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Why Kent village which lost all its pubs is raising a glass again


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Too often we are sadly having to report that another village has lost its last surviving pub.

This was the fate of Sturry - which once was home to six inns - when the Middle of the Road shut its doors for the final time in October.

Beer festival at the Chequers in 2010
Beer festival at the Chequers in 2010

It was a similar situation in Petham - another Canterbury village - in August 2019 when its only remaining pub at the time, the Chequers Inn, closed.

It was all very different from the 1940s to the early 1980s, when Petham boasted three pubs.

Down the road from the Chequers in Stone Street, there was Slippery Sams, which opened in 1938 - although the Grade II-listed building itself dates from around 1450.

It was named after Samuel Jackson, a notorious smuggler who lived there in the 18th century.

He bought the farmhouse aged 20 and it soon had a warren of tunnels underneath, used for storage and hiding places.

Slippery Sams in Petham pictured in 1949. Picture: Tim Timpson / dover-kent.com
Slippery Sams in Petham pictured in 1949. Picture: Tim Timpson / dover-kent.com

Sam earned his moniker after escaping from Maidstone Gaol by covering himself in axle grease and slipping through a small window to freedom.

But in 1760, after shooting and killing a Revenue officer, he was hanged and gibbeted for two days at the age of 30.

Slippery Sams was used by East Kent Coach ‘mystery tours’ in the 1950s as a refreshment break but closed as a pub in the 1980s.

Another Petham pub was the Duke’s Head, in the heart of the village. It first welcomed punters in the 1840s but sadly closed around the year 2000 and is now a house.

This picture from circa 1900 is believed to show retired sailor Bart Graham, who died outside the Duke’s Head after he was trampled by a horse while trying to break up a fight. Picture: dover-kent.com
This picture from circa 1900 is believed to show retired sailor Bart Graham, who died outside the Duke’s Head after he was trampled by a horse while trying to break up a fight. Picture: dover-kent.com

In 1870 the local press reported that landlord James Webb met with an accident on his way home from a cricket match. He broke his hip climbing over a stile and had to wait for others who were at the game to convey him home in a cart.

When the Chequers closed three years ago, the village lost its last pub.

But in May 2021, Louise Preston applied for a licence and opened the Petham Pint micropub at her Stable Lodge B&B.

At first, it had to operate in the courtyard, due to Covid rules, but since last summer, with business steadily increasing, the front room has been pressed into service too.

The courtyard of the Petham Pint micropub Picture: Rory Kehoe
The courtyard of the Petham Pint micropub Picture: Rory Kehoe

And last month, we reported the welcome news that the Chequers has now reopened.

The relaunch came after residents feared the Petham tavern could be gone for good, when plans to transform it into a house were lodged with Canterbury City Council.

But new landlords Steve McHugh and Paula Gilbert now hope to make it popular once again, by serving traditional pub grub, running Sunday carveries and making it “a happy family-run” business.

Hopefully it's a sign that there's life in our village pubs yet!

Steve McHugh and Paula Gilbert, new owners of The Chequers
Steve McHugh and Paula Gilbert, new owners of The Chequers

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

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