Emma Ridler was the owner of the Bridge Inn in 1891. It was classified as an alehouse with an annual rateable value of £34.5s.0d. The Bridge was a free house enabling Emma Ridler to choose where she got her beer supplies from. Twelve years later in 1903 the Bridge Inn is documented as belonging to Samuel Fisher Barnard of the Feathers Hotel. It was bought for £2,000 in 1897, the year that Samuel died. The licensing book indicates that the Bridge Inn was still a free house, but Samuel Barnard and his brother ran a small commercial brewery at the Feathers Hotel so the acquisition of the Bridge must have been purely to secure an outlet for Barnard Bros beers. The Bridge Inn closed at 11 pm.
An advertisement in Harris’s Forest of Dean Almanack and Directory of 1899 describes the Bridge Inn: “Albert Nelmes, Bridge Hotel, Newerne, Lydney. Good beds, excellent accommodation for travellers. Wines and spirits of the best quality. Good stabling, a horse trap and waggonette, etc for hire. A recreation ground, 10 acres in extent for shows, etc.”
Francis Wintle purchased the Bridge Inn. When the property of the Wintles’ Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean was put up for sale in 1923 the Bridge Inn was described in the inventory as an ‘attractive stone-built premises with rough cast, occupying an important site in this busy town.’ On the ground floor there was a bar, private bar, smoke and tap room, sitting room, store cupboard, two beer stores with loft over and kitchen. On the first floor there were four bedrooms, storeroom, and ‘a good club room with separate approach from yard’. It was also noted that ‘the property is of Freehold Tenure and let to Mr A.G. Nelmes, a tenant of about 38 years’ standing, on quarterly tenancy at per £80 annum.’
Dean Forest Mercury. August 21st 1972: ‘The Bridge Inn will be remembered with affection.’
The old Bridge Inn, Lydney, shortly to disappear under the Newerne Street redevelopment scheme, has a history extending from 1844, the date shown on the front of the building, to last year when it was closed. Throughout its 127 years’ history the inn has been a focal point of the numerous activities in the town, and it has been the headquarters of a large number of the town’s clubs and organisations from time to time. Lydney’s cricket club, the rugby club, and more recently the soccer club, have all had their headquarters at the inn.
There have been numerous licensees at the Bridge Inn too during its history, some remaining for a long time and others for short periods. The last licensee was Mr D.T. Gardner, and it would be of interest to know who was the first licensee, but there is no doubt that the longest serving licensee at the inn was the late Mr. Albert Nelmes. He took over the license in 1888, and up to the time of death in 1935 he had held the licence of the inn for a record 52 years. Mr Nelmes’s wife, the late Mrs Julia Nelmes, who was well known for her excellent catering, held the licence of the inn after her husband’s death until 1939.
Mr and Mrs Nelmes lived at the Bridge Inn with their two sons, Mr Harold Nelmes and Mr Fred Nelmes, and both of their sons played for Lydney R.F.C. Born at Arlingham, Mr Nelmes was licensee for two years at Lydney’s old White Horse Inn, situated at the lower end of Newerne Street, before he took over the licence of the Bridge Inn. For most of the time that he held the licence, the public house belonged to Mr. Francis Wintle, the Mitcheldean brewery owner. The inn was afterwards sold to the Cheltenham Original Brewery, who owned it for 30 years before it was taken over by the Whitbread-Flowers group, who under their rationalisation programme closed the inn, and sold the building. Both Mr and Mrs Nelmes had a good reputation for catering. For many years they catered for the football clubs’ annual dinner; and also another well known event, the Whit Monday band and choir festivals in Lord Bledisloe’s Lydney Park. The licensee’s son, Mr Harold Nelmes, who was born at the inn, can recall the town’s first charabanc trip. This went from the Bridge Inn in the year 1913 to Weston-super-Mare, by the old ‘Bristol Blues’.
The Bridge Inn used to be the focal point of very popular annual events, which were heralded by “Fat” Stery, the town crier, such as Lord John Sanger’s Circus, and Jacob Studt’s funfair, with the boxing booths. These events drew tremendous crowds to Lydney from all parts of the Forest, and they were held on the Bridge Inn fair field, which was then owned by Mr Nelmes. The Bridge Inn was the headquarters for all the showmen and circus performers in the days when beer served from the old hogs-heads was 2d. a pint. On Lydney funfair day (June 25th) thousands of people used to arrive by train from the Forest and they packed the Bridge Inn fairground. Mr Harold Nelmes can recall the time when his father accepted the challenge to go into the lions’ den at Sanger’s circus, and be shaved. During that time the Bridge Inn, was also a popular centre for the local farmers, who came to the town on market days (Tuesdays), when sheep and cows were sold in the yard at Swan Lane, in the days when sovereigns were exchanged. The Bridge Inn used to be the centre for charabanc parties and the Moose and R.A.O.B. organisations held their headquarters there during the time the licence was held by Mr Nelmes, who used to be president of the Lydney cricket and football clubs, and committee member of Lawfords Gate and Licensed Victuallers’ Association.
At one time the Bridge Inn was used for the practice of dentistry, Mr Harold Nelmes says the teeth used to be extracted in the front of the inn, and a negro used to come with his three-piece band to play during the extraction of teeth without anaesthetic, thus drowning the patients cries.
Licensees at the Bridge Inn since the beginning of the 1939-45 war were Messrs. J. Pitt, B. Cole, S. Hyde, G. Potter, R. Blake, and D. Gardner.
When the circus came to Lydney in September 1957 one of the performing elephants was given a pint of beer by the landlord of the Bridge Inn, George Potter.
When the Bridge Inn closed on September 12th 1971 it was thought that it was going to be demolished for improvements to Newerne Street. The building has survived and is now occupied by three or four separate shops – Forest Health Foods, etc.
Landlords at the Bridge Inn include:
1870,1876 William Saunders (described also as a butcher and haulier in 1876)
1885 Robert German
1881 James Werrett (aged 36)
1891,1934 Albert Nelmes (“50 consecutive applications to Lydney Branch” 1934)
1939 Mrs Julia Nelmes
1954-1955 Albert William Raymond ‘Bert’ Coles (moved to the Kings Head, Littledean)
1957 George Potter
1971 D.T. Gardner