In the 1891 book of Gloucestershire licensed premises Mary Marling is listed as the owner of the Bird in Hand and the pub, a beer house, was free of brewery tie with an annual rateable value of £14.0s.0d. It was still privately owned twelve years later by John Niblett but it was leased to John Arnold & Sons, High Street Brewery, Wickwar. In 1903 the Bird in Hand still had the same annual rates and closed at 10 pm. The license stipulated that it was only open for six days a week, so it was presumably closed on Sundays.
George’s Bristol Brewery owned the pub in the 1950’s, which passed into the ownership of Courage Brewery. The Bird in Hand later became a Free House but still sold beers from Courage’s Brewery in Bristol.
Pubs of the Forest of Dean and Ross-on-Wye. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): Having just been surprised at the Rising Sun, the ‘Bird’ too has undergone radical alteration. A cheerful north country landlord smiled as he deftly pulled the excellent Murphy’s stout (all the way from County Cork). Not as creamy perhaps as that other Irish dark stuff but more piquant first thing in the morning. A battery of beverages lined up for our approval which I spotted John Smith’s, Fosters, and Courage. The menu was full of tasty looking homemades (yes, Lasagne was there too!), plus a lot more. Décor and seating was of the north country mining town plush and while it had less of a traditional pub ambiance and more of a genteel club atmosphere it is ideal for the couple drifting around on hols looking for a reliable bite and very good beer. No fire but warm.
In September 2001 a former landlady of the Bird in Hand, Elsie Jones then aged 95, was taken back to the pub for a meal by her family. Her daughter, Glenda Griffiths, told the Gloucester ‘Citizen’: “My mother’s parents, Annie and Amos Smith, had run the Bird in Hand Inn from the late 1920’s up until the early 1950’s when my grandmother died. My dad, Sydney, said about moving down there, so that’s what we did. The pub was very much spit and sawdust and all the miners used to come in there regularly. There were four children and my grandfather to look after, so my dad worked during the day and my mother was in charge of running the pub.” Mrs Jones was born in Broadwell and lived close to the pub. Her father was born at Berry Hill. When Elsie married Sydney they moved to Gloucester because her husband was in the RAF, but returned to the Forest to run the Bird in Hand. Upon retirement Sydney and Elsie moved just four doors away from the pub but in 1993 they moved to a residential home in Gloucester. Mr Jones passed away in 1999. When Elsie revisited the Bird in Hand on her birthday in September 2001 she had a wonderful welcome and even served a few pints behind the bar. Her daughter Glenda said: “We had a wonderful meal and my mother was just over the moon to be back there.”
In January 2008 there were rumours that the Bird in Hand was about to close. The ‘Forester’ newspaper reported that contrary to closure rumours, Broadwell’s Bird in Hand pub is very much open for business. The pub is open seven days a week, serves food and has a range of local live bands. The landlady said: “We don’t know where these rumours originally came from, but they’re totally wrong.”
In July 2009 the Bird in Hand suddenly closed down and was effectively mothballed with contents and fittings intact. Inside the pub was a juke box, quiz machine and fruit machine as well as drink. The premises was broken into by a 35 year old local man and £10,000 worth of damage was done smashing and kicking open the machines trying to retrieve money. Probably exhausted by the effort it seemed that he helped himself to a glass of wine. Forensic evidence found a size nine footprint on the front panel of the fruit machine which matched the sole of a pair of Nike trainers the police found at his home. Furthermore, his DNA was found on the wine glass. The judge said that he had smashed his way into the equipment just to get hold of a few handfuls of coins.
In September 2010 an application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for change of use of the former public house into a ‘place of worship’. Salvation Army church captain Vivienne Prescott said: “We didn’t want a conventional church building because we aren’t really a conventional church. We were looking for a community space where we can bring people together and that’s something pubs are ideally suited for.” The plans were to keep the bar in place but instead of alcohol serve tea, coffee and soft drinks. The skittle alley would be sound proofed so that it could be used as a rehearsal room for young bands. The application received backing from the council. Richard Phelps, councillor, said: “It’s a shame that we lost a pub there, but it’s great that the building is going to be used. It has been left to rot really since it closed so this is great for Coleford.”
The residents of Broadwell at least had something to celebrate in April 2013 when their local social club reopened. The Broadwell & District Ex-Servicemen’s Club was built in the 1930’s but closed temporarily after running out of money. A committee member said, “This is now the only pub in the village so it’s a very special place to the community.”
Landlords of the Bird in Hand include:
1891 Mary Marling
1903 George Niblett.
Late 1920’s – early 1950’s Amos and Annie Smith
1950’s Sydney and Elsie Jones
1972 Edward Ellway
1973 C.J. Lewis
1999, 2005 Mike and Jan Tutty
2008 David and Clare Cooke, Nikki Haydney