The Feathers Hotel was once an important coaching inn on the Gloucester to South Wales main road. The Feathers Hotel played a leading role in Lydney’s history. It was once the venue for inquests and trials and the headquarters for a host of local organisations. The Feathers Hotel even boasted its own bowling green.
The police court responsible for hosting quarter and petty sessional divisional meetings to discuss licensing renewals, prosecutions, etc, was held in an upstairs club room at the Feathers Hotel at the end of the 19th century. In July 1874 six magistrates, including Charles Bathurst, expressed their concerns about the conditions of the premises of where the petty sessions were conducted, “The room at present used for the purpose is a club room at the top of a pub, the approach being up two flights of narrow stairs. The room, although large, is low and the accommodation for the magistrates, the witnesses and the public, is very bad. Above all the holding of petty sessions in a public house is most objectionable, the parties and witnesses frequently appearing before the bench more or less under the influence of intoxicating liquor, their excuse when reprimanded for their conduct, being that they do not like to wait about in a public house without ordering something.” It was noted that in the last court sessions one man was in such a state of intoxication that he fell from his seat and had to be removed from the room.
Charles Bathurst of the Lydney Park estate owned the Feathers Hotel in 1891 and 1903. The annual rateable value was a substantial £85.15s.0d. and, not surprisingly, it was classified as an alehouse. It was trading as a free house during those years and closed at 11 pm.
The Feathers Hotel once brewed their own beer and supplied their ‘home-brew’ to a few other local pubs. The Barnard family were tenants of the Feathers Hotel from 1863 to 1903. John and Alice Barnard had two sons’, Samuel Fisher Barnard and John Fisher Barnard (Fisher being their mother’s maiden name), and they had started a small commercial brewery at the Feathers by 1885 trading as ‘Barnard Brothers’. An advertisement in 1889 stated ‘The Feathers Hotel, Posting House., will supply families with home-brewed beer, wines and spirits.’ They were also agents for Worthington’s beer and stout. By 1891 Barnard Brothers supplied beer to the Dukes Head in Woolaston, the New Inn Bream and the Step-a-Side in Lydney. Samuel F. Barnard died in 1897. In that year Frank Paul is listed as a brewer in Lydney, presumably working at the Feathers Hotel. Was the health of Samuel of concern? It seems unlikely because in the year of his death Samuel had purchased the Bridge Inn for £2,000.
After Samuel’s death his executors took a valuation of the stock and trade at the brewery and the equipment at the brew house consisted of:
Galvanised iron water tank to hold 130 gallons with brass tap. Two wort barrels. Copper strainer, Sluice valve with copper piping, Oak waste tub, Copper furnace to hold 200 gallons as fixed, Two quarter mash tubs with tap and waste. Hop sieve, Wort pump with copper tap and piping. Oak tub and under back, Two coolers and stands complete, Two wooden beer shuts, Two waste barrels, Six working pieces each holding 100 gallons, Topping off can and pail, Refrigerator, Copper pump, Two stoking irons, Thermometer, Copper force pump, Three barm tubs, two fillers, 14 rung ladder, Damper and chain, Indian rubber piping.
The brewery at the Feathers Hotel was short-lived. The equipment appears to have been sold after Samuel’s death, and John passed away in December 1903. The Bridge Inn and the Step-Aside were offered for sale at auction at the Feathers Hotel on the 23rd March 1904.
On Friday 22nd February 1902 the members of the Lydney and District Licensed Victualler’s Association met at the Feathers Hotel to partake of dinner and spend a social evening. ‘A few friends were invited, and between 30 and 40 sat down to an excellent spread provided by Host and Hostess Smith.’ H.J Smith had taken over the running of the Feathers Hotel after the Barnards gave up the tenancy, but his tenure at the inn was short-lived.
In 1914 the Feathers Hotel was offered for sale as ‘Fully licensed and occupying the most important position in the town with extensive accommodation, stabling etc.’ The sale particulars described the property as consisting of a large bar, bar parlour, private sitting room, reading room, billiard room, private dining room, commercial room, coffee room, market room, kitchen, larder, scullery and wine cellar on the ground floor with a drawing room, ten bedrooms, store room, linen room and closet. On the second floor there was a spacious club room, a masonic room and five more bedrooms. The basement consisted of beer and wine cellars and at the rear there was an ‘assembly hall, stabling for 12 horses, a storeroom formerly used as a brewhouse, four piggeries and a barn.’
The Feathers Hotel was purchased by the P.R.H.A. This was the People’s Refreshment House Association Ltd., which provided food and accommodation to travellers. It encouraged non-alcoholic drinks but did serve beer during licensing hours. They owned 160 Licensed Houses after the Second World War, and the Feathers Hotel was described as having ’19 bedrooms and a dining room capable of seating a hundred.’ P.R.H.A. also owed the Railway Hotel at Coates near Cirencester. The Association’s freehold and leasehold properties were acquired by Charrington & Co. Ltd. from the beginning of 1962.
On Friday August 31st 1962 four young gentlemen named Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr stayed overnight at the Feathers after playing at Lydney Town Hall. Drummer Pete Best had been sacked from the Beatles just two weeks earlier on the 16th August, so Ringo was still very much the ‘new boy’ in the band. Perhaps after singing Twist and Shout John Lennon drank a couple of pints of Bass’ beer to soothe his throat! Just four days after the Lydney Town Hall appearance they recorded their first single ‘Love Me Do’ in EMI Abbey Road Studios. The Beatles were not the only famous celebrities to stay at the Feathers Hotel. Whilst filming an episode of Doctor Who called ‘Planet of the Spiders’ in 1974, actor John Pertwee and the cast stayed at the hotel. The River Severn was used as a backdrop for filming.
The Citizen: 20th December 1985: Popular hosts take over Lydney hotel – Popular hosts Tony and Jeanette George celebrate their new status as the owners of one of the Forest of Dean’s best-known hotels this week. The couple will be taking over the ownership of the Feathers Hotel, Lydney, where they have been tenants for the past five years, although Tony’s connection with the hotel goes back a lot farther than that. He worked at the Feathers as a chef between 1960 and 1965. “Little did we realise when we started work here that we would end up owning the place,” he said. Born and bred locally, Tony acquired much of his knowledge while serving in the Merchant Navy. The couple have two children and Tony, in the little spare time that he has, supports the town’s rugby football team and is a former member of Lydney Town Band. The couple’s business partnership with the brewery was sealed when the first pint was pulled by David Bagnall, Gloucester-based free trade director for Whitbread Flowers.
The Citizen: 14th April, 1986 – Demolish hotel – councillor. Lydney’s Feathers Hotel, currently up for sale, should be demolished to make way for road widening, controversial Lydney councillor, Mr Ernest Goss, said today. The hotel dates back to the early part of the last century and owners, Mr and Mrs Tony George, have put it up for sale. A Hereford based firm of agents is handling the sale, with the Feathers being valued at £220,000. Mr Goss revealed today that he is pressing the County and Town Council to agree to the purchase and then demolition to enable roadworks to take place. He said: “It would appear from what I have been told that the matter is being given consideration. I agree it would be quite a tragedy if the best-known hotel in Lydney was demolished, but it has to be accepted that the Feathers fronts the most dangerous stretch of road in the town.” Mr Goss and the other Lydney District councillors are pressing for improvements to the A48, which runs through the centre of the town, as part of the improvements to be carried out under the District Plan programme. “The removal of the Feathers and one other building further down the main street would mean the road through the centre of Lydney would be much safer for vehicles and pedestrians alike.”
The Citizen: Tuesday 7th October 1986; No buyer yet for Feathers – No buyer has yet been found for the Feathers, Lydney’s largest hotel a spokesman for the auctioneers said yesterday. An auction last Friday was stopped because bids were too low but Hereford auctioneers Sidney Phillips said a deal was close. The owners Tony and Jeanette George have left and the mortgagees Whitbread have put in a temporary manager to run the premises.
The Citizen: Thursday March 17th, 1988 – £350,000 for Lydney Hotel: The Feathers Hotel, Lydney, has been sold for £350,000 less than a year since it changed hands. Mr Henry Springer, from Bristol, has sold the 14 bedroom hotel to Bristol property developer David Packer and his son Julian. Mr Springer bought the hotel after selling the Old Ferry Inn, Beachley. He made major improvements to The Feathers, one of the biggest hotels in the Forest of Dean. His manager, Mr George Allsopp confirmed the sale today but Mr Springer was unavailable for comment. Last week he said the hotel was not up for sale and had not been sold.
In its last years of trading the Feathers Hotel had fallen into such a downward spiral it was part-owned by a convicted drug dealer. The purchase of the property had been funded by monies obtained from supplying drugs. The hotelier was given a six-year sentence and assets of £250,000 were confiscated. The Feathers Hotel closed in February 1998.
An arson attack took place at the Feathers Hotel on the afternoon of Good Friday in 1998. The blaze was in the private living quarters on the second floor of the building and caused extensive damage, but firefighters using new techniques helped the fire from spreading. A spokesman for the Fire Brigade said, ‘It was so hot inside the room the fire door was throbbing. If we had opened the door, there would have been a ‘backdraft’ and a huge explosion. We cranked the door open gently, sprayed very cold water inside and closed the door again. We did this several times until it was safe to go in. Our training methods probably avoided a more serious fire.”
The Feathers was demolished in June 1999 to make way for a Tesco supermarket and petrol station.
Landlords at the Feathers Hotel include:
1856 William Batten
1861 Jemima Batten (Feathers Hotel and Posting House)
1863 John Fisher Barnard (previous occupation given as grocer & baker in 1851, aged 32)
1876 Alice & Samuel Barnard (Alice, aged 57, and son Samuel, aged 27)
1885,1891 Samuel Fisher Barnard
1902 Mr and Mrs Smith
1903 William Woodruff
1919 Thomas Elliot
1927 A.W. Snow