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.

The Citizen, Thursday 21st July 1988 – Landlord’s early drinks session: Police found men drinking before opening hours at a Forest of Dean pub, magistrates at Coleford heard yesterday. The men had been served with drinks by Alan Heaton, landlord of the White Horse, Soudley. He was fined a total of £350 after admitting four offences of selling liquor out of hours and aiding and abetting customers to drink outside permitted hours.

The four men all admitted the offence and were each fined £30 for drinking out of hours. Mr Christopher Stock, prosecuting, said on Sunday 22nd May police kept observations on the White Horse at 11.30am/ They saw several people go in the pub through the side door. In the pub they found 16 people, several with glasses in front of them. Alan Heaton said they had been having meetings about doing a lorry push around the village. One man asked for a drink and he served him Then the others asked him. “It was silly and I am sorry,” he said.

The Forester, 16th August 1991 – Village’s DIY plan to save its ‘heart’: What can a village do when its post office and general store have gone and yet another heartbeat of community life – the pub – is under threat? The answer, according to one group of forest of Dean villagers is to apply some “do-it-yourself” principles to these vital services.

That’s what they are trying to do at Soudley, where the post office and store closed four years ago and the White Horse pub is now up for sale. A public meeting is being held on 13th September to find out how many of the 600 villagers are prepared to run all three services themselves in one building. A group called Soudley Action Group is calling the meeting. It is hoping that Whitbread’s, the owners of the pub, will help get the scheme off the ground.

Parish council chairman Simon Brown said this week that it is a possibility that if the pub is sold to a private buyer it will be closed down. If that happens, he said, the village will have completely lost its “heart” and could deteriorate into a dormitory. “Our idea is to combine the pub, post office and store in the old building, thus reducing overheads,” he said. “There is still a long way to go, but we feel that this is an opportunity we must grasp. Otherwise community spirit in the village is in danger of dying.”

The action group believes that once the future of the pub is secured a trust can be set up to run it in tandem with the other services, with the help of a manager. The Soudley project is being watched by organisations which in recent years have been become deeply concerned at a growing threat to rural life, in which shops and pubs are important services and symbols. If it can be carried out successfully, it could be an inspiration to dozens of villages in which these institutions are under threat or have already had to close.

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.

The pub sign was blown over by a winter storm, but has since been refurbished and re-erected.

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

1988 Alan Heaton

2005 Richard and Janet Warford

2021 Mike and Suzanne Harvey

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