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PUB HISTORY
Hastings, St Leonards,
Rye & Lewes

  

  

PUBS PAST AND PRESENT

The Warriors Gate


THE WARRIOR, AUTUMN 2008

You may have noticed that on London Road next to the Post Office, one of St Leonards earliest pubs, the Warriors Gate, has only recently closed its doors and is now up for auction. It opened in 1834; the second oldest pub in St Leonards after the Horse and Groom, and its name refers to the activities of local smugglers once colloquially known as ‘warriors’.
   Early 19th century records tell us that the pub was once a store for smuggled whisky and rum landed straight on the beach at the bottom of London Road.
   Its sign is a replica of a section of the Bayeux Tapestry. It is not to be confused with The Warrior Arms, which was next door to the Norman and was made redundant in 1905.
   In the 19th century it was a successful pub with functions for the community. Years before we had National Insurance or the benefits of the Welfare State, it established, in 1839, the Adelaide Lodge of the Oddfellows benefit society which had 450

    Every Whitsun, hundreds of members celebrated with a Grand Parade, a dinner, speeches, music and entertainments. The parades started at the pub and complete with banners and bands, marched to White Rock and back via West St Leonards, Gensing Farm, East Ascent and Maze Hill.
    In the last century the Warriors Gate was known for its games, skittle alley and bagatelle room. In 1921 the landlord got caught up in the legal restrictions then placed on pubs. Pubs were allowed to deliver alcohol to customers during opening hours. When the barman attempted to deliver 6 bottles of stout to Jones fishmongers (now One Stop Estate) at 9.30 in the morning he was caught and fined 20s.
    In 1943, the pub was bombed and burst into flames trapping a number of people and killing two. The landlord, his wife and a customer were rescued from the basement of a ruined building. The Warriors Gate was totally destroyed by the bombing and the brewers applied to erect wooden huts as a temporary measure. They were stopped by the council on the basis that this might hold up post-war town planning. “If we allow this”, they said, “we would soon have a town of wooden shacks and anyway The Yorkshire Grey (now the Admiral Benbow) is only  25 yards away”. A smaller pub was rebuilt after the war and the Post Office now stands on part of the original site.


David Russell
With acknowledgments to fellow historian Roger Povey.


PUBS PAST AND PRESENT

                                                  The Pubs of Caves Road

THE WARRIOR,  WINTER 2008

 

The Marina Fountain, formerly the Fountain, was built in 1837 on the banks of the River Asten which then ran along the route of Grosvenor Crescent. At that time the area to the north was farmland and the pub served the needs of local farmers and farm workers. Trade was boosted in the 1840s when a large migrant labour force arrived to build the railway from West St Leonards to Hastings and to dig out the tunnels in the cliffs behind.

During the First World War the landlord was charged with harbouring Army property. When military police searched the pub they found two whole cheeses in a tub at the end of the bar, another 20Ib cheese on a shelf, 56Ibs sugar, a large amount of cocoa, 8 army blankets, 3 army sweaters and a Ross rifle among other things. The landlord was jailed and the Fountain dosed down until the licence was transferred to Arthur Clementson of the Railway Hotel, who stayed until 1919. But he had a heart problem and the licence was transferred again to a Mr and Mrs Susan.


Meanwhile the Fountain had been joined by two other pubs; the Marina, at the other end of Caves Road in 1852, and a beer house called the Oddfellows a few doors away in 1886. Their heyday was the Edwardian era of a century ago.


The cliffs behind have always been a problem. In 1850 a horse belonging to a railway contractor fell over the cliff and had to be put down. In 1860 twenty tons of earth and rock fell onto a stable at the back of the Fountain tragically killing a homeless man living there. Some other customers actually lived in the cliffs. In 1850 William Smith and family had a cave with all 'mod cons' includ­ing a stable, a kitchen and chicken house. A century later excessive rain led to a coll­apse and boulders and earth crashed down into the road. “We used to have 8-10 cars outside at weekends. Now you cannot find one. The ladies are nervous of coming”, said the landlord of the Marina in 1939.
   

The chief constable often tried to close these pubs down but they proved too popular. On one occasion, 140 customers signed a petition in support of the Oddfellows, These included carpenters, tailors, Cabmen, the secretary of the Association of  Railway Servants and a master blacksmith from  the nearby stable who said, “It was a nice place for chaps to have dinner in”.


The Oddfellows had the best beer in St Leonards. In one year it sold 231 barrels of beer, 642 dozen bottles of beer and a lot of bread and cheese. The Marina had customers in West Hill, did a good 'bottle and jug' trade on 'the frontline' and ran a Tontine (savings) Club. In the same year it sold 171 barrels of beer which, with the Oddfellows, was a very large amount for a street of only a 100 people! The chief constable could not understand where it all went and was quite suspicious!


At this time Caves Road was a victim of the 'Bright Farthing Trick', where a customer paid for beer with a sovereign which meant there would be a half sovereign in the change. A half sovereign was similar in size to a farthing (or a ‘bright farthing' which had been polished), which by sleight of hand was substituted for the half sovereign and the change queried.

The Oddfellows closed in 1953 and is now a sad, empty, derelict house. The Marina closed in 1996. The Fountain, since renamed the Marina Fountain, is now a bikers and rockers pub with a Harley Davison mounted on the wall. In March the Half Marathon starts nearby and on that day the Marina Fountain is open from 9.30 am until mid­night for its own, different type of marathon.


PUBS PAST AND PRESENT

The Anchor Inn, East Ascent


WARRIOR, SPRING 2009


The Anchor inn, one of St Leonards, ‘lost’ pubs, opened in a yard behind East Ascent about 1832. The entrance to the yard and the pub was through a twitten then known as Anchor Passage. There was also a store and counting house in the yard and a second passageway leading to coachmen’s dwellings in St Leonards Mews. The Mews have long disappeared and the yard is now a private back garden.

    The inn had an anchor above the door, a ‘fouled anchor’ with a rope curled round it. James Burton incorporated the sign of an anchor into the Burton family arms in 1902 and at a later date it became the ‘Coat of Arms’ of St Leonards itself. Other versions can be seen on the Clock House, St Leonards Gardens; above the arch of North Lodge and on an old cast iron boundary marker.
    In its early years the Anchor was not fully licensed and remained a simple beer house because James Burton had promised Steven Milstead landlord of the nearby Horse & Groom in Mercatoria, that there would be no fully licensed public house between the Horse and Groom and the St Leonards Hotel Tap (now the Royal Victoria Hotel). However, this agreement lasted only a few years.
   In the 1830s when the bulk of the population were illiterate and newspapers were highly taxed to prevent poorer people having access to them, the Anchor, the Horse and Groom, the Tivoli Tavern and other local pubs had ‘News Rooms’ where they employed ‘Sunday readers’ to read the newspapers to the assembled customers. Amateur politicians of the day would gather to listen, discuss and criticise issues of local and national government.
    A local school teacher was ‘Sunday reader’ at the Anchor Inn for many years, a practice which stayed until a Mechanics Institute was established in St Leonards in the 1850s, and until the tax on newspapers was removed in 1855.
   These were exciting years and although it might not seem much to us now, one of the major issues up for discussion was the 1832 Reform Act which gave the vote to men who owned or leased land worth £10 or more. This was the start of popular suffrage and the right to vote which was celebrated by thousands of people on Priory Meadow, bonfires on the beach and overflowing pubs. For many years after 1832 the Anchor celebrated the anniversary of the Reform Bill on ‘the glorious first of June’.
  In 1869 landlord Thomas Vido was fined for allowing gambling on the premises. Ostlers who worked in the stables in Mews Road, looking after the horses for the coaches of the nearby Royal Victoria Hotel, were customers who played cards for money which sometimes got out of hand, and led to cheating and argument.
   In its final years the Anchor was tied to the Blyth Brewery, later Ind Coope, for beer but was a Free House for bottles


and spirits. Tom Wells was landlord for 25 years but, it was said, he ‘died penniless’ totally  impoverished and destitute. The Anchor started to lose trade around 1900  and the police complained it was a difficult pub to supervise through the twitten. It had at least five different landlords before being forced to close by the licensing magistrates in 1905.
    Along with four other lost pubs, the Hastings Castle, the Eagle Tavern, the Warrior’s Arms and the Free Trader, the Anchor was one of the first St Leonards pubs to be declared redundant. The landlord was compensated with a handsome payment of £800. In today’s terms according the historic Retail Price index, about £59,000.
                                                                                            

David Russell

Drawing by James Gray.


THE PUBS OF BOHEMIA – 2
                                            
The British Workman – a pub without beer!

From the Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards by kind permission of David Russell


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 74, APRIL 2010

The British Workman today - Merrick House, corner of Salisbury and Bohemia Roads

The first British Workman temperance ‘pub’ was set up in Leeds in 1867 and others quickly spread around the north of England. The first British Workman in the south opened at 105 Bohemia Road in 1871. About 40 people ‘mainly working men living in the neighbourhood’ attended. They drank tea and organised a sick fund, a drum and fife band, a bible class and a flower show.
    The pub consisted of two large front rooms on the ground floor and a third room on the first floor. The bar was designed for drinking tea, (‘the cup that cheers but does not inebriate’), conversation, smoking and games. The landlord Mr Crouch used the second room and a third room was used as a reading room. The British Workman was located in the St Paul’s Workingmens’ Club in the building on the southeast corner of Salisbury Road.
    Others followed. British Workman No 2 opened in Hollington (1873), No 3 in Castle road (1879) and No 4 in Waterworks Road (1885). They provided free teas, dinners and concerts for the unemployed during the recession but by the 1880s the tag: ‘temperance pub’ had been dropped and the organisation had become very similar to the Salvation Army.
    British Workman No 1 was open from 9am to 11pm every day except Sundays for anyone who abstained from alcohol. It was also the headquarters of the Bohemia Lodge of The Good Templars who pursued a policy of total abstinence and absolute prohibition. They spent their time trying to persuade magistrates to close the pubs and not surprisingly landlords were very wary of this threat on their doorstep (the Hearts of Oak was opposite). British Workman No 1 closed in 1894 and the building became the Bohemia Police and Fire Station. The Good Templars then moved to Park Road, Methodist Church.

THE PUBS OF BOHEMIA – 4
                                                                              
The Hearts of Oak

From The Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards by kind permission of David Russell


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 76, AUGUST 2010

Mr Tapsell (white coat) before an outing in a coach and four owned by Skinners. 1911.
[Photo: Frank Letchworth]

The Hearts of Oak was a beer house and lodging house at 116 Bohemia Road. It was tied to Breeds Brewery, Hastings from about 1860, and by 1875 it was known as the Barleycorn. In 1881 Mary Waghorn held the licence until Thomas Player took over in the 1890s.  These were hard times and to make ends meet he also worked as an undertaker. A threat arose in 1892 when a grocer’s shop opposite started selling beer and spirits. Thomas Player opposed the licence and sent one of his customers in for some bacon, cheese and tea. The customer reported back that all he could buy was alcohol. There were no groceries. The grocer’s licence was not renewed. John Standen (who lived at 35 St Paul’s Road) was landlord from 1907 until 1924 and organised the Hearts of Oak Slate Club, a local benefit society that had 80 members. A typical Christmas pay-out in 1910 allocated £1.7s 0d (£102 today) to each member. In 1922 he was summonsed for giving a glass of beer during prohibited hours to a thirsty coal merchant who was delivering the coal. For this offence he was fined 40s. He regarded his beer house as a man‘s pub. “I never admit women”, he said. However, when the police visited in 1926 to ‘establish the custom’, they counted nine females among the drinkers. The police described the tap room as “indifferently lit because there were no windows. Daylight passed into the bar through the glass door panels and the electric light was on all day.” The Bohemia community considered the Hearts of Oak cellar to be the finest in Hastings. “In summer the beer just comes up beautiful and cool”, said the last landlord. In 1927 the pub was declared redundant. It was closed and the landlord compensated.

THE PUB OF BOHEMIA – 5  

The Prince of Wales, 84 Bohemia Road


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 77, NOVEMBER 2010


Richard Moy, was first landlord and applied for a full licence in 1863 and 1864. He moved here from the ‘Cross Keys’, Marylebone in about 1860. The Prince of Wales was the second fully licensed pub in Bohemia after the Wheatsheaf in 1835.
    A Coroner’s Inquest was held at the pub in 1872, into the ‘shocking suicide’ of a 40-year old gardener who lived nearby in Bohemia Road. He was found by his wife hanging from a bed post by a piece of clothes line. Their 11-year old son was a witness. His father had said  to him: “Goodbye, I shall be missing when you come home from school, be a good boy to your mother and go to school”.

   The Inquest concluded that he had ‘committed suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity’. He was buried in Bohemia Cemetery. (Where is Bohemia Cemetery?)
  During the Second World War the pub was run by Roland ‘Jack’ Berwick. Roland worked as a ‘Gentleman’s Gentleman’ for an American millionaire before the war and ran the pub from 1944 until his death in 1946. His widow, Maggie May Berwick, took over until 1948.
  After the war the Prince of Wales had returning prisoners of war among its customers and this is where Roland’s daughter Lena Berwick met her future husband Norman Sendall. Their daughter was born here in 1947. Norman and Lena ran the FILO until 1948. The family now live in Silverhill.
   The pub closed in 1971 and became the headquarters of Hastings Labour Party.

PUBS OF BOHEMIA - 6

The Bohemia Arms, 78 Bohemia Road


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 78, FEBRUARY 2011

The Bohemia Arms first opened in 1867 on the corner of Tower Road and Bohemia Road and for most of its life it was a simple beer house.
    I have received two queries about Gwen Watford and the Prince of Wales pub reported in the last Bohemia Village Voice. YES the famous actress did at one time reside in Bohemia but not at the Prince of Wales as I stated but at the Bohemia Arms, two doors away.
    Percy Watford, Gwen’s father, was the landlord of the Bohemia Arms from 1931–1955 and we know that the family lived there until the end of the Second World War. She made her stage debut, aged 17, at The White Rock Theatre, Hastings, before moving to London to train at the Old Vic.
    Gwen made her film debut playing Lady Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher (1987). Her father Mr Watford, as he liked to be called, is remembered by Bohemia resident, Vic Chalcraft for his pointed and waxed moustache.
    The last landlord was 21-year old Jim Elvery who, in 1969, was the youngest licensee in Sussex and Kent. The two bars then became a single bar curving around the corner in tower Road. The Bohemia Arms closed in 1970 and is now ‘In the Pink’.

PUBS OF BOHEMIA - 7

The Tower, London Road


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 79,  SPRING 2011

This pub is named after a former toll gate and tower on London Road. A painting from 1865 shows a very different tower from that on the pub sign. It opened in 1866 with 12 rooms, two parlours and a bar. In the final years of the 19th century there were reports of customers drinking ‘pots of gin hot and eating Welsh rarebit’. The custom of ‘Hustling the Hat’, a means of deciding who paid for the drinks, was practised here. Each participant put a (marked) coin into a hat which was shaken and tipped out. All coins showing heads were withdrawn. The tails were put back into the hat and the process repeated. The final or ‘true tail’ had to pay for ‘pots all round’. This was a custom that sometimes led to trouble and was frowned upon by the police. A hundred years ago concerts were held in the parlour. Customers wearing buttonholes, listened to long forgotten songs including My Daddy’s a gentleman, Look at me looking at you (‘convulsed the audience’), Alice where art thou? (‘encore of the evening’) and My sweetheart when a boy (‘thunderous applause’) all accompanied by banjo, violin or mandolin. Other acts included The Local Comedian, Merlin the Magician and Mr C Harris who gave imitations of the Skylark and Nightingale (‘by throat only  ... truly wonderful’).

 In 1943 the pub was bombed by the Luftwaffe and a thousand pound bomb landed in the cellar, but miraculously failed to explode. It was defused and lifted out through the cellar flaps. In 1991 the pub was threatened again. This time it was with demolition, to make way for the proposed Hastings bypass. An interesting wooden sign in the bar states that: ‘Members of the Hastings Temperance Society are banned from the pub’.

PUBS OF BOHEMIA - 9

Funeral and fake wake in Bohemia


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 81, WINTER 2011


Sometime in the 1970s a group of regulars from the North Star, Bohemia decided to raise some money by organising a mock funeral procession and wake around Bohemia.


     A top quality coffin made from best plywood was produced by the pub committee and a ‘body’ was organised. The funeral procession complete with suitably dressed pallbearers, proceeded from pub to pub around Bohemia. One snag was that the body, dressed as Dracula, kept sitting up to see where he was going. The whole cortege was preceded by a fine band of instrumentalists. Halfway along Bohemia Road the Gas Board had left a grave into which the coffin and corpse were reverently lowered and photographed. They were then exhumed and carried shoulder high along Bohemia Road to the first stop which was the Wheatsheaf. A fair amount was collected in this pub while the pallbearers, the corpse and the band took refreshment.

     The whole ensemble then reformed at the back of the pub and marched off along Cornfield Terrace knocking on doors along the way. On reaching the Tower in Tower Road, a second pub collection was made.     

     A third call was made at the Dripping Spring for yet more refreshment and another collection. On returning to the North Star the wake continued into the afternoon. At its end one mourner was so overcome with grief and sustenance that he found it impossible to walk home, so he was placed in the coffin and carried shoulder high along Bohemia, through Silverhill and down Battle Road to his home.
    On arrival, the coffin with body in it was stood upright at his front door, the knocker knocked, and when his wife opened the door the body slid out of the coffin and lay prostrate on the passage floor. Her comments are not printable. The proceeds from this event gave fifty odd old age pensioners a trip to Beachy Head with sherry and chocolates before returning to a slap-up tea.


Grateful acknowledgement to Frank Holdman,(landlord of the North Star (1974-1977) and to Vic Chalcraft one of the pallbearers.

members and average annual receipts of £700 which, in today’s terms, would amount to thousands. In the Lodge Room each member paid a joining fee of between 5 to 20 shillings according to age and drew sickness benefit of 12 shillings a week for a year with a free local doctor. The Lodge also paid death benefits of £12 and £6 on the death of a wife. It was described as ‘one of the most secure investments among the friendly Societies in the country’.

PUBS OF BOHEMIA - 8

The Wheatsheaf, 172 Bohemia Road


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 80, SEPTEMBER 2011

Bohemia’s early history is peppered with the surname of Jinks and many members of the Jinks extended family once resided in the district. In the second half of the 19th century, at least 25 people with this surname, in six family branches, lived along Bohemia Road. Their adult occupations ranged from the building trades, shop keeping (one was a greengrocer); taking in laundry and running pubs.
    Bohemia’s first pub, the Wheatsheaf, was built by John Jinks, a bricklayer who had previously been a squatter on the America Ground, where he had a ready-made clothes shop. This was approximately where 40 Robertson Street is today (Hoagies Reloaded Cafe).
    When the ‘Americans’ were given notice to quit in 1835, John Jinks move to Spittleman’s Down, later called Bohemia Place and now part of Bohemia Road. He built the sandstone wall on the eastern side of Bohemia Road, probably the walled garden, (he was known as ‘Brisco’s right-hand man’), houses in White Rock and Prospect place and ornamental brickwork in Warrior Square. He was also an early landlord of the Wheatsheaf.  From 1848 to

1911 the Wheatsheaf was run by the Pratt family. In 1856 when it was advertised for sale its stables (now the Pizza Hut take-away) and skittle alley were especially mentioned.
    During the time of the Pratt family, the Wheatsheaf was popular with skilled artisans and respectable tradesmen, who regarded themselves as superior to the unskilled labouring classes. These men, dubbed the ‘Aristocracy of Labour’, usually wore bowler hats and ties. In the 1870s they set up a number of branches of the Conservative Working Men’s Association in Hastings. The Bohemia and Silverhill branch met at the Wheatsheaf and had at least 100 members. Their secretary, George Upton, was at one time landlord of the Prince of Wales.
    From 1913 until 1922 the pub was known as Ye Olde Wheatsheaf. In the latter year it was sold by the brewery for £4,000 and reverted back to its original name. In 1917 the landlord was fined a steep £5 for serving a soldier with a bottle of beer and in 1919 he was fined again, this time for overcharging. The pub managed to open during the Second World War. Only recently, after 1756 years, did the Wheatsheaf close. It is now a Chinese Restaurant.

Landlords of the Wheatsheaf

1939–1955     Ernest Josey

1955              Trixie Josey

1956              Charles Darby

1956–1960      Archibald Beard

1960–1967      Harold Young

1967–1971      John Hibbett

1971               Catherine Hibbett

1980‒1981      William Newton

1985?–1989    Gary Vickers

2010               (Closed)

 1914–1918     Harry Webber

1918              Frederick Fletcher

1918–1923     Thomas Skinner

1923              Reginald Gurney

1924              William Strudwick

1924–1929     Ernest Browning

1929–1932     George Soffe

1932–1938     Sara Soffe

1938–1939     Thomas Hemmings

1835              James Holman

18??              John Jinks

1848              James Platt/Pratt

1848–1852     Sarah Gorring

1855              Joseph Davis

1889-1892      Peter Pratt

1892–1895     James Pratt

1902–1910     Sarah Pratt & Henry Kent

1910–1913     Edward Weeks

THE PUBS OF BOHEMIA – 3
                                                                    
The North Star

From The Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards by kind permission of David Russell


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 75, JUNE 2010

The North Star was built in the late 1860s by Joseph Wisden previously a guard on the South Cast Railway. He was granted a licence in 1871 and the pub opened with a new barmaid, Mary Jane Bell from Belfast, at £18 a year. She refused Wisden’s offer of marriage and a present of a hat, after which he treated her badly and tried to recover the fare from Belfast. In court she said she wanted to leave the North Star because ‘he has criticised everything I have done since I arrived’, She must have been popular as several customers turned up to support her. The case went against the landlord and she was awarded two guineas. Wisden was hissed as he left the courtroom and the North Star lost a number of customers and a good barmaid. Before the Newgate Estate was built there were complaints ‘of the hawkers and others who congregate around the North Star and the fairs that takes place there with a general turmoil of rough music, roundabouts, shooting galleries, coconut throwing, brawling and shouting by a lot of worthless vagabonds’.

     The Bohemia Bonfire Boys met here in the 1880s. On November 5th they paraded around Bohemia and into town to join the main procession before returning to burn the guy. The processions started at the North Star and everyone wore fancy costume dressed up as navy, army police, highwaymen, crusaders, clowns or demons. They were led by a Brass Band and the merriment went on into the night.
    The previous pub sign showed only the pub name under the ubiquitous Watney’s Red Barrel. The current sign dates from the 1990s and shows a steam locomotive built by George Stephenson in the 1830s. At one point the engine was shipped to New Orleans but they could not afford the asking price and was duly returned to England.


THE PUBS OF BOHEMIA – 1

The Dripping Spring

Reproduced from The Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards by kind permission of David Russell


BOHEMIA VILLAGE VOICE 73, Feb 2010

The forerunner of the Dripping Spring was a grocer’s shop and beer house at 35 Tower Road. Number 34, now the saloon bar, was a bootmakers. The beer house became separated in 1892 to become the Dripping Spring and the shop closed in 1899.
    In 1916 the landlord, Fred Smith, was called up. He appealed to the Hastings Military Tribunal and explained that he and his wife ran the Dripping Spring alone. He did all the cellar work himself and explained that the heaviest barrel weighed four and a quarter hundredweight [218kg]. His appeal was refused and he was granted an exemption of one month only, before being sent to France. After his departure his wife struggled on with help from the customers but Fred was lucky: he returned from France and remained landlord until 1921.
    Unlike many pubs, the Drip stayed open during the Second World War and managed to escape the bombing. In 1950 it was granted a full licence and its 84 years of life as a beer house came to an end. The house next door was acquired and its ground floor turned into the saloon bar still in use today. Cyril Pelluet remembers the pub from 1957. “We considered the Dripping Spring a better quality pub. The inside was smarter and husbands and wives went there together.  The Dripping Spring was a bit higher up the social scale.”
    In 1994 it became a free house and was known as the New George and Dragon until 1995. In 1995, it was listed as the Dripping Spring in the Good Beer  Guide. In 2000, the pub was voted CAMRA Sussex Pub of the Year and also runner-up as National Pub of the Year. It has appeared in the Good Beer Guide almost continually since then.

The Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards


HASTINGS TOWN, NOVEMBER 2009

 The Horse & Groom, Cinque Ports Arms, Clarence, Middle Street and Hastings Arms are four public houses included in my book The Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards 1800–2000,  (published 1st October 2009), illustrated by James Gray. The book contains the history of 64 pubs in Hastings and St Leonards with references to hundreds of others. It is priced £10.99 and is available from local outlets including The Fishermen’s Museum, Moon Times in Trinity Street and Bohemia Voice.

Horse & Groom, Mercatoria


The Horse and Groom was built in 1829 by glazier Stephen Millsted, for the benefit of the workforce busy constructing the new town of St Leonards. It is on record that they were so thirsty that the pub opened before the windows were installed. Workers also came to the Horse and Groom on Saturday nights to be paid their wages and were called in from the street one by one. They came again on Sundays to quench another thirst, this time to listen to the newspapers being read aloud. Edward Thebay was ‘Sunday reader’ at the Horse and Groom for many years.


The Horse and Groom was regarded as a ‘Tory rendezvous’ and in the parliamentary election of 1835, the Conservative candidate, William Planta, had one of his committee rooms here. It was common practice to bribe the voters and the Horse and Groom gave out a butt of porter, plus wine, spirits and ale every day of the campaign, in support of the corrupt Tory candidate.

Among the staff who worked here were Mrs Raven the cook, and a potboy called George. A story was told that one day in 1834 George complained about Mrs Raven's beef puddings with suet in the crust. “I really can't eat it missus”, he said. “Well, if you promise not to tell that I make my puddings without suet, I will see what I can do”. Afterwards George in blissful ignorance of the fact that the only difference from before was that the suet was chopped smaller said, he had “never tasted a better pudding”.


An early landlord, John Woods, was de­scribed as cheerful, with a simple integrity and a strict disposition, but ill fitted to be a publican. For sport or for gain his custom­ers, after taking a drink from their pots, would shout: “Look here Woods, do you call this a proper measure?” He refilled their pots, not realising he had been duped. After a year he gave up to become Hastings’s postmaster.

In 1860 a case dubbed ‘Goodbye Brother Chip’ filled the local court. One evening three friends, two of them carpenters, called into the passage alongside the private bar for pots of ale. At the end of the evening one said to the other: “Good night brother chip”. The reply he  received was, “I shan't shake hands with you. I am a master”, implying he was a superior, better carpenter. A scuffle started and one man fell to the ground and lost

consciousness. By morning he was pronounced dead from concussion. The court decided it  was a case of manslaugh­ter  and it was referred to Lewes Assizes.‘Lost’ pubs around Mercatoria in­clude the Anchor, East Ascent (1830s–1905), the Coach and Horses, Mews Road (1846–1950), the British Hotel, now Clarence House, opposite the Horse and Groom (1833–1906), the White Hart, Norman Road (1856–1953), the New Inn, Mercatoria (1830s–1869) and the Star in the West, Undercliffe (1852–1943).


In 1871 they were threatened by the London matchbox trick. A tramp who called in for a drink was accused of stealing a bottle of whisky. He took a light for his clay pipe from the gas lamp behind the bar and turned out the lamp. Whilst the barman searched for matches the tramp snatched a bottle of whisky. In court he claimed he had never heard of the matchbox trick, had never been to London and had walked straight from Edinburgh. He got three months.


During the First World War, many Canadian soldiers were customers. Mary Dann, who lived in Harold Mews, was charged with ‘supplying intoxicants to soldiers, with intent to make them less efficient’. She had purchased a considerable amount of beer and spirits in the Horse and Groom and seven Canadians were found drunk in her house. She received a brutal three months imprisonment. A few months later, landlord Ernest Tompkins was charged under the same Defence of the Realm Act, but this time three witnesses gave contradictory evidence and the case was dismissed. His law­yer remarked: “If this man is found guilty no pub in England is safe”.


In 1985 the Victorian windows were replaced and became the subject of a complaint by a local amenity society. Without planning permission, for the pub is listed, the landlord re­moved Stephen Milstead's original windows and replaced them with multi-panelled, imi­tation Regency ones.


In 1999 the Horse and Groom had another brief moment of fame, when one of its custom­ers hit the national headlines. Regulars were dumbfounded when they read in the national press that fellow drinker Alan Kelly, of Norman Road had turned up in Serbia among a group of Kosovan freedom fight­ers being disarmed by NATO troops. Frustrated by the atroci­ties he had seen on television at home in St Leonards, he had volunteered for two months. Landlord David Sansbury said: “He told us he was going to Kosovo and everybody in the pub chuckled and wondered how far he would get. Anyone who can help the Kosovars in any way is doing good, but you would hardly call him a prize-fighter and I have not heard that he has had any military experience.” He added: “I defy you to dislike him. He is a bloke who likes a drink; real ale is his tipple.”

This pub was listed in the Good Beer Guide between 1999 and 2009.


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