The Nelsons Arms was situated to the south-west of Drybrook on the road from Ruardean to Nailbridge.
The owner of the Nelsons Arms in 1891 was Alfred Wintle of Bill Mills near Weston under Penyard, Ross on Wye. Alfred conducted a malting business at Bill Mills supplying malt to a few pubs making their own beer. His brother Thomas Wintle had started brewing in Mitcheldean in 1869, so although ownership of the Nelsons Arms is credited to Alfred Wintle of Bill Mills, the beer was supplied from the Forest Brewery. Thomas passed away in 1888, leaving the brewery in Mitcheldean to his four children of which Francis had sole control by 1890. The Nelson Arms was owned by Francis Wintle in 1891 and 1903. Throughout those twelve years the annual rateable value of the beer house was set at £19.10s.0d and it closed each night at 10 pm.
When the tied estate of the Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean was put on the market in the 1930’s the sale details of the Nelsons Arms read: ‘All that messauge or Inn known as the Nelson Arms situate at Morse Road, Ruardean, in the County of Gloucester all all outbuildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging comprising in the rear and at side two ranges of stabling, beer store, pot house, club room, brick closet, pig cot, public urinal etc., and all other out buildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging together with the site thereof and the land occupied therewith which said premises are now in the occupation of Albert Theophilus Matthews as tenant.’
Jayne Chalmers contacted me from Canada about her Great Grandfather, Robert Yemm. Robert had been landlord at the nearby China Court in 1903 and soon afterwards took over the Nelsons Arms. He had nine children.
Jayne’s grandmother also worked in the the Nelsons Arms. Jayne has in her possession an old clock that has the words ‘The Nelsons Arms’ written in the face.
When the Nelsons Arms was put up for sale as a going concern in August 2001, a price of £225,000 was wanted for a ‘large versatile accommodation to include bar, games room, lounge, inner function room with second lounge and dining room, skittle alley.’ There were four bedrooms on the first floor, an attached cottage and outbuildings, ample off-road parking and beer garden and formal gardens.
Diane Prestidge, landlady of the Nelsons Arms in November 2003, had just split up from her husband, had two of her dearest friends die, and then caught a nasty strain of the flu. She was rightly fed up and decided that she wanted a helping-hand to run the pub. She placed a blackboard outside the Nelsons Arms with this vacancy notice:
‘WANTED. PART TIME SINGLE WHITE MALE 40’S-50’s. MUST LIKE CATS AND HAVE A WICKED SENSE OF HUMOUR TO CHEER UP AN OVERWORKED, UNDERPAID, FLU-RAVAGED P—-D OFF PUB LANDLADY!!! PREVIOUS APPLICANTS EX-HUSBAND NEED NOT RE-APPLY.’
Officers from the Racial Equality Council (Glosrec) and Forest of Dean Racial Incidents Group (FODRIG) requested Diane to remove the sign after it was reported as being racially abusive. An acting director of Glosrec said, ‘We were alerted to the sign by a member of the public and I drew it to the attention of FODRIG. I went to look at the sign myself with two people from the Forest group. It was advertising a vacancy for a bar assistant and it was obviously written by the lady who owns or is licensee of the pub with her tongue in cheek. We decided that it was offensive but unintentionally offensive. We thought that rather than make a big song and dance about it we thought we should knock on the door and explain that you can’t advertise for white staff or male staff. It breaks race discrimination and sexual discrimination laws.’ In response, the rather bemused landlady told the ‘Gloucester Citizen’ newspaper, ‘People who have come in here have seen it for what it is – a joke sign. I certainly wasn’t actually looking for a single white male, it was just a bit of fun. Anyone who knows me knows I like to do that kind of thing and none of us here are racially prejudiced. The council hasn’t said whether or not it will take any further action but if they do I will defend myself against it. I just feel it is ridiculous we pay for these people to do this kind of thing.’
The dispute attracted the attention of ‘Citizen’ columnists Martin Kirby and Vernon Harwood. In his column in the newspaper Vernon mused, ‘Despite being told that the board is a joke, that there is no job being advertised and Diane isn’t offering to pay anyone, Glosrec still insists it’s an offensive and racist ad. This is a prime example of a particularly threatening, odious and invasive type of political correctness. It’s normally practiced by humourless automatons who wouldn’t be out of place in George Orwell’s 1984. These are the sort of people who want to ban Christmas in schools and charity shops. They leap up and down when we talk about accident blackspots, Asian flu or a cover-up being a whitewash. It’s a creeping type of brainwashing which threatens our language, chips away at our heritage and rewrites our history. Worst of all, it brands anyone who objects as either a racist, a sexist, a bigot or an enemy of the truth.’ Martin Kirby pointed out, ‘All the black and Asian people I know would have seen the joke for what it was and forgotten about it. Still the Council for Racial Equality has saved Diane a great deal of money on advertising.’
The Nelsons Arms closed in January 2006. In 2007 the property was put on the market for £465,000 with permission from the Forest of Dean Council to conversion into a three-bedroom home.
The boarded-up pub was set alight by arsonists on 29th November 2008, which destroyed the roof and half the building. A second fire took place in April 2009. A spokesman for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service said, ‘It is being treated as arson and police are investigating, but at this stage we believe it was caused by youths getting into the premises and starting a fire. It’s not the first time and we have been called out to fires in different parts of the building. There are unforeseen dangers in derelict buildings so they are putting the crew and themselves at risk.’
Demolition of the forlorn and fire ravaged building finally took place in July 2014. A Forest of Dean councillor said, ’It is such an eyesore and residents will be relieved to see it taken down.’ Planning permission was granted for a block of four two-bedroom apartments to be built on the site.
Landlords at the Nelsons Arms include:
1891,1903 William.W. Birt
1903 (or soon after this date) Robert Yemm (previously at the China Court Inn)
1939 Albert Theopholis Matthews
1991 John Hopkins
2003 Diane Prestidge
2004 Beryl Shadbolt