Mary Ann Bowers, landlady of the White Horse Inn in Soudley, was summoned by PC White in November 1883 on a charge of drunkenness and using disgusting language on licensed premises. Mrs Bowers was fined £1 with costs.
William Nash was the owner of the White Horse in 1891 when it was licensed as an alehouse and was free of brewery tie. Twelve years later in 1903 the White Horse had been acquired by the Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye. The annual rateable value in 1891 and 1903 was £17.10s.0d. and closing time was at 10 pm.
Part of the car park of the White Horse stands on the trackbed of the railway line that branched off the Gloucester-South Wales main-line at Bullo Bill near Newnham on Severn and threaded its way up the Soudley Valley via Ruspidge to Cinderford. The Forest of Dean branch line had some severe gradients and climbing to Soudley from Bullo Pill there are three tunnels, the longest being Haie Hill Tunnel 1,064 yards in length. The climb was quite arduous for both the locomotive and the footplate crews and, as there were no ventilation shafts in the tunnels, it has been suggested that the crews of goods trains heading up the hill (confusingly referred to in railway terminology as down trains) stopped at Soudley to ‘get up steam’ – a euphemism for a quick visit to the White Horse Inn!
Upper Soudley Halt was open for passengers for just over 50 years. It opened on 3rd August 1907 and closed on 3rd November 1958. The number of passengers using the halt was minimal and when a bus service replaced the railway – providing a quicker and more direct route from Cinderford to Gloucester – there was no protests about the demise of the local train service.
In September 1991 there were concerns that the White Horse might face closure as Whitbread were intending to dispose of the pub as part of the Monopolies & Mergers Commission ruling to restrict the number of pubs that large breweries could own. The local community, fearing the worse, set up the Soudley Action Project in to save the pub from closure, and preserve the heart of village life. It was intended to run the pub and set up a community-run post office within the premises. However, when a cash bid was submitted for the pub Whitbread turned down the offer flat which prompted the Soudley Action Group to claim that Whitbread were deliberately scuppering their plans and stalling the negotiation process.
In September 1998 the White Horse was put up for sale a going concern. It was described as a Freehold detached Public House with ‘living accommodation, occupying a prominent central position and being the only public house in the village. Public bar, lounge / dining room, pool room, skittle alley, kitchen with range of appliances, cellar etc. Four bedroomed living accommodation to first floor. Spacious car park.’
The pub sign iron bracket is of significance to those interested in local brewery history as it houses the fortified castle tower emblem of the defunct West Country Breweries. These distinctive pub sign brackets are slowly disappearing from the front gardens and forecourts of our local inns. Only in recent years similar ironwork pub signs in the Forest of Dean have been lost at the Keys pub in Bream, Belfry (ex George Hotel) in Littledean and the Yew Tree in Longhope. (NOTE: During the winter storms of Christmas 2021 the sign blew over, but it is the intention of the landlord to replace it – albeit with a dent now evident in the ironwork.)
Landlords of the White Horse include:
1883 Mary Ann Bowers
1885 Miss Maria Lander
1891 Thomas Matthews
1902,1903 William Thomas
1906 Edward Grail
1919,1927 Stephen Beard
1939 Percy Wilce
2005 Richard and Janet Warford
2021 Mike and Suzanne