The Nags Head, now closed, was on the south side of the Ross Road to the north of Longhope village.
The Nags Head had a particularly low annual rateable value of just £8.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903. Rated a beer house it had licence that stipulated that beer and wines be sold only on the premises. Those conditions probably applied to many beer houses but it is unusual to see those restrictions in print in the licensing books. In 1891 the owner and occupier was B.Bennett, junior and the Nags Head traded free of brewery tie. In 1903 the licensing book detail the owners as Flowers & Co. Presumably this refers to Flowers & Sons, brewers of Stratford on Avon. Closing time was at 10 pm.
Lydney Observer: Friday 22nd November, 1985: Bad Behaviour in Pub: A Longhope man head butted his way through the window of a pub he had just been thrown out of Newnham magistrates heard last week at Coleford. The man, aged 21, of Velt House Lane, admitted trying to start fights with three customers of the Nags Head pub, Longhope, on May 3rd. After he had been ejected from the premises, he smashed the window with his head and went back in, threw a glass of beer at one customer and assaulted another. The man pleaded guilty to all the charges. The sentence was deferred until social inquiry reports could be prepared.
The Nags Head was included in the 1988 CAMRA Good Beer Guide and was then selling Flowers IPA, albeit a Whitbread beer brewed in Cheltenham. However, as far as I am aware, the Nags Head was never a Whitbread tied house.
When a new landlord arrived at the Nags Head early in 2001, he wanted to find a way of boosting trade. Instead of the tried and tested ways of attraction custom by introducing fine dining or promoting interesting real ales he decided to host a gentlemen’s stag evening. Two female strippers were hired and a crowd of 40 or so drinkers on a late June Saturday night witnessed a little more than a titillating striptease. A man in his 30’s, said to be a pub regular, was stripped naked by the girls for the final part of the evenings ‘entertainment’ and what appeared to be a full sex act occurred. This all took place whilst two female barmaids were serving drinks at the pub. Although no official complaints were made, the police were made aware, and the landlord faced a police investigation. A police spokesman said, “This sort of activity is illegal in pubs. It is tantamount to running a disorderly house. The police would put a stop to it if they received complaints”
In 2005 the owners of the Nags Head were Punch Taverns, plc. It has been difficult to verify ownership of the pub since then, but the valiant efforts of those who chose to take on the running of the Nags Head in the next decade tend to suggest either some antipathy or difficuly with the owning pub company.
Jamie Pemberton and his partner Ceri Watkins took over the Nags Head in September 2007. Jamie was a builder by trade, he said, “I know it’s long hours in a pub but it’s a lot easier work than humping slabs. I’ll probably carry on with a bit of building work now and again to start with, until we see how the pub goes. I did some work behind a bar some years ago and I thought it would be good to work that side of one again. We’ve tried to give the inside a welcoming atmosphere and those that have been in seem to like it. We’re looking forward to building the business back to what it once was when you couldn’t park within half a mile.” Jamie and Ceri started offering food at the Nags Head, just on Fridays to begin with. They also planned to host live music nights. Their aim was to make the pub a real part of the community.
Less than a year later Natalie and Steve Taylor-Pockett had taken over the running of the pub. Food was introduced at lunchtime and in the evening from Tuesday to Saturday, but the kitchen closed after lunch on Sunday and closed all day on Monday. The food was sourced from local suppliers, including meat from the Country Butcher in Huntley. Natalie and Steve hoped to host regular live entertainment, quizzes and topical events with the aim of providing locals with a warm, friendly and lively place to meet and socialise.
The menu of the 2011 Christmas Party evenings at the Nags Head were quite impressive with a choice of four main meals. Starters included the chefs homemade French onion soup topped with a cheesy garlic bread crouton, and dinners included traditional roast turkey breast with all the trimmings, pork medallions, lamb loin chops and mushroom brie and cranberry wellington.
The twilight years of the Nags Head were documented in a ‘Meet the Landlord’ feature in the ‘Gloucester Citizen’ in August 2015. Under the sub-heading ‘Spotlight on Gloucester’s Best Boozers’, landlady Estelle Sparks was in conversation with Matt Discombe.
Beer is what we do best, boasts traditional pub…
Despite many country pubs turning to gourmet menus these days, people across the country still love their village watering holes. That what the landlords of the Nags Head in Longhope have found after two nearby pubs – the Farmer’s Boy and the Yew Tree Inn – have started to focus on food. But the Nags Head has refused to follow suit and has stayed true to its roots as a rural drinker’s pub which is loved by Longhope villagers. Estelle Sparks, landlady of the Nags Head, has been at the pub for more than two decades but she finally took the reins in 2013. She said the Nags Head has now found its own niche as a drinkers’ pub. Estelle said, “This is my local. I grew up in Longhope and I’ve worked here for twenty years. It has been a been a huge part of my life. We love the community feel of the place. We have found our own little niche because we have two eating houses within a two-mile radius.”
The Nags Head has proved to be a valuable resource for the community in Longhope, particularly the village’s football club and council, which meet regularly there. Estelle said, “A lot of outsiders have moved into Longhope because it’s such a lovely village. But a lot of the community facilities have disappeared. If this place didn’t exist there are a lot of people that wouldn’t go anywhere else. When this place has closed down over the years, there have been a few people who had not gone anywhere for a drink.” Despite one ill-fated effort to turn the Nags Head into another gastro pub years ago, the soul of the Nags Head remains unchanged. The outside of the building was given a fresh lick of paint to make it look more contemporary, but on the inside it is much more homely and traditional than outward appearances suggest. That’s why a sign proudly stating ‘This is not a restaurant’ sits outside the Nags Head, which dispels any doubts about what kind of pub it is.
When you walk in it is everything you would expect from a typical Forest of Dean country pub, with rustic wooden beams overhead, cosy lounge areas, fireplaces, dartboards and a pool table. The Nags Head aims to be family friendly home-from-home for everyone aged 18 to 80 and holds regular events to keep the regulars coming in. It hosts live music every Saturday, usually a rock band to cater to the tastes of the pub’s clientele. The Nags Head also has ‘killer pool’ on Friday nights and is famous for Estelle’s vodka-based ‘secret shots’. Drinkers can now assemble in a cosy area which used to be the cellar and in a new wooden pub garden which has opened recently. It is a pub which has been at the heart of the Longhope community for at least 100 years after its former life as a butchery and stableyard.
Estelle said, “We’re a local pub. We’re not trying to be anything else. Drinking pubs are a dying breed as everywhere else is diversifying.”
Sadly, less than seven months later in March 2016 the Nags Head had closed. An application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for change of use from public house, manager flat and holiday flat to 2 no. holiday apartments and associated holiday use.
Landlords at the Nags Head include:
1891 B. Bennett (jnr)
1903 John Hail
1939 John Llewellyn Vining
1950’s to early 1980’s Harold and Elsie Wright
2007 Jamie Pemberton and Ceri Watkins
2008 Steve and Natalie Taylor-Pockett (moved to the Yew Tree in 2010)
2015 Estelle Sparks