The earliest reference to the inn is in 1347, during the reign of Edward III.
The Wyndham Arms was named after the owners of the nearby Clearwell Castle. First known as Clearwell Court the Grade II listed Gothic Revival mansion was built by Thomas Wyndham in 1727 to the design of Roger Morris. It remained in the Wyndham family until the estate was sold in 1893. The Wyndham Arms, part of the estate, was owned by E.J.E Wyndham in 1891 when it had an annual rateable value of £13.0s.0d. and was free of brewery tie. Ownership had passed to H.E. Collins in 1903 and the inn was leased to the Wickwar Brewery (Arnold, Perrett & Co., Ltd.). The Wyndham Arms had alehouse status and last orders were called at 10 pm.
A reference in Slater’s 1852 Coleford directory lists the pub as the Wymondham Arms, which is probably an enumeration error.
The Wyndham Arms was for a long time ran by Maynard and Louisa Keyse. Maynard held the license in 1903 and nearly 60 years later Louisa was still serving behind the bar.
In the early 1970’s Clearwell Castle had a music studio installed and legendary rock bands either recorded or practised there including Deep Purple (whilst part-recording their album ‘Burn’), Badfinger, Whitesnake, Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter Frampton, Led Zeppelin (whilst rehearsing their album ‘In Through The Out Door’ in 1979) and Black Sabbath (whilst recording ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’). Former Black Sabbath roadies David Tangye and Graham Wright wrote in their 2004 book ‘How Black Was Our Sabbath’ about the former exploits of the heavy metal cult heroes. David Tangye recalled in the book, ‘Ozzy (Osbourne) took us to the Wyndham Arms where we got well and truly oiled. We managed to give the local darts team a good thrashing, which didn’t go down very well. We left the pub with a supply of cider. Back at the castle, we went into the sitting room to carry on drinking. There was an inglenook-style fireplace with a fire built, ready to be lit. Ozzy got it blazing, he liked banking fires up to the hilt, and we set about the flagons of cider like they were going out of fashion. We were woken from a stupor at about three in the morning and could smell burning. The carpet around Ozzy was alight and his flares were on fire. I rushed over to where he lay and shook him. We picked up pint glasses and threw the leftover cider over his jeans, which extinguished the flames.. What a mess there was to clear up! Luckily, we were thinking straight enough to turn the carpet around and hide the burnt bit under a Welsh dresser.’
When John and Rosemary Stanford bought the Wyndham Arms back in 1972 for £20,000 it was, apparently, a dilapidated cider house. Over the next 24 years the couple worked hard building up the facilities and reputation of the Wyndham Arms and in 1997 it was put on the market for £1.5 million. A report in the Gloucester Citizen (17th June 1997) stated that: “when John and Rosemary purchased the run down Grade II listed building it was taking just £150 a week. Now they serve 40,000 meals each year, put £20,000 a week into the tills, employ 32 staff and have 17 luxury bedrooms.” When John and Rose Stanford finally retired in 2002 they were the longest serving licensees in the Forest of Dean. Their son Robert took over the running of the Wyndham Arms for a further five years.
The Citizen: Friday, October 4th, 1985: Planning row pair sell up – The owners of one of the best-known Forest of Dean hotels are leaving the area after a dispute with local planners. Mr and Mrs John Stanford, of the 14th century Wyndham Arms, Clearwell, are selling up and moving to Gwent where they will stay in the hotel business. Said Mr Stanford: “We have a site in Gwent and hope we shall get more help and co-operation, plus development help there.” The move comes after South Forest of Dean Planning sub committee members refused permission for a 12 bedroomed extension and alterations to the hotel. Mr Stanford said they employed 24 people at the Wyndham Arms and if the extension and alterations had been allowed, up to 25 new jobs could have been created.
The hotel is in Clearwell conservation area and planners felt the prominent scale of the extension and alterations would be detrimental to the character and setting of the building. They also considered the proposed access could cause hazards.
Mr and Mrs Stanford bought the Wyndham Arms 12 years ago when it was virtually inhabitable and restored it. Each year for the past 10 years, the hotel has been awarded a British Tourist Board commendation.
The Citizen: Monday December 30th, 1985 – Wyndham Win Again! For the 11th consecutive year the Wyndham Arms Hotel, Clearwell, has been awarded a British Tourist Board Commendation.
The Citizen: Wednesday May 18th, 1988: Hotel to cash in on Dean boom – Workmen have arrived at the award-winning Wyndham Arms hotel in the Forest of Dean to begin a major £500,000 development. Owners for the last 15 years, John and Rosemary Stanford, are building 12 en-suite bedrooms, a new car park with 50 spaces, entrance foyer and toilet. Mr Stanford said business was booming in the Forest and his hotel at Clearwell, near Coleford, aimed to cash in on the shortages of good quality accommodation in the area. Mr Stanford said companies like Watts and SPP had seen huge growth over the past few years and brought trade to hoteliers in the area. However, the current situation in the Forest meant companies looked to hotels in Gloucester and Bristol.
The Wyndham Arms has won a number of awards in recent years including a British Tourist Authority commendation, an AA Award of Merit and the Les Routiers Casserole – the French organisation’s highest award. Mr Stanford hopes Forest companies will now begin to look nearer home to accommodate their visitors.
Forest of Dean & Ross-on-Wye Pubs. A critical guide by Jon Hurley (booklet, 1991): Smart old inn in a quiet, attractive village famous for its Caves and Castle. Diplomas and plaques for excellence abound. Mine host in stern half glasses runs a tight ship, taking orders and castigating staff. Excellent bar and restaurant menus full of the sort of creative cooking that makes this reputedly the best eating out establishment in these parts by a fairly wine margin. Good selection of wines and Bass and Flowery (sic) beers. Car park has sprouted a small hotel since we last visited. Children and dogs welcome.
In 2001 the Wyndham Arms was named among the top 500 restaurants in Britain when it was included in the ‘pick of the pubs’ section in the prestigious AA guide. An ‘eating out’ review in the ‘Forester’ newspaper in August 2006 remarked, ‘Our food was excellent. We had starters of homemade country vegetable and herb soup, that came wit homemade bread, and home-cured salmon gravadlax with a honey and mustard dressing, which was well presented and perfect in size. Main course choices for our party included lasagne of roasted vegetables with spinach, pine nuts and a tomato and basic sauce with dressed leaves, and grilled sirloin steaks with fine tomatoes and mushrooms.’ The assessment was 10/10 for atmosphere and food and a 9/10 rating for value for money.
Gloucester Magistrates Court heard accounts of a fight between the pub landlord and his chef in the kitchen of the Wyndham Arms, which occurred in February 2009, that was reminiscent of a scene from ‘Fawlty Towers’. The chef turned up for work at the pub with bright ginger hair which made the landlord saw red and there followed an argument and pushing and shoving in the kitchen. The prosecuting solicitor said, “The chef was on the floor with the manager’s hands around his throat and the chef started making choking noises.” The landlord was found guilty of assault and was told to pay £100 compensation to the chef and £50 prosecution costs. After the case the pub landlord said, ‘Everything is okay now and we get on well. We are even cracking a few jokes about it.’
A routine examination of the premises by environmental heath officers in September 2011 prompted a hygiene improvement notice being issued to the owners of the Wyndham Arms. At Gloucester Magistrates Court the owners admitted to 16 breaches of food hygiene regulations. Environmental health officers from Forest of Dean District Council said in their report, ‘The tiled floor was dirty and the floor tile grouting was filthy across the kitchen. The presence of grease, dirt and accumulations food were consistent with a systematic failure to adequately clean the premises over a sustained period of time. The ventilation extract fan was dirty. Grease was running out of the fan unit, down the walls causing the paint to flake off. Grease was pooling on the floor and behind the fryer units and microwave stand.’ Wyndham Arms Hotel Ltd were ordered to pay £43,000 in fines and costs for the catalogue of offences. When the company applied to Gloucester Crown Court claiming that the fines were too excessive the magistrates upheld the sentence and ordered the Wyndham Arms to pay further costs totalling £9,452. The Recorder explained, ‘We do not consider that the fines imposed were at all excessive, they reflect on the nature and gravity of the offences and the mitigating factors in the case.’
The Food Standards Agency assessed the Wyndham Arms in July 2013 and it was only given a one-star rating – amongst 15 other Forest of Dean establishment receiving the same score. A one-star rating signifies that major improvements are necessary.
History turned full circle in June 2016 when the Wyndham Arms was once again bought by the Clearwell Castle estate. The previous owners of the inn had gone into voluntary liquidation. A spokesman for Clearwell Castle issued a statement stating that there were no immediate plans to reopen the Wyndham Arms. He said: ‘It is being redecorated and is being used for accommodation for our wedding guests.’
The Wyndham rebranded itself as an exclusive dining venue and Country Inn which was once again open to the public. This, however, coincided with the first coronavirus outbreak when hospitality venues were forced to close. At the time of writing (February 2022) it seems that the Wyndham has reverted to an exclusive venue used by the Clearwell Castle estate for prestigious eventing. With the Butchers Arms and now the Lamb amply providing the needs for the local community and visitors, it is difficult to envisage how a third inn – aimed at the more affluent members of society – can be viable in Clearwell.
Landlords at the Wyndham Arms include:
1852,1856 John Morgan
1876,1891 William Cole
1894 Mrs Alice Walker
1902,1939 Maynard Luther Keyse
1960 Louisa A. Keyse
1973 – 1997 John and Rosemary Stanford
1997-2002 Robert Stanford