The Kings Head is prominently located on the junction of Broad Street and Church Street overlooking the mini-roundabout on the A4151.
The inn dates back to the eighteenth century. In the 1851 census Joseph Sier of Littledean is entered as a builder (employing four men) and innkeeper of the Kings Head, Broad Street. A reference twelve years later in 1863 to the Queens Head may have been a mistake of the enumerator but it is possible that it had changed its name at that time when William Townsend was innkeeper.
The Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye owned the Kings Head in 1891 and 1903. The license of the Kings Head was designated alehouse status with an annual rateable value of £19.0s.0d. Closing time was 10 pm.
One of Alton Court Brewery’s beers was called Golden Hop and a painted advertisement for ‘Golden Hop on Draught’ was displayed in the bricked-up window on the Broad Street side of the Kings Head. There were only a handful of ACB pubs in Gloucestershire so beer drinkers must have appreciated downing a few pints of Golden Hop. There were also bottled beers called Golden Brown and Golden Crown.
When the license of the Kings Head was transferred from William Glastonbury to Howard Beet in 1907 an inventory of the property gave details of a ‘club room, entrance hall, bar, commercial room, kitchen, back kitchen, sitting room, pantry, cellar, skittle alley, stable and garden.’
The Alton Court Brewery was acquired by Stroud Brewery Company in 1956 and the Kings Head passed from their ownership through West Country Breweries to Whitbread. A surprising survivor, considering the recent history of the Kings Head, is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that remains in situ.
In February 1971 the Kings Head was the venue for a local ‘This is Your Life’ programme. The ‘programme’ was prepared and compiled by Mr Frank Middlecote and Mr Maurice Buffrey. Mr Hubert ‘Scubie’ Jaynes was quietly supping his usual pint and minding his own business when a loud voice said, ”Mr Jaynes, this is your life!”, which made him almost fall out of his chair! From then on a succession of friends and family came in to greet him, all recalling the incidents in the life of ‘our Scubie’.
Forest of Dean and Ross on Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): Comfortable but unfussy two barred (sic) local. The newish landlord has used his broom to sweep away past modernisations and in the process uncovered a nice old stone and brick fireplace which now roars with welcoming logs in the winter. Bits of brassy things glint on the bare walls and a pool table stubbornly dominated the centre stage. The menu is short but the Very Hot Curry and Rice we had was hot and very tasty, as well as being very reasonably priced. The only wine on view was the ubiquitous Liebfraumilce selling cheaply and well. April, the barmaid, was friendly and comely, making tired and emotional guide compilers welcome with her radiant smile. The smaller, quieter and less exciting saloon bar is ideal for us fogies.
The Kings Head closed down for a number of years in the early 1990’s. The Campaign for Real Ale 1996 publication ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ noted that the Kings Head, ‘a local corner pub, re-opened summer 1995 after being shut for two years. Trade now building up and entertainment, including live music, is being increasingly offered.’ At the time of the CAMRA survey Crown Buckley ales from Wales were on tap.
Towards the end of the 20th century it would be fair to say that the reputation of the Kings Head was causing concern. An unsavoury incident occurred when the landlord had his ear bitten and a barmaid was spat upon following an argument about the use of a pool table. The landlord was left with a two-inch scar around the back of his right ear.
The Kings Head had closed once again by 2005. In October 2006 an application was made to Forest of Dean District Council to convert the former Kings Head into five homes, including two one-bed flats. The skittle alley was to be removed to provide access to a rear courtyard. Permission was refused because of concerns of the proposed residents parking area and the restricted visibility gaining access to the busy road. On a site visit the committee had pretended they were in cars trying to leave the proposed parking area. One councillor said, “You’re pulling out onto a busy road with absolutely no idea of what’s coming along the road.” However, Councillor James Bevan (Con, Lydney) said that it would be a missed opportunity to turn the application down because of the parking. He said, “The place will deteriorate for quite a few years until someone comes up with something.”
In May 2008 planning permission was granted to convert the pub into three two-bedroom flats and two single-bedroom flats.
In November 2011 the building had fallen into such a terrible state of disrepair it was considered dangerous. Parish council chairman Henry Boughton remarked, “It’s time for the building to undergo a compulsory purchase and be demolished before it falls down by itself.” Pete Smith, who owned a butchers’ shop sharing the same building, complained that the walls he had painted and tiled six months ago were blistering and swelling with damp. He said, “There is a fire on the other side of the wall and when the pub was open you could feel the heat coming through. Now it’s the opposite. It’s in a terrible state now; all the plaster and ceilings are falling in. I have plans to sell my business but who wants to buy it when it is next to this?”
A humorous sign was tacked onto one of the boarded-up windows which read:
Me, the Kings Head…
All the years I served you lot,
And you just sit and let me rot,
If I fall upon your head,
I’m pretty sure you’ll be dead,
So, get your council to look around,
Perhaps I’ll be lucky, and they’ll pull me down.
Eventually the approved planning permission granted in 2008 expired and the derelict building was bought at auction by developer Alex Hurran, after Forest of Dean District Council threatened action to force the previous owner to make the Kings Head safe. A further application to demolish the butcher’s shop to make way for parking were approved in February 2017. Littledean Parish Council clerk Vicky Roberts said, “Some parishioners have commented on the sale of the Kings Head and the progress that has been made, so far, and that all comments have been positive. The parish council is pleased that the building has been sold to an individual who has already improved the appearance of the building, made safe the butcher’s shop window and is working hard to make it safe inside.”
Landlords at the Kings Head include:
1837 Susan Thomas
1851 Joseph Sier (innkeeper, mason and builder)
1856 Elizabeth Sier
1863 William Townsend (Queens Head)
1876 William Morse (innkeeper and farmer)
1880 Thomas Lapington
1885,1891 Alfred Westbrook
1902,1903 Walter Roger Marshall
1906 William Glastonbury
1907 Howard Beet
1919,1927 John Henry Woodward
1939 Albert R. Hawkins
c.1946-1956 Mr. Popejoy
1956-1979 Albert William Raymond Coles
1979-c.1983 Patrick Bird
1983-1985 David Pearce
1985-1987 Robert Mays
1998 Dave and Wendy ?
1999 Alex O’Dell