It is thought that Sir Francis Drake, the famous Elizabethan mariner, briefly resided at Gatcombe. He may have been visiting Sir William Wintour, a Vice-Admiral of the Fleet, who lived in Lydney. Perhaps Sir Francis Drake was just making sure that the oak timbers felled from the Forest of Dean for shipbuilding were up to his expectations.
In 1763 the riverside house that Sir Francis Drake had resided in had become an inn called the Gatcombe Boat. By the 1830’s the inn, on the east side of the hamlet, was known as the Sloop.
Heather Hurley writes in her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ that in 1843 the ‘well frequented inn called the Sloop’ was for sale as part of the Hagloe and Poulton Court estates, and was acquired by one of the morgages, Nathaniel Morgan, from Ross on Wye. He resold the estate to the Crown Commissioners in 1853, and from 1863 Mrs Maria Wiggell kept the Sloop until it closed as an inn around 1880.
In 1850 the Great Western Railway were constructing the line from Gloucester to Chepstow and onwards to South Wales. The route of the railway followed the banks of the River Severn for three miles. At Gatcombe the railway was built directly across the riverside frontage, destroying the pier and slipway. The remains of the quay still exist on the landward side of the railway but are now heavily silted up. The railway engineers built an arch to allow fishermen and boat owners access to the River Severn but when the South Wales Railway was opened in September 1851 Gatcombe was no longer a port. After the trade from the port had declined and the navvies had finished working on the railway the Sloop Inn was left in isolation which may have been the reason for closure.
The 16th century building is now known as Drakes House.
Landlords at the Sloop Inn include:
1763 Richard Caple (Gatcombe Boat Inn)
1856 W. Wiggell
1876 Mrs Martha Wiggell