The Bear, Bear Pools & Hilltop Tea Gardens

One of Rodborough’s most photographed places…

The first mention of an inn named The Bear at Rodborough appears to be in a document from 1735 held by Gloucestershire Heritage Hub.  The building predates this. Historic England lists its origin as late 17th Century. It was extensively extended c1920.

The earliest press report found refers to the sale of the Inn, outbuildings and land in 1797. The tenant was the John Buckingham.

Our references to the history are patchy but we can track most of the tenants / owners / managers from around this time till 1960.

1803 John Buckingham was still at the Bear when his daughter married Samuel Tanner of the Roade House (now Bownham Grange, just across the road). The Tanners operated the local carrier services with the Bear as a base.

1832 John Neale

1840-1841 Richard Ball Smart is recorded at the Bear in 1840. He moved to the Nelson Inn, Brimscombe in 1841.

1841-1859 John Browning – He held a housewarming dinner. By 1861 he was Inn keeper at the Bear at Bisley.

1861-1868 William Stephens, later landlord of an unnamed premises in Church St, Stroud.

1870-1874 Robert Melsome – on the 1861 census Robert was a butcher living alongside the Bear. He is listed at the Bear in 1871 as butcher and licensed victualler and his wife, Mary Ann, as butchery wife. He died in 1874.

1875-1911 Alfred Edmonds – when Alfred married the widowed Mary Ann Melsome in 1875, she was recorded as innkeeper and he as gardener. Later records show him always with two occupations: innkeeper/ publican / hotel keeper and gardener / market gardener / nurseryman.

 Kelly’s Directory of 1897 notes the Bear Inn; “Alfred Edmonds – seedsman & florist, good pleasure grounds, picnics catered for”.

1914-1917 Walter C Lamb is recorded as Landlord in 1914 and in 1917 when he is called up for war service. He was in the household at the Bear on the 1911 census as “Male Nurse”.

1919-1923 Alfred Edmonds’ name appears again in directories of 1919 and 1923 and he continued to live at Manor View behind the Bear Inn. His wife Mary Ann died in 1918. He married again 1920 and was later widowed and married for a third time at the age of 79 in 1931. He died in 1934.


The Bear Inn was extended to designs c1921 by the Arts & Crafts Architect John Campbell (1878-147). Wolverhampton born, Campbell had lived in Germany from 1902-1918, He had married a German wife in 1908 and was interred when war broke out in 1914 and repatriated to London in 1918. By the 1920s he was living in Nailsworth and joined the local partnership of Falconer, Baker & Campbell until 1928. The German influence can be seen in his design.

1929-1933? Major Henry Napier Rowlett – a former officer with the Middlesex Regt, until at least 1922. He was in Rodborough from 1927 and is noted in connection with the Bear in 1929 and 1939. He was also a Freemason.

1933-1960 Paul Tod was manager until he died in 1960.


With thanks for Howard Beard for permission to use many of these images.

The lower image shows the common and road at the top of Butterrow Hill, just below The Bear

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‘New Bear for The Bear’. Undated Copyright of Gloucestershire Gazette.

Hilltop Tea Gardens 

Bear Pools Cafe is remembered from the 1940s as a busy place with queues on Sundays. It was run by a Mr Patterson (most likely to have been Alan Pearson & his wife Martha), whose daughters worked in the shop and cafe. He sold cakes and ice-cream (Winstones also were operating just across the road) and there were swings in the garden. We’re told that Mr Patterson (Pearson?) hoped to expand the business, but was prevented from doing so by the objections from the residents of the new Private Road.

Hill Top Tea Gardens
Courtesy of Howard Beard
Hill Top Tea Gardens. Courtesy of Howard Beard.