Sort file:- Maidstone, May, 2024.

Page Updated Maidstone:- Friday, 10 May, 2024.


Earliest 1768-

Walnut Tree

Open 2020+

176 Tonbridge Road (20 Laurel Place in 1882)


01622 727260

Walnut Tree 1925

Above postcard, circa 1925.

Walnut Tree

Above photo, date unknown, kindly sent from Ben Plant.

Walnut Tree 2014

Above photo by Roy Moore, 18 May 2014.

Walnit Tree sign 1986Walnut Tree sign 2014

Above sign left, July 1986.

With thanks from Brian Curtis

Sign right by Roy Moore, 18 May 2014.

Awaiting picture of Whitbread sign.

Above card issued March 1955. Sign series 4 number 46.


From an information poster inside the pub.

The Inn, now known as "Walnut Tree" was built during the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) in the year 1680.

Though the walnut tree that stands on the site probably dates hack to reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547).

The house was originally built as two ragstone cottages. One of these was, for many years, occupied by the Maidstone toll-master, Robert Hadley.

In 1738 the house was purchased by one Cephus Oliver, whose occupation at the time is recorded as Beer Retailer.

Small unlicensed but legal establishments of this nature sprung up up over Kent in the early 18th century, though they are recorded as far back as the 13th century.

The main reason for the influx of these "Ale Houses" as they were so termed, was that they were extra outlets for the numerous, smaller independent breweries that were around at the time.

In 1740 licensing laws were instituted and these "Ale Houses" became registered.

In 1801 the adjoining cottage was opened as a corn and seed shop. The owner was one William Snow.

In 1872, one James Hayward, a former dealer in horses, purchased the house and it continued to flourish as an "Ale House".

By this time the population of Maidstone had risen considerably, especially that of the area known as Tonbridge Road, and the house had become a firm favourite with local residents.

However, if one can imagine the space of just half of the present "Walnut Tree" on a busy Saturday evening, then to say it was overcrowded is an under judgement.

So, in 1890, James Mayward decided to utilise the adjoining cottage, though there is only evidence at this time that doorways were knocked through and the bar extended to form a snug.

During this period Hayward decided to register the house and call it the "Walnut Tree" and, in so doing, created the smallest registered inn in Maidstone.

In 1920 the two cottages were made one and the Inn was extensively altered to its present day state.

The host at the time was one Grace Farley, a much loved character of the area, who ran the Inn for many years.



I will be adding the historical information when I find or are sent it, but this project is a very big one, and I do not know when or where the information will come from.

All emails are answered.


From the Kentish Gazette or Canterbury Chronicle, Saturday, 22 October, to Wednesday 26 October, 1768. Price 2d.

Whereas one Edward Pierce was this Day apprehended in the Town of Maidstone in the County of Kent, on suspicion of stealing a Brown Gelding about fourteen Hands thee Inches high, full Aged, with a Star and Slip, the near Foot white, black Mane and Tail, with several white Saddle Spots on each Side of his back, and likewise a Mark which appears to have been partly cut out, with Intent to deface the same; which Gelding is offered to Sale there for two Guineas and a half; and not giving a good Account of himself, or how he came by the said Gelding, is committed by the Mayor of the said Town to the County Gaol there for further Examination.

The said Gelding is now at the “Sign of the Walnut Tree,” over the Great Bridge, in Maidstone, where any Person may see him, and the Owner is desired afterwards to apply to the said Mayor.

Maidstone, October 13, 1768.


Kent Times, 19 April 1862.

WEST MALLING. Special Petty Session. Assembly Room, Monday. Present, J. Savage, Esq., in the chair, and Capt. Cheere.

The parish constables for the division were sworn in.

Charge of Assault and Highway Robbery.

William Binskin, Elias Wright, and Charles Best, brick-makers, working at Burham, were charged with assaulting Richard Thompson, and stealing from him a cloth cup at Burham, on the 7th inst.

Mr. W. S. Norton, who appeared for the prisoners said he understood that the charge of robbery was abandoned, and that no evidence would be offered against the last named prisoner.

Superintendent Hulse said this was the fact, and Best was then discharged.

The evidence for the prosecution was, that on the night of the 7th of August, Thompson and another man had been to Maidstone with a van to fetch the corps of a boy of fifteen, who had died from injuries he had received a few days previously. They were returning from Maidstone in company with the father and mother of the deceased, and on arriving near Burham they were met by four men, one of whom seized hold of the horses’ head and stopped him. Thompson got down to release the animal, when the man knocked him down, and as he was getting up Binskin and Wright struck him several times in the face, giving him a black eye. His cap was lost in the scuffle and had not since been found. None of the party spoke to him, nor had he seen any of them before. The young man got out of the van to assist him, when Binskin also assaulted him, and he too lost his cap which was found on the following morning secreted up the chimney in Binskin’s house. After the assault the men walked on the way to Aylesford. The two prisoners were positively sworn to by Thompson and by his witness.

Alfred Neale in cross-examination, Thompson swore, and his evidence was confirmed by Neale, that the van was proceeding at a leisurely pace at the time of the assault, the horse walking in the middle of the road. It was a light night, and they were able to swear positively to the prisoner. They had stopped once on the road from Maidstone. That was at the "Walnut Tree," just before the assault. They had one pot of beer there. They did not hear any one call out to them to mind how they drove. No one said they must be either mad or fools to drive in the way they were doing. Prosecutor did not offer to fight any of the men, nor did he offer another man sixpence if he would set as his second. The prisoners and the other two men appeared to be intoxicated. Nothing whatever was said by any of the men, nor was the slightest provocation given to cause them to act in the way complained of.

Mr. Norton called two witnesses, one of whom said that on the night in question he met the van driven by the prosecutor on the road, about one hundred yards from the "Walnut Tree Inn." The horse was going along at a very tidy rate, and he could have no idea that there was a corpse in the van. The road was wide enough for two waggons to pass each other, but the van was driven so close to the side — the wrong side — that he had to throw himself back into the hedge to save himself from being run over. He called out to the parties in the van that they must be either fools or drunk to drive like that, or else they had never handled the reins before. They rolled about from one side of the van to the other as if they were very drunk. He believed they were drunk.

The other witness said he heard the parties wrangling in the road, and prosecutor asked him if he would fight him. He declined, and prosecutor then asked him if he would be his second, offering to give him sixpence if he would stop and see him righted. The prosecutor, who seemed very drunk declined to go on to Burham, and said his van had been stopped, and he would not stand it, he would fight one of the men who interfered with him.

They were each fined 40s. including costs, or three weeks with hard labour.

They paid the fines.


Aberdeen Press and Journal, Saturday 24 March 1990.

How two live more cheaply...

PUB landlord Mr. Peter Henn and his wife of 23 years are living under separate roofs to avoid paying double poll tax.

Peter and Carol are tenants of the "Walnut Tree," Maidstone, Kent, and at least one of them has to live at the premises to satisfy local regulations.

As an insurance against the pub failing, they bought a small terraced house 15 doors away, on which they must pay poll tax.

This puts their bill up from a joint £654 to £1308.

Now the couple have decided to live separately.


From the By William Janes, 30 April 2019.

The comedy legends who have performed at Walnut Tree in Maidstone.

Heard the one about Jimmy Carr, Bill Bailey, Catherine Tate, and Graham Norton passing through an unassuming pub’s comedy club on their way to stardom?

Hidden around a corner off Tonbridge Road in Maidstone sits the "Walnut Tree:" one of Kent’s lesser-known cultural landmarks.

The tavern is behind the county’s longest-running comedy club, hosting stand-up nights every Thursday since 1990.

Rosaline Janko 2019

Rosaline Janko, who has been landlady of The Walnut Tree in Maidstone for the past seven years, stands by pictures of the famous comedians who have performed at her pub.

Over the last three decades acts have come from far and wide for the often small, intimate gigs in surroundings which feel much like someone’s living room, complete with a dozing black dog Louis.

While many comedians have seen careers meet their end inside the "Walnut Tree," others have blazed through leaving a trail of stardust behind them.

Impressionist Alistair McGowan remembers his visit well.

“It is an unforgettable room,” he said.

“It must be 25 years ago that I performed there. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. It was so small; the audience were right on top of you.

"I don’t think there was a microphone. There was certainly no stage; you were just in the corner of the very small bar.

“I was horrified when I first saw the room. There was no space for failure: nowhere to hide, nowhere to change, nowhere to wait and pace.

"But the gig went well and was thrilling, memorable and unique. I’m not sure I’d fancy doing it now.”

Mounted on the wall in one corner are pictures of famous entertainers who, although now are household names, were just fledgling performers when they visited.

Indelibly marked on the make-shift stage backdrop are also the signatures of comics who have tried to tickle the audience’s funny bones.

Former landlords Carol and Peter Henn started the club at the very beginning of a recession, a move they said was to cheer people up.

“I was a truck driver before we took the pub in 1985 when I retired,” said Peter. “In our early years we used to go to a comedy club in Old Kent Road.

“It was when the first recession hit in 1990 I said to Carol ‘let’s put on a comedy night to cheer people up.’ But I didn’t just want to have stand-up comics, I wanted to have alternative comedy.”

One of the first acts to grace the stage was Bill Bailey, who performed in a duo called The Rubber Bishops.

Bill remembers his gigs there fondly.

“I played there a couple of times. Lovely crowd and excellent beer as I recall,” he said.

Over the years, audiences at the "Walnut Tree" have seen the likes of Jo Brand, Alistair McGowan, Dylan Moran, and Rhod Gilbert.

“I can’t remember them all,” said the 72-year-old former landlord. “We just got a kick out of it when they started hitting the big time.”

Laughing, Peter remembered how former Never Mind the Buzzcocks host Mark Lamarr “died” at the club twice - failing to make the audience chuckle once.

Acts who can now charge thousands of pounds per show performed at the pub for a flat rate of £100 and had to make their set last 40 minutes.

Running a comedy club often made for farcical situations including one comedian revealing the contents of the couple’s bedroom to the audience and another having to do his set remotely.

“We used to thoroughly enjoy it. I have so many stories I could write a book,” said Peter.

“We had a comedian, Brendon Burns, who missed the train but we had an answer machine so we hooked it up and he did 20 minutes over the phone.

Peter & Carol Henn

Peter and Carol Henn of the Walnut Tree Pub. Picture: John Wardley.

“I said he’s missed the train but thanks to the "Walnut Tree" satellite link-up he’s going to do something with us. We could hear him but he couldn’t hear us though.”

Rubbing shoulders with the comedy greats in the infancy of their careers has meant some little favours from famous friends.

Peter recalled: “Our favourite was Mickey Flanagan. He sells out the O2 but he came down twice and we paid him £100.

“We tried to get tickets to see him in Tunbridge Wells but they were sold out so I contacted his old agent and he came back to say ‘Mickey has two tickets on the door for you’, that was around 2014.

Starting in 1992, the pub was visited multiple times by comedy legend Ian Cognito (real name Paul Barbieri) who tragically passed away on stage earlier this month.

“He was known as a loose cannon and had been banned from most of the comedy clubs because they couldn’t control him but he was hilarious,” said Peter. “Once he turned up in a dress, other times with different colour hair, and a puppy in a bag once.

“Speak to anyone in the comedy circuit about Ian Cognito, they were all in awe of him.”

The couple retired in 2012 but, fortunately for comedy fans, the pub was taken on by current landlady Rosaline Janků who keeps the club alive and well.

The only change she’s made is having two acts instead of one and introducing an open mic slot in the middle.

“It was popular and well liked,” said the 57-year-old.

“It’s a tradition and when you start in a new pub you don’t want to change everything. It’s been quite successful.”

Next year the "Walnut Tree" will be celebrating 30 years of laughter and shows no signs of slowing down.

And who knows what future stars might be walking through the door this Thursday.



OLIVER Cephus 1738+

SNOW William 1801+ (also corn merchant)

HAYWARD James 1872-90+


CULVER Edward 1913+

FARLEY Alfred 1918-22+

FARLEY Grace ????

LEGOOD Gertrude Mrs 1930-38+

HENN Peter & Carol 1985-2012

JANKO Rosaline 2012+

AUBREY Oliver 2023+


If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-