35 – Miners Arms, Whitecroft

Photos still exist of the former Whitecroft rugby team. The team played on a field that was part of the Pin Factory – but eventually the land was needed to expand the factory buildings. Many of the team photos were taken here at the Miners Arms.

A photo of Whitecroft Rugby Footbal Club in 1914
Whitecroft Rugby Football Club in 1914 with the Forest of Dean Combination Cup – courtesy of sungreen.co.uk

The team, known as “The Greeks” were the first winners of the Forest of Dean Combination Cup

This cup was first contested in 1913. However, the trophy itself pre-dated that first cup final by many years. Patrick Harvey, son of the poet F W Harvey quoted Viscount Bledisloe of Lydney Park in his 1956 history of Forest of Dean rugby:

The Forest of Dean Combination Cup (as it is now called) has had a chequered and varied career since I provided it for the encouragement of Rugby football in the Forest of Dean area some 60 years ago (1895). During that long period it has changed its name as I have done mine, but I like to believe that it has fostered a love of health giving sport, the true community spirit, and a sense of discipline and fair play among our young sportsmen in the Forest area. And I feel it will always do so.

Viscount Bledisloe (Charles Bathurst) writing in the Forest of Dean rugby review – by Patrick Harvey.

Viscount Bledisloe, who from 1930 to 1935 served as Governor General of New Zealand, in the 1930s also donated the Bledisloe Cup which is contested annually between New Zealand and Australia.

Charlie the Black

“Charlie the Black”, an educated man, chose to eke out his existence by travelling the district doing odd jobs including shining shoes. In return Charlie would be given accommodation – usually in an outhouse – and a meal or two. Charlie spent his last days living near to the Miners Arms in an outhouse at Turnout Farm. Charlie was buried in Parkend churchyard in 1942 and his funeral was paid for by Whitecroft Male Voice Choir. Will Harvey later wrote the poem Charlie “The Black” A Tribute.

A few years later Geoff “Gruffy” Aldridge found a small hoard of Charlie’s pennies in the outhouse and following discussions with friends in the Miner’s Arms it was decided to plate the coins (probably with nickel) at the Pin Factory. The plating shop was just behind the far end of the platform. The plated coins were then incorporated in a chain of office for the (unofficial of course) Lord Mayor of Whitecroft. Mr and Mrs Eddie Ruck , the first Lord Mayor and Mayoress, were elected at a male voice choir fete around 1934.

A photo of Charlie the black's pennies
Charlie the black’s pennies converted into the chain of office of the Lord Mayor of Whitecroft.

F W Harvey was associated with the Whitecroft Male Voice Choir and attended many of their events. Some members of modern-day bands and choirs would probably identify with Harvey’s observation made at a Whitecroft Male Voice Choir dinner in January 1937

“If you practice technique too much, you will forget the inspiration. It is better to forget the technique and  concentrate on the inspiration”.

F W Harvey speaking at a dinner in 1937.

Further along the main road to the right, beyond Forest of Dean Tyres, is Whitecroft Memorial Hall. The Whitecroft war memorial is inside the hall.

The Bay

This was once a row of shops adjoining the road. Opposite the shops was a stone wall that dropped down into a field. At the time when the Forest collieries were working in the Cannop valley, upstream of Whitecroft, the mines pumped many gallons of water into the river Lyd. The Lyd may have flooded the field on occasions and given the appearance of water alongside a harbour wall – hence the name ‘The Bay’. We await a better explanation!.