Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

Tenterden News
Photo: The Black Horse
Tenterden Archive 
Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden 
Author and date unknown
Throughout England in each centre of habitation, there are two buildings which are complimentary, the church and the inn. The first inns stemmed from the religious foundations, which were charged in medieval times to entertain the wayfarer. As travelling increased it was found convenient to have the hostelry outside the church's gate. So it became an independent affair, the ancestor of the inn. Tenterden's main medieval inns were the 'Woolpack', 'White Lion' and the 'Angel'.

The 'Woolpack' was first recorded in 1474 under its original name of 'Woolsack' in connection with upkeep of a charity in St Mildred's church. A much altered late 15th century hall house, it was much used by Archbishops and Bishops in Georgian times when visiting St Mildred for confrrmations. It is interesting to note that the freehold of the 1790 Town Hall was held by the brewers until 1922 when Harry Judge purchased it and presented it to the Corporation three years later. The Mayor's Parlour was originally the card room of the inn and the mirror at the top of the Town Hall's stairs hides a connecting door - so useful to thirsty members of the Council! Situated near the medieval Market Hall was the 15th century Wealden hall house named the 'White Lion'. Originally similar in appearance to the 'Tudor Rose', it was much altered in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today its frontage is decorated with white mathematical tiles. The mathematical tiled facade of the 'Eight Bells' (known as the 'Angel' up to 1835, then the 'Six Bells' until 1769, when, with the church acquiring two more bells it became the 'Eight Bells') hides a largely unaltered 15th century inn, built as such by St Augustine's Abbey. In 1969, the rent had become so small that the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, successors at the Reformation to St Augustine's Abbey, ceased to collect it.

Another significant Tenterden inn was the 'Queen's Arms' which does not appear until the 17th century. Its site is now occupied by Sketchley cleaners and Franklin's [23 and 25 High Street].

Of the numerous breweries Tenterden has had over the centuries one of the most outstanding was established in 1792. In that year Isaac and Thankful Cloake2 set up a brewery at the rear of what was to become the 'Vine' inn. The brewery later passed to a Faversham brewer and then in 1872 to Obadiah Edwards. The business was carried on by his sons Henry, Fred and Robert and in its heyday (sales exceeded 4,000 barrels of beer a year) in the Edwardian period the Edwards' 'empire' comprised not only the brewery but three Tenterden inns ('New Inn' [Chinese Restaurant] [3 East Cross], 'Black Horse' [renamed the 'William Caxton in 1949] and the 'Vine') and seven in the surrounding area. In 1922 the business was sold to Jude Hanbury & Co Limited who closed it down3.

The town's inns appear to have been at their peak in the late 17th and early 18th centuries when they shared the more considerable of the Corporation's celebrations. Those affairs embraced all possible occasions including celebrations of peace and coronations. Following the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) the Corporation and others celebrated in grand style in the Court Chamber of the 'Queen's Arms'. Members of the Council were charged 1s a head, eight freemen "below stairs" 8d a head and "common persons" 6d. Wine, beer, lemons, sugar and tobacco were among the items provided. The total cost was £8.6s.3 1/2d. Mrs Elizabeth Roake, the landlady, eventually settled with the Corporation of £8.6s.0d!. As part of the celebration of George I's coronation in 1714 the Corporation spent £1.8s.6d for an ordinary for their Counsel and his man at the 'Queens Arms' -& £1.5s.0d for wine and punch at the 'Woolpack' and 10s for "drink" at the 'Angel'. One of the most magnificent occasions was the grand feast at the 'Queen's Arms' when the Governor of Dover Castle was entertained in 1696. The· main course comprised beef, mutton, geese, ducks and chickens and was followed by tarts, apple pastries, cheesecake and custard. The bill included 62 gallons of oats, 13 gallons of beans and a charge from broken glasses. The cost of this sumptuous affair was£14.13s8d of which half was for wine and £2.5s.6d for beer.

Tenterden's inns have also been used for other official purposes. After the destruction of the Court Hall in 1661 most, if not all, Corporation business was conducted in the inns. The Corporation, for example, used a room at the 'Angel' in 1661 and paid 19s for its hire and for fire and candles. Between 1694 and 1708 common halls were held regularly at the 'Queen's Arms'. The 'Queen's Arms' was used regularly for courts of session in the early 18th century, so too were the 'George'4 (16 High Street), 'White Lion' and 'Woolpack'.

Over the centuries the inns have been faced by many problems and have not infrequently fallen foul of the law. Great attention was paid by the mayor and justices to short measure and unlicensed alehouses. John Cumber, a barber surgeon, was but one of many who were convicted in the late 1660's of "selling less than a full quart of the best beer or ale for 1d" and fined 20s. Keeping an unlicensed alehouse - the 'Queen's Arms' was a regular offender - similarly incurred a 20s fine. Such fines were a useful source of income for the Corporation and drinking offences were treated in a similar prudent manner. in 1657 John Waters was fined 10s for allowing Hugh Gilbert and William Gabrell to "tipple in his house" while the tipplers paid 3s.4d each. Matthew Greenland of the 'Angel' was fined l0s and five of his customers 3s.4d each for drinking on Shrove Tuesday at night contrary to the statute. One of the five miscreants was apparently unable to pay and was promptly put in the stocks. Drunkenness remained a problem and by the early 20th century second offenders were punished severely. In 1911 Frank Weeks was found drunk and disorderly for the second time: he was not fined but sent to Maidstone gaol for 14 days with hard labour. Tenterden, however, emerged as a model town of sobriety in the late 1920's and early 1930's. In 1936 it was reported that there had been only three cases (one in 1927, 1928 and 1933) in the last eight years. One publican (Mr A. Mittell of 'Ye Olde Cellars) attributed the reform to two factors - the reduction in licensed hours and increased prices5. In the early years of this century the licensed hours at 'Ye Olde Cellars' were from 6am to 11pm (!). Perhaps the 40 strong Salvation Army Corps, which met in the upper room at the 'Eight Bells' from 1932, also played a part in the reform.

Although the main function of the inns6 has always been the provision of unlimited liquid refreshment to the public, especially on market, fair and celebration days, they have also been used for other purposes, both official and otherwise. In March 1661 when the Court Hall and gaol were destroyed by fire, Richard Burden, the sole prisoner, was put in fetters and kept for over two months at the 'Angel'. When troops had to be billeted on the town, the inns usually provided most of the accommodation. In 1649, for example, 23 soldiers were quartered at various inns including the 'Angel' and 'White Lion'. Doubtless in the 18th century that "nest of vermin", the Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers drove many of the regulars away from the town's inns. Inns were also used as theatres. In Tenterden this was probably restricted to the 'Angel', the only inn with a galleried courtyard. Stage coaches between Tenterden and London commenced in 1793 and inns were the usual departure and destination points. By 1823 there were three coaches a week from the 'Woolpack' to Maidstone. Coach services peaked in the late 1830's when the TallyHo left the 'Woolpack' daily (except Sundays) at 6.45am for London and the Flower of Kent ran three times a week. The end of the stagecoach came with the arrival of the railway at Ashford in 1842.

Perhaps the most famous of Tenterden's public houses was 'Ye Olde Cellars'7 with its bar below street level. Round the walls stood huge sherry vats which were used as seats. The low ceiling with its heavy beams gave the place a distinctive atmosphere. Hundreds of cards, photos and notes, some yellow and rotten with age, each bearing the name and address of a visitor, were pinned to the beams. Even ladies' garters were pinned up! Famous for over a century it sadly closed in 1986.

In spite of all the changes over the centuries inn-keeping still flourishes as an integral part of the English scene.


  1. It was 16d.
  2. In 1796 they issued a trade token, the "Tenterden Halfpenny", with the words "Payable at I & T Cloakes Brewhouse" round the rim and the arms of the brewers' society on the face. Several of these coins are held by the Museum.
  3. After being used by Kent Chemical Co, the buildings were demolished and the present Station Road Car park and toilets erected.
  4. The 'George' is a much altered 15th century structure, re-faced with mathematical tiles probably in the early 19th century.
  5. One of the factors that encouraged alcoholic drinking was the fact that much of the water in towns had become polluted by the 15th century. Only brewed water, beer or tea was safe to drink. The situation was not remedied until the arrival of clean, piped water.
  6. It should be noted that there was a great proliferation of places that sold beer (as opposed to inns) in the early19th century, as beer was encouraged and gin was not!. Also brewing was a socially acceptable (if not respectable) occupation for a woman after the Napoleonic wars.
  7. Owned by Avery & Sons (they had the spirit licence for Tenterden).

The Woolpack (originally the Woolsack)

It started life as a medieval hall house, being converted to an inn in the late 15th century. In the mid-16th century, the open hall was demolished, a floor added, a 4-flue brick stack with chimneys erected (these lasted until the mid-20th century), and the premises extended. It is recorded that in 1562 it was occupied by Thomas Sharpe, paying a rent of 3s.4d per annum. In the late 18th century, a further extension was built, consisting of an assembly room and a card room. These were later incorporated into the Town Hall, the card room becoming the Mayor's Parlour. No doubt because of it proximity to the parish church, it was used by the Archbishop and the Bishop visiting St Mildred's for confirmations.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden


The Eight Bells

Again another original hall house, converted in the 15th century as an inn known as the Angel, with 2 chimney stacks being erected circa 1550 and an upper flooring inserted. Probably because it was in the shadow of St Mildred's, it was renamed the Six Bells in 1735, and subsequently the Eight Bells in 1770 when the peal was increased to a full set. The western wing (at the Bells Lane end) was drastically altered in the 18th century and the 19th century. The eastern end which goes north-south has more of the original chambers surviving. The frontage was refaced with mathematical tiles in the 19th century.

The White Lion

Originally a medieval hall house, it was modified in the 16th century to include an upper floor and a main fireplace. Further modifications took place in the early 19th century when the jettied ends were under built, two storey bay windows added and the new frontage lined with mathematical tiles.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The Harris Arms
Part of a replacement of earlier buildings on the site of what is now 9-15 High Street, it was taken over as the Harris Arms in the early 19th century. Some 100 years later, the inn was closed and the premises used as a variety of small shops. In the 1950s, nos 9-11 became the local Woolworths, and the other half Weekes the bakers, now Cafe Uno.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The Queens Arms

Opened in the 17th century, the premises were part of 3 two­ storey buildings, which had replaced an earlier hall house. It was refaced in the late 18th century. Unfortunately very little else is known about these premises.

Ye Olde Cellars

It started life as. wine cellars in 1700 for Avery, the wine merchant, and remained in the family for over 200 years. The drinking saloon was opened in the 1880s in its underground site and was closed in 1986. It is now Boardroom.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The Plough

Situated at the end of Golden Square, it was originally a 16th century barn, converted into an ale house in 1762. It is now a private residence aptly named Plough Cottage.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The Greyhound

Little is known of this inn, other than it "was opposite the Town Hall".
[NOTE: updated information from Colin Young "this was the earliest name for Ye Olde Cellars as is proven by mid Victorian census entries"]

The William Caxton

The older part of the existing building dates from the early 16th century but most of what we know today was completed circa 1800 and was called the Black Horse. There are recorded ;instances of costs arising from the supply of food and drink to members of the night watch (constables) who were based on the premises. In 1951 at the time of the Festival of Britain, one of the events for Tenterden's celebrations was the renaming of the public house to the William Caxton.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The Vine Inn

The rear section dates from the late 18th century, being originally a double-fronted house built by Isaac Cloake when he set up the Tenterden Brewery. The front bar was added in the 19th century.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

There are two other remaining inns in Tenterden, both at the St Michaels end, the Fat Ox and the Crown, both of more recent date.

The Fat Ox, St Michaels


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The Crown, St Michaels

Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

There are older establishments which were at one time inns but are now in use as different businesses. They are :

The New Inn

This was originally part of a 15th century hall house, extensively altered 100 years later. It became a beer house in the 19th century, later named for a short time This Ancient Borough, until it was closed post-war and the premises used as a Chinese Restaurant [now This Ancient Boro, Ale House & Tapas Bar].


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The George

This is now the estate agents, Your Move, located at 16 High Street. Little is known of its history.

The Gardeners Arms

A popular beer house in its day at 118 High Street, it ceased trading soon after the First World War. At one time it was a fish shop, then a tea shop, and an antique shop, but is now a private residence, Quill House.


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden


Tenterden Archive - Some Inns and Ale Houses of Tenterden

The White Hart, Reading Street

The inn appears in records dated 1659 and probably dates from a much earlier period, since the white hart, the badge of King Richard II, was one of the earliest names adopted for inn signs. Rebuilt in 1900, it was renamed the White Hart and Lamb, but closed in the 1960s to become a private house.

The White Horse, Smallhythe

There was apparently an inn of this name here, but I have no information about it.
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