Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.



Inns and Alehouses of Dover

From Bygone Kent Volume 2 Number 6, by J. G. Harman.


lt was always said that in Snargate Street there were as many pubs as days in the year. While confined to barracks just before retirement I browsed through the 1900 edition of Pikes Directory for Dover, and a rough check gave about 194 for the old Dover Borough. Going back through our Directories further houses were added to my list. Then I started on old newspapers, looking for mentions in police reports, inquests, and granting of licenses. A study of census returns for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, also gave much information, and another interesting source was the minutes of the Dover Paving Commissioners from 1788-1841.

About this time I made contact with Barry Smith who had published a very interesting book called 'The Way' which gave a history of those public houses still surviving in Dover. He had spent many hours tracing the landlords from various sources, and it was possible to give a life to many of the old pubs and inns and also to note changes of names. My index has grown to more than 500 cards but by taking account of changes in names there must have been at least 442 different houses during the last 300 years. In 1545 a list was compiled of 37 inns and public houses in Dover. The addresses were in Biggin Street, St James Street and Upwall (Adrian Street) and so far no link with present houses. Snargate Street and most of the Pier district is on reclaimed land as the sea seems to have come up to the cliffs until about 1600. The Harbour moved over from the eastern side of the town to the west, and this meant the arrival of inns and taverns around the new harbour. This Western Dock area seems to have had a very high proportion of hostelries and perhaps a ratio of one in four to other houses. Developments over the years starting with improvements to the harbour, have taken their toll. About 1815 a Wet Dock was constructed and a number of houses on the harbour edge were demolished, and included in these we know was, 'Noah's Ark' and 'The Brittania'. In the early 1840s the coming of the railway from Folkestone meant an end to a number of houses on the shoreline, and included 'The Mulberry Tree Inn'.

The opposition line coming through from Canterbury in 1860 destroyed a lot of old property and included a number of Inns, among them was the 'Packet Boat' and 'Shipwrights Arms'. Later a link line cut another swathe through the area and then later the road viaduct caused the demise of another batch. The 'Kent Arms' in Limekiln Street was one of those to go in 1913. Strond (Strand) street had a few survivors but these were affected by the 1939-1945 War and the street has now disappeared into the harbour complex. I would add a word of thanks to the Dover Harbour Board for a chance to consult old maps of the area.

The Beerhouse Act of 1830 which was intended to reduce drinking, led to the opening of many small alehouses and these increased until about 1870. One such the 'Bonny Cravat', was the subject of Police Court proceedings two days after opeing in 1840 because of noisy customers at 2 a.m. To go back to newspapers I found my great-great-grandfather outside 'The Bull' at Buckland in 1835 due to a brawl on Buckland Bridge. He was a witness to an Inquest and later I found him in the 1841 census, living very near 'The Old Endeavour'. Some of the census enumerators were very helpful in giving the full title of the hostelry but others were loathe to advertise the house 100 years later, and just listed the inhabitant as a publican. The census return of 1861 gives a section from 'The Liberty Inn' by the Crabble Tollgate to Cherry Tree Lane. At first I thought that this might have been an earlier name for the 'Gate Inn' which from records, starts in 1868. However after a tip-off and a close inspection of a house on the corner of Dodds Lane it was possible to see the name still painted on the wall.

As I have said before, Inquest reports in newspapers give valuable information as they were often conducted in the public house. One such in 1841 gave the address of the victim as the 'Evening Star' in Biggin Street. She had called at the 'Royal Exchange', 'The Lifeboat' and 'Friend-in-Need' and when brought out of the sea was conveyed to the 'Hovelling Boat'. These latter houses were all in the Pier District and in the 1841 census we find Louis Piqui (who gave evidence) at the 'Friend-in-Need' in Round Tower Street. The period covered by a particular house can be very useful in research, to identify old photographs and pictures. If a view includes a public house with a sign it might be possible to locate the street or period.

The Queen Street area passes through the Roman Forts and there were a number of inns which have disappeared. The 'Cause is Altered' as many will know has gone recently, but it is difficult to be sure of its name before the change about 1820. The book by Jones on Dover states that it was the 'Black Horse' but this appears to be hearsay, and at that time we know there was one of that name where the 'Eagle' now stands. However-there was a "Blacksmiths-Arms' in the street prior to the change and there seems to be some grounds for believing it was the 'Carpenters Arms'.

From time to time the question arises as to which is the oldest pub in Dover. St James Street area seems to be a likely place and the 'White Horse' next to the church as a candidate. It seems that it started about 1760 as the 'City of Edinburgh'. There was a 'White Horse' in the Market Square in the 17th century. The 'Dover Tavern' in Bench Street, formerly 'The Guildhall Vaults' and earlier still "The Bull', is on an old site and is mentioned in 1782. I was still looking for one which kept its same name up to the present day, and in a copy of a 'Kent Gazette' of February 1785 I found a notice of a cockfight. This was to be held at the 'Cherry Tree Inn' at Buckland, when the gentlemen of Faversham and Ospringe would do battle with the gentlemen of Dover. One can visualise the carriages coming down the turnpike road for this event.

The oldest survivor in the Pier District appears to be the 'Cinque Ports Arms', formerly the 'Coach and Horses' recorded in 1793 and probably earlier as the building seems to be older. Next door we find the 'Rose and Crown' dating from 1841 and due to demolition of other property they seem to be leaning on each other for support in the best traditions. I have also found in St Mary's Vestry Books about the Charity of 'Old Thomas Challice' which was to be paid from his house at the sign of the 'Horseshoe' in Biggin Street in 1613. This is noted from time to time, e.g. 13/4d a year in 1639 and in 1739 it was 10/-. By 1799 the name had changed to the 'Saracens Head' which was sold in 1895 for road widening, and the proceeds were invested to provide an annuity of 9/-. This house stood at the corner of New Street opposite 'The Rose' which has recently closed its doors.

On searching through a copy of the 'Dover Chronicle' of 1841 I found recorded a song, which had its premiere at the Dover Theatre in 1799. This introduced the audience to the landlords and landladies of Dover. It ran to 16 verses. (Click to view). It was sung to the tune of 'The Vicar of Bray'. It has been most useful in checking other records. I must express my thanks to Mrs S. Corral of Dover Reference Library and also to Barry Smith and others who have assisted me.

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