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Maidstone's lost pubs and what is there now, including the Parkwood Tavern, the Blue Door and The Rose Inn

Is there anywhere you'd rather be this evening than in your local with a pint of your favourite drop?

The only thing that seems to outnumber Maidstone's lost pubs is the tales that come with them - relationships started, relationships ended, blurry nights and drunken fights.

Residents look at the smouldering rubble of the Foresters Arms in Knightrider Street which was destroyed by a German bomb in 1940 Archive picture
Residents look at the smouldering rubble of the Foresters Arms in Knightrider Street which was destroyed by a German bomb in 1940 Archive picture

Some were notorious boozers, others civilised ale houses. But whatever genre they could be filed under they all share a unique ability to make locals reminisce.

Pub history bible Dover Kent Archives records 288 premises in the town over the years, recent records show 38, including some entries which would make real ale lovers hopping mad.

Regardless of exactly how many there now are - or whether they should be classed as pubs at all - there's heaps of history in the County Town's lost pubs - here are just a few.

"Rat on a rat," was the welcome regulars got when they walked past the Parkwood Tavern on Tuesday, January 3, 2006.

A police officer in a cherry picker draped the potentially discouraging banner over the front of the pub, which used to sit on the corner of Penfold Close and Wallis Avenue in Park Wood estate.

There's a chance number one single That's My Goal by Shayne Ward would have been blasting out of the jukebox that night if any of the punters had been X Factor fans - but sadly we'll never know.

The pub was shut following a drugs raid in December 2005 and stayed that way until it was eventually knocked down and turned into flats.

The banner up close Picture: John Westhrop
The banner up close Picture: John Westhrop

A stumble from the Parkwood Tavern you'd have found the Blue Door, on Sutton Road, another pub with quite the past.

The original hostel, renamed variously to the Bell Inn and Blue Bell but most commonly known as the Blue Door, was replaced in the late 50s to coincide with the creation of the Shepway estate.

As to its origins little is known, but a death notice in the Kentish Gazette on November 14 1843 shows it existed then, when a Mrs Clapson, 83, breathed her last breath there, and likely dates back far longer.

Back in March 1937 it was surrounded by fields and woods - a far cry from the heavy development you'd find today - and became the go to inn for shooting parties, according to a fascinating article from 1937.

Inside the new Blue Door in August 1957
Inside the new Blue Door in August 1957
Inside the new Blue Door in August 1957
Inside the new Blue Door in August 1957

Back then, when shooting fanatic William Croucher was at the helm, it was also the only tavern in the town still lit by oil lamps and had no running water or electricity.

Originally called The Bell, the article continues, the political minded landlord who preceded Mr Croucher renamed his pub after waking one morning to find blue stripes painted on his front door in reference to his rival party - he liked the colour and stuck with it.

"The fish is a Sun Fish from Chinese Waters and hangs in the public bar, a fierce some (sic) looking object. But Mr Croucher claims it is an infallible weather prophet. When rain is due its prickles drip with water, but they soon dry up when the fair weather is about," the author continues, in reference to the pub's famous 'fish barometer' - apparently inherited from the town's White Hart.

A lot has changed in the 83 years since that piece was published, not least the pub which was demolished in 2007 to make way for Ashley Gardens Care Centre.

The old Blue Door public house in Sutton Road, Maidstone in March 1937
The old Blue Door public house in Sutton Road, Maidstone in March 1937

Beer giant Shepherd Neame owned a Greyhound in the town, with the brewery's distinctive red and gold adorning the facade until it came tumbling down in 2009.

Now demolished and rebuilt as flats the pub, which straddled Wheeler Street and Well Road opposite what is now Aldi, was known as the Bricklayers until a change of name and possible reconstruction in the 1870s .

It also has a tragic past, with the former landlady Mrs Millen marrying Arthur Mason in October 1908, only for him to go missing three days later.

He was found drowned in the River Medway by Tovil Bridge after an apparent suicide brought on by a mystery woman's stalking campaign.

Fred Beckett died with a pint in his hand at Tovil's The Rose Inn.

It was the 1950s and Fred, in his mid 50s, worked as a hop picker in nearby Dean Street.

It was a "happy way to go for him" remarks relative Sue Black, now living in Boughton Monchelsea, as she reveals how following his untimely end regular Fred was laid out in the Farleigh Hill pub's garden.

Sue's family were well-known around Tovil but few knew Fred's dad as George - that's because he was known almost universally as Monkey Beckett.

According to local legend - which is backed up by almost everyone Sue has asked - he earned the nickname due to his pet monkey which would sit on top of his barrel organ outside the pub.

"He was a poacher and he used to sell rabbits around Tovil," adds Sue who has her own fond memories of the pub.

"My mum used to go there on a Saturday night and sing. She'd put me on the table to sing along with her and tap dance."

The earliest licensee was recorded at the Rose in 1832 and it was the scene of much drama back then, too.

The Kentish Mercury reported on January 12 1850 how landlord of the day Richard Fleet was the victim of an attempted highway robbery as he made his way back to Farleigh after the pub shut at 1am on a Saturday.

It reads: "He met three men, near Farleigh Priory, whom he was about to wish good night, when one of them seized him by the collar, tripped him up, and fell upon him. The others were about to assist in robbing him, when Mr. Fleet calling his dog, the faithful animal rushed upon them, and quickly put them to flight. The other villain finding this, attempted to follow them, but for some time unable to escape Mr. Fleet's grasp, who in turn became the assailant. Owing, however, to the latter being somewhat disabled by a recent injury to his knee, he was unable to hold his prisoner, who escaped."

That fascinating past was brought to end in 2000 when it locked its well-used doors for good. In 2010 the bulldozers moved in and it is now flats.

The former Rose Inn site Picture: Alan Smith
The former Rose Inn site Picture: Alan Smith

There will be few people alive who remember this pub and fewer still who enjoyed a pint in it but of all on this list it certainly had the most dramatic end.

On September 27, 1940, the Foresters Arms proudly stood on Knightrider Street as one of the oldest alehouses in the district and part of town brewer Fremlins extensive stable.

But all that was to come crashing down.

"The time bomb, which destroyed the tavern, landed in a corner of the private bar, and knocked several customers off their feet. Had the bomb gone off then, there would have been heavy civilian casualties. As it was there was none. When it exploded, dust, debris, timber and bricks shot high into the air, and when they had settled what had been the tavern was little more than a heap of rubble. Property all round was severely damaged, and glass was shattered as far away as shops in Stone Street," reads the Dover Express from the time.

But tragically the article would prove premature.

Royal Engineers, Lance Corporal Frederick Appleton and Sapper James Orr, died when the device exploded as they tried to defuse it two days later.

Sylvia Kibblewhite would recall in a 2018 Kent Messenger article how at the age of eight she was living nearby when the bombs started to fall.

"One particular Friday the siren went off during the day and mum took the three of us down into our cellar.

"We could hear the planes over-head, then the whistling noise which the bombs made as they came down. Then several large explosions.

"I could hear bricks falling and thought it was our house that was hit, but mum said: 'No duck, it isn’t!'...

"An unexploded bomb fell on a little old pub in Knightrider Street and the residents around there had to evacuate. while the Army tried to defuse it.

"We had dad’s barber and his wife, Mr and Mrs Collick, who lived opposite the pub, stay with us for two nights until sadly the bomb exploded."

This was the scene of devastation following the catastrophe.

The day-time bombing raid saw a number of devices rain down on the county town.

It was thought the German plane responsible may have been damaged following a raid on London and in an effort to lighten its load would drop its deadly cargo over Kent as it raced back to the continent.

Those bombs that did explode during that fateful day had already killed some 22 people across the town.

Is your local consigned to the history books? We want to hear from you, email any pictures of bar stool tales to emcconnell@thekmgroup.co.uk and include 'Lost pubs' in the subject line.

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

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

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