Brooms Green is an isolated hamlet about two miles to the northeast of Dymock. It is in the far northwest of the county, very near the Herefordshire border.
Early records of the Horse Shoe Inn suggest that it was a cider pub. This is not surprising as nearby Dymock was once regarded as being the foremost cider apple parish in England.
In 1891 the Horse Shoe Inn was a very basic hostelry. It was privately owned by William Sayce who was also the occupying landlord. The beer house only had an annual rateable value of £9.0s.0d. per annum. In 1903 the Horse Shoe Inn was owned by the Vine Brewery in Ledbury, Herefordshire, trading under the name of Lane Brothers & Bastow. Only four pubs in Gloucestershire were tied to the brewery. Between 1891 and 1903 the annual rateable value of the Horse Shoe Inn had increased by £15 to £24.0s.0d. suggesting that the Vine Brewery substantially improved the premises when it purchased the Horse Shoe Inn from Mr Sayce. In 1903 the pub closed at 10 pm. The Vine Brewery was acquired by the Cheltenham Original Brewery in 1919.
A footpath passing through Brooms Green has been designated the Poets Walk, a waymarked route which links up places of historical and literary interests related to the so-called Dymock Poets – Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Wilfred Gibson and their contemporaries. It was in the surrounding countryside that these poets passed their leisure hours in the summer of 1914 before the outbreak of the First World War. No doubt they supped Ledbury brewed beers and local cider at the Horse Shoe Inn.
The Horse Shoe Inn passed to the ownership of West Country Breweries in the late 1950’s and subsequently became part of the enormous Whitbread pub estate. It was later sold and in the 1990’s operated as a Free House. The pub had two bars and a restaurant.
On 3rd January 1998 an ancient wassail ceremony was revived at Brooms Green. The evening began at the Horse Shoe Inn where revellers drank cider. They then went to adjoining Charles Martell’s farm where a specially made cake was placed on an Old Gloucester breed of cattle. According to legend if the cake falls off from the front when the oxen shakes his head it would be a good year – and a poor year of it falls off the back. The evening continued at the pub where the revellers took it in turn to drink out of a special wassailing bowl made of sycamore wood. A folklore expert read an oration to a Dymock Red apple tree, calling for a good year. To finish off the evening the Forest of Dean Morris Men performed the mummers play and the wassailers sang carols and songs.
Just a couple of years later the Horse Shoe Inn was put on the market. Ken and Jackie Thomson served behind the bar for the last time on Thursday 31st May 2001 before retiring. The pub had been sold and during the last evening an auctioneer sold a large collection of horse brasses and old agricultural equipment which adorned the walls of the pub.
An application for ‘change of use’ had been submitted to Forest of Dean District Council by Mr and Mrs Thomson, but this was later withdrawn. A planning officer said: “The parts of the building which are currently used as a public house cannot be altered or occupied without a change of use permission.” The pub was bought by a couple who immediately declared the business was unviable and submitted an application for change of use to ‘Bed and Breakfast’ accommodation. This was refused.
However, locals were clearly concerned about losing their pub. Violet Mowbray, a previous landlady of the Horse Shoe Inn told the ‘Gloucester Citizen’: “In the 1960’s we had a little shop in there as well. My father was born there and my aunt, Violet Hawtin, went to live there when she was ten months old. She celebrated her 100th birthday in February, and she doesn’t approve of the pub closing down and neither do I.”
Mark Haslam, area organiser for CAMRA Herefordshire, said that the sale of the Horse Shoe Inn was ‘cynical opportunism’ and claimed that the pub was the nucleus of the community. This was endorsed by local resident Les Manns, who considered that the Horse Shoe Inn was the ‘real heart of the village’.
In August 2001 sixty people met in Brooms Green and Ryton Village Hall and voted unanimously to continue their campaign against the closure of the 200 year old Horse Shoe Inn to a private house. The campaigners met again at the Village Hall in January 2002 where they created a replica of their pub. The ‘Citizen’ reported that ‘Locals set up a bar, dartboard, pool table, tables for quoits, skittles, dominoes and crib – and even put up the same posters as were in their beloved Horse Shoe Inn. Beer was supplied by a Malvern brewery – and for a £3 entrance fee – locals could get a free drink and a Ploughman’s Dinner.’
The application for change of use was protracted and suffered from continual delays. The property is now Horseshoe Inn House offering self-catering accommodation. The following is taken from their web pages:
‘Once the village pub, but now a quiet and relaxing destination for self-catered accommodation. Horseshoe Inn House is situated in the hamlet of Brooms Green, on the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire borders and 4 miles away from the busy and historic market town of Ledbury. The M50 motorway is easily accessible about 5 minutes away and there is a mainline railway station on the Hereford to London at Ledbury. We are half an hour from Gloucester, Hereford, Worcester and Cheltenham and an hour from Birmingham, Cardiff and Hay on Wye.
We are in an ideal location to explore the beautiful countryside of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. This includes The Forest of Dean, The Wye Valley, the Malvern Hills and the Welsh borders. It is an area also closely associated with the Dymock Poets and the village of Dymock is 2½ miles away
Landlords at the Horse Shoe Inn include:
1891 William Sayce
1903 William Phelps
1939 W. Cole
1960’s Violet Mowbray
1998,2001 Ken and Jackie Thomson