|Forest of Dean Pubs - Placenames beginning with S
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Fisherman / Village Inn, Beachley Road NP16 7AA
The Fisherman, now the Village Inn, is a modern pub that was built in the 1960’s.
In April 2007 Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper reopened the Enterprise Inns owned pub after a £200,000 extension and refurbishment. The Fisherman was doubled in size and had a new kitchen, dining area and a sports bar equipped with two plasma screen televisions. Morris men entertained during the evening and llama trek expert Alastair Fraser even brought along his animals. Landlord Murray Hunt said at the time, “We wanted to create a real community pub which will benefit the whole of Sedbury. The response so far has been tremendous, and we’ve been well supported by Enterprise Inns.”
Elizabeth Rogers and Dave Hughes took over the running of the Fisherman in March 2009. Dave said, “A lot of people have said they have they’ve got their old pub back. The response has been great.”
In January 2010 the pub closed for business and was boarded up several days later. Councillor Alastair Fraser (Independent, Tidenham) said, “Owners Enterprise Inns have to ask themselves whether the rent they are asking for is too high.” However, it had re-opened by May.
In July 2013 an outline planning application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for the construction of two terraces of three dwellings and a replacement shop unit on the land adjoining the public house.
The pub was relaunched as the Village Inn and mother and daughter team Mo and Zoe run the pub in July 2019. The Village Inn website proudly declares that it is ‘family run for family fun’ and the food is described as home-cooked ‘where quality doesn’t mean pricey.’
Hope and Anchor, Sedbury Lane, Tutshill
Sedbury Park Hotel
Landlord / Proprietor:
New Inn, Ross Road GL16 7NT
George Tomlins was the owner of the New Inn in 1891 and 1903. Although he ran it as a free house in 1891, he had leased the pub to John Arnold & Sons of Wickwar in 1903. The annual rateable value of the New Inn was £12.0s.0d. and it was a licensed alehouse, closing time at 10 pm.
An ’eating out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in June 2010 was very complimentary about the New Inn giving it 10/10 for atmosphere, service and value for money. The New inn ‘has found the magical combination of serving good honest food at very reasonable prices in the traditional atmosphere of an English country pub. There is always something going on at the New Inn, whether it is the Thursday night pub quiz or a jazz evening, and, as every good pub should be, the New Inn is the hub of the local community. Importantly for a pub, there is a good selection of both cask and keg ales and my pint of Wye Valley Butty Bach proved to be in fine fettle. Perhaps there should be a campaign for real pubs as the New Inn has certainly earned its place.’
In March 2013 the reviews were still positive. It was commented that the ‘New Inn has managed to gain a reputation for great live music, good local ales, but mostly for being one of the busiest food pubs in the area. The landlords are happy in the knowledge that customers who come to the New Inn come for simple, but well-prepared pub food, with a menu they hope is full of favourites. The pub has traditional charm in abundance. Open stone walls, double-sided open fires with logs burning away and a simple décor that is not too fussy to detract from the real pub feel. The food was simple, but done well, the service was exceptional, and the ales were well kept.’
A West Country Ales ceramic plaque is still in situ, a reminder of its past association with the Cheltenham Brewery.
Landlords at the New Inn include:
The Royal Oak was a beer house from 1841. It had closed by 1900. The Royal Oak was almost next door to the New Inn.
Miners Arms, Chepstow Road (B4228) GL16 8LH
Perhaps the earliest mention of the Miners Arms at Sling dates from 1841. John Willis was the owner of the Miners Arms in 1891 and 1903, a licensed beer house that was free from brewery tie with an annual rateable value of £12.0s.0d. Closing time was at 10 pm.
Don Burgess set up the Freeminer Brewery at the Laurels in Sling in October 1992. The Miners Arms, about half a mile from the brewery, effectively became the Freeminer Brewery tap house in July 1993. In that year’s edition of CAMRA’s ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’, the Miners Arms was described as a ‘basic one-bar pub’. Freeminer Bitter and Speculation Ale were on tap.
Brian and Yvonne Penkethman took over the Miners just after the Millennium. Brian said, “It was a basic two-bar pub when we came here but we’ve added the restaurant and four letting rooms, all finished with old materials to match the rest of the building. The beams came all the way from France.”
The Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001 was a traumatic experience and devastating time for the economy and businesses in the Forest of Dean. The Ministry of Food & Fisheries (MAFF) had imposed stringent restrictions on the movement of livestock and ordered the slaughter of thousands of animals, including the culling of free-roaming sheep in the Forest. The Miners Arms overlooked a small paddock in which a pet cow called Moo and a horse called Clearwell Katy lived together. Children visiting the pub would frequently spend time stroking and patting Moo and Katy. The owner of Moo said that they went everywhere together, “I think the cow thought she was a horse”. But as diners were eating their Sunday dinner at the Miners in late April 2001 Moo was killed by a fatal injection and removed from her paddock dangling from a mobile crane. Brian Penkethman of the Miners Arms said, “People were in tears. They just could not believe it was happening. We had people who just couldn’t finish their lunch.”
A plan to recreate the landmarks of the Forest of Dean in miniature at a model village at Lydney Park Estate had started in 2002. Scale models of the Miners Arms at Sling, Coleford Clock Tower and the Hopewell Colliery had been constructed ready to be put in place at the model village by Lydney Taurus Crafts for an official opening date of June 2003. It was hoped that the model village, created by a team of local modelmakers, sculptors and artists, would become the second largest of its kind in the UK. Unfortunately, the model village has since closed.
An ’eating out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in March 2011 described the Miners Arms as offering traditional pub grub at its best. It was noted that the pub ‘in the sprawling village of Sling has obviously hit the right note with locals because it was buzzing with business when we went for a lunchtime treat.’ The reviewer went on to say that it had a winning combination of a friendly welcome and a tasty traditional menu. ‘Add a spacious, light and airy restaurant and you have the perfect ingredients for an enjoyable meal.’
The Miners Country Inn was awarded two AA rosettes for the quality of its food in May 2017. Owner Steve Jenkins said, “We are the only pub in the Forest of Dean to win this award. This is a fantastic accolade for all the hard work we and our staff have put in since we took over five years ago.” He told the Forester newspaper that when they took over the building it was just an empty shell and that after the restaurant was opened they had practically no customers to start with. Steve added, “now we have people travelling from a 40-mile radius with a fantastic support from our local regulars as well.” A popular feature is Pot Luck Mondays where everything on the menu is half price. Steve said, “We get a 100 people in for Pot Luck Monday every week.” Of the food Steve said, “We change our menu daily and work with local producers to bring our customers the best seasonal ingredients in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley.” The two AA Rosettes denotes an excellent restaurant that aims for and achieves higher standards and better consistency.
Landlords of the Miners Arms include:
Miners Inn / Montague Inn – See Clements End
Nailers Arms, Clearwell Meend - See Clearwell - Section 1
Orepool Inn, Chepstow Road (B4228) GL16 8LH
The Orepool Inn dates from the 17th century when it was a basic forest pub that served beer to miners working in the nearby iron mines.
Edwin Maffa was the owner of the Orepool Inn in 1891 and 1903 and it was free from brewery tie. The annual rateable value of £8.0s.0d. was extremely low considering it was listed of having ale house status. The Swan Inn in Littledean and the Nags Head in Longhope had the same rateable values but they were licensed as a beer-houses. The Orepool Inn later became tied to the Bristol United Brewery. In turn Bristol United were acquired by the Bristol Brewery of Georges & Co., before being amalgamated into the Courage group in 1961.
The Orepool, on the B4228, has been substantially enlarged and altered over the years. In October 1997 licensee Helen Gunning said that, to her knowledge, the pub had been added to at least five times – three times during the time of her predecessor. A 10-chalet motel block was built in the 1990’s, which is used extensively by visitors to the area and businessmen. Given its isolated location the Orepool has had to diversify to attract custom and serving good food is essential. Set in three-and-a-half-acres and benefiting from a large car park the Orepool is also able to organise outside events.
A two-day music festival was first held at the Orepool on the Whitsun Bank Holiday in 1999. Branded the ‘Musical May-Hem’, a marquee was erected on the lawns with professional lighting and staging and some of the finest Gloucestershire based bands played there.
The Orepool closed on New Year’s Day in 2008. The 51-year-old publican had got into financial difficulties. The former taxi-driver and Beecham’s worker had signed up to a lease with the owners, the Watkins family of Sling, to run the Orepool. To do this he ploughed all his life savings into the venture, sold his Coleford home and cashed in his pension. His son had even taken out a £10,000 loan to help run and refurbish the historic 17th-Century inn. A five-month dispute with two electricity suppliers over unpaid bills led to his mains power at the pub being disconnected. He was forced to spend thousands of pounds on running and hiring a diesel generator. Private Christmas parties had to be cancelled. When mains electricity was finally restored on Christmas Eve he had lost an estimated £12,000 in revenue during the 11 days that he was cut off. The landlord said, “We were hoping to make enough during the Christmas period to see us through to July 2008, but I have no way of recouping the money I’ve lost. We have put everything we had into this place.”
The Orepool Inn reopened for business in July 2008. Joint managers Simon Fowler and Ashley Wood said: “We’re trying to turn it back into a country pub, but also want to build up the accommodation and function side.” Simon Fowler said, “We have opened five chalets and will open the rest in the coming months. We have a lunchtime special of £4.95 a meal and have an evening menu from 9-9 pm.”
In August 2009 the Orepool hosted a ‘Summer Sesh Fest’ that featured hard-dance and techno music ‘through to the early hours of Sunday’.
James and Becky Chilton took over the Orepool Inn in November 2009. James said on their 5th anniversary at the pub in 2014, “When we first opened our doors there were some who thought we wouldn’t last more than six months. When we took over we basically started from scratch, now we serve around 600-700 meals per week.” An ‘eating out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in July 2014 commented that ‘when we walked into the Orepool on a Thursday evening we were immediately greeted with friendliness and warmth. It’s that kind of place. The menu is well balanced.’ The reviewer concluded ‘I really do like the Orepool. Consistency and value-for-money are two things people always want and this place has oodles of both. There are finer menus and more creative dishes around, but you’ll pay extra for them. For what you pay at the Orepool, you will struggle to find anywhere to beat it.’
The Forest of Dean Folk Club has a long association with the Orepool Inn. The club has been promoting and showcasing folk music in the Forest of Dean for in excess of 35 years. Although the first meetings of the Forest of Dean Folk Club were at the Old White Hart in Coleford, the Orepool Inn hosted the club in the 1980’s and 1990’s and continue to do so. Meetings are held every 1st and 3rd Sunday in the month. Over the years the club has hosted many great performers from the folk world, such as Dave Burland, Vin Garbutt, Archie Fisher, Steve Tilson, Harvey Andrews and local celebrities Johnny Coppin and Dick Brice.
Landlords of the Orepool Inn include:
White Horse, Church Road, Upper Soudley GL14 2UA
William Nash was the owner of the White Horse in 1891 when it was licensed as an alehouse and was free of brewery tie. Twelve years later in 1903 the White Horse had been acquired by the Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye. The annual rateable value in 1891 and 1903 was £17.10s.0d. and closing time was at 10 pm.
Part of the car park of the White Horse stands on the trackbed of the railway line that branched off the Gloucester-South Wales main-line at Bullo Bill near Newnham on Severn and threaded its way up the Soudley Valley via Ruspidge to Cinderford. The Forest of Dean branch line had some severe gradients and climbing to Soudley from Bullo Pill there are three tunnels, the longest being Haie Hill Tunnel 1,064 yards in length. The climb was quite arduous for both the locomotive and the footplate crews and, as there were no ventilation shafts in the tunnels, it has been suggested that the crews of goods trains heading up the hill (confusingly referred to in railway terminology as down trains) stopped at Soudley to ‘get up steam’ – a euphemism for a quick visit to the White Horse Inn!
Upper Soudley Halt was open for passengers for just over 50 years. It opened on 3rd August 1907 and closed on 3rd November 1958. The number of passengers using the halt was minimal and when a bus service replaced the railway – providing a quicker and more direct route from Cinderford to Gloucester – there was no protests about the demise of the local train service.
In September 1998 the White Horse was put up for sale a going concern. It was described as a Freehold detached Public House with ‘living accommodation, occupying a prominent central position and being the only public house in the village. Public bar, lounge / dining room, pool room, skittle alley, kitchen with range of appliances, cellar etc. Four bedroomed living accommodation to first floor. Spacious car park.’
The White Horse is a deserved entry in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2019. It is described as ‘being built as a railway hotel next to the now defunct Soudley Halt, this hostelry has great views across the valley from its garden. It is an interesting venue for geologists and walkers with the Blue Rock trail and Soudley Ponds. Run by an enthusiastic couple, this lovely old pub has a small main bar with a welcoming fireplace and two regularly changing guest ales. The old dining room down the passageway is used for functions and leads through to a much-loved skittle alley.’
The pub sign iron bracket is of significance to those interested in local brewery history as it houses the fortified castle tower emblem of the defunct West Country Breweries. These distinctive pub sign brackets are slowly disappearing from the front gardens and forecourts of our local inns. Only in recent years similar ironwork pub signs in the Forest of Dean have been lost at the Keys pub in Bream, Belfry (ex George Hotel) in Littledean and the Yew Tree in Longhope.
Landlords of the White Horse include:
(Old) Crown Inn, Pystol Lane GL15 6TE
The Stroud Brewery owned the Old Crown Inn in 1891 (Watts & Co) and 1903 (Stroud Brewery Company). The pub was a licensed beer house with an annual rateable value of £12.0s.0d. Closing time was at 10 pm. At the time the Old Crown Inn must have been one of their furthest pubs from the brewery. When the Stroud Brewery amalgamated with Cheltenham & Hereford Breweries in 1958 to form West Country Breweries the Crown Inn became absorbed into the large pub estate of the regional brewery based in Cheltenham. Whitbread Flowers eventually disposed of pubs following the ‘Beer Orders’ of 1989 and the Crown in St Briavels came into the control and ownership of pub company, Enterprise Inns.
During the Second World War Stroud Brewery tried to supply their ales to their pub estate, but difficulties in obtaining malted barley and sugar for brewing necessitated lowering the original gravity of their ales resulting in weaker inferior beer. The brewery could not keep up with demand. Cost of transportation was another factor in the economy drive. A far-flung outlet such as the Old Crown inevitably was the first to suffer from shortages. A notice on the door in 1944 read, ‘We have no ale, no beer or stout… our week’s supply has run out… we have no sherry, wine or gin… only cider is within’. A few days later another note appeared, ‘Before you enter through the door… please kindly note what’s on the floor.’ On the doormat a sign read ‘NO CIDER’.
In March 2002 Enterprise Inns evaluated the public houses within their extensive property portfolio and decided to dispose of 144 of their pubs, the Crown Inn being one of those selected. It was on the market for £145,000. Fortunately, there was strong interest from at least four potential buyers, so the future of the Crown Inn looked secured and able to thrive outside the restrictions imposed by the pub company. With an unusual honesty a spokesman from Enterprise Inns said, “We are selling [the Crown Inn] as part of a continuous evaluation exercise into our business and I think it would be a lot more successful as an individually owned public house.” The freehold interest was purchased by Shaun McIntyre and Sandra Watkins.
In October 2004 Sandra and Shaun Watkins sold the leasehold of the Crown to Kate Forte and Alan Palmer for an undisclosed sum from an asking price of £40,000. The sale particulars gave details of a ‘two-storey period building that is arranged over two floors with a public bar for 36-40 covers, a portioned games area with a pool table and dart-board, a central brick fireplace and a projector for a large pull-down screen.’ A spokesman for the commercial property agents handling the sale of the lease said, “Sandra and Shaun wanted to travel while they are both fit and healthy and as they still own the freehold, they will receive an annual rent, which will enable them to have the time to convert the barn in the grounds of the pub in between their globe-trotting.” Shaun and Sandra returned to run the Crown Inn themselves in 2006. However, they decided to retire from the licensed trade altogether in 2007 and put the Crown Inn on the market with an asking price of £325,000 for the freehold interest. Sadly Shaun passed away in 2008.
The new owners of the Crown Inn were Peter and Sarah Hazelehurst. They were joined by business partners Neal and Wendy Potter. In August 2007 they were planning to introduce homemade pub food and a range of real ales at the pub. When Moles Brewery of Wiltshire held a competition to name an anniversary ale to celebrate 25 years of brewing the regulars at the Crown came up with the name ‘Moleton Silver’ and were declared winners.
The Crown Inn closed in February 2011. In December of that year an application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for ‘proposed alterations and extension of Crown Inn public house to create dwelling.’
Landlords at the Crown Inn include:
George Inn, High Street GL15 6TA
Lord Charles Denton was the owner of the George Inn in 1891, a free house without brewery ties. After Lord Charles Denton passed away his representatives were owners of the pub in 1903. Lord Charles Denton lived at Orielton in 1892, which was probably the name of his residence. He was involved in public affairs. In 1876 he was the honorary secretary of the St Briavels reading room and library, and in 1892 (the year of his death) he was a Guardian of the Poor and was also the County Representative of the Surveyor of Highways. He left an endowment to establish an almshouse for ‘three elderly men and three elderly widows’ which was later built by his heir in East Street. He also left a legacy for the benefit of the village.
In 1903 the George was leased to the Wickwar Brewery (Arnold, Perrett & Co., Ltd.) In 1891 and 1903 the George had an annual rateable value of £12.0s.0d. and closed at 10 pm.
In August 2002 a ‘family meal’ review in the local newspaper was enthusiastic about not only about the food in the George Inn but also its stunning location – ‘St Briavels is one of those places that looks as though it should be part of a permanent Hollywood film set. It’s picture postcard pretty, has a magnificent castle and idyllic views. It certainly wins the prize for appeal and the 16th Century George Inn is no exception. As pubs go it must score very highly on décor and style – and unusual too. There is even a 16th Century coffin set into the bar area. Outside there is a courtyard, which on a hot summer evening looks as though it could be in Italy rather than Gloucestershire. There is an outdoor chess set, tables and chairs galore, and views of the castle. To arrive there early on the particular early evening that we did was heaven. And the food was excellent.’
The George Inn was acquired by Wadworth & Co., of Devizes in 2007. After spending a large amount of money refurbishing the kitchen and refurbishing the pub, Wadworth had inexplicably closed the George in January 2008. St Briavels Parish Council Chairman, Derek Marshall, said, “It’s a great shame to see it closed, but I’m sure it won’t be closed for very long because it’s a great pub.” Fortunately, it did reopen. The George is Wadworth’s only pub in the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley.
William Hooper and Nicky Hambling had run Wadworth pubs in Wiltshire and the brewery’s acquisition of the George tempted them to move to the Forest of Dean. Nicky said, “As we wanted a larger pub the George gives us more scope and has three bedrooms for guests. Its absolutely ideal and we have both fallen in love with the area. A taste of Spain was brought to St. Briavels in the summer of 2009 when tapas meals were offered on Wednesday evenings at the George. Popular dishes included chicken sides baked in honey, sardines marinated in lemon, chilli and lemon and chargrilled aubergine served in mozzarella. Landlord William Hooper said, “It’s a good way to attract people during the week as they can try something different that is good value for money.”
In March 2013 an ‘eating out’ review in the Forester newspaper described the menu on offer at the George as ‘great quality pub food.’ It was noted that ‘from the moment you walk into the George the atmosphere is warm and friendly. The traditional surroundings of original beams and wooden décor create a wonderful country ambience.’
Landlords at the George Inn include:
Plough Inn, High Street
In October 2004 the property was put on the market in two separate lots. The main house and garden was offered with a guide price of £300,000 and (Lot 2) an orchard and infil land was to be sold at £100,000. The old public house was described as a ‘substantial Grade II listed building now in need of extensive modernisation and renovation.’ The property comprised of three receptions, five bedrooms, a large second-floor attic space with potential for conversion (subject to planning).
Speech House Hotel GL16 7EL
The Speech House is a famous landmark in the very centre of the Forest of Dean. Originally built in 1676 as a hunting lodge for King Charles II. The Speech House was also the meeting place for the Verderers Court. The Verderers were set up by King Canute in the 11th century and were appointed by the Crown as the administrators of the Forest. The Verderers Court still meet at the Speech House once a year. The Speech House became a hotel in 1858.
The grandly named ‘Commissioners of Woods’ were the owners of the Speech House in 1891 and 1903. Perhaps not surprisingly given its prestigious and grandiose setting it had an annual rateable value of £43.0s.0d. and was a fully licensed alehouse. According to the 1891 licensing book the Speech House was leased to Thomas Wintle’s Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean, but twelve years later in 1903 the hotel was trading without any brewery ties. The isolated rural location meant that opening times were restricted with ‘time’ being called at 10 pm.
In 1901 an article in the Daily Mail read: 'From the Speech House - that most sylvan of all hostels, where ancient history and modern comforts abide together - the tourist may step bareheaded into hoary holly woods, or the darkly beautiful spruce drive, with its three miles of sentinal trees, or under the shadow of immemorial elm or beech, make excursions further afield to the wonderful scenery of the Yat or the Buckstone. Everywhere he will breathe air like that at Freshwater, estimated by Tennyson to be worth sixpence a pint, for many parts of the forest are seven or eight hundred feet above the sea, and everywhere the botanically-minded may find rare flora, and the entomologist a perfect paradise of insect life’.
In 1924 a booklet entitled ‘Gloucestershire Inns’ by David McFall was published at the Priestly Studios in Gloucester. Priced just 6d, it was described on the cover as ‘being thumb-nail descriptions of the County’s most picturesque and historic inns – together with announcements of the leading modern hotels, tea-rooms and restaurants, garages, shops and other houses of call dedicated to all inquisitive and observant travellers who favour this neighbourhood with a visit.’ If you think that is a long-winded, convoluting piece of prose, just read this description of the Speech House. ‘In the centre of the Forest of Dean the Speech House, or Speche House, as it was spelled formerly, occupies a most unusual situation for an hotel – miles from any town, in the heart of a deep wood – yet for many generations it has been the resort of artists, literary men and leaders in political life. The name of the hotel came from the fact it was originally the Court of Speech, where the Free Miners of the Forest tried out their litigation and acknowledged no superior authority. The old court room is wholly unchanged in appearance and furnishing, thanks to the thoughtfulness of successive landlords. From the windows of the hotel, in every direction, one may look into alluring vistas in the surrounding hosts of oak, beeches, larches and glistening hollies (a grove of the latter was planted by King Charles II), and trim tennis and cricket grounds add the modern touch to the woodland scenery.’
In February 1962 cricket legend Wally Hammond and fellow England cricketer David Allen were guests at a dinner at the Speech House. Gloucestershire County Cricket Club organised the dinner and used the publicity in a drive to increase the membership of the club in the Forest. They promised that if the membership drive was successful a County First XI match would be organised at Lydney Cricket Club.
Former baker and Forest businessman Harry Kear bought the lease in March 1998 from the Forte Heritage Group. The owners of the Speech House being the Ministry of Agriculture. During his time as leaseholder Harry Kear made considerable improvements to the hotel, increasing the number of bedrooms from 14 to 32 and building a purpose-built health spa.
In February 2000 the 110-year lease of the Speech Hotel was offered for sale. An ‘eating out’ review in February 2002 was not entirely glowing with praise noting that, ‘a bit of mashed potato and some mashed swede are hardly three-star fare, more like 1960’s school dinners.’ And in the beamed Verderers’ Court ‘there’s a vast old fireplace, mounted stags’ heads (not a pretty sight) and lighting that’s far too bright. The chandeliers are OK but there are some horrible ceiling-mounted fluorescent lamps, some complete with cobwebs, which should be sent to the skip immediately.’
Four unique Verderers’ oak throne chairs were stolen from the Speech House in October 2005. The antique chairs were found when a dealer put them up for auction in June 2011. The unfortunate last owner had to try to retrieve the £16,000 that he paid for them from the previous owners. The chairs were made by the Crawshay family from Oaklands Park in Newnham on Severn and were identified by the family crest and distinctive watermarks which corresponded to photographs taken when the chairs were in place at the Speech House. Head verderer Bob Jenkins said, “We are all really thrilled to bits to get them back. They had passed through several hands and without that photograph it would have been impossible to prove they were ours.”
Harry Kear sold his interests of the Speech House Hotel to Dorian Charlton and the Drew Group in April 2007. Dorian, who was born into a family of hoteliers, said it was an honour to own the Speech House Hotel. The Drew Group also owned the Cheltenham Regency Hotel. He said, “Everything we do to [at the Speech House] has to be right. So many people butcher things and rip out the original feature. We’re always putting the originals back. It’s nice to see how it used to look and try to create it with a modern twist.” His team were determined to bring the standard of the Speech House to be worthy of its three-stars and strive to exceed their guests’ expectations. Dorian added, “We want to attract a mix of people. We want local people to feel they can use this place and come to have a coffee or a meeting.” The 16-acre field behind the Speech House was also considered not to be utilised to its full potential. “We aren’t event organisers, but we want people to use our field. If anyone has an event that they would like to hold here they should come and chat to us. We want to be part of the community.”
A quarter of a million pounds renovation project was started at the Speech House in November 2008. An orangery was constructed to accommodate about 80 people. Dorian said, “Maintaining the character of the building is top priority for us. Having undertaken a lengthy and detailed consultation process with Forest of Dean District Council to ensure due consideration has been given to conservation needs and the views of the local community, we are delighted to see the work at the Speech House is finally under way.” The orangery was completed in September 2009. Dorian said, “We are delighted with the completed orangery and have received so much positive feedback.” Further plans included expanding the Garden Room and the opening-up of the reception area and corridor to make a large lobby.
A mini-music festival, the Boom Town Fair, was held in the field adjoining the Speech House in August 2009. Although the organisers considered the event to be a success and trouble-free, there were concerns from some members of the public complaining about litter and people urinating in public. The Forestry Commission were apparently only informed about the festival the day before it began. A spokesman said, “There are a lot of issues for us to sort out and we’re not very happy.” Heavy rain before the event also caused the field to be badly churned-up. Dorian Charlton said, “The field will have to be rolled and re-seeded but it will be back to normal soon.” He added, “Unfortunately with events od this scale there will always be some concerns from the public. Someone said they could hear the music in Littledean, but I was staying here in a cottage and couldn’t hear it.”
The Speech Hotel was being marketed again in October 2009. The asking price was £1.9 million pounds. Estate agents Colliers Robert Barry reported that there had been a lot of interest. The Speech House was bought in March 2010 by Peter and Gill Hands. Peter said, “It is very exciting. The hotel has a great location and it is a wonderful building. We think it has big potential.”
A ghost-hunt was organised by a local group of paranormal investigators at the Speech House in February 2011. Leader of the group Phil Jones said that they found the hotel very active with lots going on. He said, “We recorded some Electronic Voice Phenomena and heard the name of ‘Emma’ coming through the equipment.” There were also ‘orbs’ seen on photographic equipment.
An ancient Forest tradition was revived in October 2013 when the Inclosure Commission met at the Speech House for the first time in the 21st century. Known as the Dean Forest Act, it gave the crown authority to enclose up to 10,000 acres at any one time for the purpose of establishing timber trees and the first Inclosure Commissioners were appointed in October 1668. After the inaugural meeting at the old court room at the Speech House the members visited areas in the Forest to be enclosed for tree planting and grazing.
A Trip Advisor ‘Certificate of Excellence’ Hall of Fame was awarded to the Speech House in May 2015, after five consecutive years of receiving consistently top reviews on the world’s largest Internet travel site. Peter Hands said, “This is a great accolade for the whole team, from the people who was up to the housekeeping to the front of house staff. We couldn’t do it without their hard work. We have 55 members of staff here and all but three of them live locally. We get lots of comments from guests about how friendly our staff are. We put a lot of emphasis on training our staff and encouraging them to make the most of their potential.”
A grant from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development was secured in September 2017 after talks with the Gloucestershire First Local Enterprise Group. The fund helps small to medium Enterprises’ such as the Speech House to develop and expand their business. After extensive negotiations the European fund came up with a £100,000 contribution. Leaseholder Peter Hands said, “We are extremely excited about creating a fantastic venue for weddings, conferences and events in the very heart of the Royal Forest of Dean”, adding “It is anticipated that this project will bring much needed additional business to the Forest of Dean and the local economy as well as creating more employment opportunities. Local tradesmen and businesses from around the Forest of Dean are to be employed in the construction of the building, The wedding and conference centre is to be named ‘the Edwin Tauber Suite’ in memory of Gill’s father Edwin who was a great lover of trees and forests.”
The Forest Vintage Vehicle and Machinery Club hold their annual vintage show in the grounds of the Speech House every September. The show started in 2012
Landlords / Proprietors at the Speech House include:
Cliff Cider House / Royal Oak?
E.G. Francis was the owner of the Cliff Cider House in 1891. As its name suggest it had a licence to sell cider on the premises only, although it is documented as being free of brewery tie. Cliff Cider House must have been quite a basic establishment but the entry in the 1891 licensing records give no actual details of rateable values. The occupying landlord / keeper in 1891 was Edwin Frowen. The last reference to the Cliff Cider House is in 1897 when George Slater did not apply for a renewal of the licence.
It is possible that the Cliff Cider House was the last incarnation of an inn called the Royal Oak, a 17th Century building that in 1989 served as Staunton Post Office. Heather Hurley in her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ (Logaston Press 2004) writes, ‘The post office of 1989 was once the Royal Oak, a cider house with memories still stretching to ‘cider drinkers sitting around an old oak tree’ (quote attributed to J.A. Cockburn). It is understood that this inn was known by the sign of the Ostrich in 1799, but apparently its name was changed to the Royal Oak around 1832. James Carver was a busy man in 1845 as he was publican, pigman, cider maker and blacksmith. He left the running of the Royal Oak in 1863 because he had taken over the tenancy of the White Horse.’
White Horse GL16 8PA
The White Horse started trading in 1813. However, it is likely that the license of the White Horse was transferred from another property to the present inn sometime in the 1830’s. Prior to then the road from Coleford to Monmouth took a route deviating from the church through the village. The more direct road (A4136) to the north was instigated by the Turnpike Trustees and the present White Horse was built on the new highway to Monmouth. Being on the uppermost ground before the long and winding descent to Monmouth and the Wye Valley, the White Horse is branded as the first and last pub in England.
The Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye were the owners of the White Horse in 1891 and 1903. It was licensed as an ale house but had a surprisingly low annual rateable value of just £7.4s.0d. Alton Court Brewery were acquired by the Stroud Brewery in 1956 and thence, following amalgamation with the Cheltenham & Hereford Brewery in 1958, the White Hart became integrated into the large regional West Country Brewery estate, and finally to the Whitbread Group. A legacy of its past brewing heritage is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that is still in situ at the front of the White Horse and the ‘hind head’ trademark of Whitbread is still visible in the sign that declares that the pub is the First and Last in England.
In August 2001 an application was made to convert the White Horse into a private dwelling.
An ‘eating out’ review in October 2008 remarked that ‘the first thing that strikes you on entering the White Horse is the truly rustic feel of the place, adorned as it is with cartwheels and farming antiques. The roaring fireplace impressed greatly and added a wonderful ambience to the room. We were quickly shown to the dining room and were told that it was a bit chilly so we might prefer the main bar. We took the staff up on their advice because it was too cold and the main bar was more impressive.’ The food was highly rated.
In February 2009 the White Horse was bought by Forest of Dean company RH Hotels Ltd. The company were owners of well-known establishments in Symonds Yat – the Saracens Head, the Royal Lodge and Forest View. The White Horse had a guide price at auction of £175,000 but it was sold for £200,000.
The White Horse was officially reopened in July 2010, following a refurbishment of the bar and restaurant areas. The faded white paintwork on the render was brightened up with a coat of yellow paint. John Carter and Hayley Scotford had previously worked at the Saracens Head in Symonds Yat. Hayley told the ‘Forester’ newspaper, “We’re going to start off trying to establish the pub as a good place to eat. We want to cater for everyone, and we will have a range of meals from snacks, starters and good pub grub with a twist.” A review in September 2010 noted that since arriving at the White Horse they had already built up a good reputation for serving up good food in relaxed surroundings.
Another ‘eating out’ review in January 2013 remarked that the White Horse ‘has hit on a dead cert with its fantastic À la carte Sunday lunch menu. Though it isn’t the cheapest option, it is very good value with quality, service and presentation its watch-words.’ It was also noted that the pub itself had been thoughtfully designed and furnished. ‘The large chunky wooden tables give the pub atmosphere, while the high ceilings and pastel colours add a touch of contemporary décor but with the authentic, rustic feel retained.’
Landlords at the White Horse include:
Travellers Rest GL15 6QW
E.J.E. Wyndham of the Clearwell Estate owned the Travellers Rest in 1891. It was a beer house which was free from brewery ties. The ownership had passed to H.E. Collins twelve years later in 1903 and the lease had been taken on by the Wickwar Brewery. Arnold, Perrett & Co.Ltd. were acquiring many previously free of tie pubs in the Forest in early Edwardian times to secure guaranteed outlets for their Wickwar ales. The Travellers Rest had an annual rateable value of £11.4s.0d. and ‘closing time’ was at 10 pm.
Pub landlady Maureen Richards was delighted when her Dalmatian bitch, Zasha, gave birth to four puppies just before Christmas 1999. They were fathered by a pedigree dog belonging to a friend. The four adorable puppies were given pedigree names, Fentive Boy, Lazy Girl, Octavia Plus One and Stowe Green Lad. Maureen said of Zasha, “I always knew she would make a wonderful mum and she is so attentive to her puppies it’s not true. I am tempted to keep one of them – but I have enough work here running the pub.”
Maureen and her husband Arthur decided to keep Fentive Boy, which they affectionately called Fen. It was a decision that possibly saved their lives. In the early hours of 26th March 2002 Arthur and Maureen were woken up by Fen and Zasha barking wildly. Arthur said, “I went out to the landing and there was smoke everywhere. I shouted to Maureen to get dressed and then climbed through a landing window onto our kitchen roof and jumped onto the ground. I then grabbed a ladder and Maureen climbed out of the bedroom window. I shouted at her to phone the fire brigade and got Fen and Zasha out of the back door. I didn’t really feel scared at the time because I was just acting without thinking. But it was our two dogs who woke us up and who knows what would have happened if they hadn’t raised the alarm.”
Arthur and Maureen and their two Dalmatian dogs then sat in their car watching the Travellers Rest burn whilst waiting for the fire brigade to turn up. It was a bitter blow as trade had just picked up after the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 and they had just spent thousands of pounds refurbishing three guest rooms and the toilet facilities. The fire spread rapidly, and it took more than 30 firefighters almost three hours to bring the blaze under control. The blaze called extensive damage with some floors completely burnt through and large sections of the roof were destroyed. The cause of the fire was under investigation
The Travellers Rest did not reopen until the summer of 2007. Brian and Yvonne Penkethman, who had previously successfully run the Miners Arms in Sling, took over the pub. An ‘eating out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper was praiseworthy noting that ‘just past Clearwell quarry in Stowe the Travellers Rest awaits to refresh its visitors. Six years ago, a fire broke out in the upstairs flat and the restaurant was shut down. Until recently the inn and restaurant lay idle, but Brian and Yvonne Penkethman have developed it into a beautiful, contemporary establishment.’ The reviewer summarized with the ‘service was brilliant, and the atmosphere was friendly and relaxing. Gorgeous surroundings, great staff and generous helpings. Compliments to the chef.’ The service and food were given a rating of 10/10, and the atmosphere and value for money 9/10.In December 2009 a planning application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council to change the use of the Travellers Rest to create two residential flats. The application was refused, but the property never reopened as a pub. Another application was under consideration in January 2010 from Mr A. Wallace who was seeking permission for a change of use for the ground floor of the public house to build two flats in its place.
The Travellers Rest has recently been used as a centre for a dog rescue charity (K9 Rescue) and a raw dog food business (K9 Raw). The owners have expressed interest to sell the property of which the proceeds of sale would be used to relocate a brand-new dog rescue centre with run free facilities. The Travellers Rest has been marketed as a large, rural five-bedroom house that has been converted from a public house. The upper floors have been subject to a complete refurbishment to modern standards. The lounge has retained its old-world features and boasts a stunning inglenook fireplace. The ‘internals have been partially renovated leaving scope for your own mark.’
Landlords of the Travellers Rest include:
George and Dragon / George / Stroat Inn NP16 7LR
Stroat is a small hamlet about three miles to the north east of Chepstow on the A48. The pub, opposite Stroat House, was also known as both the George and the Stroat Inn. When known as the George in 1744 it was also the meeting place of the Tidenham manor court.
John Pullen Rymer was the owner of the Stroat Inn in 1891. It was an ale house but only had a six-day licence, so presumably it was closed on Sundays. The annual rateable value was £16.5s.0d. The 1903 licensing book does not record the George & Dragon indicating that it had closed by then.
Although this has to be confirmed, the detached dwelling on the corner of Rosemary Lane and the Chepstow Road may have once been the village pub.