The Old White Hart, in Market Place, is a large pub in the shadow of Coleford’s Clock Tower. It is an old building that, over the years, has seen several major refurbishments. The interior boasts two large fireplaces and wall ovens.
Records show that in 1903 the Old White Hart was leased to the Ind Coope Brewery of Burton on Trent, although it was owned by John Hullett. The pub had a long association with Ind Coope, the booklet ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ published by Gloucestershire CAMRA in 1996 described the White Hart as a “Comfortable two bar pub with restaurant offering good value food.” The beer on offer was Ind Coope Burton Ale.
Ind Coope became part of Allied Breweries which also included Ansell’s of Birmingham and Tetley of Leeds in their portfolio of pubs. Allied Breweries were part of the ‘Big Six’ national breweries in the 1970’s. The Old White Hart was branded as an Ansell’s pub in the 1980’s. The pub became a free house in 2001.
The fortunes of the Old White Hart took a downward turn and it became a wet-led pub, offering no food It suffered from flooding on a couple of occasions and the local magistrates threatened to relinquish the licence after drunken football fans spilled out onto the street after a World Cup England vs Turkey qualifying game in 2004 and made racist remarks to the owners of the nearby Turkish kebab shop.
Lack of investment and general maintenance was evident when a buddleia bush sprouted from the roof of the pub. It was obvious that the pub was under performing and it was no real surprise when it shut immediately after the Coleford Music Festival in July 2022.
It was bought by Calico Interiors and it was initially feared that the pub had closed. Within weeks it became apparent that the Old White Hart was being refurbished with its future secured as a pub. The work has been to a high standard and the pub reopened without too much ceremony on Thursday December 15th 2022.
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 Old White Hart had signage claiming that it was 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’.
The Citizen, May 1959: 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!
The Citizen, 18th April 1969 – Former pop star is now ‘mine host’ at Coleford: It is a big change from the screaming fans, the glamour and travel that go with being a member of a top professional pop group, to being mine most at a hotel in a quiet country town. But 25-year-old Max Maxfield, former guitarist with the group Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, who took over the licence of the White Hart Hotel, Coleford, a few months ago, has no regrets about the change. For he has settled well in the area and likes the Forest of Dean.
“We had some great fun and I enjoyed it, but the travelling and everything got a bit much,” he said. “I still keep in touch with the group and the boys pop down now and again,” said Manchester-born Mike who started with the group in 1962. Now he has settled in the Forest, he probably has another distinction, in being the youngest licensee in the district, if not the county.
He still retains an interest in music and has recently started song writing again. He is treasurer of the Coleford Folk Club who use the White Hart as their headquarters, meeting regularly every Friday.
A strong interest in art has prompted him to put on an exhibition at the hotel by local artists. He plans to do this about twice a year.
The Citizen, Friday 20th 1980 – New look for Coleford’s Old White Hart: Renovations are almost on the new look Old White Hart in Coleford. Over the last five months has been spent on alterations and renovations by J.W. Jenkins & Co, for Ansells Brewery and the proprietors, Don and Jo Blake.
The most noticeable change is in the public bar. This has been enlarged to five times its previous size by joining together the old public bar, a hallway, an old cellar and a games room. The new bar now provides T.V., darts, fruit machines and a juke box. The old oak beams have been left in part of the bar, although two had to be enclosed and strengthened due to their poor condition. Red quarry tiles have been laid and the roof is supported with red brick pillars.
The most striking feature is the Czechoslovakian oak bar which was installed at a cost of £1,500. The wall behind the bar is up to 16 feet thick, and during renovations a 16 feet long fireplace was found behind it. This, it is thought, may have been part of either a bakery or dryer, as large quantities of grain were found beneath the first floor floorboards when they were replaced. Unfortunately, due to its awkward positioning it proved impossible to incorporate the fireplace as a feature of the room.
Parts of the old dairy next door has been converted into a cellar where beer and other beverages are kept. New gas pipes have been laid and much of the building has been rewired. Phase two of the operation will convert the rest of the old dairy into a function room and skittle alley. Six different teams have already approached Don and Jo, asking for the use of the skittle alley – the only one in Coleford. These will be an addition to the five men’s and one ladies’ darts teams, and the crib team.
Don and Jo say that they are extremely pleased with the renovations and the efficiency with which they were carried out having to close two mornings. Jo is especially pleased with the new kitchen and she provides meals at lunchtimes and in the evening.
Since the renovations in the public bar and the redecoration of the lounge, trade has been on the increase, said Don, and they are getting through a vast quantity of beer every week. A case of “Renovations make the Hart grow fonder!”
The Citizen, 1st December 2001 – Advertisement feature – Visit a friendly and high spirited pub: Regulars of the White Hart Inn at Coleford are in for a treat when the landlady serves up her special Christmas Day lunch. The festive fare has an extra celebratory touch, as the pub has recently become a free house, enabling Jackie and John Worgan to offer an even better service.”
“We are very grateful to all our customers, particularly the darts and pool teams who are based here, for sticking with us – even when things have been difficult,” said Jackie. The difficulties she was referring to were the times the pub had suffered from flooding due to extremely bad weather experienced over the past couple of years. But even that failed to dampen the spirits of the White Hart’s dedicated drinkers who continued to use the pub all through the refurbishment of the lounge area which went on subsequently.
One good reason to visit the White Hart is December’s special offer. All through the month, there is a “buy one, get one free” promotion on bottles of Reef. The White Hart has always been known as friendly local pub and what better time to take advantage of the hospitality than over your Christmas meal.
The Citizen, 13th February 2004 – Landlords warned ‘keep pubs in order’: A Forest of Dean landlady was told yesterday she could lose her licence her licence if she allowed customers to become drunk and disorderly or racially abusive again.
On October 11th last year, after the crucial England against Turkey World Cup qualifying game, football fans spilled out onto the pavement in front of the White Hart pub in Coleford. Police were called to the scene after drinkers made racist taunts to staff in a nearby Turkish kebab shop and scuffles ensued.
At the annual Brewster session, held at Forest of Dean Magistrates Court in Coleford, the landlady of the Markey Square pub promised that measures would be put in place to stop a similar incident reoccurring.
The Citizen, 24th January 2013: Man uses loo seat to attack pub: A man’s efforts to break into a Coleford pub went down the pan after he used a toilet seat lid to try and force the door open. The man is believed to have attempted to smash the back doors of the Old White Hart Inn in Market Place some time between 4am and 9.30am on Wednesday, January 16th.
When he failed with a concrete block he returned a second time to try to prise a door open with toilet seat which he had removed from a loo that was being thrown away and had been left out nearby. Again he wasn’t successful and finally gave up.
Investment to bring the Old White Hart up to standard was desperately required and the pub suffered from lack of custom, however it battled through the coronavirus pandemic and managed to survive until late July 2022. It was feared that the Old White Hart had closed for good. Fortunately it was purchased by Calico Interiors.
Calico Interiors is a family-run business that supplies high-quality furnishings throughout the UK. They are based in Lambsquay House, Perrygrove, just outside Coleford. The pub has had a thorough refurbishment which has involved the complete re-imagining of the interior space. The old fireplace and oven, covered over in 1980 to facilitate the placing of the central bar, have been rediscovered. The fireplace is now an attractive feature of the new-look Old White Hart. The new bar is in the old pool room.
The owners have gone to great lengths to refurbish the Old White Hart to a high standard and it is once again a great asset to Coleford.
Smiling faces at the rejuvenated Old White Hart, Claire (left) and Jane (right)
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
1969 Mike Maxwell
1989,1991 Tony and Gill
2001-2022 Jackie Worgan