The Royal Oak was a privately-owned free house in 1891 owned by Annie Gollop. Twelve years later in 1903 the Royal Oak was still privately-owned by Mrs Stacey Jones who leased it out to W.J. Rogers & Co. of Bristol.
The Royal Oak was a licensed beer house with an annual rateable value in 1891 and 1903 of £12.0s.0d. Closing time was at 10 pm.
Forest of Dean & Ross-on-Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): After some of the ethnic shebeens dotted about the Forest this is quite a shock to the system. Suddenly one is in Torremolinos, all fake mullioned windows, gas “coal” fires and, would you believe, dozens of green lights built into the olde rusticke ceiling. Run by a cheerful Cockney who has made either badly calculated his clientele or made an inspired business decision. When we called it echoed emptily but it was lunchtime and most of the younger upwardly mobile Foresters were still working in the Bank. Must call again but watch and take heed of “The Clothes Show” first. There was a snack menu, and the place was immaculate. Whitbread’s booze, a couple of “bandits” and piped music.
Heather Hurley in her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ (Logaston Press, 2004) writes: ‘From the crossroads at Whitecroft, a short walk past the old mill and up the Bream Road leads to the Royal Oak standing in an enviable, elevated position. In the late 19th century it appears to have been kept by Thomas Hampton, and in 1919 the ‘Royal Oak and the outbuildings erected thereon’ were conveyed from Charles Morse to the Stroud Brewery. In 1962 the pub passed to West Country Breweries and later became a Whitbread house. It survived as a free house into the 21st century.’
A new skittle alley and function room was built in 2000. Landlord Rob Langdon told the ‘Forest & Wye Review’, “Our first skittles team is already in action and a ladies skittles team will be playing early in 2001. We will be able to cater for parties big and small. For weddings we can accommodate as many as 150 guests and, of course, we can offer catering facilities for every occasion.” He added, “The new skittle alley and function room is planned to give our customers what they want. There has already been a lot of interest as it adds considerably not just to the pub but to facilities in the village.”
Staff and customers at the Royal Oak formed their own Charity Fund at the beginning of 2000 and had raised £1,900 in aid of their local primary school by July of that year. The Royal Oak Charity Fund handed over £700 to Pillowell School to help its choir and then raised a further £1,200 for the school.
An application was submitted to Forest of Dean District Council in July 2007 for the extension of the license to sell alcohol on the premises on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from the existing 11 pm to 2.00 am. An extension to permit music and dancing until 2.00 am was also applied for. The remainder of the week (Sunday-Wednesday) permission was sought to facilitate the sale of alcohol and allow music and dancing until midnight.
The Royal Oak had closed in 2008. In May of that year it was given a new lease of life by Nikki and Adrian Glover who had recently moved from Belfast looking for a change of lifestyle. A feature in the ‘Forester’ newspaper that drew attention to the many local pubs that had recently closed in the Forest of Dean, Nikki of the Royal Oak said, “A lot of people hadn’t seen each other since the pub shut. It’s a vital meeting place and we’re restarting the darts and skittles teams. The most important thing is listening to locals and responding to their needs. When the old regulars started coming back and realised that we weren’t going to turn into a nightclub, as it was for a while, word spread and more and more people started coming back.” She also said that the customers of the Royal Oak had asked for real ales to be re-introduced and added, “We’ve got two fantastic chefs, because in this day and age, people expect the food to be good quality and they want to know it is locally sourced.”
An ’eating out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in March 2011 was complimentary about the Royal Oak, giving it a score of 9 out of 10 for atmosphere and value for money and 8 out of 10 for food and service. The reviewer wrote, “From my table by the window I can see a steam train puffing past, while the logs burning in the inglenook fireplace wrap me cocoon-like in their warmth. I’m surrounded by a wealth of tradition, stone walls and beamed ceilings. I am in the Royal Oak at Whitecroft, which overlooks the valley to Yorkley and beyond. It’s recently been taken over by a professional chef, who has revamped the interior offering exceptional value for money food.”
The Royal Oak held an August ‘Rocktoberfest’ in 2011. The two-day free to attend festival promised to appeal to rock fans of all ages and the line-up on Saturday night included bands called Mutator, Outgunned, Supercharger and Doods on Stools. The genre of music was in marked contrast some two years later when a regular feature was brass bands playing on the terrace. In October 2013 the landlord of the Royal Oak sparked controversy when he banned motorcyclists from using the pub. A banner on the gates declared defiantly ‘Sorry, No Bikers’. A local biker, the proud owner of a Harley Davison motorcycle, was not impressed. He said, “I think the ban is very offensive, considering we recently raised £450 for SARA (Severn Area Rescue Authority). We’re angry, it’s discrimination.” Landlord Chas Phipps responded, “The trouble is they come as a club with 10 or 12 machines roaring and people start complaining about the noise. The bikes roar through the whole of the valley and you can’t sleep through the noise. I said ‘no’ to the bikers for that reason. I’ve had complaints before, but it’s come to a head. It’s my licence and I have to protect it.” He added, “The bikers are quite nice lads and I’ve never had a problem with them. It’s not done out of animosity.”
The Royal Oak is currently closed and faces an uncertain future. It had closed in the summer of 2019 before the start of the coronavirus outbreak, and at the time of writing in March 2022 it is still shut. However, some work has been done on the property and it is hoped that the Royal Oak might re-open its doors to the public once again. A quick check on the planning applications submitted to Forest of Dean District Council reveals no current plans for change of use.
Landlords at the Royal Oak include:
1891,1903 Thomas Hampton
1939 Alfred Bayliss Meek
1962-1984 Richard ‘Dick’ and Nancy Morgan
1985 Mr Cotterell
1998 Rob and Mair Langdon
June 2007 – Dec 2007 Mario Diconti, Mike Freeman and Mark Baldwin
2008 Nikki and Adrian Glover
2011 Dave Coulson
2013,2014 Chas Phipps