Feature: Last orders at the bar

Rising Sun pub, St Leonards
Rising Sun pub, St Leonards

ONCE they were the heart and soul of communities across Hastings and St Leonards.

Music and laughter could be heard pouring out of pubs the length and breadth of the town.

Just 30 years ago there were more than 100 pubs across the area, many within touching distance in the same street.

Since then a generation of pubs has been wiped out along with a culture where the landlord was regarded as one of the pillars of the community.

Up and down the country, For Sale signs are being erected outside derelict former pub buildings quicker than they can be made.

In Hastings and St Leonards the figures are staggering. Almost 30 pubs have closed down in the last 20 years leaving gaping holes in the make up of our high streets.

Industry experts point to the changing pattern of drinking culture in the UK, the plethora of cheap booze that floods our supermarkets chains, the tough trading conditions and difficult rules and regulations.

Hastings borough councillor John Hodges, who is a member of the Brewery History Society of England, believes the pub chain management culture is one of the major factors in the downturn in trade.

“The landlords of our old pubs used to be a revered character,” said Cllr Hodges. “People used to go into pubs to catch up with the landlord and have a good chinwag.

“Landlords were the fount of all local knowledge. They knew who was who, what was what. They treated their pub salon as their own front living room. There was an air of respectability.

“The traditional pub was that last bastion of the community run by people who really cared about what they did. It was an era of affordable entertainment with traditional pub games and cheap pub grub.

“With the advent of pub chains and management, traditional landlords have moved on and so has that golden culture.

“Now you get a pub manager who comes in for a few weeks or months and has no real interest in the community or its people. So that generates disinterest immediately.

“We all know the advent of hypermarkets selling four cans of beer for a few quid has also made a major impact on our high street pubs.

“But I believe there should still be a social conscience when it comes to the pub.

“It still has the power to play a vital role in the community and maintain a sense of belonging.”

Social historian David Russell has just written a book entitled The Pubs of Hastings and St Leonards 1800 to 2000.

He believes the situation has never been so bad for landlords.

“The last few years have seen a complete meltdown,” said David. “The pub landlord has been battered from all sides, taxation, brewery/pub management and customer.

“The pub culture is unique to this country and is part of our identity. When a pub closes, it’s not just a pile of bricks that’s disappearing. It’s another part of our national heritage and culture that we are losing and that can never be replaced.”

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PUB CLOSURES IN HASTINGS SINCE THE WAR

Admiral Benbow, London Road, closed 2008

Angel, St Mary’s Terrace, closed 2008

Beaconsfield, Hughenden Road, closed 2009

Bohemia Arms, Bohemia Road, closed 1971

Brahms and Liszt, Marina, closed 1987

Bulverhythe, Bexhill Road, closed 2010, now a convenience store

Castle Hotel, Wellington Square, closed 1960s

Clifton Tavern, Stainsby Street, closed 1990s

Clive Vale Hotel, Old London Road, closed 1992

Coach and Horses, Mews Road, closed in 1950s

Cricketers, South Terrace, (became Priory) closed 1996

Crypt, Robertson Street, (multi name changes) closed 2010

Duke of Cornwall, Post Office Pass, closed 1967

Dun Horse, Albion Street, closed 1958

Edinburgh Castle, St Georges Road, closed 1971

Foresters Arms, Shepherd Street, closed 1969

Fortune of War, Priory Road, closed 1969

The Fox, North Street, closed 2009

Freemasons Tavern, Wellington Place, closed 1958

Gaiety, Queens Road, closed 1971

George Inn, All Saints Street, closed 1952

Grand Hotel, White Rock, closed 1958

Granville, Whitefriars Road, closed 90s,

Halton Tavern, Old London Road, closed 1961

Hare and Hounds, Old London Road, closed 2006

Havelock, Robertson Street, closed 2010

Hole in the Wall, Hill Street, closed 1971

International Navy, Barley Lane, closed 1990s

Jolly Fisherman, East Beach Street, closed 1959

Kicking Donkey, Hill Street, closed 1956

Kings Head, Courthouse Street, closed 2009

Langham, Elphinstone Road, closed 2009

Malvern, Malvern Way, closed 2005

The Manor, Manor Road, closed 2009

Marina Inn, Caves Road, closed 1990s

Mr Cherrys, Marina, closed 1988

Pilot Inn, Queens Road, closed 1971

Prince Albert, Rock-a-Nore, closed 1954

Prince of Wales, Bohemia Road, closed 1971

Priory, Station Road, closed 2008

Queen Adelaide, West Street, closed 2008

Railway Hotel, Havelock Road, closed 1964

Red House, Emmanuel Road, closed 1953

Red Lion, Stone Street, closed 1953

Rising Sun, East Parade, closed 1970

Rising Sun, Battle Road, closed 2011

Royal Sussex Arms, Old London Road, closed 2009

Smugglers, White Rock, closed 2009

Sun Inn, Tackleway, closed 1970

Volunteer, Middle Street, closed 1956

Warriors Gate, London Road, closed 2006

Wheatsheaf, Bohemia Road, closed 2009

White Hart, Norman Road, closed 1953

Whitefriars, Priory Road, closed 2008

York Hotel, York Buildings, closed 1964