History of the pub that made it into the Guinness Book of World Records

The G. I. from 1945 to 1962
The G. I. from 1945 to 1962

Moda in Queens Road dates from the 1850s, when it was part of Queens Buildings.

In 1866 it became the London Stores and Oyster Luncheon Bar and in one of several cases following a visit by the police, the landlord was charged with ‘unlawfully and knowingly permitting and suffering divers persons of a notorious bad character to assemble in his house against the tenor of his licence’.

It was renamed the Central Hotel in 1875 after the cricket ground behind, and in the mid 1880s it became the headquarters of the Borough Bonfire Boys, one of four societies in the town.

After the First World War, the Central had a large circular bar serving several cubicles, each had a velvet curtain that had to be pulled aside to enter.

These bars were popular with people who wanted privacy but were removed in the late 1930s.

From 1942 to 1945 the Central was used by American troops on leave. The late Charles Banks, then police inspector Banks, remembered that: “On the whole the Americans were well behaved, but there were quarrels at times with Canadian and British troops, mainly caused by the high rates of American pay”.

Tommy Read, son of the landlord at the time, now living in Hythe, recalled: “The beer was rationed and we often ran out. My father would put a notice on the door ‘No Beer’.

“But the brewery expected us to keep open for tea and coffee. I was often sent to the Clock House off-licence (now the lighting shop) in Queens Road for illicit supplies of Guinness. When the brewery found out they were very annoyed and we moved out!”

In December 1945 the pub was renamed once more to become the G.I. commemorating American patronage. Before the war they were told they would be welcome in British pubs if they remembered that it was generally a working man’s place, where men come to meet their friends, not strangers.

After the war, Norman Longmate, in his book The GI’s, wrote: ‘The final proof that the pub, the most English of institutions had taken the American serviceman to its heart came, when the Central Hotel, Hastings, was formerly renamed the G.I.’

At the renaming ceremony, sergeant William Hastings of Texas unfurled a new pub sign. He was presented with a silver tankard, and many dignitaries made speeches. The name G.I. put the pub into the Guinness Book of World Records, as the shortest pub name in the country.

But this was not its final name. In 1962 it changed to New Central, in 1979 to the Town Crier and in 1996 to Pitcher’s Sports Bar and Diner.

Ray Goode, Hastings’ town crier was presented with the old pub sign, which was a portrait of himself. More recently it became Moda, its seventh name in over 150 years.

From The Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards by David Russell, available at Waterstones, Bohemia Voice or www.hastingspubhistory.com