm.
When the full licence was granted in 1949 to permit the sale of wines and spirits, apparently a local of the Farmers Boy spoke up in favour of the transition from a ‘spit and sawdust’ basic boozer to a proper roadside inn. He said, “The beer is so week nowadays that you need something to liven it up.”
Phil Kiernan and Kate Hampton took over the Farmers Boy in 2000 and it re-opened on Wednesday 20th September. Phil said, “When our friends Mike and Vicky, who were the landlords here, said they were thinking of retiring, we made them an offer and here we are. We’re delighted, there’s so much potential here and there’s room to grow the business. The first job was to re-paint and decorate throughout and that work has now been completed. This was no mean feat, because despite its cosy feel and old-world charm, the Farmers Boy is a large space.”
The Farmers Boy was voted Greene King Free House Pub of the Year for the South West Region in 2003.
The Farmers Boy made the headlines for entirely the wrong reasons in July 2007 when it failed to meet hygiene standards which resulted in fines totalling £13,000. Environmental health officers from Forest of Dean District Council first inspected the pub in February 2005 and gave warning that sections of the kitchen did not meet hygiene standards. A follow up inspection in December 2005 found that the necessary improvements required had not been satisfactory dealt with and five hygiene requirement notices were issued to Phil Kiernan. On their third inspection in March 2006, the environmental health team deemed the property had not improved sufficiently and decided to take legal action. It was disclosed in court that health inspectors found dirty utensils, greasy plug sockets and evidence of smoking in the kitchens and that Mr Kiernan had not only failed to comply with an enforcement notice telling him to improve hygiene on the premises but had let the food preparation areas get even filthier. He pleaded guilty to 11 breaches of the Food Safety Act and three counts of failing to comply with hygiene improvement notices. Phil Kiernan was originally told to pay £20,000 by magistrates for the food safety breaches, but he succeeded in getting the penalty reduced by £7,000 upon appealing against his sentence at Gloucester Crown Court.
Another routine inspection in October 2007 gave the premises a three-star (good) rating. The improved rating followed kitchen refurbishments, new equipment and additional staff who cleaned the Farmers Boy to a very high standard. Phil Kiernan said that he was determined to get his business back on track, “We put our hands up and said that we were not up to scratch but we have worked hard to put things right. We want people to see what a lovely place it is and enjoy the atmosphere.”
The year 2007 proved to be something of an ‘annus horribilis’ for the Farmers Boy. A kitchen fire broke out at 4.20 am on the 4th April causing £10,000 damage to kitchen equipment and smoke damage to the bar and lounge. The walk-in freezer, fridge and central heating boiler were damaged in the blaze. However, undaunted by the fire Phil Kiernan told reporters that he hoped to reopen the following night and get the kitchen back in action for the weekend. He said, “We’re just getting on with it. The B&B is fully booked for Easter, so we need to get the kitchen ready for then. We need to get on with the clean up because the longer we wait the longer we stay closed.” The cause of the fire, as reported in the newspaper, ‘could have been caused by an electrical fault or a chip pan.’
The speciality two-in-one gourmet pies offered at the Farmers Boy have proved to be very popular. Previously only available at the Farmers Boy, the pies were made available in August 2009 to farm shops and delis. Part of the pub was converted in January 2011 to a purpose-built delicatessen offering such delights as Steak and Guinness Pies with cauliflower cheese. The deli was launched with a World champion racing rally car – a Subaru Impreza driven by Alister Mcrae in the World Raly Championship – displayed outside. Within a few days of its opening five hundred pies had been sold. A ‘Dirty Feckin’ Pie’, containing steak and kidney ‘with a surprise’ was launched soon afterwards. In August 2011 Phil Kiernan took ownership, with a bank loan from Lloyds TSB, of a factory on the Forest Vale Industrial Estate in Cinderford to develop his branded Mad About Pies business. A contract had been secured with Worcester Warriors Rugby Club to provide at least 30,000 pies to the Premiership side, including sales in 25 stadium bars and an outside unit in the stadium grounds. A contract was sealed in 2012 with the Charles Wells pub company to supply all its 250 pubs throughout the country. A year later a thousand pies a week were being made at Cinderford with the projection that within six months to a year it might be up to 10,000. By 2018 the Mad About Pies business had been crowned with 27 National British Pie awards.
Channel Four produced a TV show in 2011 called ‘Four in a Bed’, a programme where B&B owners rated each other’s bed & breakfast facilities before guessing how much the stay was worth. Phil decided to take part in the programme to promote the Farmers Boy and his Mad About Pies business. Ironically Phil was set a challenge to make a pie. He said, “The trouble was I’m not a chef and it was a bit of a disaster for me. It was a chicken, leek and mushroom pie which mostly fell flat on its face.” Despite coming third Phil was pleased with the TV show spotlight. “Our website had 20,000 views within five minutes of the programme going on air and we’ve had loads of bookings and people from as far away as Australia and South Africa emailed us saying we should have won.”
Phil employed the services of artist Fred Crellin in January 2012 to paint a historic mural on the side of one of the chalet suites at the pub. The painting is of the Farmers Boy as it was in the 1920’s when Sidney Compton was the landlord. “Fred has done a fantastic job on the mural, people really love it,” Phil said but added “I was thinking of getting a mural done of a pie, or myself, but I think this was the best choice.”
Apart from the gourmet pies, the Farmers Boy is big on food. Literally. A Big Ugly Burger was on the menu in January 2014. For £21.95 the burger weighed in at 1lbs 6oz of solid meat and measured 12 inches wide. The challenge was simply to eat it. Phil said, “So far only 26 people have tried it and three have done it. One guy was a Polish chap training for the World’s Strongest Man and he had two of them back to back!” In October of that year a ‘Big Ugly Breakfast’ was introduced. The challenge set was to finish the beast of a breakfast within 25 minutes and those successful gaining a place on the Farmers Boy wall of fame and receive a commemorative T-shirt – presumably XXXL! The appetising dish comprised of six bacon rashes, four black pudding slices, six hash browns, three tomatoes, six sausages, three scrambled eggs, four slices of fried bread, six slices of toast and a third of a tin of beans.
The Farmers Boy was featured in a ‘Meet the Landlord’ feature in the ‘Gloucester Citizen’ in April 2015, putting the ‘spotlight on Gloucester’s best boozers’.
Raising glass to a success story…
When many pubs began to struggle as the 2008 recession struck, the Farmers Boy near Longhope went from strength to strength. It was then that the 17th Century inn decided to expand its offerings and become one of the Forest of Dean’s only gastro pubs, offering locals and tourists a taste of upper-class cuisine and drink. Phil Kiernan has since turned the pubs famous home-made pies into a nationwide business, is now holding functions such as weddings and has made the pub’s food challenges renowned far and wide. Now it is looking to expand its offerings yet more for large functions and entertainment, grow its on-site gourmet pie, cheese and wine shop and grow its lush bed and breakfast complex.
General manager Scott Price said the progress made by the Farmers Boy is down to the vision of Phil. He said, “The Farmers Boy has made a huge leap. It was always a drinking pub but then Phil invested a lot of money to make this a destination pub. As a pub we have to stay on top of our game. In this industry it changes so often you have to keep improving and keep going. Staying the same for too long means you could end up on the list of pubs which have closed.”
The upscale offerings of the Farmers Boy are immediately obvious as soon as you walk in, with service which harks back to Phil’s Irish roots. Full table service is operated throughout the day which means when you order a pint you can sit-down and have it delivered to your table. The philosophy of the Farmers Boy is not to say no to anything. This has led to their homemade pies expanding into a national business named Mad About Pies, after requests for home deliveries by customers. It’s also led to the ‘Big Ugly’ food challenges, such as massive traditional English breakfasts and burgers, taking pride of place at the pub at the requests of visitors from the Forces. The Farmers Boy also offers special packages to people looking for walking tours throughout Gloucestershire and for special events such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Live music events are also beginning to take off with tribute bands gracing the Farmers Boy’s events calendar, and an outdoor festival in August which will see beer, folk music, bouncy castle and barbecue.
Despite the undying ambition of the Farmers Boy, it has remained at the heart of its small community on the A40. It has regulars from surrounding villages and its outside wall is adorned with a mural of what the Farmers Boy looked like in 1925, copied from a picture left by a regular drinker.
A second fire broke out at the Farmers Boy in May 2018. Firefighters from Newent, Cinderford and Ross were sent to tackle the blaze that ripped through the roof of a rear extension. A spokesman for Gloucestershire Fire Service said, “We were called to a fire at the Farmer Boy in Longhope. Our crews were tackling a fire on a flat roof at the back of the pub. There was extensive fire damage to the roof extension and significant smoke damage to the entire building. The incident is not being treated as suspicious.” Determined to get the pub up and running again as quickly as possible the staff went straight into mopping up mode and the pub reopened, almost as normal, the following day. Phil Kiernan said, “The staff have been absolutely fantastic, volunteering to work on their days off. I am now looking at this as an opportunity and we plan to redecorate completely.” Three months later the pub was fully back in business and a special champagne reception was held to open the brand new Wishing Well Suite.
Landlords at the Farmers Boy include:
Nags Head, Ross Road, Boxbush GL17 0LW
The Nags Head is on the south side of the Ross Road to the north of Longhope village.
The Nags Head had a particularly low annual rateable value of just £8.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903. Rated a beer house it had licence that stipulated that beer and wines be sold only on the premises. Those conditions probably applied to many beer houses but it is unusual to see those restrictions in print in the licensing books. In 1891 the owner and occupier was B.Bennett, junior and the Nags Head traded free of brewery tie. In 1903 the licensing book detail the owners as Flowers & Co. Presumably this refers to Flowers & Sons, brewers of Stratford on Avon. Closing time was at 10 pm.
The Nags Head was included in the 1988 CAMRA Good Beer Guide and was then selling Flowers IPA, albeit a Whitbread beer brewed in Cheltenham. However, as far as I am aware, the Nags Head was never a Whitbread tied house.
When a new landlord arrived at the Nags Head early in 2001 he wanted to find a way of boosting trade. Instead of the tried and tested ways of attraction custom by introducing fine dining or promoting interesting real ales he decided to host a gentlemen’s stag evening which was arranged by PP Promotions. Two female strippers were hired and a crowd of 40 or so drinkers on a late June Saturday night witnessed a little more than a titillating striptease. A man in his 30’s, said to be a pub regular, was stripped naked by the girls for the final part of the evenings ‘entertainment’ and what appeared to be a full sex act occurred. This all took place whilst two female barmaids were serving drinks at the pub. Although no official complaints were made, the police were made aware and the landlord faced a police investigation. A police spokesman said, “This sort of activity is illegal in pubs. It is tantamount to running a disorderly house. The police would put a stop to it if they received complaints”
In 2005 the owners of the Nags Head were Punch Taverns, plc. It has been difficult to verify ownership of the pub since then, but the valiant efforts of those who chose to take on the running of the Nags Head in the next decade tend to suggest either some antipathy or difficuly with the owning pub company.
Jamie Pemberton and his partner Ceri Watkins took over the Nags Head in September 2007. Jamie was a builder by trade, he said, “I know it’s long hours in a pub but it’s a lot easier work than humping slabs. I’ll probably carry on with a bit of building work now and again to start with, until we see how the pub goes. I did some work behind a bar some years ago and I thought it would be good to work that side of one again. We’ve tried to give the inside a welcoming atmosphere and those that have been in seem to like it. We’re looking forward to building the business back to what it once was when you couldn’t park within half a mile.” Jamie and Ceri started offering food at the Nags Head, just on Fridays to begin with. They also planned to host live music nights. Their aim was to make the pub a real part of the community.
Less than a year later Natalie and Steve Taylor-Pockett had taken over the running of the pub. Food was introduced at lunchtime and in the evening from Tuesday to Saturday, but the kitchen closed after lunch on Sunday and closed all day on Monday. The food was sourced from local suppliers, including meat from the Country Butcher in Huntley. Natalie and Steve hoped to host regular live entertainment, quizzes and topical events with the aim of providing locals with a warm, friendly and lively place to meet and socialise.
The menu of the 2011 Christmas Party evenings at the Nags Head were quite impressive with a choice of four main meals. Starters included the chefs homemade French onion soup topped with a cheesy garlic bread crouton, and dinners included traditional roast turkey breast with all the trimmings, pork medallions, lamb loin chops and mushroom brie and cranberry wellington.
The twilight years of the Nags Head were documented in a ‘Meet the Landlord’ feature in the ‘Gloucester Citizen’ in August 2015. Under the sub-heading ‘Spotlight on Gloucester’s Best Boozers’, landlady Estelle Sparks was in conversation with Matt Discombe.
Beer is what we do best, boasts traditional pub…
Despite many country pubs turning to gourmet menus these days, people across the country still love their village watering holes. That what the landlords of the Nags Head in Longhope have found after two nearby pubs – the Farmer’s Boy and the Yew Tree Inn – have started to focus on food. But the Nags Head has refused to follow suit and has stayed true to its roots as a rural drinker’s pub which is loved by Longhope villagers. Estelle Sparks, landlady of the Nags Head, has been at the pub for more than two decades but she finally took the reins in 2013. She said the Nags Head has now found its own niche as a drinkers’ pub. Estelle said, “This is my local. I grew up in Longhope and I’ve worked here for twenty years. It has been a been a huge part of my life. We love the community feel of the place. We have found our own little niche because we have two eating houses within a two-mile radius.”
The Nags Head has proved to be a valuable resource for the community in Longhope, particularly the village’s football club and council, which meet regularly there. Estelle said, “A lot of outsiders have moved into Longhope because it’s such a lovely village. But a lot of the community facilities have disappeared. If this place didn’t exist there are a lot of people that wouldn’t go anywhere else. When this place has closed down over the years, there have been a few people who had not gone anywhere for a drink.” Despite one ill-fated effort to turn the Nags Head into another gastro pub years ago, the soul of the Nags Head remains unchanged. The outside of the building was given a fresh lick of paint to make it look more contemporary, but on the inside it is much more homely and traditional than outward appearances suggest. That’s why a sign proudly stating ‘This is not a restaurant’ sits outside the Nags Head, which dispels any doubts about what kind of pub it is.
When you walk in it is everything you would expect from a typical Forest of Dean country pub, with rustic wooden beams overhead, cosy lounge areas, fireplaces, dartboards and a pool table. The Nags Head aims to be family friendly home-from-home for everyone aged 18 to 80 and holds regular events to keep the regulars coming in. It hosts live music every Saturday, usually a rock band to cater to the tastes of the pub’s clientele. The Nags Head also has ‘killer pool’ on Friday nights and is famous for Estelle’s vodka-based ‘secret shots’. Drinkers can now assemble in a cosy area which used to be the cellar and in a new wooden pub garden which has opened recently. It is a pub which has been at the heart of the Longhope community for at least 100 years after its former life as a butchery and stableyard.
Estelle said, “We’re a local pub. We’re not trying to be anything else. Drinking pubs are a dying breed as everywhere else is diversifying.”
Sadly, less than seven months later in March 2016 the Nags Head had closed. An application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for change of use from public house, manager flat and holiday flat to 2 no. holiday apartments and associated holiday use.
Landlords at the Nags Head include:
Plough Inn, Monmouth Road
The Plough Inn was located on the A4136 directly opposite the western entrance to Old Hill. The distinctive Grade II listed memorial to local men killed in the First World War, a recumbent lion on a stone pedestal, would have overlooked the inn. The rear of the Plough would have backed on to Velthouse Lane.
The Plough Inn was trading as a free house in 1891 and was owned by Emily Drew with George Godwin in occupancy as landlord. In early Edwardian times the pub had been sold to Wintle’s Forest Brewery. They also owned the Dursley Cross Inn. The annual rateable value of the alehouse was £17.0s.0d.
When the property of Wintles’ Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean was put up for sale in 1923 the Plough Inn was described as ‘freehold and fully licensed stone-built premises, well situate for business on the main Huntley-Mitcheldean Road.’ The ground floor consisted of a bar, smoke room, tap room, kitchen, beer store, coal house, store-room and back kitchen. There were three bedrooms, a box room and a club room on the first floor. To the rear of the property there was a ‘small garden, two closets, urinal and timber erection of store shed. Nice orchard, three pig cots, and large building, etc’.
Albert John Brain was a long serving tenant at the Plough who first served Wintle’s beers in 1907 and retired in the early 1960’s when the pub was a West Country Ales house. After Albert died in 1966 his son-in-law took over the Plough as licensee.
Gloucestershire County Council compulsory purchased the Plough Inn to facilitate road improvements and improve visibility. The new course of the A4136 was built across the site of the Plough Inn. Regulars tried to save the pub but to no avail. The Plough Inn called ‘last orders’ for the final time in May 1973 prior to demolition. Campaigners noted that the Plough Inn had ‘many attractions such as a preserved wooden mantelpiece which bears underneath it the trademark of the craftsman who made it, and an unusual carved ceiling in an upstairs room where sing-songs are regularly enjoyed.’
Landlords at the Plough Inn include:
Yew Tree, Monmouth Road GL17 0QD
The Yew Tree Inn is on the A4136 Monmouth Road, just to the west of Longhope Village
There is a very early reference to the Yew Tree in Longhope in 1608 when the innkeeper was Thomas Dobbs. There then follows a gap of two centuries, when in 1838 the Yew Tree was occupied by Emmanuel Constance. Of course there is no guarantee that the sign of the Yew Tree did not move during this time from another property in the village to the existing premises.
The Yew Tree had an annual rateable value of £18.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903 and was licensed as an alehouse, closing at 10 pm. The pub was free from brewery tie in those late Victorian and early Edwardian days. James Thomas is listed as the owner in 1891, and Jane Thomas in 1903. Were James and Jane husband and wife? Was Jane a widow in 1903? Perhaps the forenames James and Jane might even be a careless enumeration error.
Arnold Perrett & Co. of Wickwar acquired the Yew Tree Inn sometime before the Second World War. An inventory of sale in 1937 noted that the inn had a ‘yard, stables, coach-house, garden lawns, and piece of orchard land’.
In 2000 the inn sign was housed in an ornamental ironwork frame with the West Country castle emblem, but the pub sign has now been replaced with a modern bracket. The decorative scrolled ironwork sign bracket installed by West Country Breweries in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s was once a familiar feature in many of the pub signs of Gloucestershire. Such sign brackets have also disappeared from the Belfry (ex-George Hotel) in Littledean and the Keys pub in Bream). There are only two survivors left in the Forest of Dean, the sign of the Kings Head at Birdwood and the White Horse in Soudley.
A pub review in the ‘Citizen’ newspaper in March 2002 was not very complimentary about the food on offer at the Yew Tree. Under the headline ‘Pub will leave yew wanting for more’, the reviewer commented, ‘The staff are friendly and the welcome to children is warm. The food, sadly, is not the best. Ours arrived in dribs and drabs, some of the family practically finishing their food before others had started. The roast potatoes appeared to be deep-fried frozen ones and the Sunday roast meat tasted as if it had been individually packed and frozen. The experience sadly left us with a slightly less than satisfied feeling that there could be so much more to this.’
The fortunes of the Yew Tree Inn had changed for the better by the autumn of 2010 when Natalie and Steve Taylor-Pockett moved into the pub from the Nags Head on the Ross road. Natalie said, “The main attraction with the Yew Tree is that it’s a free house, so we can set our own prices and stock what we want. We’re serving several real ales and different guest ales, but because the Yew Tree has opened and shut so much recently we have our work cut out trying to get the regulars back in.” A partition was put in place between the bar and the restaurant and a renowned chef, Penny Hutchins, was employed to improve the cuisine. Natalie said, “Penny is well-known for her fish dishes and everything is home-made. You won’t find anything processed at the Yew Tree.”
A planning application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council in May 2011 for the construction of nine new chalets at the pub together with an extension to the main building. The chalets were officially opened in March 2012. Owner Paul Williams, who grew up in the village, said, “I used to drink in this pub as a teenager and I bought it as an investment. Building the chalets has been a great boost and we’re particularly busy this month (Cheltenham Gold Cup week).” The modern chalets include five double rooms and four family rooms with en-suite facilities”
The Yew Tree Inn was relaunched as a steak bar in April 2017 becoming the Yew Tree Steak House Grill. However, the bar, separate from the 40-seat restaurant retains the atmosphere of a country pub with a log fire and a special feature of a large tank of brightly coloured tropical fish. Owner Pete Matthews said, “We decided on the change because a lot of pubs in the area are opening restaurants, but there are no steak houses, so we thought we’d offer something a bit different to attract new custom and of course for our existing regulars.”
Landlords at the Yew Tree Inn include:
Anchor Inn, Central Lydbrook GL17 9SB
The earliest known reference to the Anchor Inn in Lydbrook is in the ‘Gloucester Journal’ dated 30th November 1807 when the inn was being offered for sale. However, the building may date back to the 15th century. Mary Wilce paid five shillings in poor rates in 1831, when the rateable value was set at £4. The Anchor is situated on the parish boundary of Central and Lower Lydbrook, opposite the 16th century timber-framed Sarah Siddon’s house, on the left-hand side of the road going uphill from the River Wye.
The ‘Gloucestershire Chronicle’ dated March 26th 1870 reported that, ‘Thomas Phelps and William Brazington were caught for being drunk, creating a disturbance and refusing to leave the Anchor Inn at Lydbrook. Phelps was fined 30 shillings and costs or one month, and Brazington was fined five shillings and costs or thirteen days imprisonment.’
The Russell family owned the Anchor Inn at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1891 A.J. Russell is listed as owner, and in 1903 the ownership was in the hands of the Representatives of William Russell. Robert Russell is recorded as being in occupancy at the Anchor Inn in 1869 and 1870 and, at that time, he was also the owner of the Lydbrook Chemical Company. It was classified as an alehouse and had an annual rateable value of £24.15s.0d. Although operating free of brewery tie in 1891 the leasehold had been secured by the Wickwar Brewery of Arnold, Perrett & Co. Ltd in 1903. In 1932 the rateable value had increased to £32.0s.0d.
The Meek family were in occupation at the Anchor during the First World War. Private Lionel J. Meek, ‘of the Anchor Hotel Lydbrook, and previously a collier at the Arthur Edward Colliery in Lydbrook, died in active service.
It closed on 9th May 1954 when John Cooper was the licensee, at that time probably selling Cheltenham Original Brewery ales. The license of the premises was relinquished and transferred to the Bailey Inn at Yorkley. In 1967 the premises was owned by Edwards Transport and the structure of the inn had fallen into disrepair.
The Anchor Inn was bought by Dave Price in 1979. After a long period of closure for the Anchor Inn reopened with a restrictive restaurant licence in 1980, gaining a full on-licence in 1981.
An ‘Eating Out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in April 2008 was very complimentary about the Anchor Inn, concluding with, ‘eating at the Anchor was completely delicious experience, food beautifully presented and efficiently served. This was a Sunday afternoon well spent.’ A follow up review in March 2010 commentated that ‘with B&B rooms available at this village inn diners come from far and wide to sample its traditional English menu – with pies as a speciality’ The reviewer added, ‘We were seated in the restaurant that had the cosy features of an old country pub with a stunning log fire crackling in the background.’
The Campaign for Real Ale (Gloucestershire Branch) published a ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire guide in 1996 which described the Anchor Inn as ‘an old pub with buildings on site reputed to be 15th century. Restaurant at weekends. Folk nights on Wednesday.’
On 6th January 2011 the Wyedean Earth Mysteries group met at the Anchor for a wassail. Their good luck did not extend to the fortunes of the Anchor as a pub as it ceased trading shortly afterwards.
A planning application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for ‘change of use of public house to residential dwelling’. The building is now a charmingly converted holiday cottage designed as accommodation for up to 22 people. The conversion was sympathetically done to retain the feel and ambience of the old Anchor Inn, complete with the bar. The Anchor also has woodburning stoves. The holiday complex has seven bedrooms, all of which are en-suite. The Anchor has a large kitchen and meals can be served on an impressive twenty seat dining table. The front bedrooms overlook the picturesque Sarah Siddon’s House, reputedly the childhood home of actress Sarah Siddons (b.1755, d.1831)
Landlords at the Anchor Inn include:
Bell Inn, Central Lydbrook GL17 9SB
There is a reference to an inn called the Bell in Lydbrook in 1792. It is also known that in 1808 a Friendly Society held their meetings at the Bell Inn. The pub was once frequented by workers from the nearby wire works who ‘would draw a nine-gallon barrel of cider or ale for their shift’s work’ – apparently working at a wire works was thirsty work!
In the 1891 and 1903 Gloucestershire licensing books the Bell Inn was trading free of brewery tie with an annual rateable value of £14.0s.0d. It was designated an alehouse and, in common with all the pubs in Lydbrook, closing time was scheduled for 10 pm. John Ward was the owner occupier in 1891, with ownership changing to Mrs Hanna Edwards in 1903.
Sometime before the First World War the Bell Inn was purchased by Francis Wintle’s Forest Brewery of Mitcheldean. In 1937 the Bell became part of the estate of the Cheltenham Original Brewery. The sale particulars detailed ‘a small yard, two closets and public urinal in the rear, a small garden in the front, and a vegetable garden in the rear and at the side, and also stone built stabling with loft over and all other outbuildings.’
In September 1967 a large crowd gathered outside the Bell Inn, Lydbrook, to see the drivers of Edwards’ Transport take part in a cider barrel rolling contest.
The property is now residential and still bears the name the Bell Inn. It is on the west side of the road in Central Lydbrook.
Landlords at the Bell Inn include:
Bush Inn, Hausley
Courtfield Arms / New Inn, Ross Road, Lower Lydbrook GL17 9NU
The imposing building, on the banks of the River Wye, is believed to have been built in 1756 and was converted into an inn during the mid-19th century. The hostelry was originally known as the New Inn (as listed in the Kellys Directory of Gloucestershire in 1885) but had changed its name to the Courtfield Arms by the beginning of the twentieth century. There had previously been another New Inn at Vention to the east of the Courtfield Arms. (qv).
Colonel Francis Vaughan Esq., landowner of the Courtfield estate on the other side of the River Wye, was also the owner of the Courtfield Arms in 1891 and 1903. The pub, designated an alehouse, had an annual rateable value of £13.10s.0d. and was licensed to the hour of 10 pm. In 1903 the Courtfield Arms was leased by the Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye. It must have been very pleasant sitting outside the front of the hotel, which overlooking the River Wye, on a warm summers day whilst supping a pint or two of A.C.B. bitter!
The Courtfield Arms was put up for sale in 1920. It was described as ‘a pleasantly situated wayside and residential fully-licensed hotel on the south bank of the River Wye between Ross and Symonds Yat, about one and a half miles from Lydbrook Junction Station, on the Great Western and Midland Joint Railway, and about six miles distant from the important summer resort and market town of Ross.’ The hotel was built of stone and slate roof and ‘is largely patronised by river and road excursionists, anglers and other visitors.’ The particulars of sale detailed a bar, bar parlour, tap room, sitting room, breakfast room, kitchen, scullery and two cellars. On the first floor was a large club room, six bedrooms and bathroom.
In a 1939 advertisement the Courtfield Arms was serving Ind Coope & Allsopp Ales. It was described as an ‘old fashioned hotel offering accommodation to tourists and motorists.’
A ‘Pubwatch’ article in the ‘Citizen’ newspaper in April 1998 written by reviewer Helen Blow gave the following account:
When you dine at the Courtfield Arms you are eating inside a former mansion than once belonged to the well-to-do Vaughan family. Present owners Dave and Tanya Edgar believe the building was converted to an inn during the mid-19th century. “When we took it over six years ago the menu still had the Vaughan family crest on it.”, said Dave, “It’s a lovely building with solid oak beams in the restaurant. Although the history of the place is somewhat vague, there is a rumour that there was once a bishop’s bolthole that led from the monastery on the hill across the river to the pub. They say it was built around the time of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries as an escape route. There was supposed to have been a well near the fireplace and the tunnel was said to have led from the bottom of it, but it must have been filed in because we have never found any trace of it.”
Flooding is a frequent problem. Dave Edgar commented in 1998, “We have a well in the garden which has 2 ft high walls around it and when the garden flooded one year there was actually more water outside the well than in it.” In November 2002 the floodwaters from the River Wye rose to such an extent that the cellars of the Courtfield Arms were flooded. After undergoing refurbishment, the hotel was re-launched as the Waterside Inn – a restaurant specialising in Bangladeshi cuisine.
An annual raft race was held between four Lydbrook pubs on August Bank Holiday. In 2008 it was reported that The Courtfield Arms, Forge Hammer, Royal Spring and Jovial Colliers will be taking to the water on August 29th for a raft race. The race will start at Bishopswood, then to Lydbrook for live music and prize-giving at the Courtfield Arms.
An ‘Eating Out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in July 2013 described the Courtfield Arms as a summer institution. ‘Being able to sit on the banks of the River Wye, watching the canoeists descend the river to their Symonds Yat finishing line, is a nice way to spend a sunny lunchtime in Lydbrook.’ The food menu was described in need of updating as ‘in summer people sometimes want something less hearty than burgers, steak, scampi and lasagne.’ The service of the Courtfield Arms was found to be excellent and the reviewer concluded by commenting that the pub ‘will always be a summer favourite, and with a hard-working manageress, who in little over three months has already started making sweeping changes and improvements, the future looks positive.’
On April 23rd 2014 the ‘Forester’ newspaper reported in an article entitled ‘Colourful future for the Courtfield Arms?’ that ceramic artists Mary Rose Young from Parkend was hoping to put an offer to move into the pub. Her plans were to redesign the Courtfield Arms with accommodation and let the rooms out to tenants. She said, “The rooms will all be done out in a colourful design and I want them to have fantastic interiors so people can live in them and around me while I do my art. Hopefully it’ll attract people to boutique accommodation.”
The Courtfield Arms closed in September 2014. In March 2015 an application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for a change of use from an existing public house to a holiday let. This was met with an attempt to register the inn was a community asset. In response to a petition Lydbrook Parish Council applied to the Forest of Dean District Council for the Courtfield Arms to be listed as a community asset, to prevent its conversion. The chairman of the parish council said, “There is a massive groundswell opposing the change of use of the Courtfield Arms. No one wishes to see this noble landmark of ours fail. No one has a problem with the holiday let idea, but many would wish to see the Courtfield continue as a pub / restaurant facility alongside the river. The Courtfield is a landmark, recognisable to people living way beyond the environs of the Forest. It should remain an attraction, not just for exclusive use of one party, but for the whole community.”
An asset of community value, if granted, would have ensured that the buildings remain in public use and give the local community the right to bid for it if it were to go up for sale. Bruce Hogan, district councillor for Lydbrook, added, “Our argument is that the Forest of Dean doesn’t make as much use of its part of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it should in terms of tourism revenue. The pub is in a beautiful location and considering the amount of canoeists that travel down the Wye it would be a crying shame to lose this pub.”
However, Forest of Dean District Council rejected the application for the Courtfield Arms to be registered as an asset of community value. Councillor Terry Hale said, “During the meeting I heard representations from all the relevant parties. I listened carefully to the concerns of the parish council but after considering all the evidence provided, I concluded that the statutory test was not satisfied and I recommended that it should not be listed as a community asset.” Barrister Phil Williams, speaking on behalf of the applicant for conversion to holiday lets, said in August 2015, “Cleaners are going to be employed from the local area as well as maintenance and building contractors”, he added. “It’s a financially disastrous business and has been for many years. It is now a building that is falling into dilapidation. This is a building that will simply not survive another winter. It is rotten. It is damp and there is no heating in there at the moment.”
A letter appeared in the ‘Forester’ newspaper from Dr Gerald Morgan of Dublin criticising the decision made by Councillor Terry Hale and the Forest of Dean District Council. He wrote, “Sir – Who is Councillor Terry Hale with his extraordinary judgement about the Courtfield Arms on the banks of the Wye in Lower Lydbrook as not being a Community asset. As we say in Central Lydbrook, Quis cutodes ipsos custodiet? (Juvenal, Satires, VI.347-48).” It is literally translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?", though it is also known by variant translations, such as "Who watches the watchers?" and "Who'll watch the watchmen?".
Landlords at the New Inn / Courtfield Arms include:
Crown and Sceptre, off Church Hill, Upper Lydbrook GL17 9SW
The Crown and Sceptre was located on the eastern side of the Lydbrook valley, just below Holy Jesus Church on Church Hill. Situated in a row of terraced houses overlooking the Jovial Colliers, the building is instantly recognisable as an old pub by its double bay windows. In recent years the property has been refurbished and replacement frosted windows have been installed bearing the name of the Crown & Sceptre.
With an annual rateable value of £14.0s.0d, the Crown & Sceptre was designated beer house status in 1891 and 1903 and closed at 10 pm. Thomas Stevens was the owner and occupier in 1891, with ownership passing to Scoble & Stephens in 1903. Presumably the difference of spelling of the surname is an administrative error. Throughout the twelve years from 1891 to 1903 the Crown & Sceptre was trading free from brewery tie, but there is evidence that it was thereafter tied to Georges & Co, Bristol Brewery.
There seem to be no references to the Crown and Sceptre after 1903, which indicates that it might have closed by the time that the war had broken out in 1914. The pub was known locally as ‘the Flag’.
Landlords of the Crown & Sceptre include:
Forge Hammer, Forge Row, Lower Lydbrook GL17 9NP
There was once an enormous railway viaduct spanning the valley immediately above the Forge Hammer. The Severn & Wye Railway viaduct dominated the skyline of Lower Lydbrook until it was dismantled in the spring of 1965. The viaduct was constructed by the Crumlin Viaduct Works at a cost of £7,396 and the foundation stone was laid on November 9th 1872. The viaduct was 90 feet above the valley floor and comprised of five stone arches and three wrought iron girders, two with 120 feet span and the other with a 150 feet span. It was opened on 26th August 1874, incredibly less than two years after construction had begun. Regular passenger services were withdrawn on 8th July 1929 and the line finally succumbed to the axe on 30th January 1956.
In 1891 the Forge Hammer was free from brewery tie and owned by F. Thompson. The beerhouse had an annual rateable value of £11.0s.0d. John Arnold & Sons, brewers at the High Street Brewery in Wickwar, had purchased the Forge Hammer by 1903. Closing time was at 10 pm.
When the tenancy changed hands in 1906 from Joseph Hall to Mr H.A. Walker, John Arnold & Sons (Brewers) considered that ‘the house has averaged 196 barrels per year and we think that under good management would do considerably more, as the present tenant is not out for the business, the accommodation has just been much improved. If the tenant understood butchery, with a good wife to assist in the house, we think he could do some trade, as there is no butcher in Lydbrook.’
An amusing, but not verified, tale was reported in June 1968. It was reported that so much water flooded into the back garden of the Forge Hammer in Lydbrook, a keen angler did a spot of fishing there and caught three big chub! He then threw them back into the garden.
After a period of closure, the Forge Hammer re-opened in July 1996.
An ‘Eating Out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in August 2008 described the Indian restaurant attached to the Forge Hammer Inn. The assessment was 10/10 for service, food and value for money.
‘Despite its rather inauspicious setting next to the village loos, the Forge Hammer is the jewel in the crown where Indian food is concerned. My friends in the party of four all agreed it was the best Indian meal that they had ever tasted – and that’s coming from connoisseurs. Making our way through the public bar and corridor we were pleasantly surprised by the two-tier restaurant that seats 50. As soon as we entered the dining room we were greeted by Alison Jobson. She and her husband Andy run the Forge Hammer and the key seems to be combining pub and restaurant by catering for the visiting diner as well as looking after locals dropping in for a pint.’
The favourable review was rebuked by a correspondent in the following weeks’ ‘Forester’, from a ‘Forest of Dean fan’, who bitterly wrote, ‘I can honestly say that my experience of eating at the Forge Hammer was that it was the worse Indian meal I have experienced’. A year later another ‘Eating Out’ review in the local newspaper gave positive feedback on the River Spice describing the restaurant as one of the Forest’s best-kept culinary secrets, summarizing with ‘the quality of the food is obviously of paramount importance to the staff and the restaurant is building a reputation that will keep people coming back.’
River Spice closed down early in 2012 after the chefs handed in their notice. The restaurant was taken on by Chi Ho Choy and his wife Lin and they introduced Chinese cuisine in March 2012. The menu included satay chicken skewers, succulent roast duck in a plum sauce and specialist Thai dishes.
The Forge Hammer has since reverted back to Indian Cuisine in the River Spice restaurant.
A commendable recent innovation at the Forge Hammer is the installation of a tiny microbrewery producing two regular ales exclusively for the Forge Hammer. Andrew and Alison Jopman established the Lydbrook Brewing Company in 2018 with production starting in April of that year. Lydbrook Valley IPA and Lydbrook Valley Viaduct Ale, both 4.3-4.4%, are the usual house beers. Andy will sometimes brew an experimental beer. On my visit in June 2019 I found the beers to be very good.
Landlords at the Forge Hammer include:
Jovial Colliers, Upper Lydbrook GL17 9PP
The Jovial Colliers is believed to have been trading in 1854. Sometime between that date and 1891 the landlord of the inn was a wonderfully named River Jordan!
The Jovial Colliers was designated beer house status in 1891 and 1903 with an annual rateable value of £14.0s.0d. At the beginning of the 20th century Alfred James Jones was the owner and occupier, and he ran the Jovial Colliers free from brewery tie. Closing time was at 10 pm.
Alfred James Jones sold the Jovial Colliers to the Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye in 1923. The beers were later supplied by the Stroud Brewery Company before the inn passed to West Country Breweries and, ultimately, Whitbread ownership. At the time of my last visit here was an old ‘Bass in Bottle’ advertisement set in ornamental glass above one of the interior doors.
In June 2001 the freehold of the Jovial Colliers, described as a rural village freehouse, was being marketed for £150,000. Described as a substantial detached property with two attractive beamed bars and pool room. Skittle alley and terraced beer garden with spacious six-bedroom owner’s accommodation.
Flooding in Lydbrook is usually associated with the River Wye bursting its bank at Lower Lydbrook. However, the stream running through Upper Lydbrook has also caused problems in the past. In January 1954 a couple of feet of floodwater covered the road outside the Jovial Colliers.
On Saturday 25th November 2012 32mm of rain fell in Gloucestershire between 10am and 2am on Sunday morning, and the overnight deluge wreaked havoc in the Forest of Dean. The rainfall followed a particularly wet November. In Upper Lydbrook the flood water diverted from its normal course and spilled into a half mile section of road which left businesses, homes and cars submerged. The water levels at the Jovial Colliers eventually reached waist height causing severe damage. Jamie Woods, who was living at the pub, told the ‘Citizen’ newspaper, “We went to bed and there was about a foot of water, then I came down on Sunday morning and it was around my waist.” Forest of Dean district councillor Bruce Hogan, who lived in Upper Lydbrook said, “The road was like a brook, it was grim. The water level just kept on rising and rising by about an inch every ten minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it before.” It was claimed that the flooding was caused by a blocked culvert but a spokesman for Gloucestershire County Highways said, “We have no evidence to suggest that there was a significant obstruction to the culvert in question or if it was a major cause of the flooding but, by the time the extent of the incident was reported to us, the volume of water was overwhelming.” However, a few weeks later it was admitted, “Though the culvert may have contributed to the flooding, we don’t know the reasons for this, however, debris that had washed down the hill certainly caused an obstruction and made the problem worse.”
Nine days after the devastating floods it was discovered that the insurance policy of the Jovial Colliers was under-insured, and a loss adjuster would have to make their assessment regarding compensation. Councillor Bruce Hogan said, “The Jovial Colliers was particularly badly hit. The insurance company’s dealings with private homes has been relatively benign but it appears they have been less than supportive of businesses who have suffered.” Landlord Tony O’Leary said, “I assumed that we were covered completely, and that the clean-up inside would be left to the experts. The man from the drying company said we need to get them in rapidly, and that it might take four weeks to dry out the pub. But that would be to expensive for us to deal with and the loss adjuster has not inspected the pub yet.” Speaking at the time Tony hoped that they could get the pub open again “sometime between January and Easter.” Yet six months later in June 2013 work was still outstanding. Tony said, “It’s difficult to say how long it’s going to be. It might take up to six weeks to get it all finished. We’ve still got the floor, ceiling and wiring to be done, but at least we’re on the right side of it now.”
The Jovial Colliers was purchased by Matt Jones early in 2017 and he and his team re-launched it as the ‘Colliers Inn’. The pub sign, however, still depicts the Jovial Colliers in 2019. Locals refer to the pub as the ‘Joves’. The refurbishment was sympathetic and many of the original features were retained including its stone walls, beams and fireplaces. A huge wood-burning stove now dominates one of the fireplaces. It is not known if the ‘Bass in Bottle’ feature survived the makeover, or indeed the flooding.
The Colliers Inn website and facebook page shows no recent activity but the Colliers is still trading. Perhaps a unique feature is the ‘Bunkhouse’, offering bargain accommodation. The bunkhouse is in the former skittle alley of the pub, which was thought to be the longest alley in the Forest of Dean. The skittle alley was built in the early 1900’s and was used as a rifle range for the home guard during the Second World War. An application for change of use from a skittle alley was submitted in 2010. In 2017 an overnight stay in the bunkhouse cost £25 per person per night which also included a full cooked English breakfast. The Colliers Inn website states, ‘The bunkhouse sleeps a maximum of 38 people. We have a room that accommodates twelve, a room that accommodates ten and the remainder is made up of rooms that accommodate four. All the rooms are heated, and all the beds are fitted with fitted sheets and pillows, but you will need to provide your own sleeping bag or duvet along with a towel. There are separate ladies and gents’ washrooms, along with two heated shower rooms. Kettles and mugs are provided, but you will need to bring your tea and coffee.’
In the pub itself, Matt Jones has put the emphasis on traditional values and modern facilities. There are pub games in the bar, featuring a pool table and darts board. Sky Sports is also featured. The Colliers website states that ‘we pride ourselves on the quality and range of our ales. You will always find Sharps Doombar on tap, along with two guest ales that change on a regular basis.’ At the rear of the pub is a terraced beer garden.
Landlords at the Jovial Colliers include:
The only details I have on the Kings Head in Lydbrook is this 1870 report in the Gloucester Journal. Could it be a simple mistake and the pub name should have referenced the Queens Head?
Masons Arms , Hausley GL17 9SR
A road going up the steep Church Hill from Upper Lydbrook meanders through narrow country lanes towards Joys Green, passing through the small hamlet of Hausley (or Horse Ley). Superb panoramic views of the Royal Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley can be enjoyed from this elevated position. The Masons Arms was a surprising find in such an isolated location.
The building dates from the late eighteenth century and probably became a basic beer house around 1870. George Davis was the owner in 1891 when the Masons Arms was trading as a free house. The annual rateable value was £18.0s.0d. Francis Wintle’s Forest Brewery of Mitcheldean had acquired the Masons Arms by the beginning of the 20th century. Closing time was at 10 pm.
In May 1937, upon the voluntarily winding up of the Forest Brewery, the entire estate pub was passed to to the Cheltenham Original Brewery, the holding company. The particulars of sale described the Masons Arms as including ‘all outbuildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging comprising pot house, closet, three pig cots, stone erection of stabling with loft over, meadow and garden containing in all three quarters of an acre or thereabouts’. A photograph of the Masons Arms in the late 1940’s show ‘Stroud Brewery Ales’ signage on the building, and towards the end of its life as a licensed premises the pub sign shows some affiliation to the Bass Brewery of Burton on Trent.
It seems that the pub changed its name to the Bush Inn sometime in its history, but then reverted back to the Masons Arms. In October 2006 the pub was still quietly trading but was only open at weekends. It seems to have closed altogether soon afterwards. Considering its out-of-the-way location, it is amazing that the Masons Arms survived as a pub for so long.
Landlords at the Masons Arms include:
New Inn, ‘Waters Cross’, Vention
Research on the New Inn is complicated as there were two pubs in Lower Lydbrook with that name, although almost certainly not concurrent with each other. To verify the information stated here more research is required, so please be aware this is not definitive.
The Courtfield Arms is listed as the New Inn in the 1885 Kelly’s Directory of Gloucestershire, but a New Inn at Waters Cross, near the junction with Vention Lane on the B4234 road from Lydbrook to Ross on Wye, is known to have been trading in 1773. In that year a ‘cock fighting match’ between the ‘gentlemen’ of Gloucester and Monmouth, took place at the New Inn at Lydbrook.’ George Westone was the innkeeper.
In 1807 the ‘Gloucester Journal’ included a notification of the sale of the New Inn, which took place by auction at the Swan Inn, Ross on Wye on Thursday 17th April ‘between the hours of three and five in the afternoon’. The inn was described as ‘commodious and well-accustomed’ with ‘stable, mill-house, garden, lands and premises thereunto belonging…. ‘together with several safe, spacious and convenient wharfs on the banks of the River Wye, and adjoining the said premises.’
There are no records of the New Inn after the middle of the 19th century. It is interesting that references to the Queens Head begin after the apparent demise of the New Inn. Was the licence transferred from the New Inn to the Queens Head? Or perhaps the Queens Head was the same premises as the New Inn, but substantially refurbished?
Landlords at the New Inn include:
Prince of Wales, Central Lydbrook
The Prince of Wales was located on the left-hand side of the road heading up the valley road from Lower Lydbrook. The Bell Inn was a little further down on the western side of the road (B4234).
William Sidney Jones was the owner and occupier of the Prince of Wales in 1891 and the pub, categorized as a beer house, traded as a free house. It had an annual rateable value of £14.0s.0d. Twelve years later we find Mrs William Jones as the owner, which begs the question had she been widowed? Closing time in 1903 was at 10 pm.
The Prince of Wales was believed to be still trading in 1935 although I have not found any contemporary records to prove this. The property is now residential yet still bears the name the Prince of Wales.
Queens Head / ‘Parrot’, Waters Cross, Lower Lydbrook GL17 9NU
In 1873 James Phelps purchased the Queens Head with a mortgage supplied by Alfred Wintle, Brewer of Bill Mills at Weston under Penyard near Ross on wye. In 1889 the Queens Head consisted of ‘three bedrooms, three rooms on first floor, cellar, wood house (with passage through for use at any time), bakehouse or back kitchen (with use at any time for baking purposes), pigscot and garden.’
In 1891 Alfred James Phelps owned the Queens Head. Perhaps Alfred was the son of James. Despite the mortgage supplied by Alfred Wintle, the Queens Head was still owned by the Phelps family and was trading free from brewery tie. With the Wintle family connection it is surprising that the pub was not tied to the Forest Brewery. The annual rateable value of the Queens Head was £13.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903 and was licensed as a beer house. Closing time was 10 pm.
Anglo-Bavarian Brewery of Shepton Mallet, Somerset had purchased the Queens Head by 1903, and the landlord resident was Thomas Cooper. There appears to be no further records after 1903, possibly indicating that the licence of the Queens Head had been voluntarily relinquished.
Apparently, the Queens Head was known as the ‘Parrot’ by locals. The reason for this is unclear, but a landlord of the pub may have once kept a parrot as a pet. Maybe the locals taught the bird some objectionable words, which were recited at inopportune times! With Tommy Cooper as landlord the parrot might have indeed learnt a few tricks!
The licence may have been transferred from the New Inn, which was in the same location (see New Inn, Waters Cross).
Landlords at the Queens Head include:
Recruiting Sergeant Inn, Lower Lydbrook
Charles Neate was the owner and occupier of the Recruiting Sergeant in 1891. It was an ale house, free from brewery tie, with an annual rateable value of £17.0s.0d.
The Recruiting Sergeant had already closed when the 1903 book of licensed premises in Gloucestershire (petty sessional records) was published. The late Ray Allen told me that the renewal of the licence was refused by magistrates because of repeated bad behaviour at the inn, although I have seen no documents to substantiate this.
After the pub closed the property was divided into two and a shop (Viaduct Stores) operated from the premises.
Landlords of the Recruiting Sergeant Inn include:
Royal Spring, Vention Lane GL17 9RL
Vention is a small hamlet to the north east of Lydbrook. The unclassified road from Vention runs down a wooded valley and joins the B4229 as it runs parallel to the River Wye. The Royal Spring is located at the top of this narrow valley in an attractive position.
Classified as a beer house in 1891 and 1903 the Royal Spring had an annual rateable value of £18.0s.0d. John S. Wheatstone was the owner and the Royal Spring was run free of brewery tie. Closing time was at 10 pm.
When I visited the Royal Spring in 2007 I was made extremely welcome by the landlady, May Crawley. She had researched into the history of the Royal Spring and had written this article which was on display in the pub.
Lydbrook is made up of a number of settlements of which the Vention area is but one. It is situated in the north east of the present parish. The lane leading down from the Morewood past the inn and down to the River Wye having also served as a tramway in the 1820’s. The area has two marketable assets, limestone and coal, A large quarry and some limekilns lie above the inn, and another limekiln was built about halfway down towards the river. The incline is very steep.
The building itself has very little straightforward vernacular traits. It is basically stone and timber, and a much later slate roof. The style lends itself to late 18th century, but the foundation was probably late Tudor, perhaps as early as 1575. The question then arises as to the purpose of the building originally. Two or three theories have been put forward. It has been said that it was a hunting lodge, built for the Duke of Monmouth. This is unlikely, as he would not have been permitted to hunt in the Forest of Dean, but he may have had hunting rights in Herefordshire, and the Vention is very close to the border with that county. A second idea is that it was built as a small holding, consisting of house and attached byre, with a small barn. The third theory is that it was built as part of the limekiln complex, and the families living there were operating the limekilns, and the quarry. Lime was an important product, and the burning of it produced fertilise to combat the acidity of the soil, and was also used for mortar in building.
Why Royal Spring Inn? There are a number of springs in the area, but none claiming a royal connection.
The licensing of premises for the consumption of alcohol was carried out by the local magistrates. The Vention Inn was licensed as a beerhouse initially. The owner probably brought in the malt and hops, but brewed his own beer. There were plenty of maltsters in the area, and the hops grown in Worcestershire would also be supplied by them. The inn has been a free house since the beginning and remains that way today.
The first licensee discovered in the records, so far, was John Harrison. He kept it from 1837-1840, and these are the years when it was worth £50 per annum in rent. Harrison was also the owner. Records are more accessible after 1869, when the law was changed in some respects. The Wheatstone family, in the person of Stephen Wheatstone. He was definitely the licensee in 1876. He was succeeded by John S. Wheatstone sometime between that date and 1891. The printed record for 1891 shows that it was a beerhouse, still, and a freehouse, and had a rateable value of £18. To prevent brewers and private owners from charging excessive rents to tenants, the rateable value was the yardstick by which rents were calculated. In this case the gross rental was stated to be £20 per annum.
Closing time was set at 10 pm, which was the same for all inns in the parish. Lydbrook did not qualify to be a populous area at that time. It is to be noted that closing time was the only restriction of hours. Licensing hours known until recently were not brought into force until the Defence of the Realm Act in 1914, and the government of the day promised to repeal them after the Great War. That promise was not carried out.
Sarah Wheatstone was the new licensee from the 20th August 1907, and retained it until her death in 1936, when Joseph Wheatstone took it over. He had an interest in local mines, and was part owner of the Reddings Level, Birchen Grove and Worrall Hill No.2 for about ten years.
It was recorded in 1931 that the rateable value of the premises was £23, and that a further £7 had been added for five and a half acres of land. Joseph Wheatstone relinquished the reigns in 1971, and that was the end of his family’s century long tenure. There is a ghost at the inn, and it is said that it is May Wheatstone, Joseph’s wife. Why she should haunt the inn is another question.
Kathleen Whitmore took over in 1971, followed by June Cooper in 1974, Kenneth Avis in 1981 and Bruce and Jennifer Pitchford in 1984. Timothy Pitchford and Julie Akeston kept it from 1986 until 1990, when our present host arrived.
The inn has a friendly atmosphere, a good reputation for its ales, and a fine reputation for its food, and a right royal time can be had!
A fire broke out in the kitchen of the flat above the Royal Spring on Saturday 4th May 2019 and three fire crews were called to attend the blaze. It took two hours to extinguish the fire and the property suffered damage from fire and smoke to both ground and first floors. Fortunately no one was injured and the Royal Spring was able to open as usual.
Landlords at the Royal Spring include:
Sawyers Arms, Lower Lydbrook
Jane Jones was the owner and occupier of the Sawyers Arms in 1891. It was an alehouse and traded free from brewery tie. The annual rateable value is not given in the licensing book of that year.
In 1903 the Sawyers Arms was owned by Thomas Elvy’s Dursley Steam Brewery. It is interesting to speculate how the beers were transported from the Dursley brewery across the River Severn to Lydbrook in the Forest of Dean. A road journey would have necessitated taking the casks of beer by horse drawn dray first to Gloucester, and then onwards into the Forest of Dean. This would have been a circuitous and time-consuming route and the beer might have not been in the best condition by the time it finally reached the Sawyers Arms. It is more likely that the beers were transported by rail. Elvy’s beers could have been loaded onto a train at Dursley, taken up the branch line to Coaley Junction, and then transferred to another train travelling the Berkeley to Lydney line across the Severn Railway Bridge. Once at Lydney Junction the beers would have travelled up the present Dean Forest Railway line and, ultimately to Lydbrook Junction station. The rail journey from Dursley to Lydbrook was certainly not direct and it would have involved manhandling the casks of ale on and off the trains several times. It must have been labour intensive and an expensive way of supplying Dursley brewed beer to the Sawyers Arms in Lower Lydbrook. Perhaps it is not surprising that Elvy’s Brewery went bankrupt in 1906!
The Sawyers Arms was sold by auction on Wednesday October 15th 1930 at the Courtfield Arms Hotel. The particulars of sale stipulated that the property was a “brick-built (cement faced) Freehold Detached Dwelling House formerly known as the Sawyers Arms Inn”. The property consisted of an entrance porch, hall, three sitting rooms (one formerly the bar), four bedrooms, kitchen, larder, back kitchen, wash-house with copper and outside W.C.’s. It also had a large garden and the property was ‘wired for electric light’. Vacant possession was available on completion of purchase.
The property has been in residential use for many years and it is difficult to imagine that it ever traded as a public house, but it still retains the name the Old Sawyers Arms.
Landlords at the Sawyers Arms include:
Tinmans Arms, Lower Lydbrook GL17 9NS
In 1760 there were three tin plating works in Lydbrook and one was located near the site of the present day Forge Hammer inn. These tin plating works developed from existing iron working forges and were used for the rolling of thin iron sheets or black plate which were then polished and cut to size and then packaged and distributed. It is likely that the thin iron sheets were transported by boat from a wharf on the River Wye. The tin plate works closed in 1925 but the derelict buildings were a feature of the landscape for many years afterwards.
The Tinmans Arms, a little further up the road, was named after the tin plating works. Perhaps in the late 17th century the workers at the tin plate works could have a pint or two at the pub, but in the 1891 and 1903 licensing books the licence of the Tinmans Arms was strictly for off-sales only. It also had a six-day licence, so it must have closed on Sundays. John Edwin Little was the owner of the beer house and it had an annual rateable value of £12.0s.0d. In 1891 and 1903 the records show that the Tinmans Arms was a free house, with no brewery tie. The premises later became a general store before finally closing c.1980. The property is now in residential use.
Yew Tree, Upper Lydbrook GL17 9LQ
The Yew Tree was at the upper end of Lydbrook, not far from the Mireystock road cross-roads (where the road to Lydbrook leads off the A4136). The pub was on the east side of the road. It is now a private residence called Yew Tree Cottage.
The Yew Tree was a free house owned by Tom Leonard Smart in 1903. He was also the occupying landlord. Twelve years earlier in 1891 a Mr Smart was also the owner (no Christian names given), and it seems that the Smart family were owners of the Yew Tree Inn for at nearly 50 years, as Miss A.L. Smart (daughter?) was landlady in 1939. The annual rateable value of the beerhouse was £12.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903, with a closing time of 10 pm.
The landlord of the Yew Tree in the late 1950’s, Richard Dunkley, was still a resident of Lydbrook in 2002 and was known locally as “Mr Dick.” He was the last licensee at the Yew Tree Inn.Landlords of the Yew Tree include:
1891 George Knight
1903 Tom Leonard Smart
1939 Miss A.L. Smart
Late 1950’s Richard Dunkley
Annexe Inn, 47-49 Newerne Street GL15 5RA
The Annexe was opened in 1957 by Cyril Bailey and remained in the same family. Helen Bailey, Cyril’s daughter, was running the pub and was co-owner in 2009 when it had a makeover. The Annexe Inn has also been run by Helen’s mother, brother Jeff, as well as partners John Belcher and Jackie Colwell.
The refurbishment started in 2006 when the bar and restaurant were re-designed, followed by the function room which was used for private functions like parties and weddings. The new frontage in 2009 was partly funded by Forest of Dean District Council regeneration fund enabling the exterior to be re-rendered, the installation of new windows, signage and lighting. The pub was re-launched as the Annexe Venue. Helen told the ‘Citizen’ newspaper, “We have spent a lot of money on this and it has changed over the years, but we are still the same family run business. We have lots of regulars and a very strong community pub spirit, we wanted to keep them all on board and I think they are all pleased with the work we have done.”
An ’Eating Out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in August 2012 put the emphasis on the cooks at the Annexe Venue, James Snell and Glyn Allford, who had moved to the Forest after working for top restaurants in London. After five years working at Clearwell Castle they started at the Annexe. James said, “Our menu [at the Annexe Venue] is very eclectic as we have a broad clientele. We do everything from omelettes and chips to more refined dishes, but making sure everything is to the local taste.”
The left-hand side of the building housed Joshua’s Steak House in 2012. The premises is now Amigos Mexican Grill Bar, but it is still licensed.
Bridge Inn, Newerne Street GL15 5RF
Emma Ridler was the owner of the Bridge Inn in 1891. It was classified as an alehouse with an annual rateable value of £34.5s.0d. The Bridge was a free house enabling Emma Ridler to choose where she got her beer supplies from. Twelve years later in 1903 the Bridge Inn is documented as belonging to Samuel Fisher Barnard of the Feathers Hotel. It was bought for £2,000 in 1897, the year that Samuel died. The licensing book indicates that the Bridge Inn was still a free house, but Samuel Barnard and his brother ran a small commercial brewery at the Feathers Hotel so the acquisition of the Bridge must have been purely to secure an outlet for Barnard Bros beers. The Bridge Inn closed at 11 pm.
Harris’s Forest of Dean Almanack and Directory of 1899 give the following details. Albert Nelmes, Bridge Hotel, Newerne, Lydney – Good beds, excellent accommodation for travellers. Wines and spirits of the best quality. Good stabling, a horse, trap and wagonette, etc., for hire. A recreation ground, 10 acres in extent, for shows, etc.
Francis Wintle purchased the Bridge Inn. When the property of the Wintles’ Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean was put up for sale in 1923 the Bridge Inn was described in the inventory as an ‘attractive stone-built premises with rough cast, occupying an important site in this busy town.’ On the ground floor there was a bar, private bar, smoke and tap room, sitting room, store cupboard, two beer stores with loft over and kitchen. On the first floor there were four bedrooms, storeroom, and ‘a good club room with separate approach from yard’. It was also noted that ‘the property is of Freehold Tenure and let to Mr A.G. Nelmes, a tenant of about 38 years’ standing, on quarterly tenancy at per £80 annum.’
The following article appeared in the Dean Forest Mercury. August 21st 1972.
The Bridge Inn will be remembered with affection:
The old Bridge Inn, Lydney, shortly to disappear under the Newerne Street redevelopment scheme, has a history extending from 1844, the date shown on the front of the building, to last year when it was closed. Throughout its 127 years’ history the inn has been a focal point of the numerous activities in the town, and it has been the headquarters of a large number of the town’s clubs and organisations from time to time. Lydney’s cricket club, the rugby club, and more recently the soccer club, have all had their headquarters at the inn.
There have been numerous licensees at the Bridge Inn too during its history, some remaining for a long time and others for short periods. The last licensee was Mr D.T. Gardner, and it would be of interest to know who was the first licensee, but there is no doubt that the longest serving licensee at the inn was the late Mr. Albert Nelmes. He took over the license in 1888, and up to the time of death in 1935 he had held the licence of the inn for a record 52 years. Mr Nelmes’s wife, the late Mrs Julia Nelmes, who was well known for her excellent catering, held the licence of the inn after her husband’s death until 1939.
Mr and Mrs Nelmes lived at the Bridge Inn with their two sons, Mr Harold Nelmes and Mr Fred Nelmes, and both of their sons played for Lydney R.F.C. Born at Arlingham, Mr Nelmes was licensee for two years at Lydney’s old White Horse Inn, situated at the lower end of Newerne Street, before he took over the licence of the Bridge Inn. For most of the time that he held the licence, the public house belonged to Mr. Francis Wintle, the Mitcheldean brewery owner. The inn was afterwards sold to the Cheltenham Original Brewery, who owned it for 30 years before it was taken over by the Whitbread-Flowers group, who under their rationalisation programme closed the inn, and sold the building. Both Mr and Mrs Nelmes had a good reputation for catering. For many years they catered for the football clubs’ annual dinner; and also another well known event, the Whit Monday band and choir festivals in Lord Bledisloe’s Lydney Park. The licensee’s son, Mr Harold Nelmes, who was born at the inn, can recall the town’s first charabanc trip. This went from the Bridge Inn in the year 1913 to Weston-super-Mare, by the old ‘Bristol Blues’.
The Bridge Inn used to be the focal point of very popular annual events, which were heralded by “Fat” Stery, the town crier, such as Lord John Sanger’s Circus, and Jacob Studt’s funfair, with the boxing booths. These events drew tremendous crowds to Lydney from all parts of the Forest, and they were held on the Bridge Inn fair field, which was then owned by Mr Nelmes. The Bridge Inn was the headquarters for all the showmen and circus performers in the days when beer served from the old hogs-heads was 2d. a pint. On Lydney funfair day (June 25th) thousands of people used to arrive by train from the Forest and they packed the Bridge Inn fairground. Mr Harold Nelmes can recall the time when his father accepted the challenge to go into the lions’ den at Sanger’s circus, and be shaved. During that time the Bridge Inn, was also a popular centre for the local farmers, who came to the town on market days (Tuesdays), when sheep and cows were sold in the yard at Swan Lane, in the days when sovereigns were exchanged. The Bridge Inn used to be the centre for charabanc parties and the Moose and R.A.O.B. organisations held their headquarters there during the time the licence was held by Mr Nelmes, who used to be president of the Lydney cricket and football clubs, and committee member of Lawfords Gate and Licensed Victuallers’ Association.
At one time the Bridge Inn was used for the practice of dentistry, Mr Harold Nelmes says the teeth used to be extracted in the front of the inn, and a negro used to come with his three-piece band to play during the extraction of teeth without anaesthetic, thus drowning the patients cries.
Licensees at the Bridge Inn since the beginning of the 1939-45 war were Messrs. J. Pitt, B. Cole, S. Hyde, G. Potter, R. Blake, and D. Gardner.
An advertisement in Harris’s Forest of Dean Almanack and Directory of 1899 describes the Bridge Inn: "Albert Nelmes, Bridge Hotel, Newerne, Lydney. Good beds, excellent accommodation for travellers. Wines and spirits of the best quality. Good stabling, a horse trap and waggonette, etc for hire. A recreation ground, 10 acres in extent for shows, etc.”
When the circus came to Lydney in September 1957 one of the performing elephants was given a pint of beer by the landlord of the Bridge Inn, George Potter.
When the Bridge Inn closed in 1971 it was thought that it was going to be demolished for improvements to Newerne Street. The building has survived and is now occupied by three or four separate shops.
Landlords at the Bridge Inn include:
Cross Keys, Church Road, GL15 5EA
Frederick H. Hathaway owned the Cross Keys Inn in 1891 and 1903 and the premises was a free house with no brewery tie. Classified as a beer house the Cross Keys had an annual rateable value of £16.5s.0d. and closed each night at 11 pm.
The Cross Keys is brick built on the ground floor and has a timber framed upper floor with a twin gabled roof. It has two bay windows, which are joined by a wooden framed porch. It is probably of Victorian design and obviously has not been altered in any way. Records of the Cross Keys go back as far as 1821 suggesting that it might have been rebuilt. The Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye purchased the Cross Keys in 1906.
The Cross Keys passed to the ownership of the Stroud Brewery Company in the late 1950’s, subsequently being tied to West Country Breweries and Whitbread. A reminder of its past brewery heritage is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque still in situ.
An advertisement feature in the ‘Severn & Wye Review’ in June 1999 described how ‘times have certainly changed since a hooter sounded all over Lydney to signal the end of another shift at the Tinplate works. It was a tough place to earn a crust. The men were hard and the work was hot and the first place to which many of them headed was the Cross keys. Push bikes were piled by the dozen outside the pub as thirsts were quenched. The Tinworks has long gone but, fortunately, the Cross Keys remains. Now it is a go-ahead, modern pub though still retaining links with the past.’ In its heyday in 1881 the tinplate works and associated forges employed over 200 people.
Landlord at the Cross Keys include:
Feathers Hotel, High Street GL15 5DN
The Feathers Hotel was once an important coaching inn on the Gloucester to South Wales main road. The Feathers Hotel played a leading role in Lydney’s history. It was once the venue for inquests and trials and the headquarters for a host of local organisations. The Feathers Hotel even boasted its own bowling green.
The police court responsible for hosting quarter and petty sessional divisional meetings to discuss licensing renewals, prosecutions, etc, was held in an upstairs club room at the Feathers Hotel at the end of the 19th century. In July 1874 six magistrates, including Charles Bathurst, expressed their concerns about the conditions of the premises of where the petty sessions were conducted, “The room at present used for the purpose is a club room at the top of a pub, the approach being up two flights of narrow stairs. The room, although large, is low and the accommodation for the magistrates, the witnesses and the public, is very bad. Above all the holding of petty sessions in a public house is most objectionable, the parties and witnesses frequently appearing before the bench more or less under the influence of intoxicating liquor, their excuse when reprimanded for their conduct, being that they do not like to wait about in a public house without ordering something.” It was noted that in the last court sessions one man was in such a state of intoxication that he fell from his seat and had to be removed from the room.
Charles Bathurst of the Lydney Park estate owned the Feathers Hotel in 1891 and 1903. The annual rateable value was a substantial £85.15s.0d. and, not surprisingly, it was classified as an alehouse. It was trading as a free house during those years and closed at 11 pm.
The Feathers Hotel once brewed their own beer and supplied their ‘home-brew’ to a few other local pubs. The Barnard family were tenants of the Feathers Hotel from 1863 to 1903. John and Alice Barnard had two sons’, Samuel Fisher Barnard and John Fisher Barnard (Fisher being their mother’s maiden name), and they had started a small commercial brewery at the Feathers by 1885 trading as ‘Barnard Brothers’. An advertisement in 1889 stated ‘The Feathers Hotel, Posting House., will supply families with home-brewed beer, wines and spirits.’ They were also agents for Worthington’s beer and stout. By 1891 Barnard Brothers supplied beer to the Dukes Head in Woolaston, the New Inn Bream and the Step-a-Side in Lydney. Samuel F. Barnard died in 1897. In that year Frank Paul is listed as a brewer in Lydney, presumably working at the Feathers Hotel. Was the health of Samuel of concern? It seems unlikely because in the year of his death Samuel had purchased the Bridge Inn for £2,000.
After Samuel’s death his executors took a valuation of the stock and trade at the brewery and the equipment at the brew house consisted of: Galvanised iron water tank to hold 130 gallons with brass tap. Two wort barrels. Copper strainer, Sluice valve with copper piping, Oak waste tub, Copper furnace to hold 200 gallons as fixed, Two quarter mash tubs with tap and waste. Hop sieve, Wort pump with copper tap and piping. Oak tub and under back, Two coolers and stands complete, Two wooden beer shuts, Two waste barrels, Six working pieces each holding 100 gallons, Topping off can and pail, Refrigerator, Copper pump, Two stoking irons, Thermometer, Copper force pump, Three barm tubs, two fillers, 14 rung ladder, Damper and chain, Indian rubber piping.
The brewery at the Feathers Hotel was short-lived. The equipment appears to have been sold after Samuel’s death, and John passed away in December 1903. The Bridge Inn and the Step-Aside were offered for sale at auction at the Feathers Hotel on the 23rd March 1904.
On Friday 22nd February 1902 the members of the Lydney and District Licensed Victualler’s Association met at the Feathers Hotel to partake of dinner and spend a social evening. ‘A few friends were invited, and between 30 and 40 sat down to an excellent spread provided by Host and Hostess Smith.’ H.J Smith had taken over the running of the Feathers Hotel after the Barnards gave up the tenancy, but his tenure at the inn was short-lived.
In 1914 the Feathers Hotel was offered for sale as ‘Fully licensed and occupying the most important position in the town with extensive accommodation, stabling etc.’ The sale particulars described the property as consisting of a large bar, bar parlour, private sitting room, reading room, billiard room, private dining room, commercial room, coffee room, market room, kitchen, larder, scullery and wine cellar on the ground floor with a drawing room, ten bedrooms, store room, linen room and closet. On the second floor there was a spacious club room, a masonic room and five more bedrooms. The basement consisted of beer and wine cellars and at the rear there was an ‘assembly hall, stabling for 12 horses, a storeroom formerly used as a brewhouse, four piggeries and a barn.’
The Feathers Hotel was purchased by the P.R.H.A. This was the People’s Refreshment House Association Ltd., which provided food and accommodation to travellers. It encouraged non-alcoholic drinks but did serve beer during licensing hours. They owned 160 Licensed Houses after the Second World War, and the Feathers Hotel was described as having ’19 bedrooms and a dining room capable of seating a hundred.’ P.R.H.A. also owed the Railway Hotel at Coates near Cirencester. The Association’s freehold and leasehold properties were acquired by Charrington & Co. Ltd. from the beginning of 1962.
On Friday August 31st 1962 four young gentlemen named Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr stayed overnight at the Feathers after playing at Lydney Town Hall. Drummer Pete Best had been sacked from the Beatles just two weeks earlier on the 16th August, so Ringo was still very much the ‘new boy’ in the band. Perhaps after singing Twist and Shout John Lennon drank a couple of pints of Bass’ beer to soothe his throat! Just four days after the Lydney Town Hall appearance they recorded their first single ‘Love Me Do’ in EMI Abbey Road Studios. The Beatles were not the only famous celebrities to stay at the Feathers Hotel. Whilst filming an episode of Doctor Who called ‘Planet of the Spiders’ in 1974, actor John Pertwee and the cast stayed at the hotel. The River Severn was used as a backdrop for filming.
In its last years of trading the Feathers Hotel had fallen into such a downward spiral it was part-owned by a convicted drug dealer. The purchase of the property had been funded by monies obtained from supplying drugs. The hotelier was given a six-year sentence and assets of £250,000 were confiscated. The Feathers Hotel closed in February 1998.
An arson attack took place at the Feathers Hotel on the afternoon of Good Friday in 1998. The blaze was in the private living quarters on the second floor of the building and caused extensive damage, but firefighters using new techniques stopped the fire from spreading. A spokesman for the Fire Brigade said, ‘It was so hot inside the room the fire door was throbbing. If we had opened the door, there would have been a ‘backdraft’ and a huge explosion. We cranked the door open gently, sprayed very cold water inside and closed the door again. We did this several times until it was safe to go in. Our training methods probably avoided a more serious fire.”
The Feathers was demolished in June 1999 to make way for a Tesco supermarket and petrol station.
Landlords at the Feathers Hotel include:
Fleece Inn, 27-29 Newerne Street GL15 5RA
The Fleece Inn was on the northern side of Newerne Street, almost opposite the Bridge Inn. In 1863 the Fleece was licensed to sell ‘Beer, Ale and Porter, Cider & Perry, by retail, in order that it may be consumed in the said Dwelling-house of Matilda Davies.’
Charles Birks was the owner of the Fleece Inn in late Victorian / early Edwardian times it and was free from brewery tie. The Fleece Inn was licensed as an alehouse and had an annual rateable value of £33.15s.0d., closing at 11 pm.
The Fleece Inn was later acquired as part of the ever expanding Wickwar Brewery pub estate. Arnold, Perrett & Co also supplied their beer to the Foresters Arms, Greyhound, Queens Head, Severn View and White Horse.
In 1937 the inventory of sale described the Fleece as “that messuage or Inn known as the Fleece Inn situate and being numbers 27 and 29 Newerne Street in the Parish of Lydney in the County of Gloucester with the brewhouse, cellars, gardens and all appurtenances thereunto together with the site thereof and the land occupied therewith.” The mention of brewhouse is interesting – the Fleece Inn must have once brewed its own beer.
The Fleece Inn closed down in the early 1970’s.
The building is now Old Fleece Chambers and part of the old pub now the Card Box shop. It was previously a Red Cross charity shop. There is a West Country Ales – Best in the West ceramic plaque on the wall, which makes identification easy. It is surprising that the plaque survived the alterations to the ground floor when the original narrow sash windows were replaced with larger shop windows.
Landlords at the Fleece Inn include:
Foresters Arms, High Street GL15 5DP
The Foresters Arms was a sandstone-built building on the High Street facing Bream Road. The Feathers Hotel was nearby.
The Gloucestershire licensing book of 1891 give the owner of the Foresters Arms as the ‘representatives of the late Joseph Taylor’. He also owned the Queens Head in the High Street. The Foresters Arms had traded as a free house with Joseph John Allway as the occupying landlord. The passing of Joseph Taylor and the subsequent sale of the Foresters Arms provided the opportunity for the ever expanding Wickwar Brewery to secure another outlet for their beers in the Forest of Dean. Arnold, Perrett & Co. Ltd, were the owners in 1903. The annual rateable value of the beer house was £25.15s.0d., and closing time was at 11 pm.
After the Foresters Arms served ‘last orders’ for the last time the building became DRJ Electronics, agents for Hitachi TV and Radio.
Landlords at the Foresters Arms include:
Greyhound Inn, Tuthill Street GL15 5PA
The annual rateable value of the Greyhound Inn, classified as an ale house, in 1891 and 1903 was £20.10s.0d. During those twelve years spanning the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries the Greyhound was a free house. Annie Wooles was the owner and occupier in 1891 (presumably the wife of Allan Wooles, listed as innkeeper and plasterer in 1881 (aged 21). Annie Wooles was still resident at the Greyhound Inn in 1903 but, according to the licensing returns, the ownership of the premises had been transferred to Frederick H. Hathaway who also owned the Greyhound Inn. Frederick Hathaway was a local wine & spirits merchant. In 1903 the closing time of the Greyhound Inn was at 11 pm.
The Greyhound Inn was one of several Lydney pubs that were once owned or leased by the Wickwar Brewery. Arnold Perrett & Co. Ltd also supplied beer to the Foresters Arms, Fleece Inn, Queens Head, Severn View and White Horse. It seems that the Wickwar Brewery purchased the Greyhound in 1937 from Frederick Hathaway, a local wine & spirit merchant. The inventory of sale described “all those two several messuages or dwelling houses with the gardens and all outbuildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging and adjoining .. the Inn and premises on the east thereof.. known as Numbers 4 and 6 Tuthill Street”.
The Greyhound was tied to Whitbread from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1990’s. A reminder of the past brewery heritage is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that is still in situ.Landlords at the Greyhound Inn include:
1881 Allan Wooles (Innkeeper and plasterer, aged 21 in 1881)
1891,1903 Annie Wooles. Beerhouse
1939 James George Grail
1999 Dave and Helen Palmer
2002 Pat Goodwin
Harry’s Bar and Restaurant, Regents Walk, Newerne Street GL15 5RF
An internet search for Harry’s Bar in Lydney shows no recent activity and, presumably, the venue has ceased trading. Harry’s Bar & Restaurant is in Regents Walk, a modern retail development next to the Swan Hotel.
During the World Cup in the summer of 2002 Harry’s Bar had an unusual dish on its breakfast menu – Beckham and eggs. The doors were opened ay 7 am so that football fans could watch the games whilst tucking into their football themed fry-up. Harry’s Bar was essentially a night-club and in August 2006 the resident DJ, D.J Danny was playing ‘the best party dance & R&B all night’ and the bar – opened until 2 am – was offering drinks promotions on cocktails and shooters. In May 2014 Forest of Dean licensing committee granted an extension of the licence so that the nightclub could stay open until 3.30am every night of the week, with recorded and live music ending at 3 am.
Highland Inn, Tutnalls Street GL15 5PQ
The Highland Inn opened in the 1970’s and was a popular music and sports venue with custom from the surrounding housing estate. The Highland Inn closed in 2004 and was demolished in January 2006.
The site of the pub is now occupied by Highland Court consisting of ten apartments. When the new flats were put up for sale in October 2006 the asking price was between £125,000 and £129,500 for a 125-year lease.
Kings Bar & Bistro / Road House, Kings Buildings, 1 Hill Street GL15 5HE
Kings Bar & Bistro opened in December 1999 in a modern building situated next to the level crossing operated by the Dean Forest Railway. 278 people were present at the launch. It was the brainchild of Dean James, managing director of the Fine Dining Company. Kings Bar was his second venture, after purchasing the Classic Restaurant in Chepstow. Kings Bar & Bistro was a fifty-seat private restaurant, complete with a separate oak fitted bar leading off to a screened-off upper and lower lounge area. The concept was to provide reasonable restaurant prices and an affordable range of drinks, served in pleasant surroundings. The interior design was created by David Burgess who aimed to create contrast throughout the premises, with the aim of generating a great atmosphere within each individual area. The restaurant menu was created by Wayne Michael Leadon., who had won the accolade of Welsh Chef of the Year. The Kings Bar focused on entertainment on Friday’s and Saturday’s, with live music.
In May 2001 the restaurant was given a change of identity to Hungry Henry’s at Kings Bar. On the menu was Six Wives Grill for £15.95 and ‘Sir Lion of Beef’, a 16 oz steak for £16.95. Six years later businessman Dean James was seeking a chef to transform Kings Bar into the best gastro-bar in the Forest of Dean. He organised a cook-off competition on July 28th 2007 with the intention of attracting ‘the next Gordon Ramsay’, placing an advert in the local newspaper asking ‘Can you put the f-word in the Forest? – a town centre bistro-bar untraded in food but excellent wet sales would like to break into the food market. We require a Head Chef.’ The incentive was the provision of ‘Your own kitchen to produce your own income, to go into your own pocket’. Dean Gaffney, of ‘Eastenders’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity’ fame was one of the judges and Gordon Ramsay sent his message of support.
The Fine Dining Company held an emergency meeting for its creditors in May 2007. By February 2010 the Kings Bar had a new owner. Douglas Smith from Scotland started his career in the police, but he had around 27 years running pubs in Germany and Spain. He had experience in running music events and was a competent DJ. Douglas hoped to expand the range od Scotch whiskies at the bar and offer a carvery on Sundays. However, the venture was short-lived and the premises had closed by the Spring.
The bar was relaunched as the Road House in June 2010. Marcus Huyton, then aged 19, persuaded his father Ian to go into business with him. Marcus said, “I had never really thought about working in a pub or bar before, but I rang my Dad when I saw that King’s had closed and asked him if he’d be interested in running it with me. The World Cup is on at the moment and we’re showing all the games which is helping, and we are going to push it as a venue too. We have our own PA system now, and microphones, and we want to get bands in here on most weekends.” By August the Road House was becoming known as the Forest of Dean’s premier music venue.
Tragically Ian Huyton died on Christmas Eve 2010. He was only 48. He died from ischemic hypertensive heart disease. His daughter Leanne said, “He did not have a heart attack, his heart just took its last beat and stopped.” Determined to carry on Marcus said, “[Dad and I] were determined to make it work before, but now it has to happen. I have to make the bar into what it could have been in memory of my Dad. It’s going to be hard but all the staff and customers have been brilliant.”
The Road House finally closed in January 2012. Marcus posted on the pub’s Facebook page: ‘As some of you are already aware we have decided to call it a day at the Road House. This is a sad day for all of us but this isn’t where the parties end. We would like to thank everyone who has helped out, supported us through everything and basically just being you. We love you all, it wouldn’t have been the same without you.’
In September 2013 an application for change of use from licensed premises [The Kings Bar] to offices was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council.
Moulders Arms, Queen Street GL15 5LY or GL15 5LZ
Queens Head, High Street GL15 5RF
The Queens Head was located a few yards away from the Swan but on the opposite side of Swan Lane. The Foresters Arms stood directly opposite on the western corner of Bream Road. The Queens Head was demolished in the late 1990’s.
The ownership of the Queens Head in both the 1891 and 1903 licensing returns is registered as the ‘representatives of Joseph Taylor’. The administration acting for the late Joseph Taylor also held the Foresters Arms as part of his estate. The Queens Head was licensed as a beer house and had an annual rateable value of £30.17s.6d. in 1891 / 1903, with a closing time set at 11 pm. The Queens Head is one of many Forest of Dean pubs, previously free of brewery tie, that were acquired by the opportunist and rapidly expanding Wickwar Brewery, although Arnold, Perrett & Co. Ltd., only secured the leasehold of this premises.
In January 1949 it was reported that William Price was fined one pound for wilful damage and ordered to pay costs and damages by Lydney Magistrates’ Court for throwing an army thunder-flash, used in battle practice, down the toilet of the Queen Head, Lydney, which ‘blew the toilet pan to pieces.’
Landlords at the Queens Head include:
Railway Hotel, Cookson Terrace GL15 5ES
Cookson Terrace, consisting of nine gabled dwellings built of local sandstone, was constructed in 1859 by the Severn & Wye Railway Co. Ltd. and was named after the Company’s chairman, Mr Joseph Cookson. The Severn & Wye Railway Company also owned the Railway Hotel, a large gabled property located in the middle of the elegant terrace. The Railway Hotel had a substantial annual rateable value of £54.15s.0d. in 1891 and 1903. The hotel was classified as an alehouse and was free of brewery tie. The Railway Hotel was near to Lydney docks and the railway junction but a considerable distance from Lydney town centre, consequently closing time was an hour earlier than those in pubs in town. No doubt the sight of slightly drunken cyclists riding precariously in the dark lanes towards Lydney to get the chance of a couple of more pints before the pubs closed at eleven must have been quite common.
By the end of the First World War the leasehold of the Railway Hotel had been taken by the Wickwar Brewery (Arnold, Perrett & Co., Ltd) from the joint owners the Midland Railway and Great Western Railway. In 1926 the Wickwar Brewery paid an annual rent of £130 for the lease. From 1937 the Cheltenham Original Brewery supplied their ales to the Railway Hotel, and presumably in its last years of trading it was a West Country Breweries house. The Railway Hotel closed c.1970.
The Grade II listed building was put up for sale in January 2014 when three flats were sold collectively at auction. The flats were all in need of complete modernisation and had a guide price of £135,000 - £155,000. After some renovation work the second floor two bedroomed apartment, benefiting from having a newly fitted kitchen and bathroom, was put on the market in December 2014 for £124,999. The buyer would have a share of the freehold of the building and of the management company which was to be set up on completion of all the three flats that once comprised the premises of the old Railway Hotel.
Landlords at the Railway Hotel include:
Railway Inn, Hill Street GL15 5HW
An inn called the Ship is known to have existed on the north side of Hill Street in 1839. When the Severn and Wye Railway line through Lydney (the existing Dean Forest Railway) was opened for passengers in 1875 it seems that the Ship had already changed its name to the Railway Inn. In 1848, 27 years before there was a railway station that served Lydney, particulars of sale of the property at auction detailed “All that freehold Messuage and Public House known as the Railway Inn situate at Newerne… with the Brew House, Cellar and Garden.” Therefore, the Railway Inn was probably named after an early tramway.
It is interesting to note that both the Railway Inn and the Rifleman’s Arms, located just a few yards away on the other side of the railway level crossing, had identical licensing details. Both were beer houses and had annual rateable values of £24.0s.0d. in the years 1891 and 1903. Charles Garton & Co of Bristol owned the Railway Inn and Rifleman’s Arms in 1891, of which all their pubs were transferred to the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery of Shepton Mallet Somerset by 1903. Closing time at the Railway Inn was at 11 pm.
The Railway Inn closed in the early 1960’s. It is now the whitewashed rendered building which houses Wong’s Chinese Takeaway and can easily be identified by the West Country Ales ceramic brewery plaque. On the opposite side of the road is the building that once housed Kings Bar & Bistro and the Road House.
David Morgan of Lydney told me about his reminiscences of the Railway Inn: "as kids we would take GL cider bottles back to the Railway Inn for the deposits. They had an off-licence window that you knocked at, and a wonderful smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke - a smell you don't often find in pubs these days!”Landlords at the Railway Inn include:
1839 John Smith (Ship Inn - owned John Tamplin)
1860-1870’s Charles Edwards
1881,1891 William Walker (aged 29 in 1881)
1903 Lemuel A. Hyett
1939 William Davies
1960 William Page
Red Lion, Newerne
Rifleman’s Arms, Newerne Street GL15 5RA
The Rifleman’s Arms stood on the eastern corner of the road to Whitecroft on the junction of Hill Street and Newerne Street.
The licensing details of the Rifleman’s Arms and the Railway Inn are identical. Both were beer houses and had annual rateable values of £24.0s.0d. in the years 1891 and 1903. Charles Garton & Co of Bristol owned the Rifleman’s and Railway Inn in 1891 of which all their pubs were transferred to the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery of Shepton Mallet, Somerset by 1903. Closing time at the Rifleman’s Arms was at 11 pm.
The Lydney Picture House adjoining the Rifleman’s Arms opened in 1913. By that time the Rifleman’s was probably selling beer from the Cheltenham Original Brewery. An early photograph of the Picture House shows Cheltenham Ales signage at the pub. The cinema had a 20 feet wide proscenium – the part of the stage in front of the curtain. No doubt the Rifleman’s Arms was a convenient place for a pint for cinema goers either before or after their film had been screened.
In September 1932 it was reported that trouble at the Rifleman’s Arms during the weekends were mostly attributed to Welsh Charabanc parties. The reason why the Welsh day outings were the cause of concern is not documented.
The Lydney Picture House closed in 1964. In October 1965 the Rifleman’s Arms also closed. Both the cinema and pub were demolished in November 1966 and the small parade of shops and residential units known as Forest Parade was built on the site.
Landlords at the Rifleman’s Arms include:
Royal Albert, Newerne Street GL15 5RA
The Royal Albert was located on the junction with Newerne Street and Albert Street at the bottom of Highfield Hill.
George Courteen is listed as the owner of the Royal Albert Inn in 1891. He was at the pub thirty years earlier, in 1861 George Courteen is also listed as a maltster. Of course, there is a possibility that the first George Courteen was the father of the second. However, the 1903 petty sessional licensing records give detail that the ownership of the pub was held by the ‘representatives of the late George Courteen’. The annual rateable value of the Royal Albert was £25.15s.0d. at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries and the alehouse operated free of brewery tie. Closing time was at 11 pm.
The following is an advertisement in the Harris directory of 1903, "George James. Royal Albert Inn. Headquarters of the original Lydney outing club. Good accommodation for travellers. Wines and spirits of the very best quality. Sole agents for Dunville & Co’s world renowned old Irish whiskey.”
In 1891 and 1903 the Royal Albert was free from brewery tie but was subsequently acquired by the Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye, passing to the ownership of the Stroud Brewery Company and West Country Breweries.
The Royal Albert was the scene of a most dramatic incident on the night of Friday September 10th, 1965, when a 24 ton fully loaded petrol tanker crashed into the pub. The following account is taken from the 'Citizen’s Bygone Gloucestershire’ (Nov. 1998).
'Faced with what was in effect a massive unexploded bomb, firemen from Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire risked life and limb knowing that at any time it could explode. Escaping petrol caught alight, flames licked around the end of the tanker and for an hour it was touch and go as firemen from Lydney, Coleford and Chepstow poured thousands of gallons of water from the River Lyd and then finally blanketed out the flames with foam. About 40 customers and staff fled for their lives when the tanker stalled, rolled backwards despite being in forward gear, smashed through the pub wall and embedded itself in the lounge. The driver, Frank Beal from Cardiff, told how he struggled to keep control of the runaway tanker as it rolled backwards down the hill for 100 yards. "I was frightened of running straight back into the main street of the town,” he told a reporter.
It seems doubtful that the building could survive the ferocity of such an inferno. However, in her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ Heather Hurley relates the story of a lorry loaded with steel, which lost control on Highfield Hill and ran down the slope straight into the Royal Albert Inn. The Forester newspaper reported the story, which Heather describes as having taken place in the late 1960’s – was this after the petrol tanker incident? The ‘Forester’ newspaper reported:
‘Lorry makes room at Inn’ – “It’s that cat again”, said Mrs Len Smith, the licensee of the Royal Albert Inn, Lydney to her husband early on Monday morning when she heard a noise she described as ‘like bottles smashing’ from one end of the pub. Mr Smith, who was about to drink a last cup of tea before going to bed, got up to see if the cat had caused the row and found a seven ton lorry instead. “I tore into the bar”, Mr Smith said, “where there was one complete fog of dust; I couldn’t see anything. I switched the light on and there, jutting some feet into the room, was the tail of a lorry with its rear lights still on. The room was half filled with concrete, the fireplace had come away from the wall, chairs were crushed and a window was gone”. Outside he found the driver of the lorry, Constantine Daniel Illidge of Newport, badly shaken but unhurt. His eight wheeled diesel vehicle had managed to climb 50 yards up Highfield Hill before it ran back. Mr Illidge had tried unsuccessfully to steer it into Albert Street and the seven-ton fifteen hundredweight lorry, with its load of 13 tons of steel crashed into the corner of the Royal Albert at the junction of Albert and Newerne Streets.
Landlords at the Royal Albert Inn include:
Severn View Inn, 3, Lynwood Road (Primrose Hill) GL15 5SG
Arnold, Perrett & Co. Ltd of Wickwar owned the Severn View Inn in 1891 and 1903. It was licensed as a beer house and had an annual rateable value of £17.2s.0d. Unlike the pubs in Lydney town which opened an extra hour, the Severn View had to call ‘last orders’ for 10 pm closing.
The Severn View Inn is a sandstone-built building located to the north of Lydney and, as its name implies, it overlooks the town and the River Severn.
The Cheltenham Original Brewery took over the ownership of the Severn View Inn when the business of Arnold Perrett & Co. Ltd. of Wickwar was acquired in 1924.
The modern-day address of the Severn View Inn is 3 Lynwood Road, Primrose Hill. Locals tend to refer to the pub simply as ‘The View’.
The landlady of the Severn View was not impressed with the views of Councillor Alan Preest in February 2009 after he contacted pub company giant JD Wetherspoon attempting to bring new business into Lydney. He said, “I have spoken to Wetherspoon’s about a number of empty premises in Lydney and I am hoping they will send a surveyor down to take a closer look”. Karen James, who was also chair of the Pubwatch scheme, was infuriated claiming that Mr Preest had betrayed those who ran pubs in the town. “Alan Preest is not welcome in my pub anymore”, she said, “He says constantly that he supports local businesses but he’s trying to bring in a chain that none of us can complete with. They do 99p a pint promotions which they don’t make a profit on just to bring people in.”
In January 2013 Karen James was able to toast the new year in when she completed negotiations with previous owners Punch Taverns to buy the Severn View. She was fed up with the pub company’s annual rent rises. She said, “It’s wonderful to finally be running the pub in the way that I really want to. It’s not just about economy – I found working under a brewer [pub co] more restrictive.”
Landlords at the Severn View include:
Ship Inn, Hill Street
Step Aside Inn, 27 Albert Street GL15 5LU
Although no longer a pub the Step Aside Inn has hardly altered in its appearance for a century or so. It is a twin gabled whitewashed building. There are three sash windows on the upper floor and between these are the embossed words 'THE STEP ASIDE INN'. The pub also retains its old central lamp.
The Step Aside Inn was owned by Mary Ann Atkinson in 1891 and 1903 and the annual rateable value for the licensed beer house was £15.7s.0d. The pub was leased to Samuel Fisher Barnard of the Feathers Hotel and, together with his brother John, their beers (Barnard Bros.) were supplied to the Step Aside. Closing time was at 11 pm.
The Step Aside Inn was acquired by the Arnold Perrett’s Wickwar brewery and, in 1937, passed to the ownership of the Cheltenham Original Brewery. I have no records of the Step Aside Inn during or after the Second World War.
Landlords at the Step Aside Inn include:
Swan Hotel, Newerne Street GL15 5RF
The Swan Hotel is one of the oldest inns in Lydney, which has been trading since at least 1777.
Godsell & Sons, brewing at the Salmon Springs Brewery just outside Stroud, owned the Swan Hotel as early as 1891. It is always fascinating to speculate how Godsell’s ales were brought into the Forest of Dean, across the River Severn, from the Stroud Valleys. The circuitous road route via Gloucester used by horse and dray would have been both time consuming and hardly cost effective. In those Victorian days no doubt the most efficient way of getting Godsell’s ales into Lydney would have been transporting the casks by train over the Severn Railway Bridge which opened on 17th October 1879. Even so, such a procedure would have involved taking the beer from the brewery to one of the Stroud railway stations – probably the Midland branch at Wallbridge – and then transferring the casks to another train traversing the Berkeley Road to Lydney Junction. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that Godsell’s trading interest into the Forest of Dean was a direct consequence of the railway connection bridging the River Severn. In 1891 the Swan Hotel and the Red Lion in Westbury on Severn were the only Godsell’s houses in the Forest of Dean.
An advertisement appeared in the Harris Forest of Dean Directory in 1903 which read, 'Swan Hotel, Lydney. Family and Commercial and Posting House. Proprietor: J. Francis & B. Smith. Wine and Spirit Merchants. Agent for Godsell & Sons noted bitter ales and stouts.’ In the twelve years from 1891 Godsell & Sons had acquired the British Lion in Parkend, the Cross Inn at Aylburton, the and the Masons Arms in Bream.
The annual rateable value of the Swan Hotel in both 1891 and 1903 was £47.0s.0d. Classified as an alehouse, ‘time gentlemen, please’ was called at 11 pm.
The Stroud Brewery Company took over the estate of the Godsells Brewery when the family business was acquired in 1928. The Swan continued to serve Stroud brewed beers until the mid-1960’s when West Country Breweries centralised brewing operations in Cheltenham. Whitbread became owners of the Swan in the late 1960’s.
When Lydney Rugby Club, a team made up of part-timers, faced premier side Saracens at home in November 1999 for a knock-out game the atmosphere in Lydney was extraordinary. Despite being heavily beaten 40-0 Lydney rugby club fans had a great day. Andy Drinkwater, manager of the Swan Hotel, said that between 700 and 800 people had been served in the pub during the day. He said, “It was an absolutely superb day. Between 11 am and 2.30 pm we took what we usually make during the whole day on normal Sundays. By the end of the night our takings were more than we made in the whole week. For such a small town it can’t be a bad thing bringing in outsiders like this.”
Lydney Boxing Club previously met in an outbuilding at the rear of the Feathers Hotel. When the site was flattened in 1999 for the redevelopment of the new Tesco store the boxing club was made homeless, but in December 2000 they made the Swan Hotel their new headquarters.
The Swan Hotel made the headlines for the wrong reasons in September 2009 when two Lydney men were arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs after a police raid took place at the pub. Twenty officers and a sniffer dog entered the Swan Hotel after a tip-off from the Pubwatch scheme. The two men were arrested after the police drugs dog, a springer spaniel, detected Class A drugs in their possession. Traces of drugs were also found in the toilets.
The Swan Hotel now has a website, stating that ‘the Swan is a local pub which sits at the heart of the town of Lydney in the Forest of Dean. Situated right in the busy centre, we are perfectly placed for those on business or leisure breaks. With newly developed rooms, The Swan is now able to offer an affordable yet comfortable stay with the benefit of a home cooked breakfast included in the price. The Swan’s philosophy is for individuals to feel relaxed and comfortable, be that in our bar or in our accommodation. With a real log fire and a wide range of beers, wines and spirits, we are the perfect place to unwind and relax. The Swan serves food throughout the day within the bar area or why not choose to dine in our restaurant, The Ugly Duckling which in a former life used to be the skittle alley to the hotel. Situated next door to The Swan, our restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday. The Ugly Duckling Restaurant is also the ideal venue to hold a celebration and can accommodate up to 50 people for a sit-down meal or buffet. Be it a wedding reception, birthday or anniversary, let our team ensure you have a fabulous day. Catering to provide a bespoke service, this ensures you have the food you desire whilst meeting any specific dietary needs, at a budget which suits you. Funeral wakes are also catered for to suit your requirements.’
Landlords at the Swan Inn include:
Three Salmons, 39 High Street
True Heart, Newerne
White Horse, Newerne Street GL15 5RA
William Peters was the owner of the White Horse Inn in 1891 and 1903. The beer house had an annual rateable value of £15.7s.6d. The White Horse was trading free of brewery tie in 1891, but it seems that the owner William Peters was persuaded to lease the premises to the avaricious Wickwar Brewery (Arnold, Perrett & Co., Ltd) who had the White Horse in their rapidly expanding portfolio of Forest of Dean pubs by 1903. Closing time was at 11 pm.
Landlords at the White Horse include: