...about the pub.
Unlike triangulation pillars, which were used as fixed points for mapping coordinates, benchmarks were used as fixed points for determining heights above sea level. The first benchmarks date back to 1840, but the benchmarks in Parkend, including one fitted to the front of the Fountain Inn, were not installed until 1966 and are all of the ‘flush bracket’ type. Holes in the bracket were used to locate a ‘bench’ upon which a levelling stave was rested; ensuring that it could be accurately repositioned during future visits. The Fountain Inn’s height, above (mean) sea level is recorded as 152 feet.
The Fountain Inn's darts team won the league in around 1970.
Standing; Ron Meek, Iris Cunniffe, Laurie Cunniffe, Dave Edwards, Mick Damsel, Cedric Shingles, Brian Hawkins, Sid Polly, Roger Imm, Terry Bockine, Hilda Meek.
Seated; Keith Tawney, Jimmy Tuck, Mike Mudway, Cliff Ward, Mike Barber, Ernie Holes.
2020 marked our 30 years at the Fountain Inn and was meant to be a year of celebrations, but all that was put to an abrupt end by the arrival of another virus; this time one which was affecting humans directly.
Early in 2020, parts of China were being badly affected by a new Coronavirus, later named COVID-19. On 29 January, 2020, a student at York University and his mother, who was visiting from China, reported being unwell. They were taken to Hull hospital where it was confirmed they were the UK’s first two Coronavirus cases. Even then, the real impact of the virus had yet to be understood and the only government advice was to ‘wash your hands regularly’.
We held a party to celebrate our thirty years at the Fountain Inn on 14 March – but had it been a week later, we would have had to cancel as the virus quickly began to spread across the country. On Monday, 16 March, the government advised everyone to avoid pubs, clubs and other such establishments and on Friday, 20 March, the actual anniversary of our arrival at the Fountain Inn, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, gave all bars, pubs and restaurants just six hours’ notice to cease trading until further notice. Parkend lost three residents during this first wave; Arthur Taylor, Victor Masters and Clive Turley.
The lockdown lasted for three months, after which pubs were allowed to reopen with just a few restrictions, such as social distancing. In August the Government ran a very successful ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, aimed at helping pubs get back on their feet, and it really did feel like the danger had largely passed. By September, however, cases were rising again and on 14 September the ‘Rule of Six’ was introduced. On 22 September it also became mandatory for customers and staff to wear a face covering when moving around a pub.
By early October, it became clear that the country was entering a second wave of the virus and the government introduced a tier system on 14 October. Cases in the Forest were relatively low and we were placed in Tier 2. However, the national situation continued to worsen and the government imposed a second lockdown in England on Thursday 5 November and pubs were closed for a second time. It ended on 2 December and the country returned to a new, more robust, tier system. Gloucestershire remained in Tier 2, but pubs were now only allowed to operate as restaurants, and with a restriction that only ‘family bubbles’ could eat together. There was no Government funding for pubs re-opening after the second lockdown and, under the restrictions, Christmas trade was poor; regrettably, for some pubs it was catastrophic.
Just as the second lockdown had been coming to an end, a new and more contagious variant of the virus was identified in the UK - although it is now thought to have been circulating since at least September. Cases of the Indian Variant, later renamed the Delta Variant, began to rise rapidly and the government moved most areas of England in to the higher tiers from Boxing Day. Gloucestershire was placed in Tier 3 which prohibited pubs from opening for a third time. On 31 December, we were then moved to Tier 4.
The pub remained closed until restrictions were eased on May 17, 2021; when drinkers were allowed back inside. The 'rule of six', still applied inside, although groups could now be formed from up to six different households. Other restrictions, such as mandatory table service, mask use when not seated, and social distancing between tables still applied inside. Outside, things were a little easier, with groups of up to 30 allowed. Fortunately this coincided with a period of exceptionally good weather and, generally, things went quite well. The situation improved further, when the UK government lifted most restrictions for England on July 19. In common with most pubs, we kept the requirement for mask wearing although this was no longer a legal requirement. From our perspective, however, the biggest improvement to the situation was that customers could now order food and buy drinks at the the bar.
For a while things returned to very much a near-normal, but a new phenomena had arisen, which the press named the 'pingdemic'. NHS Track and Trace was a system introduced in ### to help trace close recent contacts of anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 and to notify them that they must self-isolate for 10 days in order to control the spread of the virus. The problem for many businesses was that, if a member of staff tested positive, all their co-workers who'd been in contact with them (even those who'd been fully vaccinated) had to self-isolate. This severely affected the ability of many businesses to operate. On July 31 one of our staff reported that they had tested positive, having worked the previous night. As that was a busy Friday night, they had been in contact with over half our staff, including all but one of our chefs. Unable to operate, we were forced to close the pub for 10 days. The furlough system was still in operation, albeit with a 20% employer contribution, but there were no government grants available. So we missed 10 days of the busiest month of our year. [needs editing]
The Government asked a lot from publicans during the pandemic, imposing ever-more stringent regulations and protocols, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the vast majority went above and beyond to make their establishments safe places to visit.
The benchmark network has had no maintenance for over 30 years and has been superseded by the use of GPS (Global Positioning Systems). Geo-locating benchmarks (benchmarking) has, however, become a hobby for some enthusiasts who publish their ‘bags’ online. Occasionally we have the pleasure of meeting some of these people at the pub; usually when they eagerly introduce themselves, so they can tell us all about their hobby.
There was a West Country Ales ‘Best in the West’ ceramic plaque on the front of the pub until the pub closed in 1975. It went AWOL sometime after then and the hole was subsequently patched with bricks - now obscured by a Tourist Association sign.
On the 1952 sales documents, the pub is described as a ‘pre-69 house’. The 1869 Wine and Beerhouses Act brought in magisterial controls with stricter licensing laws, pre-69 houses were exempt though and this meant that smaller beerhouses could thrive but larger inns, that sold spirits, were under increasing pressure to run a controlled and respectable house.
Someone (who?) once told me that the cottages at the rear of the pub were caller Shawcross (Crawshay?) Cottages.
An 1889 newspaper article describes the theft of cigars from the tap room (downstairs) at the Fountain. The two culprits were fined £1.00 each, which equates to around 4.5 day’s work.
When we arrived at the pub the cellar doors had metal numbers screwed onto them. Licensees were required to identify every room in their premises for H.M. Customs and Excise control purposes and numbering individual rooms used to be standard practice in public houses. The requirement ceased in the early-1960s and the practice has now been largely forgotten about. Sadly the historical significance of our numbers was not understood by us at the time and, as the doors were replaced, the numbers were lost. The door to the barrel cellar was number 6 and the internal entrance door to our flat (now reused on the end vault) was number 7.
This photograph, with the Fountain Inn in the background, looks to date to the 1930s. If you know who this person is, please let us know.
In the spring of 2001 an incidence of Foot and Mouth disease was detected in Essex and, in the weeks following, several other cases were reported across the country. Many open areas, including the Forest of Dean, were closed to the public although, controversially, roaming sheep in the Forest were not penned.
All 7,500 unfenced sheep in the forest were rounded up between April 1 and 7 and slaughtered as a precaution, although tests later showed that the disease was already prevalent in the flock. A further cull of fenced farm animals took place on a case-by-case basis.
The effect on Tourism was devastating, and much longer-lived than the outbreak itself; probably because the start of the outbreak coincided with a time when people were making holiday plans.
...about the village.
The Forester Training School, now the Dean Field Studies Centre.
In our book we write about the strong connection that existed between the pub and students from the Forester Training School that used to exist in the village. Geoff Waygood was a student at the school in the early 1960s, and later an instructor there too. Geoff lived in the village and was a regular at the Fountain Inn. He told us once that the Forestry building near the pub, known as the 'Giraffe House' was actually built much bigger than intended. Apparently, at the time of its construction, the Forestry Commission were still using an archaic form of measurement called Rods, and the builders had made a mistake when trying to convert it to imperial. Some years later the F.C. bought a harvester that fitted the space perfectly - so the story had a happy ending.
Bill Williams was also a student there, between 1961 and 1963. Bill lived in Northern Rhodesia and was part of the last intake of students from that country before it was granted independence in 1964. He visited us a couple of times and on the last occasion he gave us an old-school-tie from the school.
Pete Ralph was a student there, from 1960 to 1962. Writing in The New Regard (issue 33), he says “Having settled in, the whole course, 13 in all, repaired to the Fountain Inn to cement the bond. Here we were introduced to landlord Ron Meek and his wife Hildy, also to rough cider (10d a pint and powerful stuff!)”.
Parkend House belonged to ‘a colliery company’ from at least 1834 and “dates from a rebuilding of a house belonging to a colliery company (fn. 211).
In December 1878 James Sully formed the Parkend Coal Company Ltd. to acquire the Parkend collieries. The subscribers to the new company were James Sully and Richard Sully; both described as coal merchants from Bridgewater, Somerset, John Nicholls, also of Bridgewater, William Unwin of Oxford, John Bailey, Sydney Thomas of Parkend House, colliery manager and Thomas Thomas.
It became the home of the mine owner T. H. Deakin (d. 1935) (fn. 212) and in 1992 was a hotel.
In 1877 Thomas Hedges Deakin became manager of Trafalgar , one of the Dean’s biggest collieries. In 1881 he was appointed Manager of Parkend Colliery and took up residence at Parkend House, which was owned by the colliery.
When we moved to the village in 1990, the hotel was owned, and run, by Roberta Poole.
The building was demolished in October 2003, and replaced by an estate of 26 dwellings in 2004.
Photos: Parkend House, in 1910 and 2001,
Several pages in the book are devoted to the pub during wartime. These are a few things that were considered no quite relevant enough to be included;
Moseley Green tunnel’s rails were lifted in March 1942 so that the tunnel could be used for munitions storage, but contrary to popular belief this was actually short lived and the rails were restored 22 November 1943. By 29th December rail traffic was running the line taking ammunition to be stored near Cinderford.
Bob Edwards told me that, during the Bristol Blitz, children from Parkend would walk to New Fancy colliery and climb the spoil tip. From that vantage point they see the horizon being lit up and hear planes flying overhead.
The garden of Castle Main Mill in Parkend was built by Italian prisoners of war, who were routinely left to work unguarded. It was intended to function as an Italian water garden, but leaked frequently and so it was mostly filled with soil and planted.
Someone (I think it may also have been Bob Edwards) told me that when he was working at Princess Royal Colliery in Whitecroft they were having trouble with water getting into the pit. They brought a cart of red dye (iron oxide?) and dumped it into the stream behind the pub, in an attempt to locate the source. He said it killed all the fish, but did not appear in the mine.
Someone (who?) once told me once that, for a few years, there was a steam-powered fish and chip shop situated where the Study Centre car park is now. They only cooked on Friday and Saturdays and the queues were enormous.