The Kings Head Hotel is an imposing building at the bottom of Bank Street on the junction with the Gloucester Road. The address was originally Market Place, changing to Bank Street c.1902.
The Kings Head was where the very first shots of the Battle of Coleford were fired in 1643. The battle broke out as a militia of Foresters banded together to fight 2,000 Royalist soldiers marching through the town from Raglan on their way to an attack on Gloucester.
The late Ray Allen wrote in his ‘Forest and Wye Review’ article (September 1998): ” By 1785 it was becoming an important coaching inn for stagecoaches serving the Gloucester – Monmouth route. In 1904 the police successfully asked the magistrates to order up the bricking up of two back doors as they couldn’t cope with malefactors eluding them when they came in the front door”.
When the Kings Head was put up for sale by auction on Friday 15th July 1864 the inn was freehold and contained a garden, coach-houses and other outbuildings.
Gloucester Journal, April 1887: Coleford Court: David Chamberlain, of the Kings Head Hotel, Coleford was fined £2 and costs for selling whisky below proof.
Gloucester Journal: June 1891: a serious carriage accident occurred at Coleford about mid day on Monday. It appears that Mr David Chamberlain, the respected landlord of the Kings Head Hotel, was returning home with his horse and carriage. He had occasion to call at another house in the town for some business and left the horse and carriage standing in the road. From some cause or other the animal bolted, and Mr Chamberlain rushed from the house for the purpose of stopping the horse. In endeavouring to do so the animal knocked him down and trampled upon him inflicting very severe injuries. He was carried to his home as speedily as possible and Dr Buchanan was very soon on the spot. On examination by that gentleman it was found that Mr Chamberlain had received a very severe scalp wound, besides severing one of the main arteries in the head and suffering from the loss of blood.
In 1891 and 1903 the Kings Head was owned by Arnold, Perrett & Co. Ltd of the Wickwar Brewery. The annual rateable value was £20.16s.0d. and the Kings Head had alehouse status. (11 pm closing).
The fifth edition of ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ published by CAMRA in 1980 described the Kings Head as an ‘Old Whitbread Pub recently reopened as a free house. Four hand pumps in L shaped bar. Dance Floor’ Whitbread Bitter was dispensed by hand pump.
Porky’s nightclub at the back of the Kings Head was effectively closed by the courts in November 1990 after the special hours certificate was revoked. Porky’s had previously stayed open until 1 am on Thursdays and 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays. A new nightclub, Blondes, was launched with a Halloween party on Saturday 30th October 2010.
The Citizen: Thursday, 29th March, 1990: Bopping Mad! by Michael Gubbins. Saturday night fever in the Forest of dean has been hit with a ban on after midnight dancing at the area’s only night club. Magistrates ruled this week that Porky’s, in Coleford, will have to shut at normal pub closing times. From this weekend the music will stop. The club was a magnet for young people, from all over the Forest, who are now left with long trips to Gloucester, Ross or Chepstow for late night entertainment. Police told Forest of Dean magistrates that the club had become little more than a late-night drinking hole, which was more of a place to buy after-hours alcohol than for dating and dining for which it was granted a late-night licence. But Porky’s owner Mike Wells said he was being made a scapegoat for the Dean’s drink-related crimes. “The allegations about people not dancing is rubbish. The dance floor is packed 90 per cent of the time,” he said. Mr Wells spent £50,000 last year on refurbishing the dance facilities and was seeing his investment rewarded. “When the last landlord was here you could perhaps have said it was just a drinking place but I’ve done a lot of work and installed a special purpose built dance floor,” he said. And he introduced a membership scheme to try and cut out late night violence. Coleford police inspector David Smith said in 1988 there was an average of one crime a week. But Mr Wells said his members-only scheme had cut the problems down to a minimum. Porky’s is considering an appeal in the next 21 days but Mr Wells warned if it was not successful he would probably have to close the whole Kings Head Hotel complex, to which Porky’s is attached.
Danny and Sarah Swartout took on the lease of the Kings Head in September 2010 and hoped to reinvigorate the pub by giving it a makeover. Danny, then aged 29, told the ‘Forester’ newspaper, ‘My background is in the building business and we’ve done up a few nightclubs and pubs in Southampton and Winchester. The last place we took on was a bit of a dive but we turned it into one of the busiest places in town. The plan with the Kings Head is to give it some fresh paint and update the furniture. The bar area will be traditional but we want to modernise the back to give it a nightclub feel. We’ll also be offering food next year when we get the kitchen up and running.’
The Kings Head closed its doors soon after Christmas 2011. A spokesman for the owners, a member of the Danter family from Symonds Yat, told the newspaper, ‘It would be soon be re-opening under new management. It’s been closed for refurbishment and will be back open very soon.’
Ifor Squire took over the running of the Kings Head and had re-opened the bar area at the end of January 2012. Ifor’s father had been the landlord of the Red Lion in Cinderhill and he and told the ‘Forester’ newspaper, ‘I’ve been brought up in pubs so I think I know a bit what the public wants.’ He added, ‘I’m old school. It worked all those years ago so I don’t see why it can’t today.’ His immediate plans were to transform the former Blondes nightclub into a restaurant area and to bring back traditional pub games like darts, snooker and pool. He said, ‘When the Kings Head came up I thought I’d give it a go because I don’t think it’s a pub that has reached its full potential.’
It seems that the Kings Head had closed for good by November 2013. The Forest Upcycling Project, a charity providing secondhand household goods for people on low incomes, had moved into the empty building a year later in November 2014.
Coleford Town Council applied to secure listed building status on the Kings Head Hotel at the end of 2014. Town Clerk Annie Lapington sought advice from English Heritage and discovered that any building built before 1700 should be a listed building. She said, ‘It’s one of the oldest buildings in town and certainly pre-dates 1700. It holds a lot of historical value to the town and it’s a shame that it’s fallen into such disrepair. Having it as a listed building should help – rather than it end up being knocked down’.
The Kings Head has now been converted into affordable residential apartments.
Landlords at the Kings Head include:
1830,1842 Thomas Porter
1851,1852 John Saunders (aged 34 in 1851 census)
1856 J. Banning
1870 Edwin Stephens
1876,1879 Benjamin Smith (Kings Head Hotel and Posting House, Market Place -1876)
1881,1891 David Chamberlain (aged 52 in 1881 census)
1902 Mrs Nellie Blake (Kings Head, Bank Street)
1903 George Edward Ansley
1906 George E. Adsley
1919 Mrs Kate Williams
1927 Percy Paddock (moved to the Angel Hotel)
1990 Mike Wells
1999 Carol and Austin Keene