Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Priscilla MacBean

I had a family visit yesterday, so took a few photographs, and couldn't miss out a seasonal couple of Hastings latest landmark now the fencing is down... 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Oldest Pub in Hastings continued...

By Steve the Beermeister 

It gets more interesting the more I look into this, but which pub is the oldest in Hastings, following the closure of the King's Head, the previously well-acknowledged oldest pub?

In my blog of 7th December, I mentioned that Alan from the Stag Inn, All Saints Street, had had a 'hissy fit' after he partially read (I presume, either that, or he has difficulty understanding the English language) my article in the Hastings Independent of 21st November, writing in to the following issue complaining about my article, which had started with the Anchor as the 'baseline' in my quest to find the oldest pub in Hastings. 

Jim Breeds commented on that blog "I shall share these posts to my Hastings and Area Facebook page this afternoon. We may get some opinions on there :) - for which I was grateful, but this received the usual assertions with no evidence to back them up, some people think it's one, some t'other. Cheers anyway, Jim! 

As I said before, Alan used the Shepherd Neame website to support his argument, which says "The Stag is the oldest pub still open in Hastings... with whitewashed walls and oak beams, the pub dates from 1547... The front is in Georgian style, added by the Victorians... There are two bars. The front is the most commonly used and features the famous "mummified" cats... they were found in a chimney on the first floor during the 1940s... There is no historical evidence, but it is popularly believed they belonged to Hannah Clarke, a witch, who is said to have occupied the Stag in the earlier part of its existence."     
However, I have recently had a reply to my enquiry from Shepherd Neame who told me "Our records for the Stag only go back to 1859 when it was already a pub, and similarly our records for the Anchor go back to 1804 when it was already a pub." So, the brewery has no evidence to support their assertion that the pub dates from 1547 as a pub, though, as I've said before, I have no doubt that the building was originally older than the Anchor.

Indeed, following his own extensive research, David Russell's 'Register of Licensees for Hastings & St Leonards 1500-2010' states that license records for the Stag go back to 1835, when Samuel Heathfield held the license. For the Anchor they go back to 1798, when Anne Thwaites held the license. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Stag had a license before that time, and it wasn't until 1838 that Samuel applied for a 'full license'. 

The introduction of the idea that a witch lived there is interesting, and may well offer support for the assertion that the Stag has been a pub for a lot longer. The practice of walling up a cat, with the animal sometimes still alive, is known to have been a medieval precaution against evil spirits.  

Dr Marion Gibson, Professor of Literature at Exeter University, whose research investigates the relationships between writings about magic and the supernatural and those about identity, spanning the period c.1500-present, says that cats "were often put into walls as some kind of good luck charm. It seems to have been quite a widespread practice across the European continent." 

During the medieval era hundreds of women were accused of witchcraft and executed, and many of those women were brewers or 'brewsters'. The visual features associated with witches date from the time, the cat, a bubbling cauldron, the broom and pointed hat, yet they are all symbols associated with brewing beer too.

A cat could keep vermin at bay that may eat malted barley, the bubbling cauldron or 'kettle' is the vessel in which the ingredients are boiled. When the brew cools down, yeast lands on it and ferments the sugars, creating a dramatic froth. 

The broom could be used to sweep up, but anyone selling beer was required to display an 'ale stake' above their door as a sign that beer was on sale. An ale stake was a wooden pole with a bunch of twigs tied to the end. Indeed, hanging foliage above a door as a sign to proclaim the sale of alcohol dates back to Roman times. 

Finally, a pointed hat was a practical way of being noticed. Women with surplus beer would go to the marketplace to sell it, or a middle woman known as a 'huckster' would act as an agent to sell the beer. They wore the pointed hats to make themselves prominent in a market crowd. 

Anyway, my point today is, I still cannot assert, with certainty, which pub of these 2 is the oldest building continuously used as a pub! But perhaps I shan't need to, and maybe we'll never really know, though I still have a few other hostelries to consider. More soon... ish, cheers!   

Friday, 26 December 2014

Cheers to Debbie McSweeney!

Cheers to Debbie McSweeney, R.I.P, see previous blog.  

Raising my glass to her honour and memory. It's the traditional Boxing Day meal of cold gammon and bubble & squeak, together with Debbie's special pickles and chutney, payment donated to Macmillan Nurses... 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Seasons Greetings!

OK, real time now!

Whatever, I believe in sharing my best wishes with others... To care about others, to acknowledge and respect those who work in the Emergency Services, to want to use such a 'season' as this to be good to each other... this is above all else what I want... 

My best wishes to all! 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The First In Last Out

By Steve the Beermeister 

Today, I am looking at, not just the First In Last Out (FILO) pub in the High Street, but also at the oldest existing brewery in Hastings, which was originally based inside the pub.  It was called the 'St Clements Brewery' when, in 1985, it began its existence within the walls of the FILO pub, under its previous owner. 

3 years later, Mike Bigg and his family bought the business, and renamed the brewing operation the 'FILO Brewery'. More recently, Tony Champion was recruited as manager and head brewer in 2000, and in 2011 the brewery was relocated a few hundred metres up the road to a converted stable, to the 'Old Town Brewery'. 

The vacant space created inside the FILO allowed changes to be made to the pub itself. More seating was provided in the bar area where the kitchen used to be, a larger kitchen was built, and the room (previously the garden) at the back was converted into a restaurant for evening diners, to add to the already established lunchtime pub menu. 

Moving the brewery also allowed Tony the space to increase beer production whenever necessary. The brewery has a 5 barrel 'plant', ie 5 brewers barrels; a barrel holding 36 gallons. Thus each brew produces up to 1,500 pints of beer! 

Many different styles of beer are brewed by, what is now called the FILO Brewing Company, 6 extraordinarily different regular ales, including Crofters, a 3.8% Best Bitter, a paler premium ale, the 4.8% Gold, one flavoured with ginger, their 4.5% Old Town Tom, and the exceptional 4.6% porter, Cardinal Sussex Porter

Adam Bigg 'pulling' a pint of Crofters.

Interestingly, their Old Town Tom used to be called "Ginger Tom", and may well be remembered by readers as such. However, a Stockport brewer, Robinsons, registered the name "Ginger Tom" for one of their beers and threatened the FILO with legal action if they carried on calling their original ale "Ginger Tom". Consequently, the name was changed under threat, sadly, but the same recipe is still used to brew Old Town Tom

They also brew 'Seasonal' and 'one-off' ales, and at the moment this is the 6.7% Our Auld Ale, an exceptional winter ale, which is on sale in the pub, together with 4 of their other ales and a regularly changing 'guest' beer. Our Auld Ale has plenty of body, as you would expect from a beer this strong, dark and fruity with spice in the flavour too. Indeed, this is a splendid 'Christmas Pudding' of a beer! 

Also, the FILO Brewery supplies the free trade with beers, and FILO ales can be found as far apart as the Globe in Rye, to the Harp in central London, and back to the Clown in Hastings town centre. I am very pleased to report that the FILO has helped to ensure the brewing industry has been kept very much alive in Hastings! 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Welcome to Hastings

"Welcome to Hastings Old Town", the sign says. Many of you will know this sign is close to where the retired lifeboat, Priscilla MacBean, whose details of her journey up The Bourne were recently described in one of my blogs, now rests. But I really mean to say "welcome to Steve on Hastings", but there isn't such a solid sign, yet... I shall carry on writing about this wonderful town and its inhabitants, despite the number of page views of this blog having well exceeded 1100 now, let alone the 1066 target, many thanks for your support. 

That's the first hurdle hurdled, now I shall continue to delve into the character and history of Hastings and its environs, and the characters of Hastings too. I'll no doubt upset people every now and then, with either an error, or just something they disagree with, but it shall be unintentional, though I shan't hold back, as I don't lie, and am always prepared to correct mistakes and apologise where appropriate.

Please feel free to join in this exploration, and I hope we can all learn something over the coming months and years, and next I shall deal with... I have to own up, I haven't decided yet, though I have at least 20 ideas floating around in my mind, but I intend to continue introducing interesting topics, and there are still 4 nights and 3 days until the 25th...

Though enjoy Winter Solstice tonight, the days can only get longer!  


Only another 20 page views and I'll have had 1066! 

RX134, Stacey Marie

RX134, Stacey Marie, is the retired fishing boat that sits opposite the Dolphin pub at Rock-a-Nore, Hastings, which is now looked after by the Fishermen's Museum, and a couple of local volunteers, Mark and Steve, when nesting herring gulls aren't preventing work (NB all species of gull are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981).  

RX134 was built at Newhaven in the 1940's for the Grant brothers, one of whom was Alfred "Puff" Grant who named the boat "Linda" after his Grand-daughter; the boat's original registration was NN39 (Newhaven registration). The boat was built as a punt, becoming a decked boat in the 1950s, thanks to a grant from the White Fish Authority, a government scheme set up to rebuild the country's fishing industry following World War II. 

The Grant bothers fished from her out of Eastbourne until the early 1960s, when a tragic accident saw one of the brothers swept overboard, whilst his brother was below deck. The body was later trawled up at Hastings, a sad reminder of how dangerous commercial fishing still remains, RIP. 

Jack Edmunds brought the boat to Hastings in 1961, where she became registered at Rye, and thus became RX134. Jack sold her to Rod Knight in 1976; who re-named her "Andrew Peter" after his two sons.

Robert "Podgy" Ball later bought her in 1985 and gave her the name "Stacie Marie". RX134 worked until 1997, when she was the oldest boat working from Hastings beach (many thanks to the Fishermen's Museum for this photograph). 

In June 1999 she was acquired by Hastings Fishermen's Museum and was placed on display at Rock-a-Nore in front of the fishing huts to the west of the Museum, where she can now be seen in all her splendour, having had her colour changed from blue. 

Information has been provided for a facebook page, and this article, by Hastings Fishermen's Museum at Rock-a-Nore, and retired local fisherman, Jimmy, who can often be seen in the Dolphin, admiring the view and drinking a pint or two, many thanks to all. 

See Hastings Fishermen's Museum at   

Stacey Marie's facebook page is at  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Dolphin

By Steve the Beermeister

This is an updated and topical version of my first article published in the Hastings Independent many months ago (expect many more), and I chose the family-run Dolphin pub at Rock-a-Nore, because it had been named the South East Sussex Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Pub of the Year for 2 years in a row. The local CAMRA people do not consider pubs after they have won twice in a row, so we may have to wait for a bit longer before it becomes pub of the year again. Shame they don't just chose the best pub, rather than handicap their choice in such a way, but, hey! CAMRA has some very strange ideas, and members, and I should know, being one... 

So, a 'seasonal' photograph from the Dolphin's balcony, OK, we're very unlikely to see snow in Hastings for a while, if at all, this winter, but I do like this photograph, which I took a couple of winters ago.  

Apart from considering the quality of the ales, how else does CAMRA chose their 'best' pubs? Importantly, they take into account how their 'champion' integrates with the local community. In this respect, the Dolphin raises thousands of pounds every year for local charities, is closely connected to Hastings Fishermens' Museum and has been instrumental in the refurbishment of the Stacey Marie, their retired fishing boat sited opposite the pub (more of very soon), members of the RNLI regularly visit for social events, the pub gets involved in old town festivals such as Fat Tuesday and the Pram Race, and is at the start of the Jack in The Green May Day procession, opening earlier than usual on that day, to provide refreshment for participants and observers, and local musicians regularly play here, do I need to go on? 

Indeed, there is a variety of live music performed here 3 nights a week, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and a quiz for charity on Thursday evenings. Food is served every afternoon, and on Mondays the kitchen reopens at 6pm for a 'Fish Supper' deal, where the price of the fish (from Hastings fishing boats whenever possible), hand-cut chips and mushy peas, includes either a pint of beer, glass of wine, or a soft drink. 

Of course, the Dolphin also sells liquid refreshments, soft drinks, wines, 'mulled' wine for December through to the end of January (Mark the landlord's own recipe), spirits, numerous keg beers, including 3 of the newer 'trendy' craft ales, and, of course, what I'm keen on writing about... It sells 6 cask-conditioned ales, and what better way to write about finding such beer in Hastings than visiting the recent champion public house? The Dolphin sells 3 regular ales, 2 from East Sussex brewers, Harveys Sussex Best and Dark Star Hophead, and Youngs Special.  

There are also 3 regularly changing guest ales, very recently these have included Sussex brewer King's Wonderland, a "Winter Pale Ale", a 4.1% very pale bitter with a fruity aroma, good body and a dry finish, not bad at all! Also, from further afield, ie Devon, Hanlons Snowstorm Festive Ale, a 5% "strong winter ale", with a deep amber colour, similar taste to a typical 'old ale', slightly sweet maltiness, plenty of flavour, and a dry finish. Or, if you're very lucky, they may just have a few pints left of either the West Yorkshire brewers, Saltaire's Winter Ale or award winning (though not so seasonal) Cascade Pale Ale.

There are a number of brewers who continue to produce ales of quality regularly, and a few of them in Yorkshire, including Saltaire Brewery. The Winter Ale is a 4.9% darkish amber ale, they say with "toffee accents", but I have no idea what that means! Though I could detect a slight caramel flavour from the malt, and a hint of spice from the Challenger and Brambling Cross hops, all in all, a very good beer of its type. I tried their Cascade Pale Ale yesterday too, which uses Centennial hops as well as Cascade hops, and is described as an "American style pale ale"; good old Saltaire do provide much information on their pump clips! Whatever, it is a 4.8% pale golden bitter, with a fruity aroma and flavour, but more peach rather than the grapefruit I expected, pretty damn drinkable too...    

All of this is why the Dolphin is regarded as a fine example of a community pub, and why it won the CAMRA award twice in a row, and why I have commenced my search for beers of and in Hastings and East Sussex here. Before I go on, I'll add that Harveys Sussex Old Ale is currently on sale at the Dolphin too, and shall be for the next couple of months. Anyway, I trust I do still have your interest, because I shall be looking at local pubs and the local brewing industry over the coming months and years.

Oh yes, and I shall be developing further my research into the older public houses licensed in and around Hastings, as I have mentioned in recent blogs, so much to do, cheers!   

Friday, 19 December 2014

Seasonal Greetings to...

Seasonal greetings are extended to the emergency services and those working in the NHS, and not forgetting everyone who works in the'service' industries!  

Having worked in the NHS, I can easily add my best wishes to those who work to ensure the safety of the rest of us, not just tonight, but for all the seasonal period, and throughout the rest of the year, of course. 

Forgetting faith, or non-faith, this is traditionally a time for peace and goodwill to all Earth dwellers, and I am well prepared to share my good will, so, 'seasonal greetings' to all!

I include any other creatures who may, or may not, exist in other parts of the universe, as a friend has threatened to add a facetious comment, so good will to all creatures in the universe!  

Tonight, though, I'm on the side of the emergency services and NHS... 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Council Cuts?

The Government announced earlier today that councils in England will see their overall spending power fall by an average of 1.8% from next year. However, Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins told MPs "we continue to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4% in spending power in 2015-16." 

This is the case for Hastings (link, thanks to the BBC for the figures!), which will face a loss of 6.4%. Indeed, councils say that central funding is being cut by 8.8%. 

The spending power figure combines regular central government funding with one-off grants, council tax, a proportion of business rates and other fees and charges. However, most local authority funding comes from central government, with about a quarter raised through council tax. 

The National Audit Office (NAO) estimates that by 2016, government funding for local government will have dropped in real terms by 37% since 2010, though Hastings will see a much higher loss than this average, probably closer to 60%. 

I shall have to get to the first Hastings Borough Council Cabinet Meeting in the New Year, which should be very interesting. Of course I shall report on council meetings I attend in January, so keep in touch!  

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Hastings Pier

It is December, and the 'Hub' for the Hastings Pier Charity has closed down now until Saturday 10th January 2015, consequently, I thought I would provide an update...

If you've passed the pier recently, you will have noticed the ballroom (shattered framework, that is) isn't there anymore, having been removed ahead of time, we are informed, and the zinc roof and cupolas of the Bandstand Pavilion are coming on too, as is the renovation of the pavilion itself. 

Steelwork is being replaced as required, and the decking looks more impressive every time I take a look! Preparations are being made to start construction work, in the New Year, for the new Visitor Centre, with 6 new piles to be bored to form the foundations (exploratory boreholes have already been dug) for a steel structure to support the new building. 

If you want to keep in touch with further development of the pier, either visit the Hub in the New Year, watch out for updates from me, or go to their website.  

Hastings Oldest Pub Update...

By Steve the Beermeister 

The research goes on... I have had a very interesting reply from my contact at Shepherd Neame, and I want to carry out a couple of visits, at least, before I write too much more about this subject. So, I'll leave this aside until the New Year, sorry if you thought this would be the definitive answer today, but I'd suggest you not expect a single definitive answer, but maybe 2 or 3 non-definitive answers! 

I shall add another article already written, and seen elsewhere, very soon though, cheers!  

Monday, 15 December 2014

Seasonal Results for Charity

No extra expense to you, but at this time of year, because of the number of Christmas Cards sent by post, and the number of Christmas Cards given anyway, here are 2 examples of how charity can benefit! 

First, used postage stamps are valuable to the Leprosy Mission (website), and you can either send stamps directly to them, or put them in an envelope and deposit this through the letterbox of the Parish Office of the Old Town Parish of St Clement & All Saints in The Bourne (back of All Saints' Hall), from whence they will be forwarded appropriately. 

Second, as in most years, the Woodland Trust (website) has a 'Christmas Card Recycling Scheme', where received cards can be donated/recycled via Marks & Spencer shops in January 2015 (2nd-31st). 

Please do donate your stamps and cards rather than throw them away, many thanks! 

If you know of any similar recycling charity schemes, please share them.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Energy Efficient Street Lighting!

East Sussex County Council (website) will be converting over 5,000 old style yellow and orange street lights to energy saving LED lights in the New Year. This is projected to save £130,000 a year and help to reduce carbon emissions by about 800 tonnes!   

Watch out for an event to herald this improvement to Hastings street lighting at Priory Meadow Shopping Centre on 1st February 2015, from 9am to 5pm.  

Friday, 12 December 2014

Debbie McSweeney R.I.P.

Sadly, this year Debbie McSweeney, a senior nurse at the Conquest Hospital, and well known character in Hastings, lost her life to cancer... 

Her good friend, Paul Denny, has placed jars of his own home-made piccalilli and pickled onions, together with charity boxes for Macmillan Nurses (website), in the First In Last Out, Jenny Lind and Anchor in Hastings, and the Olde Bell in Rye. 

If people would like to donate to this worthy charity, in her memory, and, as I shall, raise a glass to her memory when I open the jars on St Stephens Day, for which I have already donated money at the FILO, please join with me. 

Debbie McSweeney  R.I.P.    

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Little Hastings Fish Cook Book

Just saw on the the Hastings Fishermen's Museum page on facebook that the Little Hastings Fish Cook Book is now on sale at the Fishermen's Museum, sounds like a great Christmas present idea! 

Yesterday morning...

... Before I start work, nothing like a bright clear morning!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Housing opposite Hastings Castle?

Walking over the West Hill yesterday, passing the Castle, and to my left was this:

Now, I've been walking past this for years, it seems, still 2 of the lots not purchased, apparently, so what is going on, because it says the others have all been purchased? I haven't gone into this too much, but, if people have already paid out money to get involved with this project based on 'self-build' housing, does this mean they cannot start building until the last 2 plot have been purchased, I presume so? Any information would be welcomed, but I shall start looking into this myself, methinks... 

Anyway,another beautiful day, and my main purpose was to walk over to the Old Town, so met with this familiar, but always excellent, view, how I love living in Hastings! 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Voting in Hastings

OK, maybe not the sexiest subject to read about just before the Christmas and New Year celebrations, but pretty important all the same, the way you register to vote has changed, if you didn't already know...

By now most readers should have received a letter saying whether they need to re-register to vote, as the registration system has changed from household to individual registration following the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013. 

If you meet the conditions for registering to vote, that is, you are 16 or over and British, or a national of an EU or Commonwealth country, and you are asked to register to vote, you should do so. Also, should you be asked to register to vote and you do not, now you can be fined £80! Although this has not been made a criminal offence, and we have been assured we will not be fined if we have a valid reason not to register, I wouldn't feel all that reassured where money-making and government are involved... 

Plus, it is important to remember that if you are not on the Electoral Register, you cannot vote at local and parliamentary elections, which are coming up in 6 months time or so, nor at European Parliamentary elections. Being on the register also makes you eligible to take part in jury service (jurors being selected at random from the register), and the register is used to help prevent or detect crime, and for checking applications for loans and credit. 

It is illegal for the Electoral Register itself to be used for any other purpose. However, there is a second register, called the 'Open Register', which is sold by councils to bodies such as debt collection agencies, charities and employers. Indeed, if you do not want to be on the Open Register, you have to specifically 'opt out' when registering to vote, and make sure you are so opted, if re-registering, to stop even more money being made out of you without your consent. 

Why this change? Well, the Government states it is concerned with low turn-outs at elections in the UK, and also worried about people voting at elections who have no right to vote in particular constituencies. This is described as a policy to help 'involve more people in the political process, not to discourage political participation.' 

A reminder, universal suffrage wasn't reality in the UK until as recently as 1928, when women were allowed to vote at the same age as men (21), and just 10 years earlier, when women over 30 were allowed to vote. Since universal suffrage came into being the age when men and women could vote was reduced to 18 in 1969, and the Scots seem to want people just out of nappies voting, if it helps them get their way, though it hasn't yet! 

Anyway, you can register to vote and see more information at - If you are unsure whether you are registered under the new system, contact Hastings Borough Council electoral services on 01424 451087.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Many thanks Jim, I look forward to being swamped with opinions!

Used to be acknowledged as such, cheers!

Oldest Pub in Hastings - Part II

By Steve the Beermeister

I thought I'd already explained that finding out which pub is the oldest in Hastings wouldn't be all that easy, both in my recent blog, and in my article in the Hastings Independent, and I even invited readers of both to provide help and advice, but talk about jumping the gun!?! Obviously, some readers don't actually read an article fully, indeed, one reader decided to write a letter of complaint, which is completely unfounded! 

As I said in the newspaper article, I would deal with this in further articles leading up to Christmas, however, since I do not write for that organ anymore, I have said I would deal with this subject in future blogs here. Sounds simple to understand to me, but, Alan of The Stag decided to write to the paper, complaining about my assertion (not!) that The Anchor is the oldest pub in Hastings (evidence exists that the Anchor has been licensed since 1798). Well, Alan, I said, in the issue dated 21st November 2014: 

"any letters from readers providing extra guidance would help me out. To help me reach a firm conclusion... So the Anchor is my starting point..." 

Sounds easy to understand to me... 

So, what evidence does Alan provide in his letter? First, the owners, Shepherd Neame, say that the Stag is the oldest pub in Hastings, and that the Anchor is the second eldest, well that's proof then! Oh no it isn't, actually. The Stag may be a slightly rebuilt (the front in the 18th century) older building than the Anchor, but even that doesn't provide evidence that the building has been continually run as a pub since 1547, whatever Derek at the History House says in support of the Kent brewers claims, where is the evidence please? 

Indeed, I was very interested in how long the Stag has been run as a pub, and had already contacted Shepherd Neame directly, before Alan's letter was published in the paper, and am still awaiting their reply; they have been very good at providing information to me in the past, so I am expecting a reply reasonably soon. Whatever, and I shall be writing about the Stag in more detail, once I have completed further empirical research, there IS evidence that the Stag has been licensed since 1835, 37 years after the Anchor...   

So what other pubs in Hastings am I researching then? There's the claim of the Cinque Port Arms, down the road from the Stag, to start with, though substantially rebuilt in the early 20th century, the fundamental building was a pub as long ago as the 17th century, previously known as the Chequers. However, as the Cinque Port Arms, there is only evidence that it has been licensed since 1816, 19 years before the Stag...  

Still in the old town, what about the Hastings Arms, which has been licensed since 1794, 41 years before the Stag? Again, I shall deal with this in more detail in future blogs, and I am in no way saying that this evidence makes the Hastings Arms an older pub than the Stag, which is definitely an older building, but it isn't quite so simple to define what is the oldest continuously run pub in Hastings... 

Before I end this blog, and credit to pointing me to The Bull on the Bexhill Road as a potential in this quest, must go to John Hodges, many thanks John. Evidence exists that The Bull, yet another Shepherd Neame pub, has been licensed by Hastings authorities since 1622! However, I have to carry out much more research on this, and the other 4 pubs of course, before I am even going to try and provide a definitive answer to my initial question, just what is the oldest pub in Hastings?

Please be patient, and I hope this is a subject of interest to people, cheers!   

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Oldest Pub in Hastings

By Steve the Beermeister 

This is a slightly re-written article that was published in the most recent Hastings Independent, and I found it wasn't such an easy question to answer: what is the oldest pub in Hastings? When I first decided to write this, I thought it would be a 'doddle', silly me! Up until a few years ago, most Hastingers would point to the Kings Head, on the corner of The Bourne and Courthouse Street, as the oldest pub, but since it closed down I found a number of different opinions, depending on who you talk to.  

How shall I define the oldest pub? Well, I'm adopting the 'oldest continuously used as a pub building' as my baseline, and any advice providing guidance would help me out, though how to define Hastings isn't so easy either!  I'm taking the Anchor Inn as my baseline, the hostelry that most people I have talked to accept as the oldest, in the 'old town' anyway... 

Starting with the Grade II listed Anchor Inn in George Street then, whose name is believed to originate from boats mooring outside the pub when the sea used to come up to its front door... Different sources say the Anchor has existed since about 1600, or 1680. The British Listed Buildings website says the interior and main architectural features are dated from about 1810-20, so there's the experts view. However, there is definite evidence the Anchor Inn was licenced in 1798 to Anne Thwaites, and it certainly appears to have been around for at least a hundred years before that. 

Not always a pub, the Anchor has previously been used as a court house, which helps to support stories that the bar is 'haunted', indeed, some say the Anchor is the 'most haunted' pub in Hastings, though that used to be said of the Kings Head too! But there are many colourful stories about its past, and from not so long ago.    

The landlord, Dennis Kingham, and his partner Sara, have run the Anchor for 3 years now and, coincidentally, he told me he used to run the Kings Head when I interviewed him recently. The Anchor Inn is a cosy 'traditional' pub, with an inglenook fireplace, wood burner and wooden floors, and, if you haven't already been there, then you should certainly visit if you are interested in the pub and brewing trades and local history. 

Dennis has worked in the trade for 45 years, indeed, when he was the landlord at the King's Head he was the first publican in the country to bring a cash machine onto the premises. Also, with his cellar management history, he knows how to look after his ales, including 3 'regular' Shepherd Neame beers, that is, Bishops Finger, Spitfire and Master Brew, and one guest, often Whitstable Bay Pale Ale. I had a pint of the Bishops Finger on my last visit, an old favourite of mine, and it is still a very good strong darker bitter. 

They also have an excellent reputation for food, mostly sourced locally, eg they serve freshly caught fish from 2 nominated Hastings boats, RX389 and RX1066. Indeed, on Sundays, tables for 'roast' lunches are highly sought after, so, if you want a ghost of a chance of eating there, it is wise to book ahead! 

As I suggested above, there are a few other opinions as to the oldest pub in Hastings, consequently, very much more to come from me still, cheers!