Ruardean Hill is a small hamlet to the east of Ruardean and to the south-west of Drybrook. At 950 feet above sea level Ruardean Hill is the highest point in the Forest of Dean.
A.W. Baldwin owned the Nags Head in 1891. It was a licensed beer house and free of brewery tie. Twelve years later in 1903 the Nags Head had become a tied house of the Alton Court Brewery in Ross on Wye. The annual rateable value was £12.10s.0d. and closing time was at 10pm.
Dean Forest Mercury – Friday May, 25th 1973: Ruardean Hill annoyed at losing the Nag: Ruardean Hill, a scattered community which was once said to be divided into two groups – chapel and the public house – has now been left with just its chapel following the decision to close the only public house on the Hill, the Nag’s Head. The closure of a public house in a town has very little effect for there is usually another one a couple of hundred yards and a few minutes walk away, but on Ruardean Hill it is quite different. The nearest public houses are the Roebuck, Ruardean Woodside and the Nelson in Morse Road. To get to either means a person has got to walk either uphill going or coming back. the last bus goes over the Hill at about nine o’clock in the evening when most pub patrons are settling down in their seats in the bar for a quiet pint.
Country pubs have an atmosphere very much of their own and the Nag was no exception. True it needed modernising – a lot of local public houses do – but its small bar was homely and during the summer months families were able to sit on the lawn and enjoy a drink and a bag of crisps.
Mrs Agnes Susans (67), who has lived on the Hill for all her life, said the Nag’s Head had always been the meeting place for the people living in the area. She recalled the time when Mr and Mrs Tom Brain were licensees and functions were held at the pub; families used to sit outside. “It was a typical village pub,” she said. “I know it needed modernising, but where are the older people on the Hill who haven’t got transport going to have a drink now?”
Mrs Rona Wilks who, with her husband, has kept the public house for the past six years, said that it was not through lack of trade that the house had been closed. “We had two men’s skittles teams, a women’s skittle team and a dart side” she said, “and the majority of our trade was from the Hill itself. The trouble was that the brewery [Whitbread Flowers] would not do anything to modernise the public house. The living quarters needed doing and there wasn’t room behind the bar to swing a cat. We stuck it for six years and could not stick it anymore, so last November we handed in our notice. A number of people put in for the licence, but rumours began circulating that Whitbread intended closing it. However, it was only about a month ago that it was made known officially.”
She added, “Local people are dead against this. It will be virtually impossible for some people to get a drink; there is no off-licence on Ruardean Hill, and some of these people have been drinking here for 50 or 60 years.”
The last pint was pulled on Saturday evening [19th May 1973] and it all seems likely that the land in front of the public house will now be used for building development.
Earliest records of the Nag’s Head date back to 1850, when it was owned by Alton Court Brewery in Ross on Wye, and it later passed into the ownership of the Stroud Brewery and then Whitbreads.
A representative of Whitbread Flowers said on Wednesday that Mr and Mrs Wilks had given notice that they wanted to give up the licence as soon a possible. Mrs Wilks’ health had not been good. The Company’s man said: “We felt it would be unfair to let the premises to anyone else because trade had been declining and in our view it might not be possible to make a living there. Another reason for not renewing the lease was that the house needs improvement and as the facilities at the Nelson and the Roebuck have been improved we felt justified in closing the Nag’s Head. Nothing has been decided about the future of the property.”
The Nags Head was packed to overflowing on Saturday night when Mr and Mrs Wilks were presented with a box of chocolates, a clock and a vase and the proceeds of a collection made that evening.
The Nags Head was located below Ruardean Hill post office and on the same side of the road. May Brace contacted me via e-mail and said that she remembers playing skittles there. She said that the pub was across a field that was used as a car park.
In her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ (2004 Logaston Press), Heather Hurley noted that after closure the Nags Head continued as a social centre for the local community but closed sometime before 1980.
The pub was demolished and a large bungalow was built (Shanega), set back from the road, on the site. It is directly opposite the Baptist Chapel.
Landlords of the Nags Head include:
1891 A.W. Baldwin
1903 Richard Edwards
1939 Tom Brain
1963 (approx) – Joe & Lillie Barnard
1967-1973 Mr and Mrs (Rona) Wilks