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.”
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