The Swan Hotel, in the centre of Cinderford at the top end of the High Street, was built in 1867 on the site of an earlier hostelry of the same name.
The owner of the Swan Hotel in 1889 was Alfred Wintle of Bill Mills near Weston under Penyard, Ross on Wye. Alfred conducted a malting business at Bill Mills supplying malt to a few pubs making their own beer. His brother Thomas Wintle had started brewing in Mitcheldean in 1869, so although ownership of the Swan Hotel is credited to Alfred Wintle of Bill Mills, the beer was supplied from the Forest Brewery. Thomas passed away in 1888, leaving the brewery in Mitcheldean to his four children of which Francis had sole control by 1890. The Swan Hotel was owned by Francis Wintle in 1891 and 1903. Throughout those twelve years the annual rateable value of the alehouse was set at £35.0s.0d and it closed each night at 11 pm.
When the Forest Brewery put the Swan Hotel on the market in 1923 it was described as brick-built and rough cast and the ground floor consisted of a bar, private bar, ladies’ room, two smoke rooms, kitchen, scullery and pantry. Upstairs there were ten bedrooms, commercial room, bathroom (hot and cold water), store room and large club room. Outside there was an ‘excellent yard with pair of folding gates, bottled beer store, coal house, stabling for six, garage for three and W.C. and public toilet.’
Sixteen years later the Swan Hotel was catering for motorists.
A 1939 advertisement noted that ‘every accommodation for motor cars and cycles, commodious yard and lock-up garages.’ Sydney Bowdler was the proprietor and ‘luncheons, teas, etc’ were provided. The owner of the Swan was the Cheltenham Original Brewery Co. and ‘Cheltenham Noted Ales and Stout’ were sold.
The Swan Hotel was trading successfully throughout most of the 1960’s, 1970’s and the early 80’s when Gordon and Eileen Teague were the much-loved landlords. Gordon, who was born in Cinderford, was a man of many trades as he had started work at the Northern United Colliery, worked for the ‘Citizen’ newspaper and established a fishmonger’s shop in the town before moving onto the pub trade in 1961 when he was asked to help at the Fleece Hotel. Gordon and Eileen moved the short distance from the Fleece to the Swan in 1963. They were there for 25 years. During their time at the Swan Hotel a new 42 feet long skittle alley, constructed in Australian Kangaroo Redwood, was installed in 1969. It was reported ‘that the first ball was played by Mr. Wheeler, The Swan’s oldest customer.’ In March 1970 members of Cinderford Town Band played skittles for 24 hours on the Swan’s new skittle alley raising money for their new uniforms. And in November 1981 lucky Cinderford pensioner George Wick ‘won a free pint a day for a year at his local Whitbread Flowers pub, The Swan.’ On special occasions Gordon would even entertain his customers by playing on his piano-accordion. Gordon Wheeler passed away, aged 72, on 18th October 2002.
Dean Forest Mercury, Friday 15th May 1970 – Sally Ann third in Bristol Contest: On Wednesday at the Top Rank Suite, Bristol, nearly 1,000 people saw pretty Sally Ann Teague, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Teague, The Swan Hotel, Cinderford, win third prize of £10 out of 18 contestants in the Bristol heat of the Miss Ambre Solaire contest – the nationwide search to find the beautiful golden girl in Britain. The final will be held in Croydon next January. Sally Ann, aged 19, is a Girl Friday with the striking measurements of 35-24-35.
The Citizen: Thursday May 31st, 1984 -Car vandals strike again at hotelier: For the second time in a few months a Cinderford hotelier has had a vehicle damaged by paint stripper. This time more than £400 worth of damage has been done to a minibus owned by Gordon Teague, who runs the Swan Hotel. A few months ago paint stripper was poured over his car, causing £300 worth of damage. Mr Teague said his minibus would have to be completely resprayed. “It is very annoying and costly.” The latest incident happened when Mr Teague parked his minibus outside his home in Belle Vue Road during the evening. “I couldn’t get it into the hotel car park and left it for half-an-hour near my home,” he said. “I discovered the damage when I returned later.” Mr Teague, who has run the Swan Hotel for 21 years, said the incident had been reported to the police.
By the end of the 1990’s the Swan had closed for business and was boarded-up. Santokh Singh, the landlord of the Mount Pleasant Inn, bought the ailing Swan in 1999. He told the ‘Forest of Dean Newspapers’ “I want to make the Swan somewhere where everybody is welcome, and I am looking to re-open around Christmas,’ adding ‘I intend to turn the Swan into a going concern again as a town centre pub, refurbish the place and offer food.’
The owner of the Swan in 2005 (his name deliberately not given here) was jailed for in his part in a big cigarette smuggling racket from which a hearing at Gloucester Crown Court claimed that the crime had benefited him by over half-a-million pounds, although his assets were found to be considerably less. He was part of a gang known as the Ciggie Six which evaded £5 million in duty by smuggling 50 million cigarettes from the Far East into the UK via a furniture export business.
The Swan closed unexpectedly in November 2011. A notice pinned to the door read, ‘I am sorry for any inconvenience caused but the Swan is now shut and has ceased trading. Thank you to everybody who has supported me over the years and will miss you all, well nearly all!’
It was announced in March 2012 that the Swan would be offered up for auction after it had been repossessed by the Bank. This prompted the town council to write to pub operator J.D Wetherspoon to ask if they might be interested in taking on the empty pub. However, it was decided that the pub was too small to meet their requirements. Cinderford Mayor, Max Coborn, said,’ ‘We’d like to see somebody sort it as it’s really the start of the town. It’s a great old pub and it would be sad to see it go to rack and ruin.’
The ’Forester’ newspaper headline on August 14th 2013 was ‘Swan to become Hotel Hotspot’. It was announced that entrepreneurs Steve and Marion Jayne, who ran the Apple Tree in Minsterworth, had bought the derelict Swan. Marion Jayne told the paper, ‘At the present time the hotel is uninviting, run down, it’s damp and it smells. But despite people telling me I have an impossible task on my hands, I firmly believe I can make something of it as I have a grand vision for the building.’ She said, ‘At the heart of my vision is my dream of a coffee bar to compliment the hotel and the bed & breakfast accommodation. A lot of pubs are aimed at the youngsters or the sports crowds, but I am looking at something completely different. I want the Swan to have something of its Victorian and Edwardian elegance, but to make it relevant to today’s clientele and be modern in its appearance.’
When the scaffolding was erected to renovate the exterior of the Swan it was found that the render was damp-ridden and had to be removed. A large percentage of the building’s portioning walls were removed which revealed the original elegance of the building. During the renovations a West Country Ales ‘Best in the West’ ceramic plaque was removed / stolen / broken and not replaced. It was announced in July 2014 that the refurbished premises would also have a brand-new identity as the Fern Ticket. Marion explained, ‘This was a mythical ticket that people would use when they went courting years ago – a term once used for young Forest of Dean lovers who had rounded off an enjoyable walk in the countryside with an amorous conclusion.’ As for the new name she said, ‘we have chosen to rename the hotel because in recent years the Swan had a very poor reputation.’
The new look Fern Ticket was previewed with a VIP opening night on Sunday 26th July 2015 with the doors open to the public on Thursday 30th. The press release stated that the Fern Ticket will boast a large bar cum coffee lounge, smaller piano bar, restaurant area, roof terrace with function room and a weird thatched treetop house structure that looks like it has emerged fully formed from the set of the Hobbit. The pub will also have eight guest bedrooms and two self-contained bedroom flats for rent.
The running of the Fern Ticket was conducted under a tenancy agreement and it became known for its live music and screening of sports events.
A skirmish between two men during a Robbie Williams tribute night at the Fen Ticket in January 2017 apparently escalated after the pub was closed early and trouble spilled out onto the street. The police were called after one call claimed that 20 people were involved, another call said that there were four to six people in a mass fight outside the Fern Ticket. The owner said, ‘We had 300 mainly middle-aged people in here for what was a nice evening until two people decided to have a go at each other. There was a bit of a scuffle when some of their friends tried to split them up but security were in to it straight away.’ She added, ‘I decided to shut early around 12.15 am because when something like that happens you have lost the atmosphere and you are better off calling it a night but from what I can gather people have been making mountains out of molehills and there weren’t 20 people involved.’
A dispute between the owner and the tenants of the Fern Ticket in June 2018 resulted in the pub being voluntarily closed. A list of incidents on the premises had been reported to the licensing authorities which potentially could have threatened the licence. The owner said, ‘They [licensing authority] clearly saw it as a problem pub and I was worried that if it lost its licence, it might never get it back.’ A spokesperson for the Forest of Dean District Council said: ‘We would like to make it clear that the District Council is not responsible for the closure of the Fern Ticket in Cinderford. The licensee has chosen to close the establishment for personal reasons.’
The Fern Ticket re-opened, but closed again in July 2023.
Landlords at the Swan Hotel include:
1882 Thomas Tudge
1891 Milson Dorrington
1901,1906 Edwin Knight
1919 Thomas James
1923 C.H. Pearce
1927 C. Woodfield
1939 Sydney .F. Bowdler
1956-1963 Dennis James
1963-1988 Gordon and Eileen Teague (previously at the Fleece Hotel)
1986 Tracey Ann Green
1999 Santokh Singh