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Kent's most unusual pub names across the county


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The pub – a humble British establishment entrenched in our national psyche and the cornerstone of our culture.

Whether it be a cosy country watering hole complete with fireplace and comfy wingback chairs or a town centre boozer with the football or a live band in the background, we love the pub.

The Who'd Ha Thought It Pub, Baker Street, Rochester, pictured in 2009
The Who'd Ha Thought It Pub, Baker Street, Rochester, pictured in 2009

The history and tradition or just somewhere to catch up with a mate or few and put the world to rights, or celebrating that special occasion, it often starts in the local.

But whatever our reason for heading to the bar, there are certain things about pubs which aren't common to each other. As the saying goes: it's all in the name.

In Kent, there are numerous weird and unusual names, marking them out even more so than their more commonly named counterparts.

Here, we look at some of the county's most uniquely and strangest named pubs. If your favourite isn't included – put a note in the comments and let us know.

Who'd Ha Thought It, Rochester (and Who'd A Thought It Grafty Green, near Maidstone)

The Who'd Ha Thought It Pub, Baker Street, Rochester
The Who'd Ha Thought It Pub, Baker Street, Rochester
The Who'd A Thought It at Grafty Green near Maidstone. Picture: Google
The Who'd A Thought It at Grafty Green near Maidstone. Picture: Google

OK, so although we're looking at unique pub names, the fact there's two named the Who'd A Thought It (or a variation on a theme) doesn't really lend itself to that category.

Strange, however, it certainly is.

The first licensee listed at Rochester's Who'd Ha Thought It was Elizabeth Newnham who ran the pub in Baker Street from 1874 until about 1911 when census records show it was then in the hands of a Frank Martin.

Today, it specialises in providing real ales and has a range of events taking place throughout the month.

Meanwhile, the country public house which bears a similar name albeit with the different spelling is believed to originate from about 1545 when it was a thatched property and was licensed to sell beer in 1740.

The pub was bought by Shepherd Neame from Mason's in 1956.

Now, it is a boutique hotel, oyster and champagne bar and fine dining restaurant. It even has a dress shop attached to the property – Who'd A Thought It!

The Bell and Jorrocks, Frittenden, near Cranbrook

The Bell and Jorrocks Pub in Frittenden takes its name from the 1830s satirical character John Jorrocks
The Bell and Jorrocks Pub in Frittenden takes its name from the 1830s satirical character John Jorrocks

Any pub named The Bell is common enough but the addition of "and Jorrocks" to it makes this country pub in Frittenden rather unusual.

The name came about because it was a merger of two establishments in the village – The Bell and the John Jorrocks.

Who was John Jorrocks, you ask? Well, he is a satirical comedy character created in the 1830s by writer Robert Smith Surtees depicted as a jolly Cockney grocer who was a popular figure in early Victorian Britain.

He is usually depicted as a rather portly man, red-cheeked and dressed in a hunting coat.

The stories and novels Surtees wrote about Jorrocks were often highly satirical of issues of the day.

Back to the pub... it stands on the site of The Bell which is believed to have been built in the early 1700s but it is first documented in 1741.

The Bell and Jorrocks in Frittenden. Picture: Google
The Bell and Jorrocks in Frittenden. Picture: Google

In 1821, it was bought by Samuel Shepherd – who would give his name to the Shepherd Neame brewery – and was set to be auctioned off until it was taken over by Maidstone brewers John Brenchley and Edwin and John Stacey.

The pub served at the heart of the community hosting social groups and at one time even served as the Coroners' Court.

In 1967, the long-serving landlord of The Bell retired and now run by the Whitbread brewery, it was decided to close the John Jorrocks and to amalgamate the village's two pubs and combine the names.

The Tartar Frigate, Broadstairs

The Broadstairs venue is a now a top seafood restaurant. Picture: dover-kent.com
The Broadstairs venue is a now a top seafood restaurant. Picture: dover-kent.com

It's traditional external frontage on the harbourside in Broadstairs has barely changed since the 1970s.

The Tartar Frigate – a flint-fronted building dating back to as early as 1600 – is so named after the Royal Navy frigate HMS Tartar which was commissioned in 1801.

She was built at Frindsbury near Rochester but why the pub in Broadstairs acquired her name is somewhat unclear.

Indeed what it was even called before the HMS Tartar was built has also not been recorded but the sign harks back to the 32-gun ship built for the navy at the turn of the 19th century.

The pub was even visited by former Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath, who was born in the town, and is commemorated on the wall in the bar.

Now widely regarded as one of the best seafood restaurants in Kent, the pub is one of the most popular venues on the Thanet coast.

The Tartar Frigate pictured in 1900. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The Tartar Frigate pictured in 1900. Picture: Rory Kehoe
Outside the Tartar Frigate in Broadstairs in 1890. Picture: Rory Kehoe
Outside the Tartar Frigate in Broadstairs in 1890. Picture: Rory Kehoe

Ye Olde Beverlie, Canterbury

Ye Olde Beverlie today is run by Shepherd Neame and serves Mexican cuisine
Ye Olde Beverlie today is run by Shepherd Neame and serves Mexican cuisine

A pub with an illustrious history, it is a Grade-II listed building dating back to 1570 making it one of Canterbury's oldest surviving taverns.

It was built by Sir Roger Manwood, who served as Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer under Queen Elizabeth.

The original building was part of a set of almshouses but only part of that on the western side is still visible today.

In the St Stephen's area of the city, the pub takes its name from the Beverley Meadow just across the street.

It contains what could be the original stone floor and features period beams and ceiling styles.

The game bat and trap is said to have been invented at the pub and is still played there today in the garden and courtyard.

Ye Olde Beverlie in 1896 Picture: Rory Kehoe
Ye Olde Beverlie in 1896 Picture: Rory Kehoe

Historians say the pub is also the birthplace of Kent County Cricket due to the origins of the bat and trap games played there and Canterbury Cricket Club was originally known as the Beverlie Cricket Club due to the side playing on the nearby ground.

It is today a Mexican-English fusion pub restaurant and a landmark on the northern side of Canterbury.

A bat and trap game in 1944 at Ye Olde Beverlie which is credited as the birthplace of the game and is said to be the start of Kent County Cricket Club. Picture: Rory Kehoe
A bat and trap game in 1944 at Ye Olde Beverlie which is credited as the birthplace of the game and is said to be the start of Kent County Cricket Club. Picture: Rory Kehoe
A picture of Ye Olde Beverlie in 1977 Picture: Rory Kehoe
A picture of Ye Olde Beverlie in 1977 Picture: Rory Kehoe

Bonny Cravat, Woodchurch, near Ashford

An undated picture of the Bonny Cravat in Woodchurch, Kent. The pub is said to take its name from a group of French sailors which used La Bonne Curvette and traded with local smugglers
An undated picture of the Bonny Cravat in Woodchurch, Kent. The pub is said to take its name from a group of French sailors which used La Bonne Curvette and traded with local smugglers

The pub is mentioned in the Kentish Gazette – a sister title of KentOnline – as early as 1768 with a land auction due to take place.

The origins of the name is somewhat unclear although the pub's sign referring to a ship is believed to because it was used as a smugglers pub who traded with French sailors from the boat La Bonne Curvette and the Anglicised version became Bonny Cravat.

It is a genuine one-off in Britain and no other pubs in the country have the same name.

The cellar holds its own secrets and a tunnel leading to the church opposite the pub is understood to date back to the Reformation when Catholic priests would be hidden away from Henry VIII's forces so it can be assumed the pub can trace its history back to the Tudor era.

Now owned by Shepherd Neame, it is a popular destination for food, including a Sunday roast carvery, and drinks.

The Bonny Cravat in Woodchurch is a true one-of-a-kind named pub. Picture: Shepherd Neame
The Bonny Cravat in Woodchurch is a true one-of-a-kind named pub. Picture: Shepherd Neame
Bonny Cravat, Woodchurch pictured in 2010
Bonny Cravat, Woodchurch pictured in 2010

Botolphs Bridge Inn, Hythe

Botolphs Bridge Inn, West Hythe. Picture: Google
Botolphs Bridge Inn, West Hythe. Picture: Google

This pub takes its name from the legend of a seventh century monk named St Boltoph whose body was exhumed and carried away to protect it being captured by invading Danes.

Legend says the body was brought to West Hythe and the monks carrying the body were guided across the deep drainage dyke on the landscape across the marshes by a mysterious light from the sky to find the only safe crossing.

The place is now known as Botolphs Bridge and the bridge crossing which was built after the construction of the Royal Military Canal took the name from that crossing site.

The pub's sign is a representation of the monks carrying Botolph across the water.

Before the Second World War, pilots from 601 Squadron – one of the RAF's fighter units – flew from Lympne to the pub to enjoy a drink and a game of darts in the evenings on summer camps.

Among those pilots, according to historian Tom Moulson, was Roger Bushell, one of the captives at Stalag Luft III and a Great Escape conspirator killed by the Nazis as they tried to flee the prisoner camp which inspired The Great Escape.

Botolphs Bridge Inn, West Hythe take its name from seventh century monk St Botolph. Picture: Google
Botolphs Bridge Inn, West Hythe take its name from seventh century monk St Botolph. Picture: Google

Cat and Custard Pot, Paddlesworth, near Folkestone

This pub was formerly known as the Red Lion and alongside its unusual name also has the claim as the highest pub in Kent.

It was a regular haunt for fighter pilots based at RAF Hawkinge during the Battle of Britain and throughout the war.

But the origins of why it gained its name is a little less set in stone and there are a couple of versions. Take your pick as to which is most plausible...

For the first one we come across our friend from above John Jorrocks again.

Jorrocks, a satirical character created in the 1830s by writer Robert Smith Surtees, features in a publication New Sporting Magazine which features light-hearted short stories about country sports and exploits, of which Jorrocks was particularly fond.

The Cat and Custard Pot at Paddlesworth near Hawkinge was a popular drinking spot for pilots in the Second World War. Picture: Google
The Cat and Custard Pot at Paddlesworth near Hawkinge was a popular drinking spot for pilots in the Second World War. Picture: Google

The hunt met at a fictional pub called The Cat and Custard Pot.

Back to reality and the East Kent Foxhounds previously met at the pub and it is said the pub was likened to that which featured in the Jorrocks stories.

The pub was then renamed officially although the exact date the change came in is not documented.

The second story seems a little more unlikely but is an interesting tale nonetheless.

When the sign for the Red Lion was repainted after it was damaged in strong winds and falling from the tree it was hanging from, a new board was commissioned.

As it was finished the villagers gathered and despite being painted in vibrant colours, the feeling was that the picture showed a large cat rather than a lion.

Therefore the pub started to become known as The Cat.

When the sign was hung, the paint started to run and resembled a cat falling into a custard pot. Or so the story goes.

The Alma, Painter's Forstal, near Faversham

The Alma, Painter's Forstal near Faversham is named after the Battle of the Alma during the Crimean War. Picture: Chris Davey
The Alma, Painter's Forstal near Faversham is named after the Battle of the Alma during the Crimean War. Picture: Chris Davey

Although there are plenty of pubs around the country named The Alma, it is unique in Kent in that this village pub and restaurant is the only one in the county.

What is Alma and what relevance to Kent does it have?

The first part of that is quite straightforward to answer.

Alma refers to the Battle of the Alma during the Crimean War in 1854 when British, French and Egyptian forces clashed with Russian troops defending the strategically vital port city of Sevastopol.

The battle lines were drawn south of the Alma river.

It resulted in a British and allied victory as the Russian forces retreated but due to a lack of cavalry support very little gains beyond the battle were made.

The Alma in Painter's Forstal near Faversham
The Alma in Painter's Forstal near Faversham

In terms of The Alma pub, it is clear the pub is named after the battle due to it depicting a group of Red Coats carrying the Union flag and charging into the fight.

It was built in about 1837 and its rural location was a welcome resting stop for hop pickers after a busy day in the fields.

The landlord used to light candles on the premises guide their way in the dark during the picking season.

In terms of why the battle is recognised in Kent through the pub, there seems to be very little connection save for it commemorating a British victory.

Likewise, the Heights of Alma – the name of the town where the battle took place – gives its name to a pub in Sheerness.

Sennockian, Sevenoaks

The Sennockian in Sevenoaks has been a Wetherspoon pub since 1999
The Sennockian in Sevenoaks has been a Wetherspoon pub since 1999

Taken from the old Saxon word for Sevenoaks – Seouenaca – inhabitants of the town are known as Sennockians.

The town emerged from its humble origins of a small hospital in Saxon times offering protection to travellers and dedicated to St Nicholas. The site became a church in 1114.

The name is also given to a pupil of the Sevenoaks School and is the name of the school's annual review, which was first published in 1896.

Now it also gives its name to the town's branch of JD Wetherspoon.

Flying Saucer, Hempstead, Gillingham

The Flying Saucer public house in Hempstead opening ceremony in April 1951. Picture: Images of Medway
The Flying Saucer public house in Hempstead opening ceremony in April 1951. Picture: Images of Medway
The Flying Saucer pub at Hempstead took the licence from the former Shipwright Arms in Brompton when slum clearances continued in the 1950s
The Flying Saucer pub at Hempstead took the licence from the former Shipwright Arms in Brompton when slum clearances continued in the 1950s

The pub has existed under its name since 1951 when the licence of the former Shipwright Arms in Brompton was transferred to its current location on Hempstead Road and opened with the unusual name.

It said to be one of the first pubs in England to feature spacecraft on its sign.

In the 1987 version a man and a woman stare out in horror as two saucers fly off the kitchen table out of the window.

The Flying Saucer was one of several pubs to see the licence transferred from a Brompton establishment during slum clearances in the area during the 1930s and 1950s.

Bear and Ragged Staff, Crayford

Bear and Ragged Staff on London Road, Crayford was returned to its original name again after new owners in 1995 tried to change it
Bear and Ragged Staff on London Road, Crayford was returned to its original name again after new owners in 1995 tried to change it

A pub dates back to this site next to the River Cray bridge from 1704, according to the earliest records.

It was extensively rebuilt in the mid 1920s and tied to the former Beasley's Brewery when it reopened on August 1, 1925.

Colloquially known as the Bear, as was recorded in 1828, the pub's name is believed to originate from the crest of the Earl of Warwick.

The Bear and Ragged Staff, Crayford. Picture: Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre
The Bear and Ragged Staff, Crayford. Picture: Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre
A beer delivery at the Bear and Ragged Staff, Crayford. Picture: Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre
A beer delivery at the Bear and Ragged Staff, Crayford. Picture: Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre
Kegs of beer are delivered to the Bear and Ragged Staff in, Crayford, circa 1930. Picture: Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre
Kegs of beer are delivered to the Bear and Ragged Staff in, Crayford, circa 1930. Picture: Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre

Legend has it that the earls' ancestor, a bear named Morvidus, killed a giant with a young ash tree (as in the ragged staff) torn up by its roots.

In 1995, there was uproar when the pub was renamed the Orange Kipper and protests from the council, heritage groups and punters forced the new owners to reinstate the old name.

The former sign which had been thrown out was pulled from a scrapyard and returned to its pride of place hanging from the Tudor-style building.

Which pub is the oldest in Kent? Click here to see the contenders for the title.

To read more of our in-depth features click here.

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