In 1891 the Rising Sun was tied to Daniel Sykes & Co. of the Redcliffe Brewery in Bristol, although just six years later the brewery had merged with the Bristol United Brewery. The Redcliffe Brewery at 107 Redcliffe Street closed altogether in 1898. The Rising Sun at Woodcroft was only one of two Forest of Dean pubs tied to Bristol United Breweries at that time – the other was the nearby Live and Let Live in Tutshill. Presumably the Bristol brewed beers were transported by railway to the Chepstow area through the Severn Tunnel, which opened in 1886. The annual rateable value of the Rising Sun was £18.0s.0d. in 1891 and 1903. It closed at 10 pm.

Bristol United Breweries were acquired by George’s Bristol Brewery in 1956, and the Rising Sun became part of the Courage Brewery estate when the Bristol Brewery was taken over by Courage, Barclay & Co. just five years later in 1961.

Forest of Dean & Ross-on-Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): A pleasant little long barred local selling Courage’s with, with china and brass bits and bobs, boxed in beams, and a live fire. Snacks are available and do look out for the handsome wooden ex-naval rum barrel suitably inscribed in brass.

In 2001 the Rising Sun was owned by Inspired Inns based in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

In October 2006 a review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper was quite positive about the Rising Sun giving it top marks for service and 9 out of 10 for atmosphere and food. It noted that ‘the Rising Sun prides itself on first-rate fresh products and a real passion for food. The restaurant is particularly renowned for its seafood dishes.’ The fresh fish was sourced daily from the fish markets in Brixham and Bristol. The reviewer commented, “The opportunity to eat good fresh fish does not come often, so as a fish fan, I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. For the main course I had a swordfish steak on a bed of rice served in a smoked salmon sauce and a Thai seafood stir-fry. The succulent swordfish was delicious, the highlight of the meal, while the stir-fry was also a winner.”

The Rising Sun in 2009

Yet just two years later a follow up review in the ‘Forester’ seemed to contradict the praise given to it stating, ‘Having fallen on hard times the Rising Sun is rising again under its new owners. The restaurant has kept its tradition of excellent food but has lost the pretentious air it had under its previous owners’.  The reviewer summarised, ‘The pub has ditched the fussy service and pretension of grandeur of old and replaced it with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere that immediately puts you at ease. It now feels like a place where you would be welcome. By taking this approach the future seems bright for the Rising Sun.’

The Forester, 1st January 2014 – SOS – Save Our Sun: The Rising Sun in Woodcroft could be saved by the local community. It’s been placed on a ‘right to bid’ register after a group of campaigners from the village banded together in a bid to keep the pub as a community asset. The Rising Sun’s current owners, Worthy Developments, are keen to turn the premises into housing but villagers want tomaintain a community hub and breathe life back into Woodcroft.

Having the pub on the register does not guaranteee its future, but it will give the community time to submit a bid for the Rising Sun ahead of private investors. Chair of the Save Our Sun committee, Michelle Hayes, said: “Improving the community is what this application is all about.”

The Forester, 10th September 2014 – What happens next for the house of the Rising Sun?: The current owner of the only pub in Woodcroft is to face a tribunal hearing over plans for the Rising Sun’s conversion into two dwellings. But despite the campaigners from the Save Our Sun action group getting the building placed on the register of Assets of Community Value, it appears that the owner Worthy Developments is determined to see his scheme go through.

The campaigners said in December 2013 that they believe it could be brought back into use as a viable community enterprise and not just a pub. The group said at the time they were on target to raise more than £200,000, but this offer, in excess of the original 2012 sale price, was rejected by Worthy Developments. A subsequent offer by the campaigners was also rejected in April this year.

But prior to the hearing at Newport law courts on Thursday, 11th September the planning application is due to be debated by Forest planners. The application has been recommended for refusal as officers believe it would result in the unacceptable loss of a community facility. The report to planners concludes that the development company has not demonstrated that every reasonable attempt has been made to find an alternative use that could maintain it as a public facility or reopen it as a public house, as it is the last one in the village.

The scheme to build two four-bedroomed properties, proposes to demolish part of the exterior of the pub and construct a two-storey extension in its place along with inserting windows into the gable ends of the existing building. The district council stated that it had received 135 letters objecting to the scheme, a petition signed by over 1,000 people and only one letter in support.

The report concludes by stating that officers’ negotiations with the development company had failed to achieve a sustainable development that would improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of the area.

The Forester, 17th September 2014 – Save Our Sun, Fight to keep pub continues:

A scheme to convert a Woodcroft pub into houses has been dismissed by planners. Chepstow-based Worthy Developments sought to convert the Rising Sun pub into two four-bed houses. However, the pub was put on a ‘right to bid’ register after a group of campaigners from the village banded together in a bid to keep the pub as a community asset.

Dr Michelle Hayes, chairman of the Save Our Sun committee, said: “The Rising Sun is the only remaining community asset within Woodcroft. The Rising Sun has been listed as an asset of community value by the Forest of Dean District Council since December 2013. Lack of need has not been proven by the applicant. Quite the opposite, given the amount of community support, with a petition of more than 1,000 signatures. There’s a need for a central meeting place, parrticularly for the vunerable and isolated members of the community.”

Mark Roberts, speaking on behalf of the applicant said: “This property has been been vacant since 2012 and for the last five years the pub has only been open for 11 months. It has operated unsuccessfully by numerous tenants over this period. The last occupants went into administration with a public auction being held after a one-year period of marketing. It is not a complete shock or surprise that the village has struggled to sustain a pub, given its history. We [Worthy Developments] consider that the applicant has sufficiently demonstrated that the Rising Sun is no longer viable and cannot be made so.”

The Forester, 25th July 2018 – Rising Sun Inn pledges: The campaign to buy and reopen a village pub has raised £216,000 in pledges towards a possible compulsory purchase. The Rising Sun in Woodcroft, which closed in 2011, is currently owned by the developer who failed to obtain planning permission for the building’s conversion into flats.

The Forest of Dean District Council granted the pub a Community Asset Status in 2013 after a high profile campaign. This protection affords the Woodcroft community the opportunity to buy the pub if it can raise the necessary funds and provide a viable business model. The campaigners have previously approached Worthy Developments with an offer to purchase the pub, which was refused and are now hoping to raise £350,000 to purchase the pub.

The Forester, 16th December 2020 – Pub plans thown out on appeal (by Mark Elson): The owners of a former Forest pub have lost the latest round inthe long-running battle with the Forest Council over their plans for it. Worthy Developments appealed against a decision by the councl to refuse permission to extend the first floor above the Rising Sun in Woodcroft to create two flats to be sold on the open market. But planning inspector David Wyborn rejected the appeal in part on the grounds that the development could make it more dificult to re-open the pub, which the council hs registered as a community asset.

In another blow to the owners, Mr Wyborn also rejected their application for the council to pay the costs of the appeal on the grounds that the authority had acted unreasonably. Mr Wyborn concluded that while the proposals wouldn’t harm the character if the building or the area, overall the plans “could potentially put this community asset in jeopardy.” He also decided that a neighbouring property could be overlooked from one of the windows and there would be an unacceptable impact on highway safety on the main Coleford to Chepstow road.

While the proposal has been formulated to retain the pub, Mr Wyborn said that not having accommodation for a manager would make it less attractive to potential customers. He said that while the pub was hut at present, if it were to re-open with the two flats occupied there was the potential for complaints from the residents which could lead to restrictions on how the pub operates. Mr Wyborn concluded: “Consequently, there is the potential that the introduction of the independent residential uses on the first floor could jeopardise the full-scale operation of the public house in the future.”

Michelle Hayes, chair of the Save our Sun campaign group, which is fighting to reopen the pub after a nine year closure, said: “We are delighted with the inspectorate decision which means the pub, which is listed as an asset of community value until 2024, can now only be used as a pub and not sold as a residential property.” She added, “We hope that the owners will now either refurbish the pub and open it as such or sell it to the community who dearly would like to bring back our only remaining community asset to become a community hub and breathe life back to the village and surrounding area.”

The Forester, 3rd September 2021 – Share campaign to fund new lease of life for village pub: The campaign to re-open a border pub steps up a gear tonight (Friday) with the start of a community share scheme to secure the necessary funding. The eight-and-a-half year push to bring back The Rising Sun as a focus of village life in Woodcroft near Chepstow reached a milestone when the locals behind the campaign reached agreement with the developers on the sale of the pub.

The campaigners are looking to raise between £285,000 and £350,000 in community shares towards buying the pub which could be the last chance to secure its future. Chair of the Save Our Sun, Michelle Hayes, said: “After an eight-and-a-half year campaign the Rising Sun Woodcroft Community Pub Limited committee are delighted to announce that we have received an agreement with the owners, Worthy Developments, on the sale of the pub. We now need to raise the funds to buy the pub and will do this through ‘community shares’ – any individual, groups or individuals or local businesses can buy a share in the pub and own a part of the pub. We’d like to invite members of the community, friends and local businesses to invest in The Rising Sun Woodcroft Pub Limited – The Rising Sun – a community benefit society which has been set up to secure the long-term future of The Rising Sun public house as a community pub.”

She added: “This isn’t just about buying a pub; it’s about preserving the history and heritage of our village and surrounding area and investing in the future of our community. Our vision is to provide a pub and community hub where there is not just good affordable food and drink but a place to meet, also, giving back to the community such as subsidised coffee mornings for the elderly and isolated and job skills cluns for the unsemployed and a space for various clubs to meet. If we don’t buy the pub now, it will be lost forever.”

Those investing will have to buy at least five shares which are priced at £100 each although people will be able to clun together to make the minimum purchase. Everyone who buys shares becomes a member of the society, owning a piece of the pub on the Coleford Road, and having a vote at the annual general meeting. A committee will be elected from the shareholders and a manager will be appointed to run the pub. If successful, The Rising Sun will join some 40 others that have been run using this model across the country since 1990.

As it’s a community scheme, the project is eligible for grant funding and a match funding grant has been applied for. Ms Hayes said: “The more people that invest in a share, the more people are likely to use the pub and this is why this model is so successful. We need as many people to invest as possible and we need both small and large investors, we need you all! We also realise that not everyone has money to invest, but we will need loads of volunteers to help with the refurbishment and also with projects once the pub is up and running and so we want to hear from you all.”

“This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, this is about investing in your community – however, there are potential tax benefits to investing too.” The share offer is being launched in the pub garden between 6pm and 8pm and tomorrow (Saturday 4th September) from 10am – 4pm when people can pick up a prospectus and and ask questions. Michelle Hayes said: “In 2018 we were pledged £230,000 in community shares and our recent community consultation showed even stronger support for the pub and so we are confident that together we can do this but we need everyone’s support.”

On 3rd March 2022 the Rising Sun Woodcroft Community Pub Limited (RSWCPL) became proud owners of the Rising Sun. An impressive £345,600 was raised.

Victory! The ownership of the Rising Sun is now secured by the Rising Sun (Woodcroft) Community Pub Ltd.

Western Daily Press, 5th November 2022 – New dawn for pub after villagers win a 10-year battle to reopen it. (by Janet Hughes): Villagers in a rural Gloucestershire are toasting success after winning a ten-year battle to reopen their cosy little pub and stop their community becoming a drive-by hamlet. This week the Rising Sun in Woodcroft enjoyed a new dawn after eing closed for more than a decade.

Residents battled for years to stop the closed-down pub being turned into houses or flats. And when they won that battle they had to raise nearly £500,000 to buy the building and restore it to the days when it was a community hub. But this week they finally opened the door of the pub which is on a country road between Chepstow and the Forest of Dean. And those who battled for a decade to see it happen say it has put the heart back into a Forest of Dean Community.

Forest GP Michelle Hayes, who chaired the group. cut the ribbon for the soft opening of the new pub which will start selling food in about a month’s time. It is being run by professional landlord and landlady who have already seen residents flock to the pub for an open-mic night.

Lynne Fletcher lived around 60 yards away until two years ago when she moved house. She was one of the first to sound the alarm after the pub closed in December 2011 and was purchased by Worthy Developments Ltd towards the end of 2012. “It was a great little pub and it’s where everybody got to know each other,” she said. “It had a lovely atmosphere and was really friendly. A real neighbourhood pub. We weren’t too worried when it shut because the estate agents said it was being sold as a pub. The first indication that something was wrong was when a neighbour asked a workman how long before it reopened. He told him “It’ll never open as a pub again mate.”

Over the years the residents battled planning applications and appeals. The Forest of Dean District Council even declared it as a community asset in 2013, but the right to buy only applies when the owner decides to sell it. The new owners questioned its viability as a pub saying it had been on the market for nearly 12 months before they bought it to convert into two sem-detached houses. By the end of last year after years of battling they finally agreed to sell to the group Save Our Sun.

The community sold shares at £100 each and held fundraising events that managed to raise more than £300,000 in total. A Government grant of £175,000 topped it up and they bought the pub earlier this year.

But it had fallen into disrepair so an army of volunteers moved in and spent months turning it back into the cosy local they remembered. After a mammoth effort the newly restored pub finally opened this week. Lynne said: “It’s been a long fight and to be honest there were times we probably would have given up without Michelle, but she doggedly stuck at it. She’s been incredible and so have all of the volunteers who have either bought shares, helped to do all the work or donated stuff. It’s the sort of village that people drive through. Now when people come up the hill they see the pub all lit up and it looks cosy and inviting.”

She added: “Although it’s not the best time to reopen a pub, I think people are just so glad to see it open again they will come out and support it. For years people would move in and never get to know their neigbours. Now there’s a place to meet up and make friends. It’s really put the heart back into in the village.”

The pub is being run by professional landlady and landlord Michelle Lewis and Mark Whitehead who have years of experience in the trade. And you don’t have to be local to go there because villagers say all are welcome.

The Forester, 8th November 2022 – Cheers! Our pub’s back: A village pub was officially reopened on Saturday 29th October after a ten-year community campaign. Locals got organised to save the Rising Sun at Woodcroft when there were plans to convert it into apartments. They raised hundred of thousands of pounds with nearly 20 individulals and groups of friends buying shares in the pub on Coleford Road. The campaign was also supported by Forest MP Mark Harper who joined dozens of local people for the official opening.

The ribbon was cut by the Chair of the Save Our Sun committee, Dr Michelle Hayes who is a GP at Yorkley. Dr Hayes the successful outcome was down to people working together. She said: “We do have to thank the government for the Community Ownership Fund that helped us get over the line and got us our wonderful community pub. A big thank you to all the local businesses who suported us generously, giving us bathroms, kitchens, marquees, discounts on furnishings. It’s been absolutely wonderful. We’ve had about 100 volunteers. Everythinh painted has been done by volunteers. You are just absolutely amazing.”

She added: “I want to thank my wonderful committee who have been at this for 10 years to make this a reality and thank the community at large. We could not have done it without your support and I’m sure you’ll keep on supporting what is going to be a fantastic community hub where everyone is welcome.”

Mark Harper said: “It’s really good when you are a local MP and you’ve been working with a group to get something done and you come and see the finished product and the community is so very pleased with it. It’s a fantastic day for Woodcroft.”

The pub is managed by Michelle Lewis and Nick Whitehead who previously worked in Liverpool. The pub opened a fortnight ago for a “soft launch” and is currently serving drinks only until the kitchen is completed later this month.

Lee and Sian

The Forester, 7th February 2024 – National award for efforts to save pub: A decade of campaigning which saw a village pub saved and transformed into a thriving centre for the community has been recognised with a national award. The Rising Sun at Woodcroft was in danger of being converted into flats but local people came together to see the pub re-opened. On Saturday 3rd February volunteers were presented with the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Pub Saving Award.

Presenting the award at the pub in Coleford Road, CAMRA’s south west regional director Peter Bridle said he hoped the success of the Save Our Sun campaign would inspire others across the country. He said: “The Rising Sun is a true labour of love. The community did not want to lose their pub and a lot of time, effort and dedication went into saving it. The pub is once again at the heart of the community serving locals and visitors alike.”

He continued: “The Rising Sun’s story moved us so much in CAMRA that we have given it this national award and we hope it will inspire other communities up and down the country. For all these efforts and over a decade of campaigning, this is recognised by the Campaign for Real Ale and has won the 2023 Pub Saving Award. We give this award out every year but in 2023 we had more entries than ever before, showing the dedication of communities and campaigners to save their pubs and what they mean to those communities.”

The award was received by Chair of the Save Our Sun committee Dr. Michelle Hayes who thanked the volunteers, staff, customers and local businesses who had supported the campaign. She also thanked CAMRA for its help – and particularly Geoff Sandles of the group’s Forest branch. Dr Hayes also paid trubute to the planning department at the Forest Council who, she said, had been “incredibly fair”. She said: “Thanks to the local community who believed in us and came with us the whole way. This place would be nothing without the amazing staff and managers. Thanks also to the customers, volunteers and the generosity of local businesses. It really restores your faith in humanity. My amazing commitee were incredibly dedicated and put hundreds of hours in. I love that it brings the community together and thank you CAMRA, it is such an honour.”

Forest of Dean Mummers at the Rising Sun, December 2023

Landlords at the Rising Sun include:

1858-1867 James Reece

1871 Albert Allwood

1875-1877 Thomas Clutterbuck

1881-1888 William Rowlands

1890 John Davies

1890 -1892 Francis Tyler

1894-1922 Philip Saunders

1922-1940 Harry Saunders

1940-1965 Harry Saunders, Jnr.

1965 – Charles Mansell

1968-1988 Olwyn and Les Astbury

1999 Brian and Diane Webber

1999,2000 Nick and Bev Roach

2001 Michael and Nicola Leadon

2006 Paul and Alne Davies

2007, 2008 Bill Morgan, Krysti Driver, Sue and Emily Bryant

2022 Michelle Lewis and Mark Whitehead

2023 Lee and Sian

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