The White Horse started trading in 1813. However, it is likely that the license of the White Horse was transferred from another property to the present inn sometime in the 1830’s. Prior to then the road from Coleford to Monmouth took a route deviating from the church through the village. The more direct road (A4136) to the north was instigated by the Turnpike Trustees and the present White Horse was built on the new highway to Monmouth. Being on the uppermost ground before the long and winding descent to Monmouth and the Wye Valley, the White Horse is branded as the first and last pub in England.
The Alton Court Brewery of Ross on Wye were the owners of the White Horse in 1891 and 1903. It was licensed as an ale house but had a surprisingly low annual rateable value of just £7.4s.0d. Alton Court Brewery were acquired by the Stroud Brewery in 1956 and thence, following amalgamation with the Cheltenham & Hereford Brewery in 1958, the White Hart became integrated into the large regional West Country Brewery estate, and finally to the Whitbread Group. A legacy of its past brewing heritage is a ‘West Country Ales – 1760 – Best in the West’ ceramic plaque that is still in situ at the front of the White Horse and the ‘hind head’ trademark of Whitbread is still visible in the sign that declares that the pub is the First and Last in England.
Forest of Dean & Ross-on-Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): We lunched here, it was warm but cramped and the other bars were empty. From a large menu, which purported to be freshly prepared, we had Chicken Chasseur with rice. Decorated with horns, brass and bits of horsey bits the “Horse” boasts a selection of restaurants and the “Cellar” menu featured Russian delicacies. Fillet Romanoff Stroganoff and Chicken Kiev and classic Lobster Thermidor and Dover Sole, all served with fresh vegetables and salad from the garden (the later “when possible”). The beer was the Whitbread collection, plonk was on tap and “good wine” (unfortunately I missed the list) was offered. There didn’t appear to be an open fire (lit anyway) but the place was cosy enough. A decent pub for the retired and local businessmen, where pleasant food can be enjoyed in peaceful surroundings.
In August 2001 an application was made to convert the White Horse into a private dwelling.
An ‘eating out’ review in October 2008 remarked that ‘the first thing that strikes you on entering the White Horse is the truly rustic feel of the place, adorned as it is with cartwheels and farming antiques. The roaring fireplace impressed greatly and added a wonderful ambience to the room. We were quickly shown to the dining room and were told that it was a bit chilly so we might prefer the main bar. We took the staff up on their advice because it was too cold and the main bar was more impressive.’ The food was highly rated.
In February 2009 the White Horse was bought by Forest of Dean company RH Hotels Ltd. The company were owners of well-known establishments in Symonds Yat – the Saracens Head, the Royal Lodge and Forest View. The White Horse had a guide price at auction of £175,000 but it was sold for £200,000.
The White Horse was officially reopened in July 2010, following a refurbishment of the bar and restaurant areas. The faded white paintwork on the render was brightened up with a coat of yellow paint. John Carter and Hayley Scotford had previously worked at the Saracens Head in Symonds Yat. Hayley told the ‘Forester’ newspaper, “We’re going to start off trying to establish the pub as a good place to eat. We want to cater for everyone, and we will have a range of meals from snacks, starters and good pub grub with a twist.” A review in September 2010 noted that since arriving at the White Horse they had already built up a good reputation for serving up good food in relaxed surroundings.
Another ‘eating out’ review in January 2013 remarked that the White Horse ‘has hit on a dead cert with its fantastic a la carte Sunday lunch menu. Though it isn’t the cheapest option, it is very good value with quality, service and presentation its watch-words.’ It was also noted that the pub itself had been thoughtfully designed and furnished. ‘The large chunky wooden tables give the pub atmosphere, while the high ceilings and pastel colours add a touch of contemporary décor but with the authentic, rustic feel retained.’
Landlords at the White Horse include:
1845 William Morgan
1856 Mrs E. Morgan
1863 James Carver
1885 Enoch Barnett
1891 John Solomon Hicks
1903, 1919 Solomon John Hicks
1927 Charles Renton
2003,2008 Sarah McIntyre and Andy Howard
2009 RH Hotels Ltd (owners)
2010 Hayley Scotford and John Carter