The Cross Inn is a large whitewashed pub sitting slightly back from the A48 Gloucester-Chepstow road. The 300-year old pub gets its name from the substantial 14th Century preaching cross in front of the building, where local people used to bring their produce for sale on market day.
In 1891 Thomas Rowland was the owner of the Cross Inn beer house and it was free of brewery tie. Some twelve years later in 1903 the pub had been purchased by Godsell & Sons of Salmon Spring Brewery in Stroud. The Severn Railway Bridge had opened on 17th October 1879 which brought new opportunities for brewery companies such as Godsell’s, Nailsworth Brewery and Stroud Brewery to purchase pubs on ‘the other side of the Severn’. No doubt the acquisition of the Cross Inn was motivated by the ability to transfer beer by rail easily from the Stroud Valleys to the Forest of Dean. Stroud Brewery acquired Godsell’s brewery with their pub estate in 1928. The Cross became a West Country Breweries pub with the amalgamation of the Cheltenham and Stroud Breweries in 1958, and then evolved into a Whitbread pub.
The annual rateable value in 1891/1903 was £13.15s.0d. and the Cross Inn closed at 10 pm. In 1891 William Phelps is recorded as the occupier but was succeeded just a year later by Thomas Haddock (who was also there in 1903).
When Barry and Rowena ‘Ro’ Barratt decided they wanted to run a country pub in the late 1970’s it took them nine years or so to find their ideal pub – the Cross at Aylburton. They set off from their Home Counties residence and then spent some time in Nigeria and Iran where Barry took a job as a plant foreman to raise enough money for their future pub life. In June 1985 they moved into the Cross. Ro said, “It really is home for us. After years of globe-trotting we have settled down and find everyone so friendly.” She added. “It’s very much the traditional pub. We’re happy and our aim is to make all our customers feel just the same way.” Three years later Barry and Ro were still happy at the Cross and they had welcomed darts, football, cricket, crib and domino teams into the pub. They also ran a successful quiz team and the Aylburton Community Fund. The food operation had improved with Barry introducing a char grill and steak dinners. Other changes included the expansion of an unused games room into the bar and the provision of new indoor toilets. Barry and Ro invested about £50,000 of their own money to get the pub trading successfully, appreciated and well used by the local community.
Following the ‘Beer Orders’of 1989, a directive from the Monopolies and Merges Commission, which required brewers to sell a proportion of their pubs or lease them free of the tie, Whitbread Pub Partnerships urged their tenants to take on a 20-year lease. A consequence of this was rents soared astronomically. Barry and Ro were dismayed when Whitbread demanded their annual rates at the Cross Inn would go up from £7,000 to £23,000 to secure a ‘tied lease’ and they would be responsible for £5,000 worth of repairs each year, plus all insurances. Barry Barratt said, “We simply cannot understand Whitbread’s attitude – it is quite impossible to make a living at this sort of rent level. We have been penalised for our success – during the six years we have been here we have almost quadrupled the trade.” Hundreds of people signed a petition on their behalf to attempt to make Whitbread Pub Partnerships to review the rent increase, but Barry and Ro handed in their resignation in protest. In their defence a spokesman from Whitbread Pub Partnership commented: “Unlike a tenancy, a lease enables a licensee to benefit financially from his or her hard work in building up a business by assigning the lease after a minimum three-year period.” The statement added: “The prime objective is to ensure the viability of the business to the satisfaction of both partners in the agreement. It is in no-one’s interest to fix rents which are unaffordable.” With no compassion it was also mentioned that negotiations were already advanced in view of a potential lessee taking on the running of the Cross Inn. An angry customer, who had frequented the Cross for over 50 years, wrote to the ‘Review’ newspaper and angrily wrote, “If our friendly hosts leave and a manager is put in, everything will collapse and go. Barry and Rowena have picked this pub up off the ground and have one of the best food businesses going.”
The Citizen newspaper featured the Cross Inn in their Pubwatch series in April 1999 when landlord Mike joked, ‘We don’t know the exact date of the building, but it’s certainly about 300-years, almost as old as some of the customers!’ He added, ‘Nowadays it’s a food led pub because we have two excellently fitted kitchens and two chefs but at the same time it’s still very much a pub and we have crib and darts teams.’ The Cross Inn raised £560 for the Friends of Lydney Hospital charity in November 2000 when a bungee jump took place 200 feet above the pub’s car park, and to show the press photographer that Mike the landlord wasn’t afraid of heights the presentation of the cheque was handed over whilst standing on a table in the bar!
A ’Best in the West’ ‘West Country Ales’ ceramic plaque is still in situ at the Cross Inn. The pub has been closed throughout the coronavirus pandemic and there were fears that it might have permanently closed. There is fresh optimism that it could reopen in 2022.
Landlords at the Cross Inn include:
1891 William Phelps (owner Thomas Rowland)
1892,1903 Thomas Haddock
1939 Charles Henry John Edwards
1985,1991 Barry and Ro (Rowena) Barratt
1999 Mike and Teresa Powell
2005 Richard and Emma Kemsley