Brierley is a village in the northern part of the Forest of Dean on the main road from Mitcheldean to Monmouth (A4136). The Swan Inn is a whitewashed rendered building on the north side of the road.
There is a reference to a Quarrymans Arms at Brierley in 1853 which ‘was the meeting place of a Friendly Society.’ The pub got its name from a quarry but custom also came from miners employed in the nearby collieries. The White Swan is mentioned in Brierley a few years later located in a ‘former cottage by the road’. Whether or not this was at the same property as the Quarrymans Arms is not clear, but by 1879 the premises had become known as the Swan Inn.
Esther Smart was the owner of the Swan Inn alehouse in 1891 and 1903. The pub was free of brewery tie and had an annual rateable value of £22.10s.0d., closing at 10 pm.
‘New and modern lines at the Swan, Brierley’ (newspaper article 16th May 1969)
West Country Breweries have adopted a policy in recent years in improving public houses which can obviously be run financially and most satisfactorily.
Changing social habits have affected the public house as much as they have affected attendances at football matches and church services – among other local events.
Two major developments in recent years – television and the motor car – are mainly responsible. People look for leisure-time pursuits in a different way from previous generations.
To attract the maximum number to their houses the brewery companies have spent mountains of money on improving their houses and one of them is the West Country house at Brierley, the Swan Inn, on the side of the busy Gloucester-Monmouth road and conveniently placed for a quiet woodland approach on a fine evening – well placed to for the visitor who wants a drink and a look at the Forest woodlands.
From the outside, the old place looks much smarter; inside there have been extensive alterations including a new and attractive bar and smoke room and, very importantly, modern toilet fittings. Again an important point nowadays there is ample parking.
Tomorrow, Saturday May 17th 1969, the house re-opens under the licenseeship of the new host and hostess Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth J. Hawkins, lately of the Yew Tree, Lydbrook.
Heather Hurley in her book ‘Pubs of the Royal Forest of Dean’ writes: “In 1990 the Swan, by then a Whitbread pub, was described as ‘Externally, a pleasant looking little white-washed boozer with useful parking’, but its bar was ‘awkwardly laid out with a long bench’, and the lounge was ‘equivalent to the parlours in miners’ terraces’. The interior of the Swan Inn was described as ‘basic’ in the 1996 CAMRA ‘Real Ale in Gloucestershire’ book.
A review of a family meal at the Swan Inn as featured in a ‘Citizen’ article in August 2001 was not that complimentary about the décor, describing it as slightly ‘sad looking’ and commented that “if you order a ploughman’s you get a piece of bread big enough to feed a family of seven for a week, and cheese to match.” The reviewer added; ‘The service was very friendly and quick and it cost £15 for all seven of us to have a one-course lunch – which makes it exceptional value for money.”
The Swan Inn closed suddenly in October 2008 and it was feared that the community of Brierley would lose their only pub. It was alleged that some of the locals at the Swan had personal grievances with the new tenants at the pub. One villager said: “The pub was the centre of the community and the whole village used to meet there but when the new landlords took over they seemed nice enough but things changed pretty quickly. They appeared rude to the locals and they banned certain people for no reason so we stopped going there.” At the time Admiral Taverns owned the Swan and it is possible that the relations between the tenant and pub company might have also been a contributory factor. The tenants left the pub without warning and the pub stood eerily empty with umbrellas outside and beer mats left on the tables.
The Swan Inn was in business again in June 2009. An ‘eating out’ review commented that the since the new hosts had taken over the running of the Swan the pub had received a complete makeover. ‘It’s been a case of out with the old and in with the new, both in the bar and in the restaurant. As for the menu, all the food is largely home cooked and what you would expect from a small traditional pub.’ Anthony Thomas said “Many villagers had feared the pub might be turned into flats after the previous owners left without warning in October.”
In February 2010 the Swan had become a Thai restaurant and takeaway. Philip and Tina Vitaya were a Thai couple keen to transform the Swan Inn from a traditional pub. The authentic Thai cuisine restaurant at the Swan Inn was named Thai Boy 88, after Philip and Tina’s son. An ‘eating out’ review in the local papers noted that ‘the décor hasn’t completely changed, but to reflect the Thai atmosphere there was oriental music playing in the background and various Buddhas on the wall as well as statues.’ The reviewer commented ‘Some of the meals such as the spare ribs and sweet and sour chicken have echoes of Chinese cuisine, but what sets them apart are the rich and distinctive hint of herbs, lemon grass, coconut and ginger.’
In September 2011 the Swan Inn had diversified and was marketing itself as the Swan Lake Russian Restaurant. ‘We bid you a warm welcome to Gloucestershire’s only Russian restaurant. A little piece of Russia in the Forest of Dean. Our restaurant is small, intimate and very different. A Russian Georgian experience not to be missed!’ The opening hours were somewhat restricted being open only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7 pm. An ‘eating out’ review in November 2012 noted that the ‘restaurant has been charismatically decorated to ensure the customers get a full and genuine Russian experience from the handcrafted wall plates which were locally sourced from a small village in Russia through to the Matryoshka dolls’ On the menu were dishes including Lesnoe Chudo (wild boar medallions), Telyatinas Yablokamy and the speciality Swan Lake dessert consisting of light choux pastry delicately moulded into the shape of a swan.
In April 2015 an application was submitted to Forest of Dean District council for change of use into a residential dwelling. It was noted that the pub ‘had been closed for sometime’. In November 2017 another application was submitted for change of use. The Swan Inn has now permanently closed.
Landlords at the Swan Inn include:
1860 Mr W. Karn (White Swan, Brierley)
1885,1891 Owen Brown
1902,1927 John Reuben Smart
1939 Hartley Cyril Powell
2007 Karen Shekarabi
2008 Russell Peel
2009 Anthony and Linda Thomas
2010 Philip and Tina Vitya