The Belfry has a history that can be traced back to at least 1785 when there was an inn on the corner of Broad Street and George Lane trading under the name of the Golden Heart. In 1808 it was known as the Heart Inn. When William Wood was the innkeeper the name was changed to the George – perhaps to commemorate George IV’s coronation in 1820.
The George was once a Wintle’s Forest Brewery tied house. Francis Wintle, of the Mitcheldean based brewery, owned the pub in 1891 and 1903. The annual rateable value of the George, an alehouse, was set at £21.10s.0d. and closing time was 10 pm.
Gloucester Journal – 12th, December, 1885: Highway Offences – Thomas Barnett was summoned at Littledean Petty Sessions for obstructing the highway at Littledean. PC Eagles saw a wagon belonging to the defendant near the George Inn. One wheel was on the footway and the other on the road. It caused an obstruction, and he had received two or three complaints about it. Defendant alleged the wagon was right out of the road. Ordered to pay the costs of the summons.
When the George Hotel was put up for sale in 1937, the particulars read thus:
All that messuage or Inn known as the George Hotel situate at Littledean in the County of Gloucester and all outbuildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging, comprising in the rear a paved yard approached by pair of folding doors, stone outbuilding consisting of stabling for three with loft over, pot house wood store, urinal, vegetable garden, range of old buildings etc. And also a small orchard and all other outbuildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging together with the site thereof, and the land occupied therewith which said premises are now in the occupation of Thomas Mountjoy as tenant.
The Cheltenham Original Brewery acquired the George Inn when Wintle’s Brewery was voluntarily wound up on 7th May 1937. As the holding company the Cheltenham Brewery secured 93 licensed properties from the insolvent Forest Brewery. Until quite recently the pub sign of the Belfry was housed in an ornamental iron bracket bearing the ‘Castle’ emblem of the Cheltenham / West Country Breweries. It has since been replaced with a standard bracket. Whether or not the metalwork was replaced due to corrosion, or if it was damaged in an accident is not known. Its removal is a shame though, as there are only a few examples left. A similar pub sign bracket disappeared from the Yew Tree at Longhope some years ago. A survivor is the sign of the White Horse in Soudley.
A local newspaper reported in May 1980 that a matchbox model of the George Hotel had been presented to the landlords: ‘Despite a severe disability, Roy Johnson of Sharpridge, Littledean, has completed an intriguing model of the George Hotel. He presented it to the landlords Mr & Mrs Alvin Beard. Roy, formerly a sawyer, who lost the tops of three fingers in an accident at work, has been engaged in the construction of the model, using just one hand, which measures a yard square and is made up of around 16,000 matchsticks. Next on his agenda is a matchstick model of the goal house.’
Alvin and Ciss Beard ran the George Hotel for more than 20 years. They took over the George in 1961 and stayed there until 1980 when they moved to the Mount Pleasant in Cinderford where they stayed for another 10 years before taking retirement. To celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary on 20th March 2008 their two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, took them back to the Belfry.
The Citizen: Friday, September 13th 1991: Regulars welcome pub plan – Regulars who fought the closure of a Forest of Dean pub have welcomed its new owner’s plan to give it a facelift. Cinderford builder Keith Bell, who is buying the George Inn, Littledean, from brewers Whitbread, is hoping it will reopen as a pub and restaurant in the spring. Loyal customers mounted a fierce protest when it was closed in June. Whitbread originally said that the pub was to be refurbished but it was put on the market.
In June 1992 the premises re-opened as the Belfry Hotel. Keith brought in the management team of John and Sioned Hamilton, along with award-winning chef Peter Teague to run the Belfry. The premises were expanded and modernised, and the developers retained many original features of the Georgian building.
The Belfry is a popular venue for cabaret style music. There have been tribute bands playing the music of Shirley Bassey, the Bee Gees, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, Celine Dion, Elvis Presley. However, the live music prompted some neighbours to complain about late night noise at weekends in September 1997. When residents heard the news that an outdoor party was being organised to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the owning company K.W. Bell & Sons a neighbour, living just yards away from the pub said “We have found out that Mr Bell has hired a marquee and booked all kinds of bands for an outdoor party. There are 250-odd guests invited.’ Another local said, “We don’t mind them putting entertainment on for guests at the weekend, but recently it has been too much. Not long ago it was five nights on the trot, really loud – karaoke, comedy, the lot.”
In May 2004 members of the Gloucester and Oxford branch of the Cliff Richard Fan Club held their 25th anniversary at the venue. They enjoyed a Cliff quiz and danced to a Cliff disco! Sir Cliff sent his own personal congratulations to the fan club – “you’ve done a great job – many thanks.’ They returned to the Belfry in May 2009 to celebrate 30 years… and listened and danced to yet more Cliff records and another Cliff disco! Local radio presenters from Severn Sound and BBC Radio Gloucestershire, who had been honoured by the club for playing Cliff’s hits on the radio, stepped up to speak at the microphone to the sounds of their original radio jingles.
The Belfry organises regular charity raising events. An annual Harvest Festival is held in October. A more unusual charity raising event took place at the Belfry on Friday 14th November 2014 when ‘a night of snail racing!’ raised money for Cancer Research UK. It was described as ‘Great fun for all the Family’.
In an ‘Eating Out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in June 2014, reviewer Steve Watson wrote: ‘The Belfry in Littledean is always busy. It does weddings and christenings, Christmas parties, a Sunday carvery and has a busy hotel side, but it’s also busy for sport and food nights. It does everything!’ The review concluded with the observation, ‘There isn’t an overly creative menu or specials that make you go wow, but, what they do, they do brilliantly- affordable food, fantastic and friendly customer service, a clean and warm environment and a menu that the kids are going to be happy choosing food from as much as grandma.’
Landlords at the George Hotel / Belfry include:
1813,1837 William Wood
1851 William Stone (mentioned in 1851 census. Name of premises not given)
1856 Mrs S. Stone
1869 Joseph Bennett
1876 William Pitt Adams (George Hotel and Posting House)
1885,1891 James Stone Quick
1902,1893 Frank Herbert
1906,1927 Thomas Mountjoy
1939 Victor John Jenner
1961-1980 Alvin and Ciss Beard (moved to the Mount Pleasant, Cinderford)
2006: Shane Grindie and Sharon Birch (Managers)