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Robert de Mortain
The Ridge

Netherwood House

This pub was located some three miles from the town centre. The building was originally a lodge; a large property adjacent to Netherwood House, occupied between the wars by a ‘socialist commune’, and then during the Second World War by an Army Records Office.

As a pub its history revolved around two men from the past whose time in Hastings was nearly 900 years apart. The first is Robert de Mortain, half-brother of William the Conqueror, from whom the pub took its name. Robert de Mortain is thought to have been responsible for the building of Hastings Castle. In the section of the Bayeux Tapestry below, Robert Count of Mortain (right) sits on the left-hand side of his half-brother, William Duke of Normandy, (William the Conqueror). Robert’s full brother Odo sits to William’s right, implying his seniority. This scene is thought to be somewhere local, immediately before William ordered the castle to be built on the cliff top, before the Battle of Hastings.

A section of the Bayeux Tapestry

The second person in the pub’s history is Aleister Crowley, occultist, Satanist, magician and mystic. Crowley lived at Netherwood House from 1945 until his death in December 1947, allegedly practising ‘sex magic’ and black magic. By this period in his life he had gained a notorious reputation. He had been referred to as ‘the beast’ and ‘the wickedest man in the world’. His detractors believe that he is the secret grandfather of George W. Bush and moreover, that he was responsible for ‘putting the curse on Hastings’.

Crowley’s ghost haunted the pavement outside the pub and was said to be inspired by some former mischievous activity of his. The pub itself was not thought to be haunted but an energy line or ley line ran through it. Two houses in Netherwood Close, adjacent to the pub, had experienced ‘severe weird happenings’ in recent years and the High Priest and Priestess of White Witches who live in Hastings had been called in twice to perform exorcism ceremonies there.

In an odd twist in local belief, it is thought that at one time Crowley also lived in an old house against the cliffs beneath Hastings Castle, thereby linking him again with Robert De Mortain.

Aleister Crowley

In September 1946 Leney’s Brewery of Wateringbury, Kent purchased the freehold of the lodge house, then known as Ripon Lodge Hotel. Following refurbishment this modern and substantial building was converted into a public house and opened in December 1946, exactly a year before Crowley’s death. Its licence was transferred from the Bedford Hotel in the town centre, which was bombed during the Battle of Britain in 1940. The Bedford licence was held ‘in suspense’ by Leney’s Brewery from 1941 until 1947. The first landlord was Geoffrey Taylor and a successful application was made to change the name from Ripon Lodge Hotel to the Robert de Mortain in April 1948.

The first pub sign, a double-sided sign, was included in Whitbreads miniature inn sign series in about 1950. It was designed by Violet Rutter, who also designed other Hastings Whitbread miniatures. The more recent sign was a bland Green King multiple.

In its 70th year (2017) the Robert De Mortain became redundant and was closed. Since then the building has been demolished and Crowley’s ghost, on becoming homeless moved into the town centre. Crowley’s ghost now resides in the recently renamed Crowley’s Bar in the former Old Golden Cross in Havelock Road. The first and only Hastings ghost to have a pub named after him!

c2012  Russell

Demolition 2018  Facebook

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In the hurricane of 1987 the Robert De Mortain suffered extensive damage and had to have its roof replaced. This unfortunate incident has also been attributed to Aleister Crowley’s sinister connection with the pub and the area!

Hastings & St Leonards Observer 1988