The Farmers Boy is located on the north side of the A40 Ross Road in the hamlet of Boxbush. It is about one mile north of Longhope.
The Compton family owned the Farmers Boy for generations. George Compton is listed there in 1876 and is detailed as the owner of the Farmers Boy in the 1903 licensing book. Sydney J. Compton is recorded there in 1927 and 1939. When the licence of the Farmers Boy was amended in 1949 so that wines and spirits could be consumed on the premises, Sidney Compton was the owner. It is known that Sidney’s father and his grandfather had been owners of the inn, presumably Sydney and George. One slight discrepancy in the Compton family’s long association with the Farmers Boy is that the 1891 licensing book lists James Bircher as the owner.
The Farmers Boy had an annual rateable value of £10.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903 and was designated a beer house. It seems likely that throughout its history the Farmers Boy has never been owned or leased to a brewery. It was trading free of brewery tie in late Victorian / early Edwardian times when closing time was at 10 pm.
Gloucester Journal: April 9th, 1881 – Killed on railway: On Thursday afternoon William Williams, 80 years of age, was run over by a train near to the Boxbush crossing at Longhope. He was found almost immediately by a man named Long, and in answer to him said he had been to the wood for a few sticks. Defendant died shortly afterwards and his body was removed to the Farmers Boy to await an inquest. The unfortunate man was struck by the train on his right shoulder, and the sticks were carried a distance of 26 yards from the place where the accident occurred.
When the full licence was granted in 1949 to permit the sale of wines and spirits, apparently a local of the Farmers Boy spoke up in favour of the transition from a ‘spit and sawdust’ basic boozer to a proper roadside inn. He said, “The beer is so week nowadays that you need something to liven it up.”
Phil Kiernan and Kate Hampton took over the Farmers Boy in 2000 and it re-opened on Wednesday 20th September. Phil said, “When our friends Mike and Vicky, who were the landlords here, said they were thinking of retiring, we made them an offer and here we are. We’re delighted, there’s so much potential here and there’s room to grow the business. The first job was to re-paint and decorate throughout and that work has now been completed. This was no mean feat, because despite its cosy feel and old-world charm, the Farmers Boy is a large space.”
The Farmers Boy was voted Greene King Free House Pub of the Year for the South West Region in 2003.
The Farmers Boy made the headlines for entirely the wrong reasons in July 2007 when it failed to meet hygiene standards which resulted in fines totalling £13,000. Environmental health officers from Forest of Dean District Council first inspected the pub in February 2005 and gave warning that sections of the kitchen did not meet hygiene standards. A follow up inspection in December 2005 found that the necessary improvements required had not been satisfactory dealt with and five hygiene requirement notices were issued to Phil Kiernan. On their third inspection in March 2006, the environmental health team deemed the property had not improved sufficiently and decided to take legal action. It was disclosed in court that health inspectors found dirty utensils, greasy plug sockets and evidence of smoking in the kitchens and that Mr Kiernan had not only failed to comply with an enforcement notice telling him to improve hygiene on the premises but had let the food preparation areas get even filthier. He pleaded guilty to 11 breaches of the Food Safety Act and three counts of failing to comply with hygiene improvement notices. Phil Kiernan was originally told to pay £20,000 by magistrates for the food safety breaches, but he succeeded in getting the penalty reduced by £7,000 upon appealing against his sentence at Gloucester Crown Court.
Another routine inspection in October 2007 gave the premises a three-star (good) rating. The improved rating followed kitchen refurbishments, new equipment and additional staff who cleaned the Farmers Boy to a very high standard. Phil Kiernan said that he was determined to get his business back on track, “We put our hands up and said that we were not up to scratch but we have worked hard to put things right. We want people to see what a lovely place it is and enjoy the atmosphere.”
The year 2007 proved to be something of an ‘annus horribilis’ for the Farmers Boy. A kitchen fire broke out at 4.20 am on the 4th April causing £10,000 damage to kitchen equipment and smoke damage to the bar and lounge. The walk-in freezer, fridge and central heating boiler were damaged in the blaze. However, undaunted by the fire Phil Kiernan told reporters that he hoped to reopen the following night and get the kitchen back in action for the weekend. He said, “We’re just getting on with it. The B&B is fully booked for Easter, so we need to get the kitchen ready for then. We need to get on with the clean up because the longer we wait the longer we stay closed.” The cause of the fire, as reported in the newspaper, ‘could have been caused by an electrical fault or a chip pan.’
The speciality two-in-one gourmet pies offered at the Farmers Boy have proved to be very popular. Previously only available at the Farmers Boy, the pies were made available in August 2009 to farm shops and delis. Part of the pub was converted in January 2011 to a purpose-built delicatessen offering such delights as Steak and Guinness Pies with cauliflower cheese. The deli was launched with a World champion racing rally car – a Subaru Impreza driven by Alister Mcrae in the World Raly Championship – displayed outside. Within a few days of its opening five hundred pies had been sold. A ‘Dirty Feckin’ Pie’, containing steak and kidney ‘with a surprise’ was launched soon afterwards. In August 2011 Phil Kiernan took ownership, with a bank loan from Lloyds TSB, of a factory on the Forest Vale Industrial Estate in Cinderford to develop his branded Mad About Pies business. A contract had been secured with Worcester Warriors Rugby Club to provide at least 30,000 pies to the Premiership side, including sales in 25 stadium bars and an outside unit in the stadium grounds. A contract was sealed in 2012 with the Charles Wells pub company to supply all its 250 pubs throughout the country. A year later a thousand pies a week were being made at Cinderford with the projection that within six months to a year it might be up to 10,000. By 2018 the Mad About Pies business had been crowned with 27 National British Pie awards.
Channel Four produced a TV show in 2011 called ‘Four in a Bed’, a programme where B&B owners rated each other’s bed & breakfast facilities before guessing how much the stay was worth. Phil decided to take part in the programme to promote the Farmers Boy and his Mad About Pies business. Ironically Phil was set a challenge to make a pie. He said, “The trouble was I’m not a chef and it was a bit of a disaster for me. It was a chicken, leek and mushroom pie which mostly fell flat on its face.” Despite coming third Phil was pleased with the TV show spotlight. “Our website had 20,000 views within five minutes of the programme going on air and we’ve had loads of bookings and people from as far away as Australia and South Africa emailed us saying we should have won.”
Phil employed the services of artist Fred Crellin in January 2012 to paint a historic mural on the side of one of the chalet suites at the pub. The painting is of the Farmers Boy as it was in the 1920’s when Sidney Compton was the landlord. “Fred has done a fantastic job on the mural, people really love it,” Phil said but added “I was thinking of getting a mural done of a pie, or myself, but I think this was the best choice.”
Apart from the gourmet pies, the Farmers Boy is big on food. Literally. A Big Ugly Burger was on the menu in January 2014. For £21.95 the burger weighed in at 1lbs 6oz of solid meat and measured 12 inches wide. The challenge was simply to eat it. Phil said, “So far only 26 people have tried it and three have done it. One guy was a Polish chap training for the World’s Strongest Man and he had two of them back to back!” In October of that year a ‘Big Ugly Breakfast’ was introduced. The challenge set was to finish the beast of a breakfast within 25 minutes and those successful gaining a place on the Farmers Boy wall of fame and receive a commemorative T-shirt – presumably XXXL! The appetising dish comprised of six bacon rashes, four black pudding slices, six hash browns, three tomatoes, six sausages, three scrambled eggs, four slices of fried bread, six slices of toast and a third of a tin of beans.
The Farmers Boy was featured in a ‘Meet the Landlord’ feature in the ‘Gloucester Citizen’ in April 2015, putting the ‘spotlight on Gloucester’s best boozers’.
Raising glass to a success story…
When many pubs began to struggle as the 2008 recession struck, the Farmers Boy near Longhope went from strength to strength. It was then that the 17th Century inn decided to expand its offerings and become one of the Forest of Dean’s only gastro pubs, offering locals and tourists a taste of upper-class cuisine and drink. Phil Kiernan has since turned the pubs famous home-made pies into a nationwide business, is now holding functions such as weddings and has made the pub’s food challenges renowned far and wide. Now it is looking to expand its offerings yet more for large functions and entertainment, grow its on-site gourmet pie, cheese and wine shop and grow its lush bed and breakfast complex.
General manager Scott Price said the progress made by the Farmers Boy is down to the vision of Phil. He said, “The Farmers Boy has made a huge leap. It was always a drinking pub but then Phil invested a lot of money to make this a destination pub. As a pub we have to stay on top of our game. In this industry it changes so often you have to keep improving and keep going. Staying the same for too long means you could end up on the list of pubs which have closed.”
The upscale offerings of the Farmers Boy are immediately obvious as soon as you walk in, with service which harks back to Phil’s Irish roots. Full table service is operated throughout the day which means when you order a pint you can sit-down and have it delivered to your table. The philosophy of the Farmers Boy is not to say no to anything. This has led to their homemade pies expanding into a national business named Mad About Pies, after requests for home deliveries by customers. It’s also led to the ‘Big Ugly’ food challenges, such as massive traditional English breakfasts and burgers, taking pride of place at the pub at the requests of visitors from the Forces. The Farmers Boy also offers special packages to people looking for walking tours throughout Gloucestershire and for special events such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Live music events are also beginning to take off with tribute bands gracing the Farmers Boy’s events calendar, and an outdoor festival in August which will see beer, folk music, bouncy castle and barbecue.
Despite the undying ambition of the Farmers Boy, it has remained at the heart of its small community on the A40. It has regulars from surrounding villages and its outside wall is adorned with a mural of what the Farmers Boy looked like in 1925, copied from a picture left by a regular drinker.
A second fire broke out at the Farmers Boy in May 2018. Firefighters from Newent, Cinderford and Ross were sent to tackle the blaze that ripped through the roof of a rear extension. A spokesman for Gloucestershire Fire Service said, “We were called to a fire at the Farmer Boy in Longhope. Our crews were tackling a fire on a flat roof at the back of the pub. There was extensive fire damage to the roof extension and significant smoke damage to the entire building. The incident is not being treated as suspicious.” Determined to get the pub up and running again as quickly as possible the staff went straight into mopping up mode and the pub reopened, almost as normal, the following day. Phil Kiernan said, “The staff have been absolutely fantastic, volunteering to work on their days off. I am now looking at this as an opportunity and we plan to redecorate completely.” Three months later the pub was fully back in business and a special champagne reception was held to open the brand new Wishing Well Suite.
Gloucester Journal: Saturday, November 27th , 1971: Farewell Party at Longhope – Major and Mrs Wilfred Davey have given up the Farmers Boy at Longhope, and have bought a large old farmhouse at Slimbridge. Major and Mrs Davey kept the Oakle Street Hotel at Churcham and the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars at Frocester before moving to Longhope. Their friends and customers wished them goodbye at a party at the Farmers Boy last week.
Landlords at the Farmers Boy include:
1861,1871 Walter Stephens
1876 George Compton (owner and occupier)
1891 James Bircher
1903 George Compton
1927,1939 Sydney J. Compton
1949 Sidney Compton
1971 Major and Mrs Wilfred Davey
1989 Nick Hayward and Carmen Grenville-Cleave (manager Robert Collier. Robert tragically died in a road traffic accident on the Longhope to Gloucester Road in April 1989)
1999 Mike and Vicky
2000,2022 Philip Kiernan