We start the walk at the centre of Bream, known locally as the “The Schools”. There is only one school now but formerly, here at the crossroads, there were three schools: Bream Primary School, Bream Church. of England Junior School and Bream Secondary Modern School.
The West Dean Centre across the road was originally the junior school. The site and buildings were saved from being sold in 1998 by community action when Bream and district parents and children travelled to Gloucester to protest outside Shire Hall. Thankfully, the sale was averted, leaving us today with the West Dean Centre and Bream Community Library. Both are well-used assets to the community.
Bream Community Library has been visited by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in recognition of the hard work of the volunteers that run it. Sixty years earlier in, 1957, H. M. The Queen passed through Bream during a visit to the Forest of Dean.
To the right, in the grounds of Bream Sports Club and high in the trees, is a long-established rookery. The rooks here can be quite noisy at times.
The Sports Club was established as Bream Institute in 1904 and used a “tin hut”, erected in 1909. Part of the tin building is still there, concealed in the roof of the building you see from here.
Behind it was the Jubilee Well with the Jubilee Pool beyond – named for a Jubilee of Queen Victoria and built in her honour. This was at a time when mains water did not exist and wells were essential sources of clean water.
The Sports Club incorporates Bream Cricket Club who can boast that several international stars have played on their ground, including the legendary W. G. Grace, England wicket-keeper Jack Russell and England fast-bowler Sid Lawrence – to name just a few.
Across the road, Manchester House, currently Sally’s Florist was purpose built as a shop. If you study the large windows you will notice that the front of the building is supported by a hidden pillar. The extensive window space was very useful when the shop sold groceries under the ownership of Mr Sam James.
Adjoining the florist, on Brockhollands Road, is a another shop with Model Hygienic Bakery carved in massive letters on the stone lintel above the windows. This was once run by Mr Ben Bath and the saying went: “Ben Bath, bakers Bream, bakes Bream’s best brown bread before breakfast”. A member of this family, Morris Bath, was killed in action in Norway in 1940 during World War Two. A replica of his unusual memorial stone in Norway can be seen in St James’s churchyard.
Right on the crossroads, inside the circular seat, stands a young oak tree designated as the Nelson Oak. It succeeds a tree called the Hard-up Tree that stood at this spot.
Bream grew up near to the iron ore mines that we will pass later. As the iron mining declined coal mining increased and many local men were employed at Princess Royal Colliery. Sometimes work was short so men gathered at the Hard-up Tree to listen for the sound of the pit hooter. This would tell them if there was work the next day. If there was no work some miners would remain at the tree, simply for the companionship it gave them, and could not expect any wages for that day – and perhaps for more days to come. Hence the name the tree was given.
The story of the tree is told in a poem by Mr Harry Price. Harry was a sportsman, a writer and proud Forester.
The Old Hard Up Tree
A poem by Harry Price
Shire Hall, Bream connection
Shire Hall at Upper Quay Street, Gloucester features six large ceramics. These were attached to an outside wall in 1966 but are now covered by modern cladding. These were designed and made in Bream by Mr Peter Saysell who taught art and craft at the Bream Secondary Modern school.
Further up the hill, on the left, was a pike house where tolls had to be paid for the passage of vehicles and animals. The only buildings still standing in this view are the Rising Sun Inn and the café at the top of the hill.