Sort file:- Tunbridge Wells, August, 2021.

Page Updated:- Sunday, 15 August, 2021.


Earliest 1873-

(Name from)

Sussex Arms

Open 2020+

The Pantiles / 10 Sussex Mews

Royal Tunbridge Wells

01892 549579

Sussex Arms outing

Above photo showing an outing from the pub, date unknown.

Sussex Arms 1919

Above photo, 1919.

Sussex Arms 1954

Above photo, 1954.

Sussex Arms

Above photo 2014.

Sussex Arms

Above photo date unknown.

Sussex Arms sign 1992

Above sign, October 1992.

With thanks from Brian Curtis


Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 4 December 1964.

New landlord promises home cooking at pub.

Mr. and Mrs. Tom Bradley, the new landlords of the 15th century "Sussex Arms," in Neville Street - the oldest Public House in Tunbridge Wells - moved in to take up their duties on Monday.

Mr. Bradley and his family have moved from Shoreham-by-Sea. Mr. Bradley worked in West Africa with an advertising agency for 4 years then in the sales promotion department of Nigerian Airways.

His wife Barbara will deal with the catering side of the pub and plans to introduce "home cooking." There son, Peter, 20, will help in the bar as a training for his ambition to enter hotel catering.

The cellar, which in the past has been used by various musical groups, is to be redecorated.

Mrs. Bradley said that a parrot called Jacko which she brought back from West Africa was "settling in very well."

Mr & Mrs Tom Bradley 2064

Mr. and Mrs. Tom Bradley, with their son Peter.


Written By: Edward James Gilbert - Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. 5 February 2015

The Sussex Shades public house dates back to the 17th century. It is situated in the Sussex Mews, behind the once grand Sussex Hotel. Tucked away through Coach and Horse Passage. This old establishment began as a watering hole for the weary traveller arriving by horse and carriage. The boundary between Frant, Sussex and Tunbridge Wells, Kent ran through the middle of the Sussex Hotel, putting the Sussex Shades in Sussex, until at a later time the boundary was changed and it became part of Kent. The pub has a long and sometimes eccentric history.

In the 17th to 19th century this pub was known variously as the "Sussex Tavern" and the "Sussex Shades" but in the 20th century became known as the "Sussex Arms," a name it retains today. Like most pubs it has seen good times and bad and most who visited it described it as a rather rough and dark place, due to its location in the shade cast upon it by surrounding taller buildings. Today it is a more cheerful and vibrant place where good meals and beverages are served and is popular among tourists and locals alike. This article traces the history of the pub and its proprietors.


Situated on Sussex Mews behind the Pantiles' Corn Exchange sits one of Tunbridge Wells' most historic pubs. Tucked away through Coach and Horse Passage, The Sussex is the area's best-kept secret. The adjacent "Sussex Hotel" gave its name to the pub, and according to the tradition of a pub serving a hotel, the pub was known as ‘the Sussex Shades.'

“Mews” is a primarily British term formerly describing a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a paved yard or court, or along a street, behind large city houses, such as those found in towns, during the 17th and 18th centuries. The word may also refer to the lane, alley or back street onto which such stables open. It is sometimes applied to rows or groups of garages or, more broadly, to a narrow passage or a confined place. Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings.

The shops, inns and hotels of the Pantiles had need for a mews so that patrons had a place to keep their horse and carriage and it was in this setting that the "Sussex Shades" was built to provide a place of repose for those wishing to quench their thirst after a long and dusty carriage ride, or a busy day of shopping and sightseeing. Although there were several inns and hotels in the Pantiles that offered rooms for travellers, perhaps the largest and most historic was the "Sussex Hotel," which began as White's House.

T. T. Barrow's map of 1808 shows the Pantiles Sussex Shades. A map from 2014 from the booket by Philip Whitbourn of the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society is labelled the location of the “Sussex Arms” as it is called today. The building on this map is labelled as “Royal Victoria” is what was previously called the "Sussex Hotel." For details about the history of the Sussex Hotel and of the Pantiles see my articles ‘The "Royal Victoria" and "Sussex Hotel"' dated October 22, 2014 and ‘The History of the "Gloster Tavern" 39-41 The Pantiles' dated October 12, 2014.


With 17th Century foundations, the pub is almost as old as the town itself - built to serve the needs of the Coachmen and servants who would park in Sussex Mews while their Gentleman owners enjoyed the nearby Walks.

In the 18th century it is recorded that an actor called Peters “used a room belonging to a public house, now known as the Sussex Shades”.

The website of the Grove Bowling Club, gave the following “ Who is this famous bowler and ‘Brewer of Good Ale' from 1714?. Dick Pottinger who was mine host of the old coaching hostelry the "Sussex Shades." He was a famous bowler in his day and a ‘Brewer of Good Ale'. Old guide books contain many references to him and he did much to foster the game in Kent and Sussex, including challenge matches for live pigs”. Colbrans 1844 Guide gave the following reference to Pottinger and the "Sussex Shades" from a letter dated July 25, 1714 written by a visitor to the town “At Dick Pottinger's is the Sussex where you have better usage”.


Bracketts Guide of 1863 referred to carriers from Tunbridge Wells transporting passengers from the “Sussex Shades” Tuesday and Friday at 2:30 by a Mr Lambert going to Brenchley. It is interesting to note that in reviewing the 1824,1826 and 1840 Pigots directories for Tunbridge Wells that no listing for the "Sussex Shades" could be found and no listing for it was found in the 1858 Melville directory, although of business were listed in the Pantiles. The pub obviously existed but its omission from these directories is most likely due to the pub being in Frant, Sussex and these directories were not available to the researcher to study.

The known licensed victuallers during this century are as follows:-

1) 1858 Michael Duffield Slater. The Uk pub history directory mistakenly lists Michael Duffield Slater as the proprietor of the pub. In fact he is listed in the 1858 Melville directory as “Michael Duffield Slater, Sussex Hotel and Assembly Rooms, Parade, Tunbridge Wells”, which is the hotel and not the pub.

2) 1862 Samuel Bacon. The Uk pub history directory mistakenly lists Samuel Bacon at this pub. In fact he is given in the 1962 Kelly directory as “Samuel Bacon, Royal Sussex family and commercial hotel and public assembly rooms, Parade”, which is the hotel and not the pub.

3) 1866-1874 George Elliot. George is found in the 1871 census and the 1874 Kelly directory at the Sussex Shades. George was born 1826 at Hartfield, Sussex and was one of five children born to John Batchelor Elliot (1791-1844) and Fanny Spencer (1789-1857). George was baptised September 10,1826 at Hartfield, Sussex. George father appears to have passed away when George was just a young man. The 1841 census, taken in Sussex recorded George working on the farm of John Bowrch in East Grinstead, Sussex. The 1851 census, taken at Hartfield, recorded Fanny Elliot as a widow, born 1790 in Hartfield and running a 100 acre farm with two hired men. With her was her son John, born 1822 in Hartfield and her son George, Both sons are working on the family farm. Also there was one visitor, two farm labourers and two domestic servants. The 1861 census recorded George in Tunbridge Wells as the innkeeper of The Sussex Tap. With him was his cousin Jane Hooker, age 23, a housekeeper and one visitor, and three servants. The Gazette announced that George Elliot of the Sussex Tap, Sussex Shades, Tunbridge Wells, livery stable keeper was adjudicated bankrupt April 6,1866 and an order of discharge was granted July 20,1866. The 1871 census, taken at the “Sussex Hotel Shades”, recorded George Elliot as a livery stable keeper. With him was his wife Jane T. Elliot, one visitor, one assistant, one domestic servant and one stable keeper. Probate records gave George Elliot late of the Sussex Shades public house, Tunbridge Wells, licensed victualler, died January 17,1875 at Haywards Heath. The executor of his estate, valued at under 450 pounds was Jane Tulley Elliot of the Sussex Shades. George was buried on January 23,1875 in the Tunbridge Wells borough cemetery.

4) 1875-1882. Mrs Jane Elliot. The 1882 Kelly directory gave “Mrs Jane Elliot, Sussex Shades, Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells”. In 1875 her husband George Elliot passed away at the Sussex Shades and she then took over the pub. From all appearances Mrs Jane Elliot was Georges cousin mentioned living with him in the 1861 census, and given as Jane Hooker, born 1838 in Hartfield. Her full name was Jane Tulley Elliot, nee Hooker. The 1891 census, taken at the Sussex Shades listed Jane T. Elliot as a widow and innkeeper of the Sussex Shades. Living with her was her two children, John, age 8 and Fanny, age 7, both born in Tunbridge Wells. Also present was her 28 year old sister Mary Hooker worked in the pub as a barmaid. Death records noted that Jane Tulley Elliot, born 1838, died in the 1st qtr of 1887 at Camberwell, London.


The longest serving proprietor of the pub in this century was Denis Lane who was there throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He is referred to as “the legendary pub landlord”, whose larger than life stature and character, made for a famously eccentric boozer which has produced many an anecdote. The website of Mrs Anke reported in an article dated 1979 that the pub was called “Sussex Shades”.

The following account by someone who frequented the pub in the 20th century gives some idea of what the place was like. “The Sussex Shades tended to be frequented by rather shady looking characters who looked as though they belonged to some secret brotherhood or sisterhood and who had made their way there in response to a password not readily communicated. The interior of the lounge bar was always darr, the pub being enclosed among taller buildings. The landlord, a red faced man, his very black hair plastered down and parted in the middle, wore a striped waistcoat and a heavy signet ring on one of the fingers of his left hand. There was a curious torpor about the place, not a peaceful quiet, such as the one executed in the Grove Tavern. It was quiet but not relaxed. There was always a half-a –dozen young women, brash, in strident green, red or pink sheen dresses, sitting smoking on high stools at the bar. From the summer of 1940 to that of 1944, there was always a few young officers from South-Eastern Command, their swagger-sticks on the tables at which they were sitting, drinking shorts. At other tables, but never coalescing with the uniformed customers, were young men fresh from Guy's Dental School, which had been evacuated to the town. The two groups eyed one another, listlessly, but without hostility, with one eye on the bar, and one eye on the door and when the war was over the place suddenly closed and remained so for several weeks when it reopened under new management. It was not the same place at all. The landlord with wide, imperturbable boxers face, the officers, the dental students, the brightly coloured girls, had all gone to be replaced by rather broken down old men who sucked their unlit pipes and elderly women in hats”.

The licensed victuallers during this century are known to be:-

1) 1891-1903. Thomas Padget. Thomas Padget was the licensed victualler of the pub from no later than 1891 but was gone by at least 1911 when in that year the proprietor was Leslie B. Lulham. Thomas had been born 1850 at Howden, Yorkshire, and was one of seven children born to William Padget, a carpenter, (1813-1872) and Sarah Powell (1813-1865). In the early 1860's the family lived for a time in London and in the late 1860's and early 1870's at Trent, Broadstairs. Thomas's mother passed away in 1865 and his father married Mary Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) who was born 1841 in Howden, Yorkshire. At the time of the 1871 census Thomas was living with his parents (William and Mary) and siblings at Laurel House, St Peter the Apostle, Kent. In 1872 he married Agnes Pettit (1853-1893), born in Trent and died December 30, 1893 in Ticehurst. She was one of three children born to Thomas and Hannah Pettit. The 1881 census, taken at 18 Buckingham Road in Margate, St John the Baptist, Kent, gave Thomas as a joiner. Living with him was his wife Agnes, born 1853 at Broadstairs, Kent and their two daughters Edith, age 15 and Alice, age 1 month. The 1891 census, taken at Sussex Shades, Frant, Sussex listed Thomas as the licensed victualler. With him was his wife Agnes; their two children Edith and Alice, his sister Caroline Clarke, a barmaid, and one lodger. His daughter Edith was working at that time as a dressmaker. In 1893 his wife Agnes passed away and in 1896 he married Caroline Clarke (1848-1928) who was born in Broadstairs and died at Medway, Kent. The 1901 census, taken at The Hollies in the Dorking Road part of Tunbridge Wells listed Thomas as a retired Licensed victualler and living with him was his second wife Caroline, born 1848 in Broadstairs, Kent. It is interesting to note that although he states he is retired he was listed in the 1903 Kelly directory as the proprietor of the Sussex Shades. The 1911 census, taken at 78 Calverley road gave Thomas as a licensed victualler. With him was his wife Caroline, a granddaughter, and two barmaids. The census records the premises as being 7 rooms; that the couple had been married 15 years and that they had no children. Probate records show that he was of the Bristol Arms on Calverley Road when he died march 12,1917. The executor of his 1,091 estate was his wife Caroline. He was buried in the Tunbridge Wells borough cemetery on March 16, 1917.

2) 1913. Leslie B. Lulham. Leslie is listed at the “Sussex Arms” in the 1913 Kelly directory. He is also found there in the 1911 census with his wife Florence and son Sidney Burrell Jermain Lulham (1906-1957).Leslie had been born 1882 at Burgess Hill, Sussex. The 1891 census, taken at 2 Alfred Road in Brighton, Sussex recorded Leslie attending school and living with his parents Horace Lulham, a leather merchant, born 1842 in Brighton, and Elizabeth Lulham, born 1853 Brighton. Also present in the home was Leslies five siblings and three servants. On June 12, 1905 he married Florence Glover of Ramsgate at Christ Church, Southborough. Leslie at that time was living in Brighton. Leslie's father was a leather merchant at the time of his sons marriage. Leslies wife was the daughter of deceased George Glover, a carpenter. Leslies birth was registered at Luckfield, Sussex in the 3rd qtr of 1882 and registered as Leslie Bertram Jermain Lulham. His wife Florence Fraser Glover had been born 1881 in Brighton, Sussex and his son Sidney was born in Steyning, Sussex; later married to Mary Ann Day, born 1887, and died in Sussex in 1957. Leslie enlisted for service in WW 1 at Tunbridge Wells on December 11, 1915, with the occupation of publican. In 1915 the family was living at 2 St Mary's Place, Brighton. He first entered service as a private (# 3160) with the 1st H.C. R.F.A (T).A tall man of just over 6 feet he was wounded in the war. He had been mobilized June 2,1916 and on June 10,1916 he was transferred to the 9th Royal West Kent Regiment. He was discharged as “no longer physically fit” January 1, 1918 and returned to civilian life. It is to be expected that Leslie ran the pub from no later than 1911 to the time he enlisted for service in 1915, at which time David John Jones took over the pub. Probate records show that Leslie Bertram Jermain Lilham was of 2 St Mary's Place in Brighton when he died May 23,1919. The executor of his 1,060 estate was his wife Florence.

3) 1918. David John Jones. He is listed in the 1918 Kelly directory as the licensed victualler of the pub. No other definitive information was obtained for him. Based on the information about Lesie B. Lulham it would appear that David took over the pub in 1915 when Leslie enlisted for service in WW 1 and left sometime in or before 1922 when Ben Boniface was the proprietor.

4) 1922. Ben Boniface. The find a grave website gives a detailed account about the life of Charles Henry Ockenden III, born November 1,1912 at Ninfield, Sussex and who died July 13, 1981 at Bexhill–on-Sea, Sussex. He was the second child and only son of Charles Henry Ockenden (1885-1971) and Sarah Pyle (1881-1972). His parents had run the George Hotel in Hurst Green. Upon leaving school in worked in London, Southampton and Jersey He was learning to fly in Jersey when WW II broke out and he signed up for service with the RAF and was mentioned in dispatches. After the war he left the RAF and went into business with his father.” Their first joint venture being Ben Boniface Ltd, a haulage firm, run from offices and yard at the Sussex Shades, Tunbridge Wells. As the business grew, they moved to Benhall Mill Road, Tunbridge Wells and there started T.W. Slatter & son, Aglome Ltd and Kent & Sussex Wrought Iron Ltd. He was married Daisy Florence Musk (1921-2007) on March 13,1948 at Crowborough, Sussex and made their home in Falcome Road, Tunbridge Wells. The couple had a son in 1949 and in 1953 had another child, living by then on St John's Road, Sourthborough. In 1963 he moved to Benhall Mill Road and in 1972 retired and moved to Bexhill on Sea, Sussex. In 1981 he was diagnosed with cancer and died at home on July 13, 1981. After his cremation his ashes, in accordance with his wise, were scattered at sea off St Leonards from his boat ‘Claire'. The Ben Boniface referred to appear at the Sussex Shades as a licensed victualler in the 1922 Kelly directory. David John Jones was listed there in the 1918 Kelly and Frederick Covell was listed there in the 1930 Kelly, which gives a broad range of years in which Boniface was there. No other definitive information was found out about him except for a 1911 census record for a Benjamin Boniface, age 72, born 1839 in Rotherfield, Sussex who living with him was his 61 year old wife Eliza. It is believed by the researcher that the Boniface who ran the pub was his son. The only other record is from the London Gazette about the estate of Benjamin Boniface, in which is stated he was of 8 South Grove and The Sussex Shades Cottage, both of Tunbridge Wells and that he died September 1, 1938. Benjamin was buried in the Tunbridge Wells borough cemetery on September 3, 1938.

5) 1930. Frederick Covell. He is listed as the licensed victualler in the 1930 Kelly directory.

6) 1938. Charles C. Sharpe. He is listed as the licensed victualler in the 1938 Kelly directory.

7) 1960's-1980's. Denis Lane. Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the pub was for a long time under the stewardship of the legendary pub landlord Denis Lane, whose larger than life stature and character, made for a famously eccentric boozer which has produced many an anecdote. From further research it was determined that Dennis Lane and his wife Barbara ran the pub from 1958 to 1987.They had furnished the pub with artefacts purchased from the nearby auction rooms; the collection of chamber pots was legendary. So too were the number of locks on the front door-alleged to number 27 in total. The Sussex was a freehouse in the true sense of the word. Along with a variety of different beers, Harvey's PA was always available, together with XXX Old ale in winter. During such times, a welcoming coal fire was kept burning in the grate. In 1987 the Pantiles was earmarked by the local council for what amounted to ‘gentriofication” and there was redevelopment in the area. In the autumn of 1987 the Lane's sold up. The Sussex pub ended up being completely gutted and turned into a trendy pub aimed at the youth market. Plans for it to brew its own beer came to nothing and eventually the pub was sold to Greene King. The area around the pub was opened up and now is no longer tucked away.


The pub hosts regular (notoriously challenging) pub quizzes, regular DJ nights, and little gigs that often make for a great first visit. They offer real ale from six hand-pulls, craft beers, and an ever expanding wine and spirits list. Lunch is served between twelve and four, Thursday to Sunday, and seven days a week at the proprietors sister pub The "Ragged Trousers," just two minutes away.

The pub is a popular late evening venue, serving an extensive list of real ale, fine wines and excellent spirits. The cellar bar, with a capacity of around 40, is available for hire for private parties and event promotion. The pub opens at 5pm and goes on until late in the evening.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, Friday 16 January 1874.

Extension of time.

The Bench granted the following extensions:- To Mr. Steed, on the occasion of the Quadrille Company's Annual Ball, at the "Royal Sussex Assembly Rooms," on the 13th inst., until 6 o'clock a.m., and also to 12 o'clock on the 23rd inst., on the occasion of the Conservative Association's dinner.


From the 25 February 2013. By Danny Boyle.

Policeman discovers blood-curdling screams at Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells are horror film scene

A police officer stumbled onto a film set at the "Sussex Arms" pub in Tunbridge Wells.

When police received a report of blood-curdling screams from a Tunbridge Wells pub, an officer was dispatched to the scene.

But the bobby who went to investigate in the basement of the "Sussex Arms" didn't discover a bloodbath - but found himself on the set of a horror movie!

A concerned passer by had called Kent Police to say they had heard a woman screaming inside the closed Nevill Street venue.

The officer discovered the screams were actually from actress Hannah Lowe - tied to a chair in the middle of the cellar surrounded by cast and crew about to undergo the latest take of a blowtorch torture scene.

The officer is heard to say: "Hello, is everything alright? We had a call from a passer by saying there was a woman screaming in the pub."

He was reassured by the crew he had actually stumbled onto a film set and thanked them for their time.

Producer Hayden West said he was not surprised the realistic scene raised the alarm.

He said: "Hannah was screaming very loudly and because she wasn't very well they really weren't very nice screams.

"The officer popped his head in the door and asked if there were screams, realised what was going on and left.

"I didn't really pay any attention to it, there was so much to do, we just got back on with stuff."

Brighton-based Substantial Films were shooting the scene last Monday afternoon as part of a campaign to raise 30,000 for the psychological horror film Backtrack.

A Kent Police spokesman confirmed an officer from the force visited the pub after a report from a member of the public before realising it was a film set.


From an email received 30 November 2017.

In 1987 when it closed to the public the interior was then purchased by Ian Thurston. He went onto migrating to Australia and in 2007 he then opened the "Fox & Hounds" on the Gold Coast which is all of the original interior from the "Sussex Arms." So the story continues across the world and begins a new life.

Hare and Hounds 2017 Gold Coast Auctralia

Above photo, 2017 showing the Fox and Hounds, Gold Coast, Australia. Opened in 2007.

Fox and Hounds interia

Above photo showing the interior, that was taken from the "Sussex Arms."

Fox and Hounds interior

Above photo showing the interior, that was taken from the "Sussex Arms."


I am informed that this was the tap-house belonging to the "Sussex Hotel" and built to serve the needs of the Coachmen and servants who would park in Sussex Mews (a stable area too) while their Gentleman owners enjoyed the nearby walks or attended the Temple theatre, now the Corn Exchange.

With 17th Century foundations, the pub is almost as old as the town itself - built to serve the needs of the Coachmen and servants who would park in Sussex Mews while their Gentleman owners enjoyed the nearby Walks. (Pantiles)

The adjacent Sussex Hotel (now the Corn Exchange) gave its name to the pub, and according to tradition of a pub serving a hotel, the pub was known as ‘the Sussex Shades.’

Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the pub was for a long time under the stewardship of the legendary pub landlord Denis Lane, whose larger than life stature and character, made for a famously eccentric boozer.


Local knowledge, further pictures, and licensee information would be appreciated.

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 Kent and Sussex Courier, Friday 13 February 1874.

Tunbridge Wells Petty Sessions.

Extension of time.

The Bench granted an hour's extension of time to Mr. Steed, of the "Royal Sussex Hotel," on the occasion of the annual dinner of the Tradesman's Association, to be held on the following Tuesday evening.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, Friday 13 February 1874.

Tunbridge Wells Petty Sessions.

Drunk and Disorderly.

John Cartwright was charged with being drunk and disorderly, at the "Sussex Hotel yard," on the 7th of February.

The case was proved, and defendant was fined 5s., and 7s. costs, or in default seven days.


Kent and Sussex Courier, 21 August 1931.

Popular licensee leaves.

Mr. Owen Harriers, who for several years has been the popular landlord of the "Gun Hotel," Horsmonden, has left the village to take over the "Sussex Shades," Tunbridge Wells.

Mr. Harriers, who before coming to Horsmonden was well known in Crowborough, as a key member of the R.A.O.B. (Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes,) A body in which he still takes an active interest.

Mrs. Harriers will also be missed in the district, where she is well known as a violinist and pianist.



SLATER Michael Duffield 1858+

BACON Samuel 1861-62+ (widower age 61 in 1861Census)

STEED H 1873-74 (Kent and Sussex Courier Royal Sussex Arms, Parade)

ELLIOTT George 1874+

ELLIOTT Jane 1882+

PADGET Thomas 1891-1903+ Kelly's 1903 ("Sussex Shades")

LULHAM Leslie B 1913+

JONES David John 1918+

BONIFACE Ben 1922+

COVELL Frederick 1930+

Last pub licensee had HARRIES Owen Wyndham 1931-Nov/32 dec'd

HARRIES Beatrice (widow) 1932-38

SHARPE Charles C 1938+

SMITH P T 1951-55+

SMITH K Aug/1956+

SMITH J J Mrs 1957-58

LANE Dennis & Barbara 1958-87

SHIRES Peter & Lynn to 2000


Kelly's 1903From the Kelly's Directory 1903

Kent and Sussex CourierKent and Sussex Courier


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