Bream Heritage Walk

4 – The Maypole

We are now at The Maypole and have entered the oldest part of Bream village. There have been several maypoles here, sitting right in the middle of the road junction. The last one to actually stand in the road was described in an 1880s newspaper article:

“The total length of the pole is nearly 49 feet, of which a portion (about 6 feet) is embedded in the ground. It is constructed of oak, and the lower part is very massive. It is spliced at some distance from the base and of an octagonal form. The four points of the compass appear at the top, also an arrow for showing the direction of the wind. The whole is well made, well proportioned, and stately, and reflects considerable credit of the contractor, Mr J Dobbs, and Mr Phillips (of Lydney), the latter of whom made the substantial and shapely ironwork at the summit”.

Newspaper article from the 1880s

It was pulled down by the county council on 7th November, 1925, being judged a source of danger to motor traffic. Legend has it that the Bream doctor oncedrove his car into it.

Years later, in 1977, Mr Melville Watts erected a smaller pole in the grounds of the Old Place, the stone building to the left. This was to commemorate the silver jubilee of H.M. the Queen.

Later still another pole, this time erected by Mr Bill Parker in the same location, received national publicity when a report was circulated that the local council had ordered its removal. The pole was carved from a Douglas Fir tree and painted by members of the Bream Gardening Society.

Since 2018, Morris Dancers have danced around Mr Parker’s maypole on May Day morning.

A photo showing dancers at The Maypole at the New Inn, Bream
The Maypole at the New Inn, Bream – May 1st 2019

The last house on the left, now named The Old Place was formerly a pub called the New Inn. Dendrochronology research performed on some of the wooden beams dated some beams to the late 1480s and roof beams to the 1620s which ties in with a fireplace dated 1637. It was owned at that time by a Bristol merchant family named Gough. The initials GG an IG are carved in the stone fireplace for George Gough and Joan Gough who married in 1635 in Newland. See this page for more.

It was no coincidence that a boar featured as a weather vane on Mr Parker’s maypole as the coat of arms of a branch of the Gough family depicts three boar heads. These can be seen on Gough tombs in St Briavels churchyard.

A photo of the weather vane on the Maypole.
The weather vane on the Maypole at The Old Place, Bream

It later became a public house known as the New Inn. The New Inn is mentioned in “The Forest of Dean”, written by Arthur Cooke in 1913 with an illustration by J W King.

An image of the New Inn, Bream
The New Inn as depicted in “The Forest of Dean” (1913) by A O Cooke. The drawing is by J W King

Geoff Wildin describes the route we have just taken – but starting from The Maypole.

“At the Maypole facing Parkend we have the road to Coleford on our left along which we will find the Church, and to our right the road to Lydney and the outside world. Behind us lives Mrs. Burrows, Reg., Mrs. Elsmore, Farmer Elsmore and his horse which was reputed to know every pub in the village. The house has a long history and was once known as “The Dolphin Inn”,

As we start to walk, on the right-hand side is the Police Station, next door was Mrs. Cannock’s shop which sold sweets, cigarettes, combs, boxes of chocolates, silks of many colours, packs of playing cards and bric-a-brac.

The Camms lived next door with their many sons; they were all so different, the family sold old furniture or antiques in today’s language. The New Inn, a big stone building is next a very, very old but joyful place full of laughter, the landlord had several daughters living there. On the opposite side of the street is the Old Cross Keys a dark and dreary place, with a haunted look, further up the street on the right we find the field where all the wakes were held and the fair so brightly lit was a big attraction, behind this field was the football pitch, used by the village’s excellent team.

“Above the field was Mrs. Chilton’s sweet shop which always looked so clean, then Downham’s General Store and Bakery a busy place with such lovely smells! Two men loaded the vans outside every day; the first had only one arm the other one leg, sounds strange but the explanation is, both lost limbs in World War 1”.

“On the other side of the road comes the noise of hammers beating metal at the Blacksmiths run by Mr. Holder. He was a hard-working man, on a frosty morning where better could you be? The forge glowing brightly, a horse waiting so patiently to be shod”.

You may notice that the buildings before the New Inn on the right-hand side of the street have all now gone.

Geoff Wildin