Published: 06:00, 07 August 2021
| Updated: 14:51, 07 August 2021
From former opera houses, to police stations to car showrooms - every single one of Kent's 23 Wetherspoon pubs has a fascinating history behind it. But what was there before the pub chain opened its doors in your local town? We've delved deep into the archives to find out. Scroll down to find out more...
Ashford - The County Hotel
The building in Ashford is believed to have been built in about 1710 by George Sinnott - steward to the Lord of the Manor - as a private house.
After Sinnott, two families of medical practitioners were in residence.
First came the Norwood family, then the Whitfields, who stayed until about 1865. In time it became known as Whitfield House.The building became an inn around 1890. It was a Temperance Society venue, called Fernley Temperance Hotel.
In 1926, whilst still a teetotal establishment, it became the County Hotel. But two years later it obtained a license to sell alcohol.
It became a Wetherspoon pub in February 1998.
Canterbury - The Thomas Ingoldsby
The Thomas Ingoldsby in Burgate, Canterbury, opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1997.
The site used to be home to Courts furniture store. It underwent a £2.5m refurbishment and re-opened in 2018 with 13 hotel bedrooms and a second bar upstairs.
The pub gets its name from Richard Harris Barham who was born in 1788, at 61 Burgate, across the road. Using the pen name Thomas Ingoldsby, he wrote The Ingoldsby Legends which first appeared in 1840 in a periodical edited by Charles Dickens.
Canterbury - The West Gate Inn
Canterbury is blessed with not one, but two Wetherspoon pubs.
When the West Gate Inn opened in 1999 at 1-3 North Lane it also swallowed up what was the Falstaff Tap.
The grade II-listed building is positioned near Canterbury’s West Gate, which it takes its name from.
Chatham - The Thomas Waghorn
This former post office and Firkin inn in Chatham became a Wetherspoon pub in 2016, following a £2.2 million renovation.
It is named after "postal pioneer" Thomas Fletcher Waghorn, the Chatham-born naval officer and merchant seaman who developed a new postal route from Great Britain to India.
A statue of Waghorn was erected in 1888 by the bridge over Railway Street.
Dartford - The Flying Boat
Aside from having anxiety-inducing stairs, The Flying Boat in Dartford has a rich history.
It started life out as a Beadles car showroom, changing to a production line for parts of the Sunderland Flying Boat, one of the most powerful and commonly used flying boats during the Second World War.
After the war it returned to life as a car showroom, even after Beadles shut down its manufacturing arm in the 1950s.
Deal - The Sir Norman Wisdom
This Wetherspoon pub in Deal opened in 2013, taking the place of the town's job centre.
It is named after much-loved comedian Sir Norman Wisdom, who was born into an impoverished family and, at an early age, sent to live in Deal.
Aged 14, he took a succession of jobs in London, later becoming one of the highest-paid British stars of his day.
Before it was a job centre, it was long-known for teas and hot dinners, having been Dobson’s, and later Little’s Café and Restaurant.
Dover - The Eight Bells
This pub is part of the former Metropole Hotel in Dover.
It opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1997, having been home to Millets outdoor clothing store.
It stands in the shadow of St Mary’s Church, which was totally rebuilt in 1843, except for the tower, which has the eight bells, giving the pub its name.
Faversham - The Leading Light
A former Co-op store, this Wetherspoon pub opened in 1997.
It is named after Henry Wreight, who was a "leading light" in the development of Faversham in the 19th century.
One of the town’s two main benefactors, after his death in 1840 his bequest was used to provide schools, the recreation ground and almshouses.
He was also three times mayor of Faversham.
Folkestone - The Samuel Peto
This Wetherspoon pub in Folkestone, formerly a Baptist church, opened on April 18, 1998.
The new Salem Chapel was funded largely by a loan from Samuel (later Sir Samuel) Morton Peto in 1874.
A Baptist himself, Peto was one of the great railway contractors of the Victorian age, and his company also built Nelson’s Column.
The man himself served as an MP for more than 20 years, resigning his seat in 1866.
Gravesend - The Robert Pocock
Converted from a furniture shop, the pub is named after the printer and publisher who introduced the first printing press in Gravesend in 1786.
Robert Pocock also opened the town’s first library at the back of his high-street shop, where he published illustrated children’s books and, in 1797, The History of Gravesend and Milton – the first history book of Gravesend.
It opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1998.
Herne Bay - The Saxon Shore
The Saxon Shore Wetherspoon pub opened in Herne Bay in 1999.
The site was previously occupied by Collard’s Restaurant and Hotel in the 1890s. It later became the Tower Hotel, before it was gutted by fire and demolished in 1932.
A new building was constructed the following year, with owner Ronald Loader creating a restaurant and a 3,000 sq ft ballroom. It was then known as Loader’s Cafe and Central Hall, and was the home of Herne Bay’s popular local drama group the Mask Players.
It later became Harvey’s Restaurant and at one stage was a central heating business. It was run as Chaplin’s by John and Sandra Young until 1998, when police opposed its licence renewal due to complaints of violence and noise.
Wetherspoon gave it the name The Saxon Shore, which dates back to the military forts built along the coast during the late Roman occupation.
Maidstone - The Muggleton Inn
The Muggleton Inn in the High Street in Maidstone opened in 1995.
The grade II-listed building dates back to 1827, when it was constructed as the new offices of the Kent Fire Insurance Company. The palatial property was built to the designs of local architect John Whichcord Senior.
The company’s horse-drawn fire engine was stored to the rear of the premises. The Royal Insurance Company took over in 1901, remaining there for about 90 years.
It takes its name from Charles Dickens’ famous novel The Pickwick Papers (published in the 1830s) in which Maidstone is called "Muggleton" and its residents "Muggletonians".
Maidstone - The Society Rooms
The Society Rooms, underneath Brenchley House and opposite Maidstone East station, was opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 2002.
The bar in Week Street took five months to complete at a cost of £1.3 million.
The venue takes up the ground floor of a five-storey block that was once the site of a local newspaper works.
The Society Rooms takes its name from the efforts of William Shipley, founder of the Royal Society of Arts and the Maidstone Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge. Shipley died in 1803 and is buried in Maidstone and lies in a tomb between All Saints Church and the old Palace.
Margate - The Mechanical Elephant
The Mechanical Elephant Wetherspoon pub opened on Margate seafront in 2001 – and underwent a £500,000 re-fit earlier this year.
The pub is part of Marine Terrace, built in the early Victorian era.
This was a time when elegant terraced houses were rented by wealthy visitors from London, who spent the whole summer in town having bought their own servants and carriages. So DFLs aren’t exactly a new thing for trendy coastal Kent towns.
The pub name recalls a popular attractions which gave hundreds of children rides on the Promenade.
Rainham - The Railway
The Railway in Rainham is Kent’s newest Wetherspoon pub.
The pub in Station Road, Rainham, had been left disused since 2012, but was re-opened by Wetherspoon in September 2019 after six months of building works, restoration and a cash injection of £2.1million
The premises was originally known as The Railway Hotel and had been a temperance hotel prior to 1901, managed by Elizabeth Sayers.
Ramsgate - The Royal Victoria Pavilion
Opened just two years ago, The Royal Harbour Pavilion in Ramsgate must surely be considered one of Kent’s most beautiful Wetherspoon pubs.
A striking example of seaside architecture, this grade II-listed building had been one of the country’s most at-risk Victorian/Edwardian buildings.
Built as a concert hall/assembly rooms and designed by architect Stanley Davenport Adshead, it was based on the style of a Robert Adam orangery.
The interior is said to be derived from the Little Theatre at Versailles and was simplified in the 1930s. After being a nightclub, then casino, it closed in 2008.
The pub has a ground floor rear beer garden, along with first-floor roof terrace. It is said to be the UK’s biggest Wetherspoon pub.
Rochester - The Golden Lion
The Golden Lion in Rochester recently celebrated its 20th anniversary as a Wetherspoon pub.
From the early 19th century until the 1920s, 147 High Street had been a pub called The Golden Lion. The Wetherspoon takeover in 1999 saw 149 High Street, a former shoe shop, incorporated into the boozer.
Before the late 1940s, 149 High Street was the Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham Savings Bank.
In 2015, the pub underwent a £1.5 million refurbishment, with the area above converted into nine en-suite hotel rooms.
Sevenoaks - The Sennockian
The Sennockian in Sevenoaks has been a Wetherspoon pub since 1999.
Numbers 139-141 in the High Street used to be home to a linen house, cafe and hi-fi shop over the years before the site was converted, according to The Sevenoaks Society.
Inhabitants of Sevenoaks are known as Sennockians – and this is where the pub takes its name from.
Sheerness - The Belle and Lion
The Belle and Lion opened as a Wetherspoon pub in Sheerness in July 2014.
It was formerly home electrical suppliers Brittain & Hobbs in the High Street, which had been operating since the 1970s.
Earlier still, the premises had housed an ironmongery business, dating back to at least the early 1870s.
At the rear, there was a row of cottages where there is now an outdoor seating area. Clarence Cottages were named after the Duke of Clarence who opened the Royal Naval Dockyard, in 1823, which gave rise to Sheerness.
The Wetherspoon pub's name derives from The Belle and Lion - which was the first public house to be built in the town.
Recorded in 1824, it stood for many years on the site of 59 High Street – which is now home to Boots.
Sittingbourne - The Golden Hope
The Golden Hope in Sittingbourne opened its doors as a Wetherspoon pub in July 2015 on the site of a former court house.
The inspiration behind the name is a Thames spritsail sailing barge, which was built in 1866, and sailed for many years until it was converted into “a floating home”.
Hundreds of these wooden vessels, with their red-brown sails, were made in nearby creeks and inlets to transport Kentish bricks, but few have survived.
The former magistrates court was purpose built around 1866. It was Sittingbourne’s first police station.
In all the pub chain spent £2m revamping the Park Road venue.
Tonbridge - The Humphrey Bean
This pub was a post office for most of the 20th century.
Before 1908, the We Three Loggerheads pub stood on this site, with Humphrey Bean as its landlord.
Tunbridge Wells - The Opera House
It's not over until the fat lady sings - this is true of both opera and a night out in Tunbridge Wells, probably.
This venue in its heyday was, you guessed it, an opera house.
It opened at the turn of the 20th century, converting to a cinema in 1931. In the 1950s it became a bingo hall.
By the 1990s it was ready to pack a full house by other means, converting to a Wetherspoon pub in 1996, but it still occasionally hosts an opera, most recently in 2016.
Whitstable - The Peter Cushing
After a £1.5 million redevelopment, the old Gala bingo hall in Whitstable reopened as The Peter Cushing Wetherspoon pub in August 2011.
The building was also formerly home to the Oxford Cinema, pictured below by Dennis Turner.
Its name is a tribute to one of the town’s most famous former residents, actor Peter Cushing OBE who was known for his many roles in Hammer Horror films and his numerous appearances as the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
He first visited Whitstable in the 1940s and in 1958 bought a house, initially for weekend use and then as his home in retirement until his death in 1994.
Additional reporting by Luke May.