The Cross Keys Inn sits on the crossroads near what was the Turnpike with roads leading to the old Beachley ferry, Gloucester, Coleford and Chepstow. It was recorded in the 1841 census when James Williams was the publican and closed in 2008 when it was converted, the last landlord being Simon Orgee.
The Cross Keys was the meeting place for the Tidenham Friendly Society (founded in 1835) in 1868 and there are many accounts in the Chepstow Weekly Advertiser (CWA) of anniversary parties held at the pub.
Mary and Hannah Hill were the owners of the Cross Keys in 1891 and 1903 and they traded free of brewery ties. The licensed ale house had an annual rateable value of £21.10s.0d. and closing time was at 10 pm.
Before the pub closed there were reports of the premises being haunted by the distressed spirit of Sarah Prichard who, with her husband John, were landlords at the Cross Keys in the 1860’s. They lost two of their three children early in childhood and, apparently, were evicted from the Cross Keys. James and Sarah then took on the new license of the Live & Let Live. James himself died in 1873. Bad fortune and a sense of recrimination were the perhaps behind the motive for the alleged sightings of Sarah’s ghost at the Cross Keys.
Advertising feature. Dean Forest Mercury: May 1972 – Where new meets old, pleasantly: The interior of the Cross Keys public house, Tutshill, has been completely re-designed and rebuilt by its owners, Ansells Limited, in a £15,000 renovation carried out over a several month period. As a result, the pub’s traditional atmosphere has been enhanced with a careful blending of rough stone work, natural brickwork, low ceilings incorporating rough sawn planking, wrought iron work and horse brasses, with decor and furnishings to tone.
A new public bar has been created by the Ansells architects department at Marshfield from an old smoke room and bar. An enlarged lounge has taken in a cottage adjacent to the Cross Keys; an old stable has been demolished and a small car park filled in and storage built on the ground floor. New toilets have also been built within the premises.
The local darts club is still provided for in the new public bar, the predominating colours of which are brown and orange. Piers break up the room and these have had shelves for glasses placed conveniently round them. Fixed and loose seating is in brown ambler; flooring is covered by a serviceable linoleum and curtaining is red.
Rough sawn dark brown planking is used on the ceiling and natural brick work is used ostentatiously but to good effect. The bar frontage is in plain soft knotty wood while the top is formica with oak edging.
Delighted with the alterations are licensees Tim and Pat McCarthy, who have been in the premises since last July. Tm was a company director in Cardiff for 15 years until he was made redundant.
The Sunday Closing Act of 1881 of Wales meant pubs in Chepstow were not open on the Sabbath. Being within easy walking distance from the Welsh border both the Cross Keys and nearby Live and Let Live benefited from a healthy Sunday trade.
Brian Harris, the licensee at the Cross Keys from 1975-1980, was a former professional footballer who played for Everton in the 1966 F.A. Cup Final against Sheffield Wednesday. Despite being 2-0 down, Everton eventually won 3-2. Amongst the crowd at Wembley were Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Brian Harris later became the manager of Newport County and assistant manager at Cardiff City. He died in Chepstow in February 2008, aged 72.
Forest of Dean & Ross-on-Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): A rather odd looking, multi-pillared exterior might upset the lovers of fine architecture but inside all is well and the “Key” has a snug red brick and beams pub atmosphere with various little side rooms where a drink and a bite may be enjoyed in comfort and tranquillity. A very jolly landlord and his missus welcome travellers; and their snack menu, from which we picked excellent Chicken in a Basket and Chips, is more than adequate. The beers include Ansell’s Bitter, Skol and Lowenbrau.
In August 2008 permission was granted by Forest of Dean District Council to convert and extend the Cross Keys Inn to nine one-bedroom flats and three two-bedroom flats.
Thanks to Tidenham Local History Group for some of the information.
Landlords at the Cross Keys include:
1841 James Williams (aged 35 in census)
1856 R. Loveridge
1861,1865 John Prichard (from Hewelsfield, also employed as a wheelwright. Moved to Cross Keys – see below)
1867,1875 Thomas Davies (Davis in 1875)
1876, 1883 Rowland Hill (in 1876 he is also listed as a shopkeeper)
1885 Mrs Elizabeth Hill
1888, 1893 Mary Hill (in 1891 census Mary Hill was 39 and single)
1897, 1906 Henry King
1908, 1914 John Ellis Jones
1919 George Howells
1923, 1927 George E. Jones
1928 Tom Powell
1933, 1939 George Hutchings
1949 Mrs Hutchings
1962 Mr & Mrs A Hawkes (moved to the Fishermans in Sedbury)
1967, 1968 Joan Purnell
1972 Tim and Pat McCarthy
1975-1980 Brian Harns
1985 Monica Driscoll99
1995- 2008 Simon Orgee