Thomas Brown, Hubert Towlins, Thomas Cooper, Richard Jenkins, and Thomas Kilby all of Berry Hill, were summonsed for refusing to leave the White Hart public house in Coleford on the 26th March 1870. On account of the previous good character of the four defendants, they were only fined five shillings each.
When John Hullett owned the Old White Hart in 1891 he was free to obtain beer from any brewery of his choice as it was free of tie. Edward James Highley was the occupying landlord who had been in residence for at least 21 years. He had a secondary occupation as a butcher. The annual rateable value of the alehouse was set at £20.0s.0d. In 1903 the Old White Hart was leased to Ind Coope & Co., brewers of Burton on Trent. John Hullett had died as the ownership of the Old White Hart were being sorted out by his representatives. Ind Coope & Co. were probably the purchasers. The present day exterior of the Old White Hart has signage claiming that it is an “18th century pub and brew house”, although I have found no documentation confirming commercial brewing on the premises. However, the premises might have been shared with John William Watts’ wine & spirits business.
Gloucester Journal, November 1888 – Coleford Police Court: Richard Tyrell, a lad, of Whitecliff, was ordered to pay 5s. expenses and damage for breaking down a fence and robbing an orchard, the property of James Heighly, landlord of the White Hart, Whitecliff.
A 1939 advertisement for the White Hart described it as the ‘Centre Hotel of the Centre Town of the Dean Forest’. The proprietor was R.F. Sayell and the fully licensed hotel catered for parties, and bed and breakfast, luncheons and teas were available on ‘moderate terms’. The advert drew attention to the ‘Civility and Service’ and noted that ‘Buses to all parts start from here’. Ind Coope & Allsops Noted Beers & Stouts were sold – ‘The Best of Burton Brew’.
In May 1959 the local newspaper gave an amusing account of an unusual feathered customer at the pub: ‘A grey racing pigeon, run over and left for dead in a Coleford street was nursed back to health by White Hart landlord Jack Saunders. The pigeon, christened Jenny, had broken limbs and a missing tail, but Jack made splints and looked after it. After two months of lying motionless in the pub, the bird gradually recovered, before eventually flying through an open window. However, the next morning, and every morning after that, Jenny was Jack’s first customer – waiting outside the pub for the doors to open at 11 am so she could spend her days warming herself by the fire until closing time. The bird even developed a liking for beer!’
In the 1996 edition of CAMRA’s ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ the White Hart is described as a ‘comfortable two bar pub with restaurant offering good local food.’ Of note is that Ind Coope Burton Ale was the real ale on offer. At that time Ind Coope beers had been sold at the Old White Hart for almost a century.
After a crucial World Cup Qualifying game on October 11th 2003, in which England drew 0-0 with Turkey, excited England fans who had watched the football in the Old White Hart spilled into St John Street and made racist taunts to staff in a nearby Turkish kebab shop and scuffles ensued. Police were called to the scene and a spokesman for Gloucestershire Constabulary remarked: “We really will not tolerate this sort of behaviour and landlords and landladies risk their livelihoods if they allow it. They could lose their licences.”
Today the Old White Hart is a shadow of its former self. A review on Facebook commented: ‘Last summer I had a pint of IPA beer here. It was off. Then in January I tried another. It too was off. Definitely my last time. My guess is that the landlord has few customers and therefore the beer goes off. If you like your beer tasting sour, then I recommend the White Hart. Otherwise no!’
Another unfavourable review in 2016 remarked ‘My girlfriend’s lager glass was dirty with bits in the drink, smelly mould was on the wall in seating area, and toilets were grotty.’ On my visit I opted to drink keg cider. The landlady was very friendly but, again, there less than a handful of customers in the pub, including the pub dog.
The interior of the Old White Hart still has plenty of character. A wonderful stone fireplace dominates one room and there is a separate lounge area – a rarity in a pub these days. But investment to bring the pub up to standard is desperately required. The question is, can such expenditure be justified in the current economic climate? The pub is big, probably too big for modern requirements.
Yet the Old White Hart has battled through the coronavirus pandemic and still manages to survive against all odds. The lights in the pub still shine brightly (as in February 2022).
Landlords at the Old White Hart include:
1830,1837 George Morgan (Old White Hart)
1842,1852 Thomas Morgan (also listed as a maltster; aged 35 in 1851 census)
1856 G. Hay
1870,1891 Edward James Highley (also listed as a butcher in 1876)
1903 Leonard James Phelps
1906 George Edward Probyn
1914 G.H. Brooks
1919 Mrs G.H. Brooks
1927,1939 Orlando Coole
1939 R.F. Sayell
1959 Jack Saunders
2001 Jackie Worgan