Oakle Street is a small scattered settlement on the unclassified road leading from the A48 near Minsterworth northwards towards to the A40 near Churcham. The lane is intersected about half-way along by the Gloucester to Chepstow section of the railway line to South Wales. The Great Western Railway constructed a station at Oakle Street which opened in September 1851. Given its isolated location the railway station was never going to have great patronage, yet surprisingly the rural station survived until Dr Richard Beeching axed it in his infamous rationalisation of British Railways. Oakle Street Station closed on 2nd November 1964.
It is likely that the Oakle Street Hotel was purpose built for the Forest Steam Brewery under the instructions of founder Thomas Wintle, who had established a brewery in Mitcheldean in 1868. Given the fact that Oakle Street station was an isolated country station serving a sparse and scattered population, it is perhaps surprising that the Forest Brewery should wish to have built an hotel there in the first place. Francis Wintle owned the Oakle Street Hotel in 1891 and 1903. Licensed as an ale house it had an annual rateable of £25.0s.0d. in 1903 and closed at 10 pm.
The Oakle Street Hotel might have been used by a handful of people either waiting for or disembarking from trains but located in a quiet country lane it was never going to get much custom from passing trade on the roads eiher. The route from Gloucester towards Ross on Wye passed to the north, and the route from Gloucester to Chepstow passed to the south. Today the lane through Oakle Street is often used as a ‘rat-run’ for motorists trying to avoid congestion at Highnam Court, no doubt to the annoyance of residents.
When the estate of the Forest Brewery was put up for sale in 1923 with 72 licensed houses the Oakle Street Hotel was described as Freehold and fully licensed. Perhaps optimistically the sale details said that the ‘imposing modern brick-built premises situated outside Oakle Street Station on the Great Western Railway was well placed to command a good trade.’ The ground floor contained a Bar, Tap Room, Smoke Room. Sitting Room, Kitchen, Store and toilet. On the first floor were six bedrooms and toilet and the cellar provided ‘excellent cellarage for beers, wines and spirits.’ To the rear there was a god yard with brick and timber outbuildings comprising cart shed, stabling for three horses, store house with loft, trap shed and urinal.
The Citizen. Wednesday. October 30th, 1985. A happy mix of old and new (advertisement): The once-familiar sound of steam trains whistling along the main South Wales line has returned in recent months – and may mean a change of name for the old railway pub, the Silent Whistle at Oakle Street. Pub landlord Stephen Royce, who took over the management with his young family two years ago, said the pub originally got its name when steam trains stopped running along the line, in the early 60’s. “I suppose we’ll have to think about renaming it”, he said, “with all these steam trains that are running along the line to rallies today!” Pub regulars chuckled at the idea, and 84-year old Sam Wheeler remembered how his grandfather Henry originally built the pub as a hotel in 1879. At that time there was a station at Oakle Street, and the pub was known as the Oakle Street Hotel. The railway line was independently owned by the Gloucester and Dean Forest Railway Company, which did a brisk business with fruit and vegetables from the area. Relics of the past adorn the walls of the ‘modern but traditional’ pub. Stephen and his wife Erica say the pub has retained its local quality and is one of the few on this side of the river to have the old game of quoits in the bar. Darts, pool dominoes and a skittle alley provide fun for a number of different local groups, including young farmers. And Stephen had made the pub the headquarters for the Forest of Dean Jalopy Club, in which he takes a keen interest. Vintage car enthusiasts will be interested to know that the pub has now become the centre of an annual vintage gala event, which this summer attracted 1,000 visitors. “Next summer we hope to have a two-day event,” said Stephen. Money raised from the galas has gone to different local charities and causes, including Churcham Primary School, where Stephen’s son will be going next year. The pub has managed to retain a feeling of history, combined with modern-day facilities.
Forest of Dean and Ross on Wye Pubs. A critical view by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991) – Silent Whistle Inn: The modest Whistle was very silent when we called but I am assured it positively throbs with nostalgic evening revellers as they gyrate unashamedly to the large collection of classic rock discs on the old juke box. In the day time however it is more like the Last of the Summer Wine, an ex BR hotel, lively once when the little steam trans tore past the door in those glorious rose-tinted re-Beeching days. Now managers Brian and Lesley puff away on their fags keeping the place tidy, offering snacks, although to be honest I never saw a menu flashed whilst I sipped my Flowers and nibbled my pork scratchings. This little corner of Gloucestershire, wedged uncomfortably between the A40 and A48 seems, so far, to have avoided those nasty greedy speculators who are determined to bury us all under concrete and lawn.
An application was submitted to the District Council in February 1999 for change of use to residential. Landlord Mike Topping said, “We have been here for three years but if the local people don’t support us then what can we do?” The local parish council objected to the proposed closure. Churcham Parish Council Peter Hayes said, “The parish council realises it can’t object to what is a commercial enterprise but we are writing to the District Council saying we would deplore the loss of a village amenity such as the pub because it is the only meeting place for people in Churcham. Those who like a drink will have to drive further and we haven’t got a village hall so it would be a loss on both counts.”
The building has now been converted to residential use.
Landlords at the Oakle Street Hotel / Silent Whistle include:
1885,1891 Henry Wheler
1902,1903 Walter Thomas Bennett
1906 Evan C. Pugh
1919 John Phelps
1927 George Goatman
1939 Albert Mark Lane
- Tony and Ruby Thornton (previously at the White Hart in Winchcombe and the Woolpack in Slad)
1983,1985 Stephen and Erica Royce
1996, 1999 Mike Topping (Silent Whistle)