The imposing building, on the banks of the River Wye, is believed to be have built in 1756 and was converted into an inn during the mid-19th century. The hostelry was originally known as the New Inn (as listed in the Kellys Directory of Gloucestershire in 1885) but had changed its name to the Courtfield Arms by the beginning of the twentieth century. There had previously been another New Inn at Vention to the east of the Courtfield Arms. (qv).
Colonel Francis Vaughan Esq., landowner of the Courtfield estate on the other side of the River Wye, was also the owner of the Courtfield Arms in 1891 and 1903. The pub, designated an alehouse, had an annual rateable value of £13.10s.0d. and was licensed to the hour of 10 pm. In 1903 the Courtfield Arms was leased by the Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye. It must have been very pleasant sitting outside the front of the hotel, which overlooking the River Wye, on a warm summers day whilst supping a pint or two of A.C.B. bitter!
The Courtfield Arms was put up for sale in 1920. It was described as ‘a pleasantly situated wayside and residential fully-licensed hotel on the south bank of the River Wye between Ross and Symonds Yat, about one and a half miles from Lydbrook Junction Station, on the Great Western and Midland Joint Railway, and about six miles distant from the important summer resort and market town of Ross.’ The hotel was built of stone and slate roof and ‘is largely patronised by river and road excursionists, anglers and other visitors.’ The particulars of sale detailed a bar, bar parlour, tap room, sitting room, breakfast room, kitchen, scullery and two cellars. On the first floor was a large club room, six bedrooms and bathroom.
In a 1939 advertisement the Courtfield Arms was serving Ind Coope & Allsopp Ales. It was described as an ‘old fashioned hotel offering accommodation to tourists and motorists.’
Forest of Dean & Ross on Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): This once old coaching inn now wears a silly thatched hat on a barn-like bar in which two huge log fires powered by electricity were not plugged on. There were a number of salesman springing out of Cortinas to sample the fare which on the day boasted Beef Chasseur (you can’t beat a bit of Franglais) among the list of the more usually spotted items. Bass have an interest, apparently vested, and their beers dominated; Stones, Worthington and Draught Bass, which Real Aler muttered is “only a shadow of its former self”. It tasted alright to me but then my palate is ruined by fine wines. Closed for sometime, the old Courtfield seems to be gradually clawing its way back.
A ‘Pubwatch’ article in the ‘Citizen’ newspaper in April 1998 written by reviewer Helen Blow gave the following account:
When you dine at the Courtfield Arms you are eating inside a former mansion than once belonged to the well-to-do Vaughan family. Present owners Dave and Tanya Edgar believe the building was converted to an inn during the mid-19th century. “When we took it over six years ago the menu still had the Vaughan family crest on it.”, said Dave, “It’s a lovely building with solid oak beams in the restaurant. Although the history of the place is somewhat vague, there is a rumour that there was once a bishop’s bolthole that led from the monastery on the hill across the river to the pub. They say it was built around the time of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries as an escape route. There was supposed to have been a well near the fireplace and the tunnel was said to have led from the bottom of it, but it must have been filed in because we have never found any trace of it.”
Flooding is a frequent problem. Dave Edgar commented in 1998, “We have a well in the garden which has 2 ft high walls around it and when the garden flooded one year there was actually more water outside the well than in it.” In November 2002 the floodwaters from the River Wye rose to such an extent that the cellars of the Courtfield Arms were flooded. After undergoing refurbishment, the hotel was re-launched as the Waterside Inn – a restaurant specialising in Bangladeshi cuisine.
An annual raft race was held between four Lydbrook pubs on August Bank Holiday. In 2008 it was reported that The Courtfield Arms, Forge Hammer, Royal Spring and Jovial Colliers will be taking to the water on August 29th for a raft race. The race will start at Bishopswood, then to Lydbrook for live music and prize-giving at the Courtfield Arms.
An ‘Eating Out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in July 2013 described the Courtfield Arms as a summer institution. ‘Being able to sit on the banks of the River Wye, watching the canoeists descend the river to their Symonds Yat finishing line, is a nice way to spend a sunny lunchtime in Lydbrook.’ The food menu was described in need of updating as ‘in summer people sometimes want something less hearty than burgers, steak, scampi and lasagne.’ The service of the Courtfield Arms was found to be excellent and the reviewer concluded by commenting that the pub ‘will always be a summer favourite, and with a hard-working manageress, who in little over three months has already started making sweeping changes and improvements, the future looks positive.’
On April 23rd 2014 the ‘Forester’ newspaper reported in an article entitled ‘Colourful future for the Courtfield Arms?’ that ceramic artists Mary Rose Young from Parkend was hoping to put an offer to move into the pub. Her plans were to redesign the Courtfield Arms with accommodation and let the rooms out to tenants. She said, “The rooms will all be done out in a colourful design and I want them to have fantastic interiors so people can live in them and around me while I do my art. Hopefully it’ll attract people to boutique accommodation.”
The Courtfield Arms closed in September 2014. In March 2015 an application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council for a change of use from an existing public house to a holiday let. This was met with an attempt to register the inn was a community asset. In response to a petition Lydbrook Parish Council applied to the Forest of Dean District Council for the Courtfield Arms to be listed as a community asset, to prevent its conversion. The chairman of the parish council said, “There is a massive groundswell opposing the change of use of the Courtfield Arms. No one wishes to see this noble landmark of ours fail. No one has a problem with the holiday let idea, but many would wish to see the Courtfield continue as a pub / restaurant facility alongside the river. The Courtfield is a landmark, recognisable to people living way beyond the environs of the Forest. It should remain an attraction, not just for exclusive use of one party, but for the whole community.”
An asset of community value, if granted, would have ensured that the buildings remain in public use and give the local community the right to bid for it if it were to go up for sale. Bruce Hogan, district councillor for Lydbrook, added, “Our argument is that the Forest of Dean doesn’t make as much use of its part of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it should in terms of tourism revenue. The pub is in a beautiful location and considering the amount of canoeists that travel down the Wye it would be a crying shame to lose this pub.”
However, Forest of Dean District Council rejected the application for the Courtfield Arms to be registered as an asset of community value. Councillor Terry Hale said, “During the meeting I heard representations from all the relevant parties. I listened carefully to the concerns of the parish council but after considering all the evidence provided, I concluded that the statutory test was not satisfied and I recommended that it should not be listed as a community asset.” Barrister Phil Williams, speaking on behalf of the applicant for conversion to holiday lets, said in August 2015, “Cleaners are going to be employed from the local area as well as maintenance and building contractors”, he added. “It’s a financially disastrous business and has been for many years. It is now a building that is falling into dilapidation. This is a building that will simply not survive another winter. It is rotten. It is damp and there is no heating in there at the moment.”
A letter appeared in the ‘Forester’ newspaper from Dr Gerald Morgan of Dublin criticising the decision made by Councillor Terry Hale and the Forest of Dean District Council. He wrote, “Sir – Who is Councillor Terry Hale with his extraordinary judgement about the Courtfield Arms on the banks of the Wye in Lower Lydbrook as not being a Community asset. As we say in Central Lydbrook, Quis cutodes ipsos custodiet? (Juvenal, Satires, VI.347-48).” It is literally translated as “Who will guard the guards themselves?”, though it is also known by variant translations, such as “Who watches the watchers?” and “Who’ll watch the watchmen?”.
Landlords at the New Inn / Courtfield Arms include:
1856 B. Ward
1876,1885,1891 William Little (New Inn in 1885)
1902 Leonard Jones
1903,1906 Oliver Knight
1919 Charles E. Knight
1927 Ernest H. Bennett
1920’s (late) –1939 Charles F. Plint
1992,1998 Dave and Tanya Edgar
2008,2010 Tom Moran
2013 Paula Milton