The Royal Albert was located on the junction with Newerne Street and Albert Street at the bottom of Highfield Hill.
George Courteen is listed as the owner of the Royal Albert Inn in 1891. He was at the pub thirty years earlier, in 1861 George Courteen is also listed as a maltster. Of course, there is a possibility that the first George Courteen was the father of the second. However, the 1903 petty sessional licensing records give detail that the ownership of the pub was held by the ‘representatives of the late George Courteen’. The annual rateable value of the Royal Albert was £25.15s.0d. at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries and the alehouse operated free of brewery tie. Closing time was at 11 pm.
The following is an advertisement in the Harris directory of 1903, “George James. Royal Albert Inn. Headquarters of the original Lydney outing club. Good accommodation for travellers. Wines and spirits of the very best quality. Sole agents for Dunville & Co’s world renowned old Irish whiskey.”
In 1891 and 1903 the Royal Albert was free from brewery tie but was subsequently acquired by the Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye, passing to the ownership of the Stroud Brewery Company and West Country Breweries.
The Royal Albert was the scene of a most dramatic incident on the night of Friday September 10th, 1965, when a 24 ton fully loaded petrol tanker crashed into the pub. The following account is taken from the ‘Citizen’s Bygone Gloucestershire’ (Nov. 1998).
‘Faced with what was in effect a massive unexploded bomb, firemen from Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire risked life and limb knowing that at any time it could explode. Escaping petrol caught alight, flames licked around the end of the tanker and for an hour it was touch and go as firemen from Lydney, Coleford and Chepstow poured thousands of gallons of water from the River Lyd and then finally blanketed out the flames with foam. About 40 customers and staff fled for their lives when the tanker stalled, rolled backwards despite being in forward gear, smashed through the pub wall and embedded itself in the lounge. The driver, Frank Beal from Cardiff, told how he struggled to keep control of the runaway tanker as it rolled backwards down the hill for 100 yards. “I was frightened of running straight back into the main street of the town,” he told a reporter.
It seems doubtful that the building could survive the ferocity of such an inferno. However, in her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ Heather Hurley relates the story of a lorry loaded with steel, which lost control on Highfield Hill and ran down the slope straight into the Royal Albert Inn. The Forester newspaper reported the story, which Heather describes as having taken place in the late 1960’s – was this after the petrol tanker incident? The ‘Forester’ newspaper reported:
‘Lorry makes room at Inn’ – “It’s that cat again”, said Mrs Len Smith, the licensee of the Royal Albert Inn, Lydney to her husband early on Monday morning when she heard a noise she described as ‘like bottles smashing’ from one end of the pub. Mr Smith, who was about to drink a last cup of tea before going to bed, got up to see if the cat had caused the row and found a seven ton lorry instead. “I tore into the bar”, Mr Smith said, “where there was one complete fog of dust; I couldn’t see anything. I switched the light on and there, jutting some feet into the room, was the tail of a lorry with its rear lights still on. The room was half filled with concrete, the fireplace had come away from the wall, chairs were crushed and a window was gone”. Outside he found the driver of the lorry, Constantine Daniel Illidge of Newport, badly shaken but unhurt. His eight wheeled diesel vehicle had managed to climb 50 yards up Highfield Hill before it ran back. Mr Illidge had tried unsuccessfully to steer it into Albert Street and the seven-ton fifteen hundredweight lorry, with its load of 13 tons of steel crashed into the corner of the Royal Albert at the junction of Albert and Newerne Streets.
Landlords at the Royal Albert Inn include:
1856 Esaius Pewtner (in 1851 census aged 53 and described as an ‘agent to trading vessel’.)
1861,1863 George Courteen (also listed as a maltster in 1861)
1870 James Howell
1876 John Ellaway
1878,1881 Thomas Morgan (aged 55 in 1881. Albert Inn)
1885 George Wooles
1891 George James
1892 Emma Mary James
1903,1906 George James
1919 Evelyn H. Woodruff
1927 Mrs Elsie Thomas
1939 William J. Gardiner
1939 Walter L. Dunford
1960’s Mr and Mrs Len Smith