10 Bench Street
Picture circa 1980.
ONE main street frontage that disappeared in 1985 was that of The
Crypt in Bench Street. The Rabb Inn-owned bar was so seriously damaged
by fire in 1977 that it never re-opened and became a disgrace to the
town. So, eventually, the new owners decided to demolish the building
under which was the crypt of what some historians held to be the
900-year-old Flemish church of St Nicholas with Norman arches.
Above and below Crypt Tavern 1981 photo by Barry Smith.
From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 7 June, 1929. Price 1½d.
CRYPT RESTAURANT AND LICENCE FACILITIES
At the Dover Police Court on Friday at the Licensing Transfer Sessions,
the magistrates were Sir William Crundall, Messrs. W. J. Barnes, J. W.
Bussey, T. Finnis, G. Golding, S. Lewis, C. E. Beaufoy, W. Bradley, W.
J. Palmer, C. Chitty, W. S. Lee, T. A. Terson, C. J. Sellens, W. J. Law
and Dr. Wood.
LICENSE FACILITIES FOR THE CRYPT CAFÉ
Mr. Carder submitted plans for alterations to the “Crypt Café,” Bench
Street. The premises were formerly the “Shakespeare Hotel,” which had
been a licensed premises for nearly one hundred years. Considerable
alterations was made to the hotel some time ago, the upper part being
turned into flats and the ground floor divided into two, the licence
remaining for one side of the division only. The other side was for the
service of meals and refreshments of all kinds, but they were under the
disability of being unable to serve any liquid refreshment except by
sending out into the street into the other part although still on the
same premises. To avoid this annoyance to customers and delay the
lessees were asking that the alteration of cutting through the wall and
opening again the other half should be sanctioned. He could see no
objection to it and it seemed farcical that the privilege should not get
The Magistrates' Clerk said that the Police had no objection.
Mr. Carder said that there was no intention to erect a bar.
The 15 Magistrates present voted on paper and the Chairman said that the
application was granted.
From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday, 10 April, 1931. Price 1½d.
From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday, 4
THE NEW "CRYPT" OPENS
Alterations and minor improvements now in progress at the "Crypt
Restaurant" which has been closed temporarily, have resulted in the
opening of the restaurant known as the "Shakespeare Lounge," adjoining
the Shakespeare Buffet, in Bench Street.
In a totally different style, the lounge which was last in use as an
amusement arcade, has been attractively furnished and decorated and
includes a large entrance hall where patrons may wait, a small but
luxurious cocktail bar, and a dining room which lacks none of the
atmosphere which made the "Crypt" so popular. An interesting feature for
Dovorians is the polished wood floor in the dining room, which was taken
from the old Granville Gardens roller skating rink about twenty years
The lounge was opened essentially as a substitute for the "Crypt,"
which will be closed for a few weeks. Business will be resumed in the
"Crypt" and if there is sufficient demand the Lounge will also remain
From the Dover Express and East Kent News. 17 May, 1963.
The Crypt's Future
Dover's internationally famous restaurant, The Crypt, may be
purchased, it is understood, by one of the largest catering firms in the
The sale, expected to be completed shortly, will probably include the
"Shakespeare Bars" which adjoin The "Crypt" with its underground
The present owner, Mr. J. P. Watts, a restaurateur of Exeter, bought
the "Crypt" and "Shakespeare Bars" late last summer from Messrs. John
Lukey and Sons the well known East Kent wine Mrchants. Mr. John Lukey -
the grandfather of the last owner - started in business in Bench Street
Up to a year ago, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Grace were the managers of the
"Crypt" and "Shakespeare." The present manager is Mr. Julian Slattery.
Mr. Slattery this week refused to comment on the reported change of
ownership of the premises.
Formerly the "George", "The Vine" and the "Shakespeare Hotel", it became
the "Crypt Tavern" after a long and interesting history, in 1964. The new
owners were Raberni Inns who reopened after extensive alterations plus the
creation of new bars.
From the Dover Express 14 November 2002 by Bob Hollingsbee.
THIS old postcard from my collection shows the interior of
the once popular Crypt Restaurant in Bench Street sadly now demolished after a
disastrous fire - referred to by Jean Charman. Note the Bentwood chairs and
tables of the restaurant in the ancient crypt. Under a strong glass the
postcard photograph, posted in 1949, reveals that on the right-hand wall was a
plaque which stated "Restored 1923-24, Contractor R.J. Barwick, architect
Information I have with the above photographs says late 40s, so either
the information is incorrect or this was taken when the premises was
still called the "Shakespeare Hotel."
Above postcard showing the inside bar area, date unknown.
Fire visited the premises several times during 1968 and 1969. No one
outbreak being disastrous in itself but the cumulative results no doubt
Ownership passed to Rabb Inns in December 1971 and some years later,
early one Sunday morning, the 27th March 1977, a passer by reported fire.
The conflagration proved serious that time and although many of the
residents escaped or were rescued, seven fatalities resulted including one
of the firemen.
"The Crypt Tavern and Restaurant", with apartments over, were described
subsequently as a mass of reams and passages which could be compared to a
rabbit warren. The owners were refused permission to reinstate the damage in
April 1981 but were authorised instead to demolish the remains in November
1982. It was April 1985 before that happened however and the site is still
vacant in April 2007.
Archaeologists revealed crypt
THESE are pictures of the Bench Street crypt, not the crypt under the
Shakespeare Hotel which in the main dates from 1924.
The drawing in 1836 was by the vicar of St Mary's, the Rev J Maule.
The early crypt was not part of St Nicholas Church nor was the tower, which
disappeared when Bench Street was widened.
It only re-appeared when the archaeologists were clearing the ground for the
At the same time it was proved that the tower was a separate entity and was
a defensive structure and at one time was used as a prison.
The Rev Maule shows it with a workman with a pickaxe.
The lower picture by James Tucker, dated
1912, shows a lady and gentleman inspecting the crypt and also giving a date
The tower was a very solid building and needed a charge of gunpowder to
St Nicholas Church is now accepted to have been a side chapel of St Martin