The 18th Century Boat Inn, on the west bank of the River Severn, is undoubtedly one of the best pubs in Gloucestershire. It was a frequent CAMRA award winner but sadly it is currently closed, a victim of repeated flooding of the River Severn with the last ingress of flood water following Storm Dennis in 2020 causing severe damage. Hopefully the closure is not permanent.

The Jelf family had a long association with the Boat Inn – running it for 350 years. It is known that a Mr Jelf was a boatman in charge of the ferry across the River Severn. It is said that he bravely ferried the fugitive Charles II to safety from the pursuing Roundheads during the Civil War. He probably lived in the building that was first recorded as the Boat Inn in 1730. David Jelf took over the licence of the Boat Inn on 23rd June 1888. There is an old wooden sign at the pub which reads: ‘The Boat. David Jelf.  Licensed to sell by retail, beer, cider & tobacco. Spirituous Liquors. Also licensed to brew.’ 

Courtesy Michael Wilkes
Courtesy Michael Wilkes
Courtesy Michael Wilkes

The last of the line was Irene Ellen Jelf who was born in the pub in 1916 and lived there until her death in October 2001.  During World War II Irene was the local post lady but she always kept up her involvement behind the bar. Never the licensee, ‘Auntie Rene’ ran the pub with her older sister Sybil when their father Edward Jelf died in 1967, aged 87. When Sybil died in 1991, Rene asked her niece Jacquie  to become landlady. They proved a winning partnership with the pub going from strength to strength. It was named CAMRA South West Region Pub of the Year in 1997 and 1999 and Gloucestershire CAMRA branch Pub of the Year in 1996,1999 and 2002.  Irene Jelf passed the business on to her neice, Jacquie Nicholls, who in turn died tragically young at 54 on 4th September 2003 Jacquie’s widower Ron Nicholls now runs the Boat.

Image: Gloucestershire Echo

The Citizen: Wednesday, 7th July 1986 – Family wins fight for pub landing stage: The Boat Inn at Ashleworth, a popular stopping-off place for boating parties on the River Severn, has been ‘out of bounds’ for some years after works were carried out on the riverbank. The works also meant centuries-old ferry rights, handed down through generations of the Jelf family, were affected. Now, following representation by the local family, who run the Boat Inn, to local MP., Mr Paul Marland, a landing stage and small slipway will be provided at Ashleworth Quay. Mr C. Davies, divisional manager of the Severn Trent Water Authority, said the slipway would be done jointly between British Waterways Board and the authority. “I have consulted all interested parties and agreement has been reached upon the type of structure required,” he said. “British Waterways will provide the landing stage next summer and it is anticipated that the water authority will provide the slipway during this financial year.”

Miss Sybil Jelf, who runs the public house with her sister Irene, said they were delighted that agreement had finally been reached on the long-running dispute. The Jelf Family have owned the pub and ferry rights for hundreds of years and said Miss Jelf, trade had been affected by river traffic being unable to stop off at the pub.

Mr Marland said he was pleased that the two authorities involved had reached agreement and were going to provide the slipway and landing stage. “It has been a long fight, but I am sure that Misses Jelf are delighted at the outcome,” he added.

June 2008
Ron & Jacquie with the CAMRA Gloucestershire Pub of the Year certificate 2002. CAMRA Gloucestershire Chairman Tony Aburrow on the right.

The Boat was deluged with floodwater during the Great Gloucestershire Flood of July 2007.

This page will be updated with additional information.

Map Reference: SO 819251

Licensing Details:

Owner in 1891: David Jelf (free from brewery tie)

Type of licence in 1891: Alehouse

Owner in 1903: David Jelf (free from brewery tie)

Rateable value in 1903: £17.0s.0d.

Type of licence in 1903: Alehouse

Closing time in 1903: 10pm

Phone: 01452 700272

Landlords at the Boat Inn include:

1856 T. Jelf

1885,1888 Mrs Sarah Jelf

1888 David Jelf

1891,1903 David Jelf

1906,1967 Edward Jelf

1967-1991 Sybil Jelf

1991-2001 Jacquie Nicholls and Irene Jelf

2001-2003 Jacquie Nicholls

2003-2009 Ron Nicholls

Mark Fox

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