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Canterbury's lost pubs and what's there now

Is there anywhere better in Kent to go out for a few beers than Canterbury?

The city is famous for its wealth of pubs, bars and clubs - but there used to be even more dotted around its historic streets.

Castle Inn licensees, William & Ethel Lack, not looking very happy in December 1962, faced with the imminent demolition of their pub. Picture: dover-kent.com
Castle Inn licensees, William & Ethel Lack, not looking very happy in December 1962, faced with the imminent demolition of their pub. Picture: dover-kent.com

Here, with the help of dover-kent,com, we look back at some of the popular inns which have sadly shut their doors over the years - and what's there now...

The Round House

The Round House pub next to Wincheap roundabout was serving pints for more than 300 years before it sadly closed in 2006.

It originally opened as the Wheatsheaf as early as 1692 and operated under that name until between 1838 and 1865, when it became the Railway Tavern.

Postcard from circa 1930 showing what is believed to be a Masonic outing on its way past the pub after arriving at Canterbury East Station. Picture: Rory Kehoe
Postcard from circa 1930 showing what is believed to be a Masonic outing on its way past the pub after arriving at Canterbury East Station. Picture: Rory Kehoe

The name later changed to the Station Hotel before switching again, in 1968, to the Man of Kent.

In 1972, brewers Fremlins/Whitbread asked the Queen’s Own Buffs Regiment for permission to use a copy of the painting by Lady Butler of a Man of Kent, which hung in the Officers’ Mess at the barracks, to be used as their pub sign. This was duly granted.

Man of Kent licensees Mavin Wilkinson and wife Jacqueline in 1987
Man of Kent licensees Mavin Wilkinson and wife Jacqueline in 1987

There was drama in 1987 when the landlord and his family were rushed to hospital after being overcome by gas fumes. Licensee Mavin Wilkinson was found unconscious in a first-floor lounge and wife Jacqueline had collapsed on the stairs. Three students were also rescued from the loft by fire crews.

The pub was renamed the Round House in 1997 but shut nine years later. It was put up for auction with a guide price of about £350,000 in 2009.

It was later converted into a 10-bed house used for student accommodation.

The property is now understood to be rented privately.

Jolly Sailor

A pub first stood on the corner of Northgate Street as early as 1619. Sadly, almost 400 years later, it was serving its final pint.

The Jolly Sailor in 1890. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The Jolly Sailor in 1890. Picture: Rory Kehoe

An inn called the Black Swan, mentioned in the licensing list of 1692, originally occupied the plot. Between 1780 and 1830 its named changed to the Jolly Sailor.

The pub was bought by Rigden’s brewery in 1801 and the original building was demolished and rebuilt with a cottage for a sum of £2,001.

In 1946 a young man from Aylesham got “fighting mad drunk” inside the Jolly Sailor and even attacked the policeman who came to arrest him. Chief Inspector Tebay told magistrates the local force had had a lot of trouble around that time with young men of that type coming into the city and having too much to drink.

City Sound Project revellers at the Jolly Sailor in 2016
City Sound Project revellers at the Jolly Sailor in 2016

In more recent years, the “debauched” antics of punters caused a row with its neighbours. King’s School bursar Mark Taylor wrote to the city council in 2013 complaining that pupils were being subjected to foul language and noise from revellers.

Meanwhile, a couple who lived opposite claimed to have seen a group of naked men through the first floor windows of the pub during a rugby club function, which prompted landlord Ian Blackmore to darken the glass.

Owner Ian Blackmore and general manager Will Bettles in 2016 when reindeer meatballs were on the menu
Owner Ian Blackmore and general manager Will Bettles in 2016 when reindeer meatballs were on the menu

The pub was popular with students and had been taken over by Mr Blackmore, himself a former Christ Church student, in 2008. In 2016 he made headlines in the Daily Mail after putting reindeer meatballs on the inn’s festive menu.

He called time on his stint as landlord in 2018 and the following year it was sold to the King’s School, which owns a lot of property surrounding the pub.

Waterloo Tavern

For most of its 200-year existence, the pub at 47 Sturry Road was known as the Waterloo Tavern.

The inn, which dates back to 1812, was originally known as the Ordnance Arms, owned by Flints Brewery.

Three years later, the Duke of Wellington was defeating Napoleon once and for all at the Battle of Waterloo. And the Canterbury pub, marking this historic victory, changed its name to the Waterloo Tavern at some point between 1815 and 1838.

Soldiers of the 7th Dragoon Guards, stationed at the Cavalry Barracks on Sturry Road, marching to Canterbury West Station en route for Egypt in 1908. Picture: Rory Kehoe
Soldiers of the 7th Dragoon Guards, stationed at the Cavalry Barracks on Sturry Road, marching to Canterbury West Station en route for Egypt in 1908. Picture: Rory Kehoe

It maintained its strong military links throughout the decades. As recently as 1988 it was said to be “frequented by local residents and soldiers”.

A picture from 1908 shows soldiers of the 7th Dragoon Guards, stationed at the Cavalry Barracks on Sturry Road, “marching to the West Station en route for Egypt”. Lt Col Bernard R Dietz was leading the regiment to Cairo for a two-year posting. They then moved on to India in 1910.

The Waterloo Tavern pictured in 2001. Picture: dover-kent.com
The Waterloo Tavern pictured in 2001. Picture: dover-kent.com

The pub changed its name to Saxby’s in 1986 and was reopened as the Run of the Mill in September 2007 under the ownership of Punch Taverns.

In 2019, police discovered evidence of a cannabis factory in the pub, by then rebranded as The Mill, including large quantities of the Class B drug, fans, heaters and extractors, along with £1,000 cash. A man admitted cannabis possession and was given a “cannabis warning” - a form of punishment for a first-time offence which does not result in a criminal record.

Rose and Crown

The building which for centuries was home to the Rose and Crown pub in St Dunstan’s is said to date back to 1689. It was originally known as the Star, or Starr.

The inn is believed to have become the Rose and Crown in 1801 at the earliest. It was restored with a plastered front during the 19th century.

On August 31, 1914, its licensee George Solley was given a caution after a ruckus between disorderly soldiers spilled outside and ended with a punch-up in the street.

The historic inn suffered severe damage during German bombing raids in 1942. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The historic inn suffered severe damage during German bombing raids in 1942. Picture: Rory Kehoe

The historic pub, like so many buildings in Canterbury, suffered heavy damage during German bombing raids in 1942.

The Rose and Crown was Grade II-listed in December 1949, by 1965 it was owned by Fremlins, and in the late 90s it was a Whitbread pub. Its name changed to the Tap and Spile as Whitbread sold it to the pub company of the same name, which was one of the first pubco chains.

At the turn of the century, when Tap and Spile sold up to Enterprise, it became the Blind Dog at St Dunstan’s.

The pub took its name from Canterbury rock group Caravan’s title track to their 7th album, released in 1976. The band used to frequent the pubs in the St Dunstan’s area and very likely drank in the Rose and Crown.

In 2008, landlords Bob and Nilla Griffiths (centre) ran the Rose and Crown
In 2008, landlords Bob and Nilla Griffiths (centre) ran the Rose and Crown

In the Noughties it changed name again to Unity. Under this guise, it was aimed at students and was owned by the Brighton-based Zel student pub chain, with a regular DJ operating during term time.

It then became the Swan before eventually reverting to the Rose and Crown again.

In 2014 it was changed to CT2 Bar before that shut and it became a bed and breakfast.

Today it is occupied by kentunilet.com, a lettings service which helps students find properties in the city.

Ben Jonson

Every Man In His Humour - perhaps Ben Jonson’s most famous work - focused on the fluids believed in the 1700s to regulate the body and the human temperament.

And punters at the Canterbury pub named after the playwright also found their temperament’s significantly altered by an over-abundance of a particular fluid - namely beer.

Last orders were rung on the Ben Jonson in 1969 when it closed to be transformed into a steak house.

Eight years earlier it was landlord Mr H Bacon ringing time on the Mafeking Bell. The notice next to the bell read: “Time gentleman please - It’s still a warning bell!”

Landlord Mr H Bacon ringing time on the Mafeking Bell Picture: Rory Kehoe
Landlord Mr H Bacon ringing time on the Mafeking Bell Picture: Rory Kehoe

This refers to the fact the bell was rung during the Siege of Mafeking, in the Boer War, to alert the British defenders of imminent attack.

Thought to be Canterbury’s smallest pub at the time it closed, the earliest reference found for the Ben Jonson is for a Stephen Wood in 1840. The premises was first listed as a public house in 1858.

The Ben Jonson was the only Canterbury pub for Francis A White’s Stourmouth Brewery, until 1904, when Flint & Co’s St Dunstan’s Brewery acquired it.

Eventually it became a Fremlin’s house but after Whitbread’s acquisition of Fremlin’s in 1967 the pub was sadly axed.

Soon after, landlords Bob and Sherry Lucas went on to run the City Arms in Butchery Lane from 1969 until they retired in about 1983.

By 2014 the former Ben Jonson was operating as Oscar & Bentleys bistro.

The Castle Inn

Since 1963, punters have been mourning the loss of the Castle Inn.

The historic pub was demolished to make way for the Wincheap roundabout - a key part of the new ring-road constructed to alleviate growing city centre traffic problems.

The works outing for staff of the East Kent Road Car Company, all aboard locally-registered Daimler charabancs, dated 1922. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The works outing for staff of the East Kent Road Car Company, all aboard locally-registered Daimler charabancs, dated 1922. Picture: Rory Kehoe

But back in 1922, cars were lined up outside the Castle Inn for a much more cheerful reason. It was the works outing for staff of the East Kent Road Car Company, all aboard locally-registered Daimler charabancs.

A pub located at number 30 Castle Street has also been named as the Victoria. It is thought there were two pubs next to each other and some time after 1898 they merged to make just the one premises.

One former Castle Inn landlord, William Beck, appears to have been a particularly unforgiving type. In 1862, his servant Richard Glover was charged with stealing half a pint of rum, value 1s., 4d, the property of his master. Glover admitted the offence - and was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment.

Aerial photo circa 1920. Picture: Rory Kehoe
Aerial photo circa 1920. Picture: Rory Kehoe

Mr Beck was not the only Castle Inn landlord who fell victim to theft. In 1944, licensee Robert Charles Bloxome had his dominoes pinched from the pub by Cyril Morgan, from Aylesham. Magistrates heard the Snowdown Colliery coal ripper had previous - including getting drunk and stealing ducks. Morgan was fined £2 and told he was lucky to dodge prison.

Mr Bloxome remained in charge of the pub until about 1944, when William and Ethel Lack took over - sadly to be the Castle Inn’s last landlords.

In 1963, the diggers moved in and knocked it down.

Royal Dragoon

For two centuries punters have been raising a glass to Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

In return for defeating Napoleon, Nelson had a column erected in Trafalgar Square – while the Iron Duke’s Wellington Monument stands tall in Somerset. But perhaps the greatest honour paid to them both is the vast number of pubs named after them. Indeed, during the Napoleonic wars, many new taverns were opened to cater for the vast influx of soldiers to the south east.

The Royal Dragoon in 1982. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The Royal Dragoon in 1982. Picture: Rory Kehoe

A sure-fire way to attract a soldier to a pub was to name it after his rank or regiment. Thus, Canterbury had the Royal Dragoon. The pub has been traced back to 1839, when called simply ‘Dragoon’. The ‘Royal’ was first seen in 1865.

The building was Grade II-listed in September 1973 and was a familiar drinking hole for many former army personnel stationed around the ex-cavalry barracks in the Sturry Road.

It was run throughout the 1980s until its closure in 1997 under landlord Peter Smith. It is now named Royal Dragoon House and is a private residence.

Prince of Wales

For more than two centuries, drinks were served from an establishment on the corner of King Street and St Alphege Lane in Canterbury.

It began life as a traditional pub in the 18th Century but in more recent times was home to lap dancers, before being reinvented once again as a gay bar.

The earliest known records are for a tavern called the Dog and Bull in 1796. But in September 1798 the then Prince of Wales - who would later become King George IV - was presented with the freedom of the City of Canterbury. The pub changed its name to the Prince of Wales to celebrate this.

Inside the Prince of Wales in the mid-1970s
Inside the Prince of Wales in the mid-1970s

It was bought by Rigdens from Flints brewery in 1849 for the sum of £510. In the 1940s the inn’s clientele was described as being “local artisans, visitors and shoppers”.

It became a wine bar called Merefields before being bought by Enterprise Inns in 2001 and transformed into Scribe’s.

By 2006 there was a lap-dancing club upstairs above the bar.

When bosses launched a bid to extend its opening hours there was fierce opposition from the St Peter’s Association, who feared “drunken louts roaming around the area late at night causing a nuisance”.

Scribe's bar, in King Street, pictured in 2005
Scribe's bar, in King Street, pictured in 2005

Later that year, comedian Dara O Briain, clutching a copy of the Kentish Gazette during a show at The Marlowe, referenced Scribe’s late-licence snub as his reason to finish on time.

With falling customer numbers the bar shut at the end of 2008.

But halfway through 2009 the venue reopened as a gay bar called CO2. Yet in January 2010, CO2 - which was then the city’s only gay bar - closed due to a lack of business.

Royal Fountain Hotel

Today, as you stroll along Canterbury's St Margaret's Street and take a turn at HMV into the Marlowe Arcade, the route will lead you up towards Whitefriars.

Yet if you'd taken that same turning between the years 1029 and 1942, you'd have been stepping inside the city's first ever inn.

Trading under various names over the centuries, the Royal Fountain Hotel truly was a tavern steeped in history.

The four knights who murdered Thomas Becket in the Cathedral in 1170 are said to have first stopped off for a sharpener in the Royal Fountain, according to pub expert Rory Kehoe.

The Royal Fountain was devastated by the Luftwaffe in 1942. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The Royal Fountain was devastated by the Luftwaffe in 1942. Picture: Rory Kehoe

In 1299, the German Ambassador reportedly stayed at the inn en-route to London to attend the wedding of Edward I and Queen Margaret, and "found the amenities much to his liking".

The dover-kent.com website continues: "An even earlier tradition states that Earl Godwin's wife resided there in 1029. Dickens, however, certainly stayed there in 1861."

According to “Some Old English Inns”, written by George T. Burrows in 1907, the Royal Fountain was in fact the oldest pub in England!

However, like so many historic buildings across the city, the inn met its doom during the Luftwaffe's Baedeker Raids in 1942.

Falstaff Tap

Like Marmite, punters across the land have a “love it or hate it” relationship with Wetherspoon pubs.

While some adore its cheap food and drink, others bemoan the impact the chain has on other local drinking holes.

And never more so was this the case than in North Lane at the turn of the century. When the West Gate Inn opened in 1999, the historic “Falstaff Tap” next door closed shortly thereafter.

The Westgate Inn was the first non-smoking pub in the city. Pictured in 2005 is manager Ian Feltham with a pile of redundant ashtrays
The Westgate Inn was the first non-smoking pub in the city. Pictured in 2005 is manager Ian Feltham with a pile of redundant ashtrays

Brewers records list the pub as early as the 1700s. It is said to have been in the “poorer part” of Canterbury, having somewhat of a “spit and sawdust” atmosphere.

Licensee James Scutt was convicted for being open before hours in 1854. And 16 years later, landlord James Elvey was charged for keeping the pub open after hours on a Sunday night.

In 1900, Harold Shand was charged with being “drunk and incapable”. According to PC Holness, the previous night in St Dunstan’s Street he had heard shouts of “murder” and “police”. The officer went into the Falstaff Tap and found Shand “helplessly drunk”.

Shand was also charged with carrying firearms without a licence on the same night. Witnesses had seen him in the bar speaking to someone about the war. Shand pulled a pistol out of his pocket and fired some shots while saying: “That will do for the Boers!”

Falstaff Tap, on the left, in 1954. Picture: Rory Kehoe
Falstaff Tap, on the left, in 1954. Picture: Rory Kehoe

Ninety-nine years later, Spoons had arrived in North Lane and “The Tap”, as it was then known, called last orders for the final time.

The site is still owned by The Falstaff Hotel around the corner in St Dunstan’s Street and has been turned into accommodation for guests, with three rooms downstairs and four upstairs. The old bat and trap pitch became hotel parking.

Nag's Head

From starting life as the Lilypot in the 17th Century to its final fling as a strip club - this Dover Street pub certainly had a lively history.

The Lilypot can be traced back to 1626 but by 1858 it had become the Nag’s Head. This building was demolished in 1930 and rebuilt slightly back from the original premises.

The new building opened as the Nag's Head in 1958 under Fremlin's ownership. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The new building opened as the Nag's Head in 1958 under Fremlin's ownership. Picture: Rory Kehoe

During a bombing raid on May 31, 1942, the building was destroyed. But the pub continued to serve, then probably one of the smallest inns in Kent, no larger than 18ft by 14ft and operating from a pre-fabricated bungalow.

After the war, the Nag’s Head was again rebuilt as part of a £11 million development plan in Canterbury lasting 20 years. The new building opened under Fremlin’s ownership in 1959. The pub was very popular in the 60s as it contained a children’s room and catered for families, especially on weekends.

It was rebranded as Gators in July 1983 - and in total its name was changed 11 times over the years.

In 1990 it became Gladstones Bar, and then Fat Piggies in 1992. In the late 1990s it was Buddy Allens sports pub. No one ever knew whether Buddy was a real person or not. The premises was decorated with American football and basketball pictures on the ceiling.

Ralph and Alistair Noel reopened the premises as the Bing strip club in 2013
Ralph and Alistair Noel reopened the premises as the Bing strip club in 2013

By the early Noughties the site had become Bar Extreme - a coffee bar with table service in the day, and a disco in the evening. The toilets were said to have an opaque glass wall segregating the men’s and ladies’ where you could pretend to see through.

Between 2005 and 2012 it became Tonic Bar Bistro, Bar 121 and the Farmhouse.

Finally, in July 2013 it was opened as the Bing strip club, run by father and son Ralph and Alistair Noel, amid much controversy, with neighbours complaining that the business was unsuitable for the area. But the lapdancing venue was demolished in 2017 to make way for 20 flats.

Like this story? Click here to find out about the first ever pub in your town, and what's there now.

Pictures and information used with kind permission of Paul Skelton of dover-kent.com.

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