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Every Wetherspoon pub in Kent and what was there before - history and pictures through the years

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 - and then vote for Kent's best Wetherspoon pub.

Ashford - The County Hotel

The County Hotel in Ashford High Street became a Wetherspoon pub in 1998
The County Hotel in Ashford High Street became a Wetherspoon pub in 1998

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.

The pub pictured in 1980
The pub pictured in 1980

Canterbury - The Thomas Ingoldsby

The Thomas Ingoldsby in Canterbury opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1997
The Thomas Ingoldsby in Canterbury opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1997

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.

A blaze at Courts furniture showrooms and store in Burgate in 1964 (Picture: Images of Canterbury)
A blaze at Courts furniture showrooms and store in Burgate in 1964 (Picture: Images of Canterbury)
61 Burgate Street, Canterbury, the house where the author of the "Ingoldsby Legends" was born
61 Burgate Street, Canterbury, the house where the author of the "Ingoldsby Legends" was born

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

In 2005 the West Gate Inn became the first non-smoking pub in the city. Manager Ian Feltham is pictured with a pile of redundant ash trays destined for the bin.
In 2005 the West Gate Inn became the first non-smoking pub in the city. Manager Ian Feltham is pictured with a pile of redundant ash trays destined for the bin.

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.

A group outside the Falstaff Tap in 1926 (Picture: Rory Kehoe)
A group outside the Falstaff Tap in 1926 (Picture: Rory Kehoe)

The grade II-listed building is positioned near Canterbury’s West Gate, which it takes its name from.

Chatham - The Thomas Waghorn

The Thomas Waghorn in Chatham opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 2016
The Thomas Waghorn in Chatham opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 2016

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.

This picture on the wall of the pub includes photos of the old post office (Picture: Wetherspoon)
This picture on the wall of the pub includes photos of the old post office (Picture: Wetherspoon)

A statue of Waghorn was erected in 1888 by the bridge over Railway Street.

Dartford - The Flying Boat

The Flying Boat in Spital Street, Dartford
The Flying Boat in Spital Street, Dartford

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.

The Wetherspoon pub used to be a Beadles car showroom
The Wetherspoon pub used to be a Beadles car showroom

Unlike most of its punters, the pub turned 21 this year.

Deal - The Sir Norman Wisdom

JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin outside the Sir Norman Wisdom in Deal
JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin outside the Sir Norman Wisdom in Deal

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.

The building used to be the job centre, with Deal MP Gwyn Prosser and Cllr Sue Delling pictured outside in 2009 (Picture: Jo Knight)
The building used to be the job centre, with Deal MP Gwyn Prosser and Cllr Sue Delling pictured outside in 2009 (Picture: Jo Knight)

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

The Eight Bells in Dover opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1997
The Eight Bells in Dover opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1997

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.

The scene in Cannon Street in 1909, including the Metropole Hotel (Picture courtesy of Dover Museum)
The scene in Cannon Street in 1909, including the Metropole Hotel (Picture courtesy of Dover Museum)
Millets, now The Eight Bells, in Cannon Street, Dover (Picture: Stuart Kinnon / dover-kent.com)
Millets, now The Eight Bells, in Cannon Street, Dover (Picture: Stuart Kinnon / dover-kent.com)

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

The Wetherspoon Leading Light in Preston Street, Faversham
The Wetherspoon Leading Light in Preston Street, Faversham

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

The Samuel Peto opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1998
The Samuel Peto opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 1998

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.

The hymn board at the former Baptist church
The hymn board at the former Baptist church

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

The Robert Pocock pub, in Windmill Street, Gravesend
The Robert Pocock pub, in Windmill Street, Gravesend

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

JD Wetherspoon opened The Saxon Shore in Herne Bay in 1999
JD Wetherspoon opened The Saxon Shore in Herne Bay in 1999

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.

The building was previously home to Loader's Cafe and Restaurant, built in 1933 (Picture: Herne Bay Historical Records Society / John Fishpool)
The building was previously home to Loader's Cafe and Restaurant, built in 1933 (Picture: Herne Bay Historical Records Society / John Fishpool)

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 Maidstone High Street opened in 1995
The Muggleton Inn in Maidstone High Street opened in 1995

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.

Photograph showing the front exterior of the building as the Kent Insurance Offices in the early 1900s
Photograph showing the front exterior of the building as the Kent Insurance Offices in the early 1900s
Picture showing the back exterior of the premises taken in the early 1900s (Picture: Wetherspoon)
Picture showing the back exterior of the premises taken in the early 1900s (Picture: Wetherspoon)

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

Society Rooms in Week Street, Maidstone
Society Rooms in Week Street, Maidstone

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 Society Rooms opened in 2002
The Society Rooms opened in 2002

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 in Margate (Picture: Google Maps)
The Mechanical Elephant in Margate (Picture: Google Maps)

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.

In 2004, licensee Steve Pullman with Sam Bryant and Sarah Almond at the Mechanical Elephant
In 2004, licensee Steve Pullman with Sam Bryant and Sarah Almond at the Mechanical Elephant
The Mechanical Elephant in action on Margate Promenade
The Mechanical Elephant in action on Margate Promenade

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 Station Road, Rainham, opened in September
The Railway in Station Road, Rainham, opened in September

The Railway in Rainham is Kent’s newest Wetherspoon pub.

The pub in Station Road, Rainham has been left disused since 2012, but was re-opened by Wetherspoon in September 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

The Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate was a joint winner of CAMRA’s Pub Design Award for Conversion to Pub Use
The Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate was a joint winner of CAMRA’s Pub Design Award for Conversion to Pub Use

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.

Photograph of Royal Pavilion and Harbour, pictured here c1906 with the east and west piers encircling the harbour (Picture: Wetherspoon)
Photograph of Royal Pavilion and Harbour, pictured here c1906 with the east and west piers encircling the harbour (Picture: Wetherspoon)
Inside the Royal Victoria Pavilion before it was converted
Inside the Royal Victoria Pavilion before it was converted

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.

It is said to be the UK's biggest Wetherspoon (Picture: Wetherspoon)
It is said to be the UK's biggest Wetherspoon (Picture: Wetherspoon)
The Royal Victoria Pavilion opened in Ramsgate in August 2017 (Picture: Wetherspoon)
The Royal Victoria Pavilion opened in Ramsgate in August 2017 (Picture: Wetherspoon)

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 Wetherspoon pub opened in 1999 (Picture: Steve Crispe)
The Golden Lion Wetherspoon pub opened in 1999 (Picture: Steve Crispe)

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.

Golden Lion staff members Claire Hutchins, Marie Doyle and Jemma Meany dressed-up in pink to help raise money for a breast cancer charity
Golden Lion staff members Claire Hutchins, Marie Doyle and Jemma Meany dressed-up in pink to help raise money for a breast cancer charity

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 (Picture: Google Maps)
The Sennockian in Sevenoaks has been a Wetherspoon pub since 1999 (Picture: Google Maps)

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.

Sevenoaks Hi-Fi and The Linen House pictured in the High Street in 1981 (Picture: The Sevenoaks Society)
Sevenoaks Hi-Fi and The Linen House pictured in the High Street in 1981 (Picture: 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 Wetherspoon pub in Sheerness High Street opened in 2014
The Belle and Lion Wetherspoon pub in Sheerness High Street opened in 2014

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.

The pub took the place of the Brittain and Hobbs store (Picture: Matthew Walker)
The pub took the place of the Brittain and Hobbs store (Picture: Matthew Walker)

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.

The former Belle and Lion at the junction of High Street with Hope Street was Sheerness' first pub (Picture: Bel Austin)
The former Belle and Lion at the junction of High Street with Hope Street was Sheerness' first pub (Picture: Bel Austin)
The site of Sheerness' first pub is now a Boots
The site of Sheerness' first pub is now a Boots

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 opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 2015
The Golden Hope opened as a Wetherspoon pub in 2015

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.

Sittingbourne Magistrates Court in Park Road, pictured in 2006 while still in operation (Picture: Mike Smith)
Sittingbourne Magistrates Court in Park Road, pictured in 2006 while still in operation (Picture: Mike Smith)

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

The Humphrey Bean, Tonbridge
The Humphrey Bean, Tonbridge

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

The Opera House became a Wetherspoon pub in 1996 (Picture: Wetherspoon)
The Opera House became a Wetherspoon pub in 1996 (Picture: Wetherspoon)

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.

Audience members at the opera, before the building became a pub (Picture: Wetherspoon)
Audience members at the opera, before the building became a pub (Picture: Wetherspoon)
Opera House, Tunbridge Wells, pictured in April, 1992
Opera House, Tunbridge Wells, pictured in April, 1992

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

The Peter Cushing Wetherspoon pub opened in Whitstable in 2011
The Peter Cushing Wetherspoon pub opened in Whitstable in 2011

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.

The Oxford Cinema in Whitstable, which became the Wetherspoon pub (© Copyright Dennis Turner)
The Oxford Cinema in Whitstable, which became the Wetherspoon pub (© Copyright 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.

Now vote - what is Kent's best Wetherspoon pub?

Additional reporting by Luke May.

To read the Secret Drinker’s pub reviews click here.

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