PUBS OF
Hastings & St Leonards

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Fountain on Queens and Imperial

93 & 119 Queens Road   


Both the Fountain and the Imperial are opposite Morrison’s supermarket, once the site of St Andrew’s church, where a century ago Robert Tressell, the socialist author, decorated the chancel. It has been claimed that he also decorated the saloon bar of the Imperial which at one time had a display of local historic photographs, including one of Tressell’s murals in St Andrew’s church now restored in Hastings Museum. If correct this makes the Imperial the fourth Hastings pub to be associated with the famous author. The other three being the Cricketers, the Clarence and the Nags Head in St Leonards.


The Tressell Pandorama  
a photo montage of Robert Tressell and the Imperial IMBT

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19231924  Hodges

These two Victorian pubs on the Queens Road were first fully licensed in 1853 and 1869 respectively. At that time this area was the northern extremity of the town, gradually spreading out from its centre. Early customers in the public bar of both pubs included the employees of Hastings gasworks, then on the opposite side of Queen’s Road. Employment in the gasworks was laborious, hot and dirty work, leading many men into heavy drinking. When pub opening hours were regulated by the 1872 Licensing Act, the Fountain applied for extended hours to correspond with the shifts of the gas works, but was refused.

  
Also, across the road were the town’s slaughterhouses and pigsties. Considered a great nuisance it was reported that: ‘cattle on the roads, pig keeping and offal boiling were an offence to passers by and invalids on their way to St Andrew’s Park’ (now Alexandra Park) ‘and slaughtering is effecting property values’. However, according to G.D. Coleman, ‘cattle and sheep were still being driven along Queen’s Road to the slaughterhouses in Waterworks Road’ as late as 1929. Slaughterhouse employees were also customers, as were the numerous horse dealers who, on coming into town to trade, tethered their animals nearby whilst they drank and completed transactions in the saloon bar.

  
The butchers of Hastings had some sort of informal organisation in the town during these years and the Fountain, because of its location near the slaughterhouses, was known for a time as the ‘butchers’ pub’. In the 1870s butchers not only drank here but also used the pub for more formal occasions. In 1879, for example, 30 butchers attended a wedding party of one of their members at the Fountain. The party turned into a riotous celebration and the licensee was fined 10s [50p], while a waiter, Gabriel Eaton, was also cautioned. Following this, in the 1880s or early 1890s there was an attempt to change the name of the Fountain to the Jolly Butchers. However, this was refused by the brewery.

  

The Fountain  Anthony Allen

In 1937 the Hastings Observer ‘put darts on the map in Hastings’ when it organised the first Hastings Annual Darts Tournament. The Fountain team came to brief fame when it reached the semi-final, in which it was only narrowly beaten by the Hastings British Legion Club. The match was held at the Cambridge (now closed) and ‘the room was packed with eager supporters of both teams, who watched the flight of the darts with an intensity not bettered at a test match’. The British Legion team admitted that: ‘There were only two teams we feared, the Fountain and the Cambridge’. But little did they fear the immediate future. Three years later the town was evacuated during the Battle of Britain and the Fountain closed down from 1940 until 1943. The Imperial, however, stayed open.


Russell

In 1950 the Fountain sign was included in Whitbread’s miniature inn sign series. This sign was replaced by the Shepherd Neame brewery when they purchased the freehold in 1993.

Three years later in 2019 it was the Fountain’s turn. Ignoring the recent experience of its sister pub the Imperial along the road, the Fountain also closed and reopened as a gay bar known as the ‘Fountain On Queens’. (No pun intended or perhaps it was?) The name ‘Fountain on Queens’ distinguishes the pub from the ‘Marina Fountain’ in St Leonards, another Hastings pub recently closed and reopened.




Imperial interior 1976

2009  Russell

Russell

Drag artist at the Forbidden Fruit  Imperial website

In 2014 the Imperial closed and reopened as a gay bar called Forbidden Fruit. But even with a new name and image the enterprise was unsuccessful, and the Forbidden Fruit closed in 2015.


 

After yet another year it re-opened in 2016 as the Imperial ‘a new free house home of the Brewing Brothers micro brewery‘. All beer is now brewed on site.


Imperial brewery 2016  Imperial website

Forbidden Fruit at night 2014  Imperial website

Imperial 2017 Imperial website

The name Fountain, however, is centuries old. In past times the name of the Fountain was a favourite inn sign, with Londoners in particular, during the Reformation of the mid-16th century. This was perhaps on account of its connection with the martyrdom of St Paul, whose head on being struck off, rebounded three times. It is said a fountain gushed up at each spot where the sacred head had touched the ground. Hence there is a church near Rome called the San Paulo dela Tre Fontaine, where alters were raised over each of those three fountains.


A century later during the outbreak of the Plague in 1665 the landlord of a pub on Fleet Street became famous for selling remedies for its cure. His name was Mr Drinkwater (pun intended) and he called his pub the Fountain!

The Fountain reopening 2019   Fountain website

Fountain website 2019

Fountain barmaid

Fountain website