The pubs of St Leonards: closures in 1905

I recently took members of the Society on a walk round some pubs of St Leonards, both those still existing and some which have been closed. I enjoyed it and I think the members did too. Here is me holding forth with the Railway and the Royal in the background. As a followup, here is a post on pub closures in 1905.

Stephen van Dulken talking about pubs with two of them in the background

Between about 1905 and 1921 a number of pubs were compulsorily closed (with compensation) due to being little-used, used by low-class individuals, or being particularly rowdy. The 4 March 1905 issue of the Hastings and St Leonards Observer has a long, interesting and sometimes amusing account of seven St Leonards pubs which were being considered.

Below I give some excerpts (in italics) about the proceedings. The magistrates were hearing evidence in public from police officers, and the Chief Constable was opposing renewal of the licenses. The mention of beerhouses as opposed to fully licensed premises shows the sharp distinction at the time between those that could only sell beer and other licensed premises. Some of the pubs were run by the Hewitt family, who owned the St Leonards Brewery, the only brewery in St Leonards. It occupied the land now called Shepherd Court, between London Road and no. 1 Shepherd Street, which was formerly the Forester’s Arms, as proclaimed on its facade.

The Warrior Arms [now 3 Norman Road, next to the Piper pub, which was formerly the Norman Hotel and then the Norman Arms]. The Chief Constable pointed out that the Warrior Arms was a beerhouse, situate next door to a licensed house (the Norman Hotel), which did a good trade. The house belonged to Messrs. Chandler and Co., and was now under management… the trade had continued to get worse till it was “next to nothing.” People convicted of drunkenness and theft were amongst the customers… [who] were loose and idle people, such as generally stand on street corners…. [Martha Horley the licensee claimed that business was improving and offered evidence].

The Duke of York [now 5 Union Street]. This is a fully-licensed house in Union-street, St Leonards, the property of Messrs. Hewitt and Co., and now under management… Union-street was 28 yards long, and there were two other fully-licensed houses in the thoroughfare. The licensee occupied the ground floor and one room upstairs. The remainder of the house was let in three separate tenancies. There were no structural arrangements separating the tenements, and only one staircase. This arrangement made effective police supervision impossible. Cross-examined – the Prince Albert [33 North Street] and the British Queen [31-32 North Street, these pubs were at the other end of Union Street] were opposite each other; neither of these was objected to. The house was a large corner one, and had been well conducted. The property belonged to Messrs. Hewitt, the owners of the only brewery in St Leonards. Inspector Clapson, questioned by the Chief Constable, excused himself from describing the class of customers by saying they were “too few”… [Pointed out that Hewitt’s only owned ten houses, and five were being objected to. The client’s lawyer promised to alter the layout of the rooms above].

Foresters’ Arms [now 1 Shepherd Street]. “Small and low class” was the Chief Constable’s description of the trade done by this beerhouse, which was situate in Shepherd-street… one of Messrs. Breeds and Co.’s houses… [there were] some peculiar arrangements, there being a cottage and three workshops in the yard of the house, and there was nothing to prevent a continuous sale of liquor to premises shut off from the street. The neighbourhood was well-provided by other fully-licensed houses…. Superintendent Markwick, giving evidence, said there were very few customers at the house. He described the entrances and the yard arrangements. The yard was reached by a passage which had a door, which he had often found fastened. The present licensee was an upholsterer continuously employed by a St Leonards firm. The previous tenant (Mr Vince) was an Army pensioner and a local bandmaster. All the previous tenants he had known had also had occupations apart from that of licensee of the house… no complaints against the house. [The Superintendent] thought a man in such a house should take £10 a week in order to get a living… George William Goldsmith, the licensee, being called, said that the door of the passage leading to the yard was locked up when he closed the house…his takings averaged between £10 and £11 a week. He sold a deal of bottled beer and a lot of bread and cheese and pickles. (Laughter.) He handed in a petition signed by over one hundred customers. He could get a living at the house without going to work, but, like other people, he liked to earn as much as possible. In his absence his wife looked after the business, and a son of 17 assisted… he gave £70 for the goodwill and fixtures. Mr Munn had lived in the cottage for 14 years, and paid witness 4s 6d a week. He also got 6d a week for each of two workshops, and £6 a year for another. He (witness) paid £18 a year to the brewers. He reckoned he got 10s or 12s a barrel profit. He “wasn’t scholar enough” to say how much of his takings represented profit…. [the rent] was fixed 20 years ago… since October last the average was 4 1/2 barrels a week [and a profit of 15s a barrel].

The Anchor [formerly on an alley off East Ascent]. Stating his case against this fully-licensed house, the Chief Constable said it was situate in a passage leading from the street to Victoria Mews. The house was approached by twenty steps, and in order to get to it customers had to pass a urinal built to accommodate one person. No part of the house could be seen from the road, was it was very difficult for purposes of police supervision. He also cited the frequent transfer of the licence, and said there was little or no trade, and no goodwill. Supt. Markwick gave evidence. In cross-examination, he said Tom Wells kept the house for 25 years, but came out of it penniless and died, and his widow had to go out to work to get a living. He thought bad trade accounted for Wells’ misfortune. He had heard that Wells did betting, but “everybody who bets doesn’t lose money” (Laughter.) George Dunk, the licensee, who gave evidence in a very offhand manner, said his takings were between £10 and £11 a week. He paid £60 to go into the house. Asked by the Chief Constable as to his gross profits, witness said he got “just enough to live upon.” Pressed upon the point, he said he supposed he made “about two bob in the £!”  He “didn’t see why he should answer such questions.” Thomas George Dunk, manager to Messrs. Blythe, brewers, gave evidence, from which it appeared that the late Rev. J.W. Tottenham purchased the house, with other property, in about 1873, but it was subject to a long lease. Mr A.H. Burton became the leaseholder… three barrels of beer a week, and his profits would be about 14s a barrel. He was only tied for barrel beer, and got his bottled beer and spirits elsewhere. Mr Humphreys, addressing the Bench, apologised for the condition of the licensee, from whom he could not get the information he desired…

The Bird-in-Hand [1-2 South Street] …The position of the house [was] in a back street, and said it was difficult for police supervision. Within 400 yards there were 16 fully-licensed houses and three beerhouses… the trade had fallen off as of late. There was a stable yard at the rear, and when the archway door leading to the stable was fastened, the only way to get to the yard was through the licensed premises… Mr Wilson, agent at St Leonards for Chandler’s Wiltshire Brewery Company, gave details of the draught and bottle beer supplied to the house… a considerable business was done. Half the £80 paid by the previous tenant represented goodwill. Albert Cornford, now living at Ore, said he was licensee of the house for seven years up to last year, when he left on the advice of his doctor. He handed in a list of his takings. He never had any complaint from the police, and he thought the house a real necessity for the neighbourhood. William Elton, the present licensee, also gave evidence, and expressed satisfaction at the business done. 

St Leonards Arms [said to be on London Road, presumably the current St Leonards pub at 16-18 London Road] This is a fully-licensed house, the property of Messrs. Hewitt and Co. The Chief Constable commented upon the number of licensed houses existing on the London-road, and submitted that this was one that might well be expunged. Superintendent Markwick said the house was used by small tradesmen and working-men, and the custom was a small one. In his opinion, the public would be amply supplied if this house was taken away… the present tenant paid £288 to go in.

The British Hotel [now Clarence House, St Clements Place, where East Ascent meets Mercatoria] the experience of the police this was a house with a continually diminishing trade, which had now almost arrived at vanishing point… the rent £80… it [had] eight bedrooms and four sitting-rooms which could be taken by visitors.

The 16 February 1924 issue of the Observer, in discussing similar hearings, mentioned that the whole town had 116 licensed victuallers and 22 ‘on’ beerhouses and 19 ‘off’ beerhouses. It said that since 1904 compensation had been paid for closing the Warrior Arms of £500; the Anchor, £800; the British Hotel, £1250; the Duke of York, £750; and the St Leonards Arms, £1500. If this pub was the same as the current St Leonards pub then apparently it was allowed to reopen at a later date.

Below is another photo from the walk, showing the now ironic illustration on Norman Road, ‘Love St Leonards.’ Some of us ended up in the Nag’s Head. I will lead a similar walk later in the summer. Thanks to Dave Bruce for being the photographer on this occasion.

‘Love St Leonards’ in the background, Norman Road, as Stephen van Dulken continues his lecturing…







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