The Upper Bilson Inn was another Cinderford pub that was once owned by the Forest Brewery in Mitcheldean. Thomas Wintle is recorded as owner in 1891 (although he had died in 1888), and his son Francis was in ownership in 1903. The Upper Bilson was an alehouse with an annual rateable value of £20.0s.0d. The pub closed at 11 pm.
The pub was the scene of a shooting incident in October 1913 involving the landlord Mr William George Price, then aged 35. It was reported that the ill-health of his wife had been causing him considerable distress. ‘On Thursday evening about 5.30 pm a couple of shots rang out from one of the rooms of the inn. The landlord was discovered in a sitting-rom bleeding from the left breast and in a dazed condition. The bullet had missed his heart and had passed out at the back beneath the shoulder. The revolver was still smoking on the floor. Although the illness of his wife was known to trouble him, he had never heard been complaining about her to anyone. The police are not looking for any other person connected to the incident.’
When the Forest Steam Brewery pubs were put up for sale in 1923 the Upper Bilson Inn was described as a ‘Substantial Stone Building with Rough Cast’. On the ground floor there was a bar, tap room, sitting room, kitchen, two beer stores, pot house, large club room, large store room (formerly a skittle alley), and two large store rooms over kitchen. There were three bedrooms upstairs and to the outside were a ‘large yard, public urinal, closet, stone erection of stabling, timber erection of pig cots and a nice vegetable garden at the side and at the rear’.
The 1939 Kellys directory of Gloucestershire gives the address as 30 Upper Bilson Road, but the modern-day address is 30 Valley Road. At one time it must have been very popular with coal miners from the nearby Northern United colliery, but today its customers are more likely to come from the industrial estate that has been built on the site of the old colliery. The Upper Bilson Inn is a simple whitewashed pub that externally has not changed very much over the years although the interior has been refurbished.
In May 1950 it was reported that the landlord of the Upper Bilson Inn had been married for 50 years and had never been to a cinema. He said that his wife had been once and had no desire to go to the cinema again.
In 1979 Bill Price, the Government Minister of Information, bought the Bilson pub in which his father had been born. Price was a former Forest of Dean Newspapers reporter and MP for Rugby.
The Forest of Dean rock band EMF had a number one single called ‘Unbelievable’ in 1990. The ‘B’ side was recorded live at the Upper Bilson Inn. Live music was showcased in the function room of the pub and the Upper Bilson became a popular music venue.
Police made an application to Forest of Dean District Council in September 2006 to review the licence of the Upper Bilson as they were concerned over the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. Police said they were called increasingly to incidents at the pub since it gained a late licence in November 2005. Between then and September 26th 2006 officers had been called out to 16 incidents at the Upper Bilson. The worst incident, a domestic fuelled dispute, culminated in a stabbing in the pub car park. The District Council licensing committee agreed for a suspension of the licence for 28 days.
A customer at the Upper Bilson Inn wrote a letter to the ‘Forester’ newspaper in November 2006 complaining about the negative press given to the pub. He wrote: ‘All I can see at the moment is bad reports and comments about the Bilson and being a local there I and the other regulars see it in a different light. I am involved in the Bilson pool team as a player. We are there regularly to watch live football matches, and karaoke and tribute nights.’ Stan Robbins told a ‘Forester’ newspaper reporter “I’m an old age pensioner and have used the Upper Bilson for as long as I can remember, and I can honestly say it’s the best it’s ever been.’
In April 2007 the Forest of Dean district planning committee gave outline permission for three homes to be built adjacent to the pub – just feet away from the function room. Although triple glazing and two-metre high fencing was to be installed as part of the development it was feared that noise emanating from the pub could create a problem with the residents living in the new houses. Rowland Prichard of the Upper Bilson said, ‘It’s a lively pub with a function rom bordering this new development which is about eight to ten feet away. The function room and pub bar are used for live music and parties for all ages. In the summer the car park is used for charity events. These homes jeopardise the pub’s future.’
Regulars at the Upper Bilson Inn raised more than £2,800 for the Great Western Air Ambulance in October 2017. The cash was accumulated over a year of holding meat raffles on Sunday lunchtimes. Pub landlady Carol Redcliffe said, ‘We always support the air ambulance because thy saved my son James’s life when he had a very bad motorbike accident.’
Landlords at the Upper Bilson Inn include:
1885,1891 John White
1902,1903 Henry Baldwin (Henry was also at the New Inn, Ruspidge in 1902)
1906,1913 William George Price
1919,1927 Sydney Hale
1939 Thomas Albert Ellis
1979 Bill Price
1991 Tim Scott
2002 Carol Redcliffe
2006 Roland Pritchard and Carol Redcliffe