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The oldest pubs in Kent - and what's there now

While some have become Italian restaurants or bargain stores, many of the county's oldest pubs are still going and will be reopening their doors today.

So, whether it's still serving pints or been turned into something completely different, we've taken a look at the first ever tavern in every Kent town.

The Royal Fountain Hotel in St Margaret's Street, Canterbury - where the entrance to the Marlowe Arcade now stands - was perhaps Kent's first ever pub. Picture: Rory Kehoe / Google
The Royal Fountain Hotel in St Margaret's Street, Canterbury - where the entrance to the Marlowe Arcade now stands - was perhaps Kent's first ever pub. Picture: Rory Kehoe / Google

Along the way, we'll pop in to some historic inns which have welcomed prime ministers, famous novelists, great generals - and cold-blooded murderers.

Keep reading to find out more about your town's first ever pub - and what's there now...

ASHFORD

Although many of Kent's earliest pubs have sadly been lost over the centuries, it's great to be able to toast the success of The George Hotel, which survives to this day.

The George in Ashford High Street in 1965. Picture: Steve Salter
The George in Ashford High Street in 1965. Picture: Steve Salter

The Grade II-listed inn at 68 High Street dates back to the 16th Century and is mentioned in the will of John Burwashe in 1533, according to Ashford historian Steve Salter.

For many years, the pub was owned by Courage and then became a free house for a time afterwards.

Mr Salter adds: "Many will remember well-known licensee Gerry Allibone who between him and his family ran the George Hotel, The Swan and the County Hotel back in the 1980s."

The George Hotel's landlord Tom Dixon with barmaids Corinna Anderson, left, and Tracey Powell in 2008
The George Hotel's landlord Tom Dixon with barmaids Corinna Anderson, left, and Tracey Powell in 2008

In 1986 evidence was found confirming a traditional story that in ancient time, a bridle path ran alongside the George which then ran under the former Assembly Rooms in Kings Parade and a seed merchants premises named Worgers, then on to South Ashford.

The discovery and confirmation was made following the demolition of the former Boots next door at 70-72 High Street.

The George in Ashford today
The George in Ashford today

The pub has recently been counting down the days to reopening on its Facebook page.

BROADSTAIRS

On Sunday, August 20, 1967, a rather grand group of friends were gathered outside the Tartar Frigate in Broadstairs.

Ted Heath, Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, grew up in Broadstairs and frequented the Tartar Frigate pub
Ted Heath, Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, grew up in Broadstairs and frequented the Tartar Frigate pub

Conservative Party leader Ted Heath was enjoying a quiet beer with, among others, Winston S. Churchill (grandson of the great wartime leader) and a certain Margaret Thatcher.

Perhaps Mr Heath had wanted to show his pals the town he grew up in - and, indeed, its first ever pub.

The flint-faced seafront tavern was built in 1600, according to dover-kent.com. The good people from the Broadstairs History Facebook page say this makes it the town's oldest inn.

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

Unfortunately, the Tories' seaside jolly was broken up by a police constable, who asked them to move off the narrow road and onto the pavement.

Today, Mr Heath can still be seen supping a half-pint in a photo hanging in the bar.

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

The Tartar Frigate is now "renowned as one of the best seafood restaurants in Kent", according to its website.

CANTERBURY

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.

The entrance to the Marlowe Arcade in St Margaret's Street, where "England's oldest pub" once stood. Picture: Google Street View
The entrance to the Marlowe Arcade in St Margaret's Street, where "England's oldest pub" once stood. Picture: Google Street View

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.

A pub that was so old that the four knights who killed Thomas Becket at the Cathedral are said to have had a pint there first
A pub that was so old that the four knights who killed Thomas Becket at the Cathedral are said to have had a pint there first

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.

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!

A postcard showing a carriage outside the pub in St Margaret's Street, date unknown. Picture: dover-kent.com
A postcard showing a carriage outside the pub in St Margaret's Street, date unknown. Picture: dover-kent.com
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

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

So, the next time you're in Canterbury, why not make a pilgrimage to this hallowed site - and pop to the nearest pub to raise a glass to the Royal Fountain.

CHATHAM

In order to find the first ever pubs in the Medway Towns we enlisted the help of a friendly Facebook group.

Poco Loco in Chatham High Street. Picture: Google
Poco Loco in Chatham High Street. Picture: Google

Several members of "The Pubs of the Medway Towns" provided answers, yet local enthusiast Judy Miller emerged as the voice of authority.

She says the Blue Anchor has the strongest claim to be Chatham's first ever pub, as its deeds date from 1567 and it was located on the main "road" from Rochester to Chatham.

The pub at 60 High Street later became the Trumpet Tavern, surviving until about 1889.

Today, the building is home to bar and live music venue Poco Loco.

DARTFORD

The earliest public house in Dartford for which evidence exists is mentioned in a document from 1471-72.

The Bull Hotel in Dartford in 1910. Picture: Dartford Borough Museum
The Bull Hotel in Dartford in 1910. Picture: Dartford Borough Museum

It records Dartford Priory receiving 20 shillings rent from an inn called ‘Le Hole Bole’. The document also mentions that the inn was previously known as ‘Whalebones’.

Dr Mike Still, chairman of Dartford Historical and Antiquarian Society, explains further: "Le Hole Bole is a medieval spelling of ‘the Holy Bull’, which refers to the papal bull.

"The bull is really the official seal on a letter from the Pope but is often used to mean the letter itself, especially an edict."

The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel in Dartford High Street today, which still has the central opening originally built for stagecoaches
The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel in Dartford High Street today, which still has the central opening originally built for stagecoaches

The pub still exists today, although it was completely rebuilt in about 1703, and is now called the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel.

DEAL

The oldest documented pub in Deal is the Carpenter's Arms, according to Steve Glover, author of "The Old Pubs of Deal and Walmer".

The New Inn in 1904. Picture: Steve Glover
The New Inn in 1904. Picture: Steve Glover

The tavern - which was also known as the Three Compasses over the years - became The New Inn around 1824.

It was named as pub of the year in 2010 by KentOnline's sister paper, the East Kent Mercury.

Tony Suckling, Briony Morgan, Danny Moors and Debbie Doyle in 2010 after being named pub of the year. Picture: Martin Apps
Tony Suckling, Briony Morgan, Danny Moors and Debbie Doyle in 2010 after being named pub of the year. Picture: Martin Apps

However, when it hit the headlines in more recent times it was certainly not cause for celebration.

In 2018, landlady Deborah Doyle was fined £8,000 after ten people who ate at the pub contracted food poisoning.

Then last year a sign appeared in the window saying The New Inn was closed until further notice.

"Debbie and Terry would like to thank all of our loyal customers for their support over the last 16 years," it added.

The New Inn pub in Deal High Street
The New Inn pub in Deal High Street

The pub appears to have reopened later in 2019 but has not posted anything on its Facebook page since January.

DOVER

The Annunciation in Dover is reported to have served ale in the 1100s.

Salutation shown on right in the early 1930s
Salutation shown on right in the early 1930s

It is believed to have been connected by a tunnel to a nearby monastery.

The ancient pub later became The Salutation. Paul Skelton, owner of peerless Kent pub history website dover-kent.com, says: "I do recall that it was necessary to step down into the public bar - so it was easy to fall into, as it were."

It was knocked down in 1963 in order for the pavement to be widened and another pub with the same name was built on a corner 60ft from the original site.

However, this closed in 1983 and was replaced - for just seven months - by a Pizza Hut before becoming a Bradford and Bingley.

Biggin Street, Dover, with the rough location of the original Salutation pub (now BrightHouse) circled. Picture: Google
Biggin Street, Dover, with the rough location of the original Salutation pub (now BrightHouse) circled. Picture: Google

As to what's currently on the site of the original Salutation in the now pedestrianised Biggin Street, it is likely occupied by part of a large BrightHouse store.

Mr Skelton has one further contender for what would be not only Dover's, but perhaps the UK's oldest drinking hole.

The Roman Painted House, Dover. Picture: Google Maps
The Roman Painted House, Dover. Picture: Google Maps

The pub history supremo says: "I am still debating whether to put the Roman Painted House as a pub as well, which would take it back to Roman times about 200 A.D.

"However, there’s no positive evidence as yet that I have found to prove it sold alcohol, but I expect it did as I believe it was a hotel in its time."

FAVERSHAM

The Castle Inn in West Street was not only the first ever pub in Faversham, but also the first acquired by Shepherd Neame.

The Castle Inn in Faversham in 1948. Picture: Arthur Percival
The Castle Inn in Faversham in 1948. Picture: Arthur Percival
Charley, outside the Castle Inn in the 1950s, was the last dray-horse used by Shepherd Neame. Picture: dover-kent.com
Charley, outside the Castle Inn in the 1950s, was the last dray-horse used by Shepherd Neame. Picture: dover-kent.com

The tavern was said to be serving beer as early as 1450 and was snapped up by the brewery in 1711.

Local historian Peter Cook recalls there used to be a laundrette opposite the pub - providing the perfect opportunity for a quick pint while waiting for your washing to be ready.

The Castle Inn is now a private house. Picture: Google
The Castle Inn is now a private house. Picture: Google

Sadly, the Castle Inn closed in the late 1990s. The Grade II-listed building is now a private house.

FOLKESTONE

Ask most people in Folkestone which is the town's oldest pub then and they are likely to tell you it's the British Lion in The Bayle. That's certainly what Google would tell you too.

British Lion in 2009. Picture: Paul Skelton
British Lion in 2009. Picture: Paul Skelton
British Lion in 1920. Picture: Rory Kehoe
British Lion in 1920. Picture: Rory Kehoe

But local historian Jan Pedersen, who runs the Even More Tales from the Taproom website, begs to differ.

He says although the inn claims to have existed since 1460 under the name of the Priory Arms, no firm evidence has come to light of the existence of that alehouse.

The first mention of the British Lion is not until 1782. This would mean the Black Bull in Canterbury Road predates it by 40 years, the original Royal George in the harbour by 65 years and the Red Cow in Foord Road by 100 years.

Yet none of these was actually Folkestone's first pub. Mr Pedersen says the "Cheker" in what is now Church Street has the strongest claim, as it is mentioned in town records in 1525.

"By the beginning of the 18th century the premises had moved into what is now Rendezvous Street and had been renamed The George," says Mr Pedersen.

The George, pictured in August 1978. Picture: Jan Pedersen
The George, pictured in August 1978. Picture: Jan Pedersen

"It remained on that site until the mid-19th century when it moved for the final time into George Lane."

In 1997, the pub enjoyed another new lease of life, when it was transformed by Caroline Godden into the Thistle & Shamrock.

The pub was transformed into a 'Purple Palace' by Caroline Godden
The pub was transformed into a 'Purple Palace' by Caroline Godden
Group photo in the Thistle & Shamrock. Picture: Caroline Godden
Group photo in the Thistle & Shamrock. Picture: Caroline Godden

According to "Tales From The Tap Room" by local authors Martin Easdown and Eamonn Rooney, the landlady remodelled the pub "in spectacular fashion" and earned it the nickname the 'Purple Palace'.

The interior was given an Irish and Scottish theme, adorned with "bagpipes, bare brick walls and other Celtic influences".

The toilets were located in the cellar, where smugglers reportedly dug a tunnel down to the harbour in years gone by.

Behind the bar at the Thistle & Shamrock. Picture: Caroline Godden
Behind the bar at the Thistle & Shamrock. Picture: Caroline Godden
Enjoying a drink with the regulars at the Thistle & Shamrock. Picture: Caroline Godden
Enjoying a drink with the regulars at the Thistle & Shamrock. Picture: Caroline Godden

KentOnline tracked down Caroline, who described the Thistle & Shamrock as "a proper pub", with live music and "sawdust on the floor".

"There was a real sense of a community with its regulars," she said. "I'm very proud to say, all religions, all people of every race used the pub and all said it was their second home."

Caroline sold the pub in 2007 and sadly it never reopened again.

The Thistle & Shamrock has now been turned into flats. Picture: Jan Pedersen
The Thistle & Shamrock has now been turned into flats. Picture: Jan Pedersen

It has since been turned into flats.

As to what is now on the original site of the Cheker, Mr Pedersen says: "In the absence of any contemporary maps for the periods when it was there or in Rendezvous Street, I`m afraid it would be pure speculation."

GILLINGHAM

According to "The Pubs of the Medway Towns" Facebook group, the Black Foals was the town's first ever inn.

A print of Gillingham in 1830. Picture: Judy Miller
A print of Gillingham in 1830. Picture: Judy Miller

Unfortunately, no record exists of where the pub was located in the early 17th Century.

However, we can take an educated guess.

According to Judy Miller, who has carried out extensive research into Medway's pubs and studied early maps, the most likely location would have been at the foot of Church Street, at the junction with Hill Road.

She says: "Gillingham was only a village at that time and very small. Most properties seem to have been dotted around the church and on the hill.

Was the Black Foals pub located near this junction with Pier Road and Church Street? Picture: Google
Was the Black Foals pub located near this junction with Pier Road and Church Street? Picture: Google

"The top part of Gillingham was all isolated farms but fishing was also a big practice so ideal location for an inn would be the foot of the hill near the river."

GRAVESEND

In order to discover which was the first ever tavern in Gravesend, we were advised to call on the help of a Facebook group.

The Pier Hotel in Gravesend in 1985. Picture: dover-kent.com
The Pier Hotel in Gravesend in 1985. Picture: dover-kent.com

And the members of "Big Andy's Gravesham Pubs Past and Present" certainly didn't disappoint.

They got in touch with local pub expert Tommy Baynes, who fed back the answer that The Christopher, on the west side of the high street, was Gravesend's first known pub.

The Christopher is mentioned in a will of 1476 but was established as early as 1445. It was demolished in 1828 when the Town Pier square was laid out.

One year later the "Pier Hotel" was opened on the same site. However, this building was destroyed during the great fire of November 1846.

The Pier returned in a new building until in 2013, when it reopened under the guise of The Middle Ei8ht, marketed as "the number one live acoustic pub in Gravesend".

Staff at the grand opening of the Middle Ei8ht in 2013. Picture: Andy Payton
Staff at the grand opening of the Middle Ei8ht in 2013. Picture: Andy Payton
Staff of The Mug and Meeple in 2019. Picture: Matthew Walker
Staff of The Mug and Meeple in 2019. Picture: Matthew Walker

It changed its name again in 2016, when it opened as the Mug and Meeple.

Although it still looks like a pub, it is in fact now a "gamer cafe" serving coffee and tea.

HERNE BAY

The Ship Inn is so old it was serving pints before Herne Bay was even established as a town.

A postcard showing the Ship Inn in Herne Bay in 1897. Picture: Rory Kehoe
A postcard showing the Ship Inn in Herne Bay in 1897. Picture: Rory Kehoe

Sylvia McKean, of Herne & Broomfield Local History Group, says an early licensee in 1795 was Thomas Norris and the tavern has also been called The Ship Hotel.

In about 1816, houses started being constructed around the seafront pub, according to the Herne Bay Historical Records Society.

Several engravings of 1823 show the landing area on the beach and the early development of the town centred on The Ship.

Another postcard, this time showing the pub in 1929. Picture: Rory Kehoe
Another postcard, this time showing the pub in 1929. Picture: Rory Kehoe

The pub was close to the shore and the busy landing point for trading vessels.

As the settlement grew, Herne Bay became established as a town in about 1832, says Ms McKean, with enough residents to support shops, a flour mill, a post office and bakery.

The Ship Inn on Herne Bay seafront today. Picture: Chris Davey
The Ship Inn on Herne Bay seafront today. Picture: Chris Davey

The pub is still there today in Central Parade and has been serving takeaway drinks to beachgoers in recent weeks.

HYTHE

At one point Hythe was home to a dizzying 37 pubs, so tracking down the first ever tavern in the town has proved a somewhat tricky task.

The White Hart in Hythe. Date unknown. Picture: dover-kent.com
The White Hart in Hythe. Date unknown. Picture: dover-kent.com

Luckily, David Paton from Hythe Civic Society's history research group was able to steer us in the right direction.

He says there was a boom in the number of pubs in the town from around the early 19th century. Defences against a possible invasion by Napoleon - such as the Royal Military Canal, completed in 1809 - were hastily being built.

This meant the ranks stationed at the town's barracks - now occupied by Sainsbury's - were growing, boosting the demand for pubs.

Many of these have since closed but a few historic inns remain.

According to a civic society booklet, the White Hart in the High Street was first recorded in the 15th Century, making it Hythe's first pub we have evidence of.

Mr Paton said: "The town hall was built in 1794 next to the pub. The mayor used to change in the rooms in the White Hart and go through a door into the town hall."

The White Hart in Hythe High Street is still a popular pub in the town
The White Hart in Hythe High Street is still a popular pub in the town

The pub has no cellars, according to dover-kent.com.

"This gives rise to the possibility that the house was a waterfront tavern, before the sea moved away and left the town high and dry," it adds.

The White Hart is still going today, boasting a modern pub menu.

MAIDSTONE

There are three strong contenders for the title of Maidstone's original tavern.

A painting of Maidstone High Street in the 1800s showing the Swan. Picture: dover-kent.com
A painting of Maidstone High Street in the 1800s showing the Swan. Picture: dover-kent.com
The Brenchley is thought to be located on the former site of the Swan. Picture: Chris Davey
The Brenchley is thought to be located on the former site of the Swan. Picture: Chris Davey

First up is the Swan, which started serving pints at 87 High Street in 1476.

It was dismantled in 1852 and The Brenchley pub is thought to currently occupy the site.

Contender number two is The Fisherman's Arms in Lower Stone Street.

According to Irene Hales' book "Old Maidstone's Public Houses", the building dates back to 1430.

Archive picture of The Fisherman's Arms in Maidstone
Archive picture of The Fisherman's Arms in Maidstone
Landlady Valerie Gillingham at the reopening of the Fisherman's Arms in 2015. Picture: Bob Kitchin
Landlady Valerie Gillingham at the reopening of the Fisherman's Arms in 2015. Picture: Bob Kitchin

But debate has raged on the "Maidstone and surrounding lost pubs" Facebook page as to how long it has actually been serving pints.

Current landlady Valerie Gillingham says to her knowledge it has always been a pub.

Yet local expert Ray Newman thinks the Royal Albion in Havelock Lane was Maidstone's first ever tavern.

According to dover-kent.com, the pub is at least 500 years old.

The Royal Albion in February 1937
The Royal Albion in February 1937
Hullabaloo perform at The Royal Albion during Maidstone Fringe 2018. Picture: Andy Jones
Hullabaloo perform at The Royal Albion during Maidstone Fringe 2018. Picture: Andy Jones

At this historic inn near the River Medway, General Fairfax took the surrender of the local Royalist troops in June 1648 during the English Civil War.

Landlady Sharon Wardell says the Albion is "definitely" the oldest pub in town.

"I know there were two pubs which were owned by an elderly lady - the Albion and the old building on the corner opposite Fremlins car park," she says.

"In the time she owned both. They had to have down-tide and up-tide licensing, so she made one pub up-tide and the other down-tide. So she never had to be closed."

Like so many debates in the pub, on the subject of Maidstone's first ever tavern perhaps it's best we agree to disagree and order another pint!

MALLING

The Bull Inn in the High Street is thought to be West Malling's first ever pub.

The Bull Inn, taken between 1857-1874. Picture: Martin Apps / Malling Society
The Bull Inn, taken between 1857-1874. Picture: Martin Apps / Malling Society

The earliest reference to the tavern is a conveyance of 1442 which referred to the 'Bole', according to a pamphlet by The Malling Society called "West Malling Inns and Beerhouses - 1754 to 1974".

It continues: "The Bull was substantially altered in 1874 on completion of the railway which runs through what was actually the yard of the inn.

"The Bull appears in the Licensing Records almost continually from 1753 with just a few gaps at the beginning of the 19th Century, which it has been possible to fill in by studying the Parish Rate Assessments."

The Bull Inn is still serving pints to punters in West Malling. Picture: Martin Apps
The Bull Inn is still serving pints to punters in West Malling. Picture: Martin Apps

The pub is still operating today.

MARGATE

A pub building still stands on the site of Margate's first ever tavern - but for how much longer?

The Crown and Sceptre in the 1930s. Picture: Michael Mirams / dover-kent.com
The Crown and Sceptre in the 1930s. Picture: Michael Mirams / dover-kent.com

Plans were recently submitted to demolish The Orb in Ramsgate Road and build a block of flats.

The pub, which shut in 2017, occupies the site of what is believed to have been the oldest hostelry in Margate, built in 1498 and selling ale from 1502, during the reign of Henry VII.

In those days it was known as the Crown. And over the years its name changed to the Crown and Sceptre - and then sometimes back to the Crown.

It was changed to The Orb in 1962 on the whim of a member of the Tomson & Wotton Brewery, who then owned the pub.

Orb licencees Paula and Neg Cekic in August 2011
Orb licencees Paula and Neg Cekic in August 2011

As for the plans to knock it down and build new homes, here's what Margate Civic Society had to say.

"We are utterly opposed to the obliteration from the landscape of this iconic and much loved local historic landmark.

"The only motive that supports the proposal derives from maximising profit from the site at the expense of local history and this must be rejected at all costs.

"We only get one opportunity to preserve history and a rejection of this proposal would reflect the esteem in which we hold this building."

The Orb pub closed in 2017 and has been empty ever since
The Orb pub closed in 2017 and has been empty ever since

The thousands of punters who have propped up the bar over the centuries will probably raise a glass to that!

RAMSGATE

According to Ramsgate Historical Society, the Red Lion in King Street was the town's first pub.

Red Lion pub in Ramsgate in 2013. Picture: Tony Flashman
Red Lion pub in Ramsgate in 2013. Picture: Tony Flashman
Barmaid Tasha Shambrook with apprentice Ziggy Simmons raising money for Children In Need in 2007 at the Red Lion. Picture: Bill Allan
Barmaid Tasha Shambrook with apprentice Ziggy Simmons raising money for Children In Need in 2007 at the Red Lion. Picture: Bill Allan

It was known as the "Red Lyon" alehouse in 1650, and until 1785 when the first Town Hall was built, was used by the parish officers as their administrative base.

Records of these "council meetings" go back to 1717.

Mel Long, landlady at the Red Lion in 2004
Mel Long, landlady at the Red Lion in 2004
Captain Mildred rocking the Red Lion on Christmas Eve 2003. Picture: Phil Houghton
Captain Mildred rocking the Red Lion on Christmas Eve 2003. Picture: Phil Houghton

It remains a popular pub to this day - with regular evenings of live music from local bands and performers, who will be looking forward to returning to the stage.

ROCHESTER

We thought this one would be easy. The building now known as the Coopers Arms in St Margaret's Street, Rochester, was built during the reign of Richard I (1189-1199). So surely it was the town's original pub?

The Crown, High Street, Rochester, in 1988
The Crown, High Street, Rochester, in 1988

Not according to local expert Judy Miller. She says that while the Coopers Arms became an inn in 1543, the Crown in High Street was a tavern as long ago as 1316.

According to dover-kent.com, the Crown, or its predecessor, was where Henry VIII came in secret to get a sneak preview of his intended fourth bride, Anne of Cleves.

His daughter Elizabeth I stayed there in 1573. It was later demolished and rebuilt.

From between the 1980s and around the turn of the century, the pub became the Norman Conquest but has since reverted back to the Crown again.

For the past 20 years, father Steve Kray and his eldest son Pete have been manning the pumps.

The pub was bought by Shepherd Neame last year, with Pete staying on as manager.

ROMNEY MARSH

The original pub on the Marsh is a tricky tavern to pinpoint, according to local expert Keith Swallow.

The Woolpack pub in Brookland is a contender for being the first on the Marsh
The Woolpack pub in Brookland is a contender for being the first on the Marsh

Mr Swallow, author of "Much Drinking in the Marsh - A History of the Pubs and Breweries of Romney Marsh", says it's difficult to speak with "anything approaching conviction".

"There would have been alehouses and beer houses prior to the 15th century which are not recorded," he adds.

"I would suggest that the oldest pubs would probably have been the Jerusalem Tavern and Rome Tavern in New Romney which (as their names suggest) date back to the days of pilgrimage.

"Unfortunately we know very little about them (with the exception of Rome Tavern presumably having been in Rome Road!)"

Rome Road in New Romney may have been home to the first ever pub on the Marsh. Picture: Google
Rome Road in New Romney may have been home to the first ever pub on the Marsh. Picture: Google

Mr Swallow's best guess is that the oldest surviving pub on the Marsh is one of The Ship Inn in New Romney, The Woolpack in Brookland or the Neptune in Dymchurch which dates back to the 14th Century.

Parts of the Ship probably go back further that the Woolpack building, which dates to 1410, he says.

The Ship Hotel in New Romney pictured in 2011
The Ship Hotel in New Romney pictured in 2011
The Neptune in Dymchurch reopened as a carvery in 2015. Picture: Park Holidays UK
The Neptune in Dymchurch reopened as a carvery in 2015. Picture: Park Holidays UK

According to dover-kent.com, the original "Ship" was built of mainly ship timber brought from the old port of New Romney.

The first recorded keeper is one Thomas Banne, who is described as an "ostler" of the parish of Romney.

SANDWICH

In 1457, a force of 4,000 French soldiers launched a devastating raid on Sandwich, pillaging the town and murdering the mayor.

The Old Drum in Sandwich can be seen in the centre of the picture, taken around 1900. Picture: dover-kent.com
The Old Drum in Sandwich can be seen in the centre of the picture, taken around 1900. Picture: dover-kent.com

The area of the town from the Ramparts adjacent to the Canterbury Gate up to Bowling Street was largely razed to the ground.

The destruction would have included Church Street St Mary's, home to The Old Drum. Said to date back to 1450, seven years before the carnage, it is thought to be Sandwich's first ever pub.

John Hennessy, chairman of Sandwich Local History Society, says: "It is possible that The Old Drum was ‘spared’ by the French soldiers looking for a good pint of English Ale as opposed to that French rubbish or ‘boys beer’ as I call it."

The Drum is designated as ‘An Historic Building of Kent’ and the property is now a private house. Its previous use is apparent from the cellar hatch in the front wall at the bottom left.

The Old Drum is now a private house. Picture: Chris Davey
The Old Drum is now a private house. Picture: Chris Davey

Mr Hennessy adds: "I am sure that there must have been earlier hostelries as the town was never teetotal but I do not know of any earlier records."

SEVENOAKS

It's not often you hear of a pub being converted into a school building - but that's the case in Sevenoaks.

The former New Inn is now part of Sevenoaks School. Picture from Keith Wade's forthcoming book "The Pubs and Inns of Sevenoaks – 1,000 Years of History"
The former New Inn is now part of Sevenoaks School. Picture from Keith Wade's forthcoming book "The Pubs and Inns of Sevenoaks – 1,000 Years of History"

The town's earliest known pub is the New Inn, or "Newlyn", on the east side of the Upper High Street, according to local expert Keith Wade

Mr Wade, who wrote a chapter on taverns and inns for “Sevenoaks - A Remarkable Town” published by the Sevenoaks Society, adds: "It is included in the properties acquired when Cardinal Bourchier purchased the Knole Estates in 1481.

"It is known that there was a building on the site in 1404, but not necessarily a “pub”. (Many homes of course sold their home-made beer - their excess or as a source of additional income).

"The building was replaced by the Manor House in the late 18th Century - the Dower House of Knole."

The building still exists and it is now part of Sevenoaks School.

SHEPPEY

The Ship on Shore in Marine Parade certainly has an interesting tale to tell.

The Ship on Shore in Sheerness in 1911. Picture: Rory Kehoe
The Ship on Shore in Sheerness in 1911. Picture: Rory Kehoe

According to Paul Skelton, of dover-kent.com, it was once a coastguard station before a sea-wall was built in front of the house.

He adds: "The oldest surviving pub in town, it was the scene of a shipwreck in 1848, when a small vessel foundered and sank offshore.

"The landlord waded out to the wreck and claimed the cargo which, it turned out, consisted of barrels of cement.

"Nothing daunted, mine host built himself a rustic grotto next to the pub, which drew curious visitors (and still does)."

The pub is now a listed building. Picture: Google
The pub is now a listed building. Picture: Google

The building is Grade II-listed and continues to operate as a pub today.

SITTINGBOURNE

Local historian Michael Peters says a contender for the title of the town's first ever pub is The Ship in East Street.

The Ship Inn, East Street, Sittingbourne c.1922. Picture: Colin Harvey
The Ship Inn, East Street, Sittingbourne c.1922. Picture: Colin Harvey
The Ship Inn pictured in 2013
The Ship Inn pictured in 2013

John Clancy in his book "Inns and Pubs of Sittingbourne" says there has been an inn on this site for hundreds of years, certainly back to 1582.

He thinks the pub was rebuilt in 1899, during the last few years before its sale to Style and Winch, Maidstone, in 1905.

Popular landlord Michael Page was unhappy in 2008 when a pane of glass was broken outside his pub. Picture: John Westhrop
Popular landlord Michael Page was unhappy in 2008 when a pane of glass was broken outside his pub. Picture: John Westhrop

A Mr Elson was the earliest recorded innkeeper in 1803 and in 1930 a William Packer, who may have been related to the long-established family of basket makers, was host.

More recent regulars will remember genial Mick Page as the long-term popular landlord.

The Ship Inn in Sittingbourne has been turned into a private house. Picture: Google
The Ship Inn in Sittingbourne has been turned into a private house. Picture: Google

The pub closed in 2015 and now appears to be a private house.

STROOD

Many believe the Crispin and Crispianus was the town's oldest tavern, as the building survived from the 1200s until a devastating fire in 2011.

An archive picture of Strood Esplanade, with the Faulcon thought to be somewhere at the east end of this row of buildings. Picture: Judy Miller
An archive picture of Strood Esplanade, with the Faulcon thought to be somewhere at the east end of this row of buildings. Picture: Judy Miller

Yet, once again, the local experts disagree, saying that it only became an inn in 1656.

Instead, Strood's first ever pub was in fact the Faulchon on the Esplanade, potentially dating back to the 15th Century.

The Faulcon is believed to have been located on the Esplanade near where the car is pictured in this recent Google Street View
The Faulcon is believed to have been located on the Esplanade near where the car is pictured in this recent Google Street View

Medway pub history buff Judy Miller says: "Due to its location near the old stone bridge it would have been a traveller's last rest before crossing to Rochester."

TENTERDEN

It's been a lively 500+ years in Tenterden high street for The Woolpack - originally called The Woolsack.

Tenterden residents dance outside The Woolpack and Town Hall as part of the 1953 Coronation celebrations. Picture: Steve Salter
Tenterden residents dance outside The Woolpack and Town Hall as part of the 1953 Coronation celebrations. Picture: Steve Salter

Most records state the pub was built in the second half of the 15th Century. It was certainly there by 1478 during the second reign of Edward IV (1471-1483), according to the kind folk at My Tenterden.

Hugh Roberts' book "Tenterden the First Thousand Years" says there is one mention of it as early as 1449.

Roberts adds: “A large hall house with an open hall stood on the site now occupied by the Woolpack, the archway and the Town Hall.

"The origin of the ancient sign of the Woolsack dates to the 13th Century and is derived from the woolsack emblem of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, the original of which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.”

The consensus seems to be that it was the town's first ever pub - and its first known occupant was a chap called Esau Payne who, in 1490, was granted a licence to administer ales and bread to the people of the parish.

Colourful landlord Rob Cowan pictured when The Woolpack was painted pink
Colourful landlord Rob Cowan pictured when The Woolpack was painted pink

More recently, landlord Rob Cowan had a run in with Ashford Borough Council in 2014 when he painted the historic pub pink.

The Grade II-listed building was eventually returned to its original shade of white - despite the backing of more than 500 people who signed a petition asking for it to keep its new colour.

Protesters at The Woolpack were unhappy that the pub's right to hold music events at the barn was withdrawn. Picture: Paul Amos
Protesters at The Woolpack were unhappy that the pub's right to hold music events at the barn was withdrawn. Picture: Paul Amos

Mr Cowan left the pub in 2018 after a number of noise complaints about The Woolpack's adjacent live music venue the Barrelhouse barn.

"The complaints of a tiny number of residents who chose to live near a 500-year-old pub have meant that we are unable to continue," he said.

The Woolpack has been recently refurbished. Picture: Andy Jones
The Woolpack has been recently refurbished. Picture: Andy Jones

Last year the pub was given a £300,000 makeover by new owners Hush Health Hospitality to create a modern boutique feel.

TONBRIDGE

While Ye Olde Chequers Inn has been a welcome sight to thirsty travellers and townsfolk for more than 700 years, in centuries past it would have sent shivers up the spines of those accused of crimes.

Ye Olde Chequers Inn in Tonbridge in 1924. Picture: dover-kent.com
Ye Olde Chequers Inn in Tonbridge in 1924. Picture: dover-kent.com

A hangman's noose once dangled from a strong oak sign post that jutted out from pub and over the high street.

Close to the historic Tonbridge pub was the traditional place for legal punishments, such as the stocks and a whipping post, according to dover-kent.com.

In July 1555, Margery Polley was burnt here for her religious beliefs and 20 years later Katherine, the wife of Edmund Brystowe, was burnt for poisoning her husband.

Wat Tyler's brother was reputedly the last man hanged outside the Chequers.

The inn dates from about 1264. The present building, one of the oldest in the town, is largely 16th Century.

Kelly Holmes passes the pub during her victory parade in 2004 after winning two gold medals at the Olympics. Picture: Matthew Walker
Kelly Holmes passes the pub during her victory parade in 2004 after winning two gold medals at the Olympics. Picture: Matthew Walker

According to the experts on the "Tonbridge - Photos, History and Stories" Facebook page, it was the first ever pub in town.

It was Grade II-listed in 1950 and is still serving pints to this day.

Ye Olde Chequers Inn is still serving pints after more than 700 years
Ye Olde Chequers Inn is still serving pints after more than 700 years

Our Secret Drinker paid a visit last year and received a warm welcome from the locals sat on high stools surrounding the bar and the cheery barmaid.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS

There are two main contenders for the title of the first ever pub in Tunbridge Wells, according to Chris Jones, from the town's civic society.

The Grove Tavern in Tunbridge Wells in 1920. Picture: dover-kent.com
The Grove Tavern in Tunbridge Wells in 1920. Picture: dover-kent.com
An outing from the Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells. Date unknown. Picture: dover-kent.com
An outing from the Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells. Date unknown. Picture: dover-kent.com

He says: "Tunbridge Wells was something of an artificial creation in the early/mid-17th Century. Initially there were no houses or hotels, just the spring, some shops, coffee-houses, and perhaps a pub or two – in the area now called the Pantiles.

"Residential development only really started in the 1690s on Mt Sion and Mt Ephraim."

Mr Jones says one of the first buildings on Mt Sion was an ale-house, which is now the Grove Tavern.

"But then there may have been places on the Pantiles that we would think of as pubs," he adds.

"One possibility there is what became the Sussex Hotel. A part of it survives now as the Sussex Arms."

Steve Baxter, landlord of the Grove Tavern, received an award for 15 consecutive years in the Good Beer Guide from CAMRA's Craig Beeson (right) in 2017
Steve Baxter, landlord of the Grove Tavern, received an award for 15 consecutive years in the Good Beer Guide from CAMRA's Craig Beeson (right) in 2017
Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells today. Picture: Google
Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells today. Picture: Google

According to dover-kent.com throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Sussex Arms was "under the stewardship of the legendary pub landlord Denis Lane, whose larger than life stature and character, made for a famously eccentric boozer".

WEALD

We wouldn't blame you for assuming the The Little Gem in Aylesford, built in 1106, was the oldest pub in the Weald.

The Little Gem in Aylesford
The Little Gem in Aylesford

But in fact it only became a tavern in the 20th Century.

Whereas Ye Olde Crown Inn in Edenbridge is said to have been serving wayfarers and visitors since the reign of Edward III (1327 -1377).

Crown Inn in Edenbridge with its distinctive sign across the high street in 1909. Picture: Mark Jennings
Crown Inn in Edenbridge with its distinctive sign across the high street in 1909. Picture: Mark Jennings

The pub is unmissable because of it's unique Kentish bridging sign which spans the high street.

It has a "secret" passage running from the pub to the church, which was used in the late 17th century by the Ransley Gang for smuggling.

The first documented publican was a Mr Robert Fuller (1593), when the inn was known as Fullers House.

When the pub was renovated in 1993, builders unearthed an old pair of shoes, which are now housed in the museum next to the tavern.

Legend goes that many older buildings had shoes in the walls, as suspicious folk believed this warded off evil.

Ye Old Crown Inn in Edenbridge in 2009. Picture: Peter Trimming
Ye Old Crown Inn in Edenbridge in 2009. Picture: Peter Trimming

Ye Olde Crown remains a popular pub to this day.

WHITSTABLE

The first ever pub in the trendy seaside town was a classy establishment known for its fine wines and splendid food.

The Bear & Key in around 1910. Picture Whitstable Museum
The Bear & Key in around 1910. Picture Whitstable Museum

Today, the High Street building once home to the Bear & Key has been turned into a Prezzo.

Under the name of "The Ship", the inn was established in 1703, according to "Ales and Tales - Pubs in the Story of Whistable" by Geoffrey Pike.

In 1739 a new tenant from Canterbury, William Hogsflesh, changed the sign to the Bear & Key.

In the 18th Century the inn was rebuilt with a grand Georgian facade. It offered accommodation to people from London and facilities for the new fashion of sea-bathing.

By the 19th Century the Bear & Key was Whitstable's premier establishment - its present massive facade built around the 1870s.

Peter Banbury, trustee at Whitstable Museum, says it was "traditionally the hotel for the higher classes".

The former posh pub is now a Prezzo. Picture: Chris Davey
The former posh pub is now a Prezzo. Picture: Chris Davey

Mr Pike's book adds: "Today the building still dominates the Cross, the centre Old Whitstable, and is a very potent reminder of more affluent days."

The Bear and Key Hotel closed in 2001 to be reincarnated as Sherrins, but this shut the following year.

It has been home to Prezzo since 2007.

CHEERS!

Many thanks to all the local historians and enthusiasts who helped provide information and pictures for this article.

In particular, thank you to Paul Skelton of dover-kent.com for letting us use photos and facts from his giant database of Kent pubs.

Paul is trying to gather information and pictures for every single pub in the county. If you can help him, please do get in touch via his website.

You can find out about more of Kent's most historic pubs here.

Or click here to find out what every Wetherspoons in the county use to be.

To read the Secret Drinker’s pub reviews click here

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