The Swan Hotel is one of the oldest inns in Lydney, which has been trading since at least 1777.
Godsell & Sons, brewing at the Salmon Springs Brewery just outside Stroud, owned the Swan Hotel as early as 1891. It is always fascinating to speculate how Godsell’s ales were brought into the Forest of Dean, across the River Severn, from the Stroud Valleys. The circuitous road route via Gloucester used by horse and dray would have been both time consuming and hardly cost effective. In those Victorian days no doubt the most efficient way of getting Godsell’s ales into Lydney would have been transporting the casks by train over the Severn Railway Bridge which opened on 17th October 1879. Even so, such a procedure would have involved taking the beer from the brewery to one of the Stroud railway stations – probably the Midland branch at Wallbridge – and then transferring the casks to another train traversing the Berkeley Road to Lydney Junction. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that Godsell’s trading interest into the Forest of Dean was a direct consequence of the railway connection bridging the River Severn. In 1891 the Swan Hotel and the Red Lion in Westbury on Severn were the only Godsell’s houses in the Forest of Dean.
An advertisement appeared in the Harris Forest of Dean Directory in 1903 which read:
‘Swan Hotel, Lydney. Family and Commercial and Posting House. Proprietor: J. Francis & B. Smith. Wine and Spirit Merchants. Agent for Godsell & Sons noted bitter ales and stouts.’
In the twelve years from 1891 Godsell & Sons had acquired the British Lion in Parkend, the Cross Inn at Aylburton, the and the Masons Arms in Bream.
The annual rateable value of the Swan Hotel in both 1891 and 1903 was £47.0s.0d. Classified as an alehouse, ‘time gentlemen, please’ was called at 11 pm.
The Stroud Brewery Company took over the estate of the Godsells Brewery when the family business was acquired in 1928. The Swan continued to serve Stroud brewed beers until the mid-1960’s when West Country Breweries centralised brewing operations in Cheltenham. Whitbread became owners of the Swan in the late 1960’s.
The Citizen: Thursday April 28th, 1988 – Delight as pub is saved: A popular Lydney pub has been saved from demolition after planners altered the route of a new road. Regulars at the Swan Hotel are delighted said landlord, Mr Cliff Hannam. “We are pleased because this has been hanging over our heads for so long,” he said. “We don’t know what was going to happen. There were changes we wanted to go ahead with but couldn’t and now we can, provided they don’t change their minds again. Our regulars are delighted. There is a skittles and darts team and it means a lot to them.” Forest of Dean planners decided to change the route of the road after protests from the Chamber of Trade and others.
Forest of Dean & Ross-on-Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): An old town hotel, a bit spartan but with a large busy public bar and a couple of quieter rooms where most of the town’s young ladies seem to take lunch. The bar menu is geared to the busy diner with lots of alliteration Bangers, Baps and Burgers and there is a fairly substantial Dish of the Day which is keenly priced. Packed when we called, and that speaks for itself, the Swan is a large old building keeping going in spite of changes in its clientele over the years. Visitors with a moment to spare could do worse than inspect the interesting range of black and white pictures, of a local nature, which cover the walls. A juke box obediently plays choices right throughout the meal and the fire, in the lounge at any rate, is electric. Beer is essentially Whitbread’s and the wine list is modest.
When Lydney Rugby Club, a team made up of part-timers, faced premier side Saracens at home in November 1999 for a knock-out game the atmosphere in Lydney was extraordinary. Despite being heavily beaten 40-0 Lydney rugby club fans had a great day. Andy Drinkwater, manager of the Swan Hotel, said that between 700 and 800 people had been served in the pub during the day. He said, “It was an absolutely superb day. Between 11 am and 2.30 pm we took what we usually make during the whole day on normal Sundays. By the end of the night our takings were more than we made in the whole week. For such a small town it can’t be a bad thing bringing in outsiders like this.”
Lydney Boxing Club previously met in an outbuilding at the rear of the Feathers Hotel. When the site was flattened in 1999 for the redevelopment of the new Tesco store the boxing club was made homeless, but in December 2000 they made the Swan Hotel their new headquarters.
The Swan Hotel made the headlines for the wrong reasons in September 2009 when two Lydney men were arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs after a police raid took place at the pub. Twenty officers and a sniffer dog entered the Swan Hotel after a tip-off from the Pubwatch scheme. The two men were arrested after the police drugs dog, a springer spaniel, detected Class A drugs in their possession. Traces of drugs were also found in the toilets.
From the Swan Hotel website:
‘The Swan is a local pub which sits at the heart of the town of Lydney in the Forest of Dean. Situated right in the busy centre, we are perfectly placed for those on business or leisure breaks. With newly developed rooms, The Swan is now able to offer an affordable yet comfortable stay with the benefit of a home cooked breakfast included in the price. The Swan’s philosophy is for individuals to feel relaxed and comfortable, be that in our bar or in our accommodation. With a real log fire and a wide range of beers, wines and spirits, we are the perfect place to unwind and relax. The Swan serves food throughout the day within the bar area or why not choose to dine in our restaurant, The Ugly Duckling which in a former life used to be the skittle alley to the hotel. Situated next door to The Swan, our restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday. The Ugly Duckling Restaurant is also the ideal venue to hold a celebration and can accommodate up to 50 people for a sit-down meal or buffet. Be it a wedding reception, birthday or anniversary, let our team ensure you have a fabulous day. Catering to provide a bespoke service, this ensures you have the food you desire whilst meeting any specific dietary needs, at a budget which suits you. Funeral wakes are also catered for to suit your requirements.’
Landlords at the Swan Inn include:
1839 Jane Hibbs (owned John Eddy)
1856 George Courteen (George Courteen was at the Royal Albert in 1861)
1861 George Jones
1870, 1885 William Mallard (aged 50 in 1881)
1891 Thomas Lucas
1902 ,1903 John Francis Burton Smith
1906 William Ewart Francis
1919 Edward S. Shipp
1927 Alfred Stephen Prosser
1939 William Edward Williams
1970’s Keith and Ruth Eastwood
1999 Andy Drinkwater (manager)
2006 Sara Jones