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Bell Inn, Lower Redbrook NP25 4LZ

James Owen was the owner of the Bell Inn in 1891 and 1903 when it was licensed as an ale house, free of brewery tie, with an annual rateable value of £11.10s.0d. Closing time was at 10 pm.

In the mid 1990’s time was called at the Bell Inn and the premises was converted to a specialist restaurant – the Fish & Game.

In December 1999 an application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council to ‘change of use from licensed restaurant and bar to residential at Mill Stone House (Fish and Game)’. In February 2002 another application was submitted to the Brewster Sessions at Forest of Dean Magistrates Court in Coleford for the granting of a Justices’ Licence permitting the sale of intoxicating liquor of all descriptions either on or off the premises at Millstone House. Thankfully the Bell Inn reopened as a fully licensed pub.

An ‘eating out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in December 2012 was complimentary about the menu in the Bell stating that the food served from the kitchen had to be locally sourced, home-made and cooked fresh every time. In summary the reviewer remarked that the ‘Bell Inn at Redbrook has everything going for it. It is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty overlooking the River Wye. Overall the food at the Bell Inn was good although it was not presented in a fine dining style, but this was not ‘pub grub’ either. This was superb food served in comfortable surroundings.’

A follow up review in April 2014 was also positive. Steve Watson wrote ‘The Bell is a proper pub, with an exceptionally cosy bar – my favourite area – a wooden-framed conservatory, which I still think should be knocked through to the bar, and a restaurant area. The Bell is a strange combination. Food just makes up part of what it offers, with rooms, live music and brilliant one-off dining events. It is certainly one of the most inventive places to eat in the area. With a head chef cooking to a high standard and an excellent landlord looking after the bar, it’s a fantastic combination.’

In 2014 the Bell Inn won the Forester newspaper ‘Pub of the Year’ in their annual business awards.

Landlords at the Bell Inn include:
1885,1891 James Beard
1902,1903 Mrs Ann Beard
1906,1919 Thomas R. Parry
1927 Thomas O'Connell
2002 David and Jill Heydon
2006 Nick Till and Arthur Haines
2011 Ben and Lizzy Condrad

Boat Inn, Penalt NP25 4AJ
Strictly speaking the Boat at Penalt should not be included in this Gloucestershire Pubs website as it is in Wales. The car park for customers is in England.

The Severn & Wye Railway Company built a line from Monmouth to Chepstow. It was one of the most picturesque railway journeys imaginable threading its way through the Wye Valley. At Redbrook the railway line crossed from one side of the river to the other on a skew bridge. The railway line was regrettably dismantled in the 1960’s but the old bridge was left in situ. A footpath is conveniently attached to the side of the old bridge. So, the Boat Inn is unique in that it attracts most of its customers from England, despite being in Monmouthshire (Wales).

The actual pub is a classic. Perched on the steep valley it has a wonderful terraced garden with natural waterfalls and the cosy interior is just the place to enjoy the excellent range of real ales that are on offer with good food.

Bush Inn, NP25 4LU

The Bush Inn stood on the corner of the junction with the main Monmouth - Chepstow road (A466) and the minor road from Newland. It straddled the border of Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire. As the Bush Inn was in Wales the licensing records were lodged in Monmouth.

The Bush was once the ‘tap house’ of the Redbrook Brewery, which was located on the opposite side of the road – on the Gloucestershire side!. Thomas Burgham took over the Redbrook Brewery in 1856 and he expanded the business to supply at least 22 licensed premises. The Bush Inn was in the portfolio of 18 freehold and 4 leasehold pubs that were put up for auction with the brewery on 8th December 1904.

The Redbrook Brewery and its pubs were taken over by Ind Coope & Allsopp of Burton on Trent in 1923. In 1939 their celebrated Burton Ales were still available at the Bush Inn.

The pub closed in the late 1980's and the building is now in use as a Physiotherapy Studio.

Landlords at the Bush Inn include:
1856,1871 Phillip Jones
1902 John Wheeler
1906 Harry Reece
1919,1927 Edward John Smith
1939 Mirson James Dovey
1939 William Powell (listed in error as Bush Inn, Lydbrook)

Founders Arms, Upper Redbrook NP25 4LU

The Founders Arms was situated on the left-hand side of the road leading up the side of the valley towards Newland. The Queens Head was just below the Founders Arms on the right hand (eastern) side. The Founders Arms was one of 18 freehold and 4 leasehold pubs offered for sale as the estate of the Redbrook Brewery on 8th December 1904.

The boundary between England and Wales follows the course of this unclassified road. Amazingly, despite only being a stone throw’s distance apart, the Founders Arms was in Monmouthshire and the Queens Head in Gloucestershire. The licence of the Founders Arms would have been registered in Monmouth. I have no records of the Founders Arms after 1906.

Landlords at the Founders Arms include:
1835 William Page
1856 W. Keeland
1859 Amos Hodges
1863 C. Mason
1885 Edward Weare
1902 Thomas Morgan
1906 Mrs E. Morgan

Kings Head, Lower Redbrook
The Kings Head had opened by 1848 and was located among the cottages below the tin works. The Kings Head was a free house in 1891 and 1903 but it later passed into the ownership of Arnold Perrett & Co’s Wickwar Brewery. I have found no references to the Kings Head after 1939 suggesting that it had probably closed sometime during or soon after the Second World War. Cheltenham Original Brewery owned the Kings Head in 1939. The tin plate works survived until 1962.

J.C. Phillips was the owner of the Kings Head in 1891 and 1903 when it was licensed as an ale house, free of brewery tie, with an annual rateable value of £9.12s.0d. Closing time was at 10 pm.

Landlords at the Kings Head include:
1856 B. Lambert
1885,1891 Thomas Taylor
1902, 1906 Mrs Sarah Ann Taylor
1919 Alfred Hudson
1927 William Herbert Hudson
1939 Sidney J. Ball

Queens Head, Upper Redbrook NP25 4LU
The Queens Head was on the right-hand side of the road going up the hill in a northerly direction towards Newland. This unclassified road forms the boundary between England and Wales. The Queens Head was in Gloucestershire whilst the Founders Arms on the opposite side of the road was in Monmouthshire, Wales. The Queens Head is now a private residence called the Old Inn.

The Queens Head in Upper Redbrook was once owned by the Redbrook Brewery. The Queens Head was in the portfolio of 18 freehold and 4 leasehold hotels and public houses that were included in the sale by auction of the Redbrook Brewery on 8th December 1904. The Queens Head was eventually acquired, together with the Bush Inn in Redbrook by Ind Coope & Co. of Burton on Trent in 1923.

Landlords at the Queens Head include:
1906 Thomas Hawkins
1919,1927 Mrs Eliza Hawkins
1939 Bernard John Beard

Blue Boys GL14 1RA
Rodley is an isolated hamlet to the south of Chaxhill and south-east of Westbury on Severn. It is on the ‘Arlingham Bend’ of the River Severn, renowned for its dangerous and swift tides.

Blue Boys Farm is located near the banks of the River Severn directly opposite Framilode. When the inn was operating from the building it once served bargees mooring nearby waiting for the tide to enable passage into the Framilode canal and onwards to the Stroudwater and Thames & Severn Canals. When the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal was completed in 1827 the Framilode cut became isolated and fell into disuse. This affected the livelihood of the Blue Boys Inn. However, the inn survived for another 90 years.

Eliza Butler owned and occupied the Blue Boys in 1891 and 1903. She was a widower, aged 56 in the 1901 census. Her husband Thomas Albert Butler ran the Blue Boys in 1876 when he was also listed as a carrier. Thomas died from the disease of the bladder in 1891, aged 48. The annual rateable value of the Blue Boys Inn was £21.0s.0d. The premises had an ale house license and was free from brewery tie. The Blue Boys closed at 11 pm which is surprising considering its isolated rural location.

The Blue Boys closed in March 1917 when it was reported that 'Mr Fricker had vacated the premises.’

Landlords at the Blue Boys include:
1856 Mrs E. Hiett
1876,1885 Thomas Albert Butler
1891, 1906 Mrs Eliza Butler
1917 Mr. Fricker

Angel Inn, High Street GL17 9US

The Reverend John Horlick was a minister at Ruardean in 1825. There was a John Horlick, aged 32, in occupancy as landlord of the Angel Inn in 1851. This was probably the Rev. John Horlick’s son. In October 1825 the minister was attending and comforting a parishioner as life ebbed away from her. Mrs Harper told a tale on her deathbed about the Ruardean ghost which was supposed to haunt the Angel Inn. Apparently, a Scotsman called Hector Moses McJordan was a money lender. Seeking repayment from an outstanding agreements Hector was often told abruptly, “You cannot get blood from a stone”. But one of Hector’s debtors told him that, on the contrary, blood could be drawn from the Staunton stone if it was pricked on the stroke of midnight. So, Hector Moses McJordan duly went to the Staunton stone one night with the idea of taking the stone back to Scotland where he could make a lot of money. On the way back he was murdered at the Angel Inn for the money he carried. It’s an unlikely tale, not substantiated, not very scary and the Staunton Stone, (presumably the Buckstone) is still there.

The Representatives of the late Alfred Wintle of Bill Mills at Weston under Penyard owned the Angel Inn in 1891. Alfred Wintle was not a brewer but had acquired a small portfolio of pubs that made their own beer so that he could supply malted barley from the Bill Mills. So, presumably the Angel may have once brewed its own beer. It is also possible that Alfred Wintle supplied malt to the Ruardean Brewery which was next door to the Angel. Thomas Wintle, Alfred’s brother, opened the Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean in 1869. With the construction of a large malt house at the brewery Bill Mills was used for bottling beer. The pubs of Alfred Wintle were taken on by the Forest Brewery and in 1903 Francis Wintle was the owner of the Angel at Ruardean. The annual rateable value was £29.15s.0d. and the pub was licensed as an ale house. In 1931 the rateable value had been raised to £35 per annum.

A column of one penny coins stacked on top of each other on the counter of the Angel, and assembled over a duration of three years, eventually reached 42 inches high. A competition was held to guess the monetary value of the pile which was worked out to be an impressive £29.12s.0d. In July 1967 Mr and Mrs Pinchin of the West Country Brewery Company was invited to the Angel for the long anticipated ‘pushing over the column of pennies’ ceremony. The money was donated to the Ruardean and Pludds Christmas Cheer fund.

The legacy of ownership by West Country Breweries is a ‘Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that still graces the building. Throughout most of the 1960’s up to the 1990’s the Angel was a humble Whitbread pub. After the disposal of the Whitbread pub estate the Angel became part of the Pubmaster chain. When renovations were taking place at the pub in 2002 old fireplaces were found to be bricked up. The Angel Inn closed in 2008.

In 2011 the Angel Inn had a new lease of life as a music school. Singing sessions were held upstairs in the old skittle alley. It was the brainchild of Jayl De Lara, the great grandson of the world-famous concert pianist and composer Adelina De Lara. Jayl said, “We are very excited about relocating [from Gloucester] to Ruardean and we want to respect the history of the Angel and display memorabilia from its time as a pub. We are planning to keep the Angel and Free House signs up. We want to make our school all-inclusive, for all ages and sectors of the community.” The Harmony School had been set up by Jayl De Lara in 1997 with the ethos of vocal coaching and singing as a therapy. In 2014 a fully equipped professional studio was also set up in the skittle alley. A single released by Jayl’s group Band of Life called Somewhere was a chart-topping single on the Online Reverb Nation Alternative Chart, also getting airplay on BBC 6 Music.

Landlords at the Angel Inn include:
1775 Mary Evans
1829 James Burgess
1833,1835 John Court
1851 James Horlick
1851,1856 John Horlick (aged 32 in 1851)
1863 George Smith
1881 Harriet Smith (widow, aged 48 years)
1885,1889 Mark Cole
1891 Leonard J. Phelps
1897,1919 Edwin Cornelius Mason Bennett
1923,1927 William Arkell
1930,1937 Thomas Morgan
1941 Gertrude Morgan
1951 Wilfred Yemm & Elsie
1986 Bernard Meek
1991 Reginald Langley
1992 Deirdre Denise Hudson
1994 Valerie Powell
2002 (November) Peter and Tracy Arthur, and Tracy’s sister Rose Morman
2009 Kevin Fidler

Bell Inn, The Square GL17 9TJ

Above: Site of The Bell Inn.
The Bell Inn was located almost opposite Ruardean church. James Evans was the owner and occupier of the Bell Inn in 1840. He was a farmer who also owned a malthouse. It is likely that he supplied malted barley for brewing which he used for his own use at the Bell. He also supplied other pubs making their ‘home-brew’d ales’. Another malthouse had been established in Ruardean next to the Malt Shovel which was owned by the Horlick family. It was in this malthouse that they experimented with their malt drink, Horlicks. Emigrating to America the Horlick family expanded production and the brand was an immediate success and Horlicks is still a well-known product all over the world. The malthouses were consolidated when James Evans went into partnership with George Robins, another local farmer, and they went on to establish the Ruardean Brewery next to the Angel.

The Horlick family found world-wide acclaim with their malted drink, but Peter Horlick (born in Ruardean in 1842) had another claim to fame, although not so distinguished. It was said that Peter Horlick was the only man in the village who could stand on the steps of the Bell Inn and flip a penny over the spire of the church!

Arnold, Perrett & Co. Ltd. owned the Bell Inn in 1891 and 1903, supplying their Wickwar ales to the premises. Classified as an ale house it had a substantial annual rateable value of £51.0s.0d. in 1903. It closed at 10 pm.

An 1906 an inventory stated that the Bell Inn contained ‘attic rooms, four bedrooms, a box room, laundry, club room, sitting room, tap room, wine cellar, and a bar with drinking tables, a brass gong, pewter spirit measures, wooden spirit kegs and corkscrews. Outside, a long rectangular sign read ‘Bell Commercial Hotel’, and a smaller sign that informed visitors that the premises was licensed. The ‘stock in trade’ included bottles of whisky, sherry, brandy, port and cordials with over 70 gallons of beer in the cellar’. The Bell Inn was still trading in the 1950’s. The Bell Inn was demolished but the adjoining malt-house has survived and has been converted into a dwelling.

Landlords at the Bell Inn include:
1840 James Evans (owner and occupier of the Bell Inn, stable yard, malthouse and garden’.
1856, 1885 James Evans (aged 52 in 1881 - a widower. Licensed Victualler and Maltster)
1891, 1906 Albert James King
1906 Elizabeth King
1906 Eric Ellis
1919,1927 Edward Baskerville

Crown, Caudle Lane GL17 9TL
The Crown Inn is mentioned in 1756 but there are no further references. The Crown Inn had closed by 1861. Since then the property has seen a number of alternate uses including a Butchers Shop, Blacksmiths, Ice-Cream Diary and a musical instrument repair workshop. It is now a private house. The owner of the property contacted me with the information that he had in his possession an indenture which referred to the building as ‘formerly the Crown’. He said that during renovation works a penny dated 1737 was found in the house, and in the garden a Civil-war cannonball was dug up.

When the pub was built, the Square did not exist and the frontage would have been on the High Street, with stabling in the attached barn. The building was constructed near to the Caudle (or Cold Well) spring, which is just a hundred yards or so away, providing access to fresh water (the spring itself runs underneath the property).

Jovial Colliers, Ruardean Woodside GL17 9XJ

The representatives of the late Alfred Wintle were the owners of the Jovial Colliers in 1891. Alfred was the brother of Thomas Wintle. In 1857 Thomas purchased a water driven corn mill at Bill Mills just outside Gloucestershire at Weston-under-Penyard. It was here that Thomas and Alfred started malting barley for the domestic market, providing malt to those pubs that still made their home-brewed ale. Thomas Wintle went on to establish the Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean in 1869 whilst Alfred carried on at Bill Mills, no longer malting but diversifying into bottling beer. Alfred also purchased several pubs of which the majority were absorbed into the Wintle’s Mitcheldean Forest Brewery estate. According to the details in the 1903 licensing records the Jovial Colliers at Ruardean Woodside was sold by Alfred and it became a free house. That seems to contradict later accounts that show the Jovial Colliers tied to Francis Wintle’s Forest Brewery. The annual rateable value of the Jovial Colliers was £18.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903. It was licensed as a beer house and closing time was at 10 pm.

The lamentable tale of ‘who killed the bears’ is indelibly entrenched in Forest of Dean folklore, and for over 100 years it is said to be unwise to ask ‘who killed the bears’ in Ruardean whose descendants are accused of the barbaric attack on the innocent performing black bears. The ringleader of the gang that led to the senseless death of the bears on April 26th 1889 was found to be George Wicks, landlord of the Jovial Colliers in Ruardean Woodside. The evidence certainly seems to put the blame on Ruardean parishioners, but the reasoning behind the unruly behaviour may have been instigated by taunts and malicious rumours that might have originated as the performing black bears passed drunken colliers at the Engine Inn in Steam Mills as they left Cinderford.

The performing bears had been brought from France by four Frenchmen and they were on a tour of the Forest of Dean. Earlier in the day they had performed in Cinderford and were walking in procession to more shows in Nailbridge, Drybrook, Ruardean and ending up at nightfall in Lydbrook. By the time they reached Nailbridge a rumour had been started, presumably in jest from drunken colliers at the Old Engine and other pubs, that the bears had killed a child and mauled a woman in Cinderford. A lack of communication with the Frenchmen raised tensions and tempers ensued. The colliers followed the bears and their entourage through Nailbridge and onwards towards Ruardean shouting ‘kill the bears’. The bustling angry mob got larger and by the time they reached Ruardean it was 200 strong. In the chaos the bears broke free from their chains and were viciously attacked. One bear was shot dead. The Frenchmen were offered protection by Ruardean villagers who sheltered them in their houses from the baying mob. The Dean Forest Newspaper expressed their sympathy towards the Frenchmen and raised an appeal which more than compensated in monetary terms for the loss of the bears.

George Wilks, of the Jovial Colliers, was 49 at the time of the incident. Found guilty of affray he was ordered to pay a hefty fine of £26 or face the alternative of going to prison for two months. He was said to be a man of good character and paid the charge. His 21-year old-son, Robert Wilkes, was also among the guilty men. At Littledean Petty Sessions annual licensing day on August 23rd 1889, Police Superintendent Ford opposed the renewal of the license of the Jovial Colliers for George Wilkes. "This man, it was alleged, instigated the recent attack on the Frenchmen and their bears." Fortunately for George, Mr. F. F Goold, instructed by Mr. Bradstock, appeared in court to support him and put in a document to support the license signed by a large number of inhabitants praying that it might be renewed. Superintendent Ford gave Wilkes a good character and his license was renewed.

The unanswered question, which seems to have never been satisfactorily explained, is exactly where and why George Wilks got involved. Was he amongst the drinkers heckling the procession as they left Cinderford, or did he leave the Jovial Colliers with the intention of confronting the Frenchmen and their bears? Furthermore, after the attack why were a ‘large number of inhabitants’ of Ruardean so keen to protect his license at the Jovial Colliers?

Lydia Wilce was the owner of the Jovial Colliers in 1903. The occupying landlord was Arthur Wilce. Presumably Lydia and Arthur were husband and wife.

The Jovial Colliers was referred to the compensation authority in 1907 and it was described as ‘being on the main road from Nailbridge to Ruardean’ The report went on to say: 'The trade in 1907 was 102 barrels, the cost being £206.9s.0d. This represented 86 pints per day. In addition they sold minerals and cider, and some three persons a day were served with bread and cheese.’ The compensation authority did not recommend closure.

When the Jovial Colliers was offered for sale as part of the Wintles Forest Brewery property estate in 1923 it was described as ‘stone built and rough cast’ and comprised a bar, tap room, sitting room, beer store, kitchen and larder on the ground floor. There were four bedrooms, a club room and a box room on the first floor and cellarage in the basement. To the outside there was a ‘nice garden and two meadows in about five acres’ and the outbuildings consisted of two sets of stabling, granary, loft, pig cots., urinal and closet. ‘The property is of freehold tenure, and let to Mr John Gibbs on quarterly tenancy at the reduced rental of per £50 ann.’

The Jovial Colliers closed sometime in the late 1950’s / early 1960’s. The final pints of beer drawn from the pubs cellar were Cheltenham Ales. The property then became residential but has retained the name Jovial Colliers.

Landlords at the Jovial Colliers include:
1878 Thomas Voyce
1891 George Wilks
1903 Arthur Wilce
1923,1937 John Gibbs

Malt Shovel Inn, The Square (West End) GL17 9TW

The Malt Shovel is a 12th century inn, which is said to have been used as a meeting house as far back as 1110.

The Malt Shovel was effectively the ‘Tap House’ of the Ruardean Brewery, although the 1891 and 1903 licensing books record the pub as being free of brewery tie. Thomas Thompson is recorded as owner in 1891. Thomas was a local farmer. He was related to the Horlick family who had a malt house in the village. The Horlick family had experimented with their malted drink in Ruardean, before emigrating to America to make their fortune. It is likely that Thomas learnt how to be a maltster as a result of the Horlick’s family connection. When Thomas died in 1891 the ownership of the Malt Shovel and malthouse was bequeathed to Edward Thompson. The Ruardean Brewery was established in a building next to the Angel Inn. Facing intense competition with established local breweries like Wintle’s of Mitchldean, and the Alton Court Brewery in Ross on Wye, the Ruardean brewery was never going to be a successful commercial proposition. Edward had mortgaged heavily to fund the brewery and the projected sales never materialised as all his custom was from private house sales and a few free houses. Apart from the Malt Shovel there were no pubs regularly supplied with beer from the Ruardean Brewery. Edward Thompson had no choice but to put all his properties up for auction on May 19th 1910. The Ruardean Brewery does seem to have a stay of execution, however, as another auction of the estate of Edward Thompson took place on 19th May 1910.

The particulars of the ‘Old Malt Shovel Inn’, Ruardean described the premises as an ‘old established and well known free and fully-licensed public house containing bar, bar-parlour, commercial rooms, smoke-room, kitchens, larders, two large beer cellars, wine cellar, brewhouse, large Club-room, five bedrooms, store-room together with stabling for four horses, enclosed yard with barn, piggeries and other convenient outbuildings.’ It was stipulated that ‘the inn, which has a side entrance, is in the occupation of the owner, Mr Edward Thompson, and possession can be given on completion of the purchase.’

The Malt Shovel was licensed as an ale house and had an annual rateable value of £17.0d.0d. Closing time was at 10pm. Wintle’s Forest Brewery of Mitcheldean acquired the Malt Shovel and thence ownership was transferred via acquisitions and mergers through Cheltenham Original Brewery, Cheltenham & Hereford Breweries, West Country Breweries and Whitbread (Flowers). A reminder of its association with the Cheltenham Brewery is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that remains in situ. The Malt Shovel was reopened by village mayor Jim Whittington in February 1988 after an extensive refurbishment. In the early 1990’s it was described as a ‘typical Forest local, friendly, basic with all the essentials, a good coal fire, a welcoming smile, a decent pint and digestible snacks.’

Mark Dew took over the Malt Shovel in 1995. He made a number of exciting discoveries whilst renovating the ancient inn. Two centuries old windows were uncovered, a baking oven, inglenook fireplace and an antiquated well in the bar, which had been filled in and covered over. The well, although only about 16 feet deep, is thought to date back hundreds of years and has winding timbers of ancient oak. Although Mark was sympathetic with the heritage of the building, he also added some quirky features including the installation of windows that he claimed were originally from 10 Downing Street and replaced when new bullet proof windows were installed at the home of the British Prime Minister. Another unique feature was a huge trunk of an oak tree forming the main beam of the dining room and spanning the whole width of the room.

Owner Mark Dew said in 1999: “I firmly believe the pub is older than the church. I always say that it is builders who build churches and they are always going to need somewhere to stay and drink.” The Malt Shovel is said to have a resident ghost. Mark said that he has never seen it and remained cynical. Several people, however, have been ‘spooked’ in a part of the pub and ‘two of them ran out and never came back!’ A past landlord of the Malt Shovel is rumoured to have died after falling from the roof.

A planning application was submitted to the Forest of Dean District Council in December 2000 by Cliveden Properties who wanted to build 25 houses and seven flats behind the Malt Shovel Inn. After receiving a complaint from a neighbour which led to the enforcement of a noise abatement notice two years earlier Mark Dew was clearly concerned about the impact on residential units in close proximity to the pub. 260 villagers signed a petition against the development. Mark said, “The people living there would be bound to complain about noise from the pub and its beer garden.”

An ’eating out’ pub review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in October 2007 gave the Malt Shovel 10/10 for value for money and 9/10 for atmosphere. Under the headline ‘Traditional pub’s menu ticks all the boxes’, the reviewer noted that ‘the pub has kept all its traditional adornments, such as the oak-beamed dining room, flagstone floor and roaring fire, but has big screen TV for all those important matches and an eccentric array of signs from London Underground stations plus windows from 10 Downing Street. If you’re looking for quality pub food in a lovely traditional environment, then the Malt Shovel is it.’ A follow up review in December 2011 was also complimentary remarking, ‘the staff are friendly and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed. You will find more than just ‘pub grub’ as the menu has something for everyone and the food is mouth-wateringly good.’

A lifesize Kung Fu Panda was bought at the sale of memorabilia when the Royal Foresters in Littledean Hill, Cinderford closed down in 2013. Kung Fu Panda is now a prominent feature of the Malt Shovel.

Reviews on Trip Advisor are worth reading, some complimentary towards the Malt Shovel and others extremely derisory. One reviewer lamented, “the bathroom was grubby - something horrid in the toilet on arrival, bath covered in dust and grit from the walls and the carpet was completely worn away in front of the sink”, whilst another remarked “The beds didn't look terribly clean, and we looked out of window onto a patio filled with dog mess”, concluding with the observation “I really think the character of this building, coupled with a genuine, working, local pub would make for a wonderful place to stay. This building deserves better - and I can only hope this review is taken in the spirit in which it was intended, and that cleaning, repairing and attention to detail will serve to save the day, and maybe preserve the future, of the wonderful Malt Shovel pub.”

Landlords at the Malt Shovel include:
1830’s Thomas Thompson
1856 T. Thompson
1881,1885 Mrs Hester A.Bennett (aged 43 in 1881, a widow)
1891,1903 Isaac Hale
1906 William Barber
1919 Charles Gilbert Drew
1927 William H. Jennings
1939 Harold Bowkett (Bessie Bowkett took over the licence for many years after her husband died)
1968 R.W. Phelps
1995,1999 Mark Dew
2006-2011 Fred and Sue Ellis (from the Crown Inn. Lea. Nr Ross)
2011 Phil Gibbons and Karen Bent
2013 Dan Mustoe

Nags Head, Ruardean Hill
Ruardean Hill is a small hamlet to the east of Ruardean and to the south-west of Drybrook. At 950 feet above sea level Ruardean Hill is the highest point in the Forest of Dean.

A.W. Baldwin owned the Nags Head in 1891. It was a licensed beer house and free of brewery tie. Twelve years later in 1903 the Nags Head had become a tied house of the Alton Court Brewery in Ross on Wye. The annual rateable value was £12.10s.0d. and closing time was at 10pm.

The Nags Head was located below Ruardean Woodside post office and on the same side of the road. It was open for business in the 1960’s. May Brace contacted me via e-mail and said that she remembers playing skittles there. She said that the pub was across a field that was used as a car park. The Nags Head closed in July 1973. In her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ (2004 Logaston Press), Heather Hurley noted that after closure the Nags Head continued as a social centre for the local community but closed sometime before 1980.

Landlords of the Nags Head include:
1891 A.W. Baldwin
1903 Richard Edwards
1939 T. Brain

Roebuck, Ruardean Woodside GL17 9UL

Above: Site of The Roebuck.

Ruardean Woodhouse is a straggling settlement half a mile to the south of Ruardean. The Roebuck was situated just above from the Memorial Hall in Forest Road. The site of the Roebuck is now occupied by a residential development called Roebuck Meadows.

The Bradley family were the owner occupiers of the Roebuck in 1891 and 1903 when the pub was free of brewery tie. Enoch Bradley was the owner and landlord in 1891, and John Bradley succeeded him in 1903. The Roebuck was a beer house and had an annual rateable value of £18.0s.0d. Closing time was at 10 pm. It seems that the Bradley family sold the Roebuck to the Alton Court Brewery in Ross on Wye. Stroud Brewery acquired the business in 1956 and the Roebuck sold Cotswold Beers brewed by the Stroud Brewery until closure.

Landlords of the Roebuck include:
1891 Enoch Bradley
1903 John Bradley
1939 Albert Marfell
1968 Graham and Joan Roberts

Feathers Inn, 95 Ruspidge Road
Ruspidge - Feathers Inn

The Feathers Inn was at the lower end of Ruspidge near the Shakemantle iron mine. All four pubs in Ruspidge were very close together, reflecting the time when they were frequented by men working in the mines and quarries. The Feathers was located opposite the George Inn. Today the landscape has changed beyond recognition and the property that was once the Feathers is the first house on the left coming up the picturesque wooded Soudley Valley.

E. Hawker owned the Feathers Inn in 1891 and 1903. Being privately owned it had the benefit of being a free house. The Feathers had an annual rateable value of £18.0s.0d. and was licensed as a beer house. Closing time was at 10 pm.

Landlords at the Feathers include:
1891 William Newman
1902 ,1903 Thomas Hall (beer retailer in 1902)

George Inn, 178 Ruspidge Road
Ruspidge - George InnRuspidge - George Inn

M.L. Jordan was the owner of the George Inn in 1891. The licensed beer house was free from brewery tie. The annual rateable value in 1891 and 1903 was £18.0s.0d. and ‘time, gentleman please’ was called each night at 10 pm.

In the 1903 licensing book the ownership of the George Inn is documented as the Rock Brewery. Therein lies a bit of a mystery. Where was the Rock Brewery? There was a Rock Brewery in Aberdare, South Wales, who had nineteen tied houses in their pub estate. The logistics of transporting their beer across the Welsh Valleys into the depths of the Forest of Dean to an isolated pub seem to make no economic sense. There are vague references to a Rock Brewery at the New Inn in Waterley Bottom near Dursley. The Victoria Inn in St Pauls Road in Cheltenham also brewed their beer on the premises, sometimes referred to as the Rock Brewery. But why should small-scale ‘home brew’d’ pubs in either Waterley Bottom or Cheltenham want to own a pub that was miles away in the Forest of Dean?

The George later passed into the ownership of Arnold Perrett’s Wickwar Brewery and, in 1937, it was acquired by the Cheltenham Original Brewery. I have found no references to the George Inn after 1939, which suggests that it closed sometime during the Second World War.

The George Inn is now a private residence, just a few yards down from the New Inn. Appropriately the house is called the Old George.

Landlords at the George Inn include:
1891 George Evans
1902,1903 John Henry Jones (beer retailer in 1902)
1939 David Jesse Glover

New Inn, 170 Ruspidge Road GL14 3AR

The New Inn, which has been a public house since 1857, is on the eastern side of Ruspidge Road (B4277). It was once a rare outlet for Alton Court Brewery Ales of Ross on Wye. The Rising Sun, which is directly opposite, was tied to the Nailsworth Brewery. The George Inn, a little further down the road, was tied to the Rock Brewery. I wonder if beer drinkers in late Victorian / early Edwardian times realised that Ruspidge was something of a beer drinkers paradise?

W. Morse was the owner of the New Inn in 1891. Classified as an ale house it was free of brewery tie with an annual rateable value of £20.0s.0d. In the intervening twelve years up to 1903 the New Inn had been acquired by the Alton Court Brewery in Ross on Wye. Closing time was at 11 pm. The Rising Sun across the road and the nearby George Inn closed at 10 p.m. The New Inn probably did very good custom after ten o’clock!

The New Inn is comprised of two distinct buildings. At right angles to the road there is a traditional sandstone building with two bay windows and a central door. Fronting the road is a rendered building with original window frames. The New Inn is sometimes referred to locally as the ‘posh pub’. Apparently, the miners working in the nearby pits only visited the New Inn when they had washed and dressed up – whilst the George and Rising Sun were working men’s locals.

Dutchman Dirk van de Meyden took over the New Inn in February 2012. He has maintained it as a strong community pub. The New Inn has darts, pool and crib teams. He said, “The pub is always a hub of activity, with never a dull moment.” Sky sports is shown and the New Inn hosts monthly jazz sessions and race nights. The New Inn supports local charities, and an annual Harvest Festival in 2012 raised £1,400 for the Dilke Memorial Hospital.

Landlords at the New Inn include:
1891 1906 Henry Baldwin (also at the Upper Bilson Inn, Cinderford in 1902)
1919,1927 Arthur Hall
1939 John Wellington
2008,2009 Vic and Dee Screen
2012 Dirk Van De Meyden

Rising Sun, 77 Ruspidge Road GL14 3AW

The Rising Sun is a stone-built pub on the western side of Ruspidge Road (B4227), almost directly opposite the New Inn. The earliest reference dates back to 1865. The Nailsworth Brewery owned the Rising Sun in 1891 and 1903. Nailsworth beers were quite a rarity in the Forest of Dean at this time as the only other pub that they owned was the George in Cinderford. It is likely, however, that some free houses in the Forest also sold Nailsworth beer. The annual rateable value of the Rising Sun in 1891 and 1903 was £18.0s.0d. It was licensed as a beer house and closed at 10 pm. The New Inn, just over the road, closed at 11 pm!

Cheltenham Original Brewery amalgamated with the Nailsworth Brewery in 1908 and from that year the Rising Sun sold Cheltenham Ales. It is still possible to decipher the faded painted words 'Cheltenham Ales’ on the front of the pub between the ground and upper floor windows.

The Butt family had a long association with the Rising Sun. In 1960 a booklet was published by West Country Breweries to celebrate 200 years of brewing at Cheltenham and Stroud. In the booklet were some photographs of some long serving landlords. Mrs Sarah Phelps was said to have been resident at the Rising Sun, Ruspidge, 'for over 72 years, since 1888’. In 1943 Ann Butt had customers’ beer in the Rising Sun for over 60 years. She said, “I have never had a badly behaved customer, and although I am 93 I can still make sure they continue to behave nicely.”

The Rising Sun later became part of the monopolistic Whitbread estate. In the Cinderford and Ruspidge district there was no escape from Whitbread Trophy and Tankard in the 1970s and 1980’s. After the ‘Beer Orders’ of 1989 the Rising Sun was sold by Whitbread and became a free house.

The pub was put up for sale in August 2006 with an asking price in excess of £300,000. The property included a main bar, sports bar, kitchen, extensive cellar area, beer garden and patio with extensive views of the valley and the Forest, and excellent four-bedroom private accommodation. Owner Geoff Upson decided to put the Rising Sun on the market to review his options but said that he had enjoyed his time there. He said, “I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of community here and there has been great support when I have held charity auctions.” A spokesman from the commercial property agents said, “This represents a superb opportunity to acquire a busy and well-presented free house close to the beautiful Forest of Dean. It would ideally suit a husband and wife team working together without the need to employ additional staff. The pub enjoys a healthy turnover and good profits.”

Forest of Dean District Council granted permission in November 2014 for change of use of the Rising Sun to a fish and chip takeaway and restaurant. The bar area of the pub was to become the takeaway area, with a wall to separate it from the restaurant. A new entrance to the premises was to be made through an existing window. Geoff Upson said, “As the premises owner I want to wish everyone associated with this project every success in the future. I hope the local community will welcome and support this exciting new venture and recognise it as a valuable additional facility for the residents of Ruspidge and Soudley. It is good to see this historical building open for business again providing a quality food and drink offering.”

The Lord Mayor of Cinderford, Max Coburn, officially opened the ‘Rising Sun Inn and the Ruspidge Fish & Chip Shop’ in March 2015.

Landlords at the Rising Sun include:
1879 Thomas Guest
1885,1896 Thomas Butt (Thomas was born in Churchdown in 1837. He died in 1896)
1896,1939 Mrs Ann Butt (nee Ann Mortimer. Born 1845. Married Thomas Butt in 1866)
1960 Mrs Sarah Phelps. (Born 1888 – the youngest of Thomas and Ann’s 11 children!)
• Eddie and Mary Phelps
2002,2006 Geoff and Lydia Upson

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