The Red Hart has been licensed since about 1483. It is thought that the original wattle and daub construction was built as a hostelry for the workers brought in to renovate the 13th century parish church of St. Andrew. The Red Hart has been added to and altered in a variety of architectural styles over the last few centuries. It seems to have been altered in the 17th Century.
Sir Thomas Rich’s Hospital in Gloucester owned the Red Hart in 1891 and 1903, and in those years the alehouse had an annual rateable value of £17.0s.0d. It was free from brewery tie. The Red Hart closed at 11 pm, which seems unusual considering its isolated rural location. The 1885 and 1906 directories list Samuel Pearce as occupier, and in 1919 Mrs Eliza Pearce (his wife?) was landlady. Mary Clara Awre (1927,1936) and Ernest C.P. Awre (1939) are then recorded at the inn. In more recent times George and Roma Price were mine hosts in the mid 1970’s and David and Dawn Howle in the mid 1980’s. Martyn Cocks was at the Red Hart in 1988 and in the early 21st Century Marcia Griffiths was in residence.
In 1937 an anonymous letter was sent to a local newspaper by a resident of Awre that claimed that the village was ‘one of the ungodliest in Britain, a place where the church was empty and the pub full; where villagers drank nothing but beer and went on incessant outings and where children of eight or nine years of age where regularly given beer and cider to drink’. Mrs Cook from the village said that the people of Awre said that local people were quiet and docile and that there was never any rowdiness. It was true, she said, that some of the children were given beer and cider but only because the water was not fit to drink. Interest in the story spread and a reporter from the ‘Daily Herald’ was sent to Awre to investigate the claims. There were no scenes of juvenile intoxication to report and the story fizzled out. However, the mystery remained who sent the scandalous letter in the first place. It was eventually revealed that the writer of the letter was Wing Commander John Scorgie, a highly decorated RAF officer who was later promoted to Group Captain and awarded the BEM and OBE. The motive behind his campaign to darken the names of his fellow villagers and ridicule Awre is still shrouded in mystery.
In April 1956 a Mr Golden, of the Red Hart in Awre, was reported to be gradually working through a big building project. A report said that he was building a model village of Awre in a nearby field and had already completed two of the principal buildings of the village, namely St Andrews Church and the pub.
The Citizen: 24th, June 1977 – Divers in the pub find coins and tools in old well: Locals at the Red Hart Inn, Awre, last night were met with an unusual sight when they dropped in for their usual pint. For as they entered the inn they found a full-scale diving operation in progress – in the middle of the public bar. There was, however, nothing strange or sinister about the operation as the six divers, including one woman, Mrs Phillipa O’Brien, were members of the Gloucester Diving School and Club, and were investigating an old well sunk many years ago in the bar area. The decision to investigate the well was taken some days ago when some members dropped into the Red Hart Inn for a drink. When they learned about the well they asked landlord George Price and his wife Rona, if they could take a more detailed look at it.
“It was an extremely interesting and fruitful operation, and we were grateful to Mr and Mrs Price for giving us the chance to take a more detailed look at the well,” one of the divers, Mr Geoff Orr said later. “We found the old well was 29 feet six inches deep by three feet wide and bellied out at the bottom. At the bottom we got down into about two feet of silt and discovered some coins, some old tools, part of an old water pump, and some building materials.” Mr Orr said some of the water had been taken from the well and would be sent for analysis. “We are now hoping to do another dive to carry out further investigation,” he said.
The divers worked from 8pm until 11.30pm and Mr Orr said the operation went smoothly without any major difficulties. Mrs O’Brien said it was the second well that the divers had investigated. They had previously been down an old well at Goodrich Castle, after obtaining permission from the Department of the Environment, and discovered coins and a dog skeleton among other things.
In the 1983 CAMRA Good Beer Guide the pub is listed as the New Venture. ‘Formerly known as the Red Hart’ Beers on offer included Draught Bass, Samuel Smiths Old Brewery Bitter and Wadworth 6X.
The Citizen. Advertisement Feature. Wednesday, October 26th, 1983. – Spooky goings on at the Red Hart, Awre: The inexplicable happenings at the Red Hart, Awre, should not mar a visitor’s enjoyment. For supernatural occurrences are not unknown at the 14th century inn run by Anthony Broadribb and John Crowell. An ex-manager claimed to have seen a spectre floating through the air and one night the hand pumps went wrong for no apparent reason, temporarily stopping the flow of beer. But the ghostly goings-on all take place behind the scenes, say the proprietors. And the only spirits the customer is likely to see are those which come from a bottle! But it is certainly a pub with atmosphere. Apart from the resident spectre there is a priest hole and a well in the middle of the bar area.
The pub was once a cottage, only becoming a pub in the 15th century. The priest’s hole is now blocked off and dates from the times when the clergy were not always popular. Anthony and John, who runs the restaurant, have done their best to keep the atmosphere. They aim at a ‘middle market’ and have swiftly built up a clientele which comes as far as Cheltenham and Gloucester to sample the delights of the Red Hart. They also attract a good number of local customers, perhaps the clearest sign that their improvements have moulded in with traditional tastes. There are no great surprises about the fare offered at the Red Hart. “Our speciality is fresh homemade cooking which we provide at reasonable prices,” says Anthony.
The Citizen: 9th May, 1986 – Good pub grub: David and Dawn Howle are the only caterers in the Forest of Dean mentioned in a new good food guide. Their pub, The Red Hart, at Awre, is recommended in the ‘1986 Budget Good Food Guide’ published by the Consumers’ Association and Hodder & Stoughton. The Red Hart, which has a thriving restaurant and bar meals trade, also sells beer and lager brewed in the Forest of Dean by Hawthorn Brewery at Cinderford.
More than 1,500 good places to eat for around £5 are listed in the new guide. The entry for the Red Hart states: “The open plan of this refurbished pub in an out of the way village in the Forest of Dean in the Severn estuary, features an old well covered under modern glass in the middle of the floor.”
Mr Howle had management experience with a major brewery before taking over the Red Hart in September, 1984. He previously operated a coal mine in the Potteries for 20 years. “My wife deserves all the credit for the mention in the Good Food Guide,” he said. “She in charge of the food and I look after the beer.”
The ‘Forest & Wye Review’ advertised the Red Hart in April 1987 and noted that the Budget Good Food Guide had recommended the pub as a ‘place to eat well for under a fiver’. The bar menu was supplemented by more culinary delights served with a flair in the 30-seat restaurant. Starters included deep fried mushrooms stuffed with pate or Stilton cheese. The food served at the Red Hart was endorsed by Les Routiers Guide in 1987. The beer selection was good too, the pub gaining an entry into the CAMRA Good Beer Guide for its well kept Draught Bass and Uley Old Spot ales.
Forest of Dean & Ross on Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): Beams, stone, an old well (another one), open fires and an interesting menu makes this an isolated but useful find. There is a modest wine list compiled by an enthusiastic landlord and a good range of ales including Uley from the Cotswolds, (dark, round, smooth and quite seductive), also Bass and several others which Real Alers would find it essential to mention. This is a well placed pub for an interesting post luncheon ramble, and for the idle there is plenty of parking.
By 2001 the Red Hart was a dining pub. Given the fact that the pub is in an isolated location with no passing trade – and the population of Awre was only 1,714 in the 2011 census – positive marketing with the emphasis on good food was essential to ensure viability. On the menu was Charwood Chicken – oven baked chicken filled with smoked bacon and asparagus mousse, glazed with smoked cheese and served with red wine sauce.
Marcia Griffith bought the pub in 2005 and further promoted the Red Hart as a destination dining pub. Within a year Marcia and her team had gained an entry into the Which? Good Food Guide 2006. Dishes included sea bass, yellow tail snapper and red mullet or Earl Grey infused Brazilian crocodile tail. The pub had to close for significant renovation works that took place in 2008 with £40,000 spent on the project, but the reputation of the Red Hart as a popular dining pub was maintained when it reopened in the summer of 2009. The restoration of the bar area involved the removal of modern paint from the original wooden oak beams.
Sadly, Marcia was diagnosed with cancer that year and the doctors gave her less than six months to live. Tony Merrifield, appointed from the Swan Inn at Nibley, took over the running of the Red Hart whilst Marcia was having treatment. Marcia, aged 46, passed away peacefully on 29th December 2010. Mourners at her funeral were asked to wear pink in memory of the vibrant businesswoman. She was buried with the ashes of her beloved dog Jarvis and also the ashes of a life-sized wooden crocodile that she brought back from Papua New Guinea where she lived for a time in her 20’s.
The Red Hart opened again at the beginning of May 2011 with interim landlord Anthony Clements at the helm. It was reported in the ‘Forester’ newspaper that ‘the freehold goes on sale in two or three months and the pub will remain under the control of a management company until it finds a new owner’. It seems that the Red Hart closed soon afterwards.
In March 2013 it was reported in the ‘Citizen’ newspaper that pub owner, Ray Puttock, was looking forward to renovating the Red Hart at Awre in the summer after the buying the pub a year and a half ago. The Newnham-on-Severn district councillor said: “I’ve been raising funds and renovations are going to start in the summer. It’s a lovely building but needs about a year’s worth of renovation. However, the Red Hart remains closed.
CAMRA Good Beer Guide: Listed in 1981,1982,1983,1987,1988,1989,1999,2000,2001,2002 & 2006.
Landlords at the Red Hart include:
1885,1906 Samuel Pearce
1919 Mrs Eliza Pearce
1927,1936 Mary Clara Awre
1939 Ernest C.P. Awre
1971 Arthur Percy Teale
1975 George & Roma Price
1983 Tony Broadribb & John Crowell (owners)
1985,1987 David & Dawn Howle
1988 Martyn Cocks
1990 John Baines (in partnership with Dick and (his wife) Terry Eames)
1997 Jerry & Nicky Bedwell
2005 Marcia Griffiths
2010 Anthony Clements