An early 1839 reference to the inn at Hillersland lists the premises as having the name of the Cock. John Delaney (junior) was the owner. It is not known if the pub ever traded as the Cock Inn – perhaps it was just a simple administrative error. When James Gwilliam was landlord a few decades later the pub was recorded as the Rock Inn. The name makes sense as the pub is on the route to the famous Symonds Yat rock outcrop.
Visitors to Yat Rock in late Victorian times might have called in to the Rock Inn and sampled a few pints of Charles Garton & Co’s Bristol beers. In 1891 Garton’s Lawrence Hill Brewery in Bristol owned the Rock Inn. It was designated alehouse status an had an annual rateable value of £12.0s.0d. The license stipulated that closing time was at 10 pm.
Anglo-Bavarian Brewery from Shepton Mallet, Somersethad acquired the estate of Charles Garton & Co. including the Rock Inn by 1903. The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery also owned several other pubs in the Forest of Dean at this time including the Bailey Inn at Yorkley, Rising Sun at Moseley Green, Queens Head in Lydbrook, Travellers Rest in Aylburton, and the Railway Inn and Riflemans Arms in Lydney.
The 1993 edition of CAMRA’s Real Ale in Gloucestershire described the Rock Inn as a ‘17th century inn with good views’. Draught Bass and Wadworth 6X were the beers on offer. The Rock Inn closed on 1st June 2002. It was converted to Bed & Breakfast accommodation.
In November 2009 an application was submitted to the Forest of Dean District Council for change of use of the skittle alley and function room to three bed and breakfast rooms.
When the property was put up for sale in 2017 for an asking price of £895,000 the particulars of sale stated that the one-time country pub ‘The Rock’, ‘has been converted into a very spacious family home with a successful four-star holiday business attached. The letting rooms include two purpose built individual self-catering chalets, one single letting room, and an attached cottage divided into four en-suite letting rooms. The accommodation is finished to a high standard throughout. A bright and cheerful breakfast room / lounge is available for the use of guests, as is the hot tub and the peaceful gardens. The large four-bedroom family home is self-contained. The separately fenced paddock has a stable block. The property has a large carpark. The Rock presents a very flexible package, a family home, a readymade business in a great location, an exciting life-style choice.’
Citizen ‘Pub Profile’ August 5th 1980. ‘Homely pub at a tourist spot’ by Robert Williams
The Rock Inn at Hillersland might well be re-named ‘The Holiday Inn’ for it is situated in the heart of an area which is home, at least once a year, to thousands of holiday makers. Yet although landlord Stan Harding welcomes those migrant visitors to his homely inn, he realises full well that his livelihood depends on his ‘Forest regulars’. Little wonder that the talk is of sheep, coal mining, and even bee-keeping, when one ventures into the bar at the Rock.
Situated a stone’s throw from the world-famous Symonds Yat Rock and just a couple of miles from the Forestry Commission’s camp site complex at Christchurch, the pub is very much the local for people visiting either site. Such visitors to the Forest must often sit in wonderment to hear Mr Roy Powell talking of his bee keeping escapades, or of the time his next door neighbour’s ferret escaped. A slight movement under one of the tables in the bar turns out to be nothing more mundane than a sheepdog adjusting his sleeping position, except for the fact that in London you don’t often see a sheepdog sleeping in the public bar of your local! It is therefore a pub where one can immediately feel at home.
A customer for over 55 years, Mr Sidney Cooper, now in his 72nd year, must feel more at home in the Rock Inn than most. He recalls the days when the public house was little more than a small building on the side of a narrow, winding road. It was only when Mr. Harding and his late wife took over in 1957 that the inn was converted into the pleasant structure it is today.
Born in Berry Hill, Mr Cooper started his working life, like most other boys of his age, in the local mins. He actually worked at two small mines near the Rock Inn before gaining employment at one of the Dean’s deep mines, Cannop. His last six years of his working life were spent at Rank Xerox, Mitcheldean.
Nostalgic memories of evenings long gone came back as Mr Cooper recalled some of the couples who kept the pub before the Harding family. “The days of the good old village pub are quickly going,” he said. “What many like is just a quiet drink, a chat with friends, and friendship. There aren’t many pubs where you can get that today.”
Mr Harding is himself very critical of the way in which clubs are slowly driving many landlords out of business. “The traditional village pub, around which village life used to revolve, is going,” he said. “It is very much more difficult for people coming into the licensed trade to make a living. This is a sad trend which ought to be halted. We must try and keep our village inns – they are our heritage.”
Mr Harding, who had numerous jobs before entering the licensing trade, now runs the Rock Inn with his daughter Jane, plus assistance from Linda Dunston. The respect in which he is held by his customers, and indeed fellow licensees, was voiced by one bar regular who told me: “Stan’s an obliging sort of bloke, a good old stick”, but what he didn’t appreciate was that it was the ultimate in Forest compliments.
Landlords at the Rock Inn include:
1839 John Delaney (Jnr) (Cock Inn)
1876, 1891 James Gwilliam (also listed as a grocer in 1876)
1902, 1906 Levi Harris
1919,1927 Arthur Cooper
1939 Charles James
1957,1980 Mr Stan Harding