The scene seems to be thriving with previously closed pubs, like the Plow, on West Hill reopening and new bars, like Heist’s, St Leonards, springing up.
The latest news is about the reopening of a new pub in Hastings town center in what was once the Royal George, near Priory Meadow. This pub had a long and illustrious history. Popular with railway workers and cricket spectators, it was once used as a cinema just after the First World War. After closing it seemed destined to be lost forever, becoming apartments. But now it is set to open as The Seadog pub sometime this month.
There’s also the quality and wide choice of beers on offer throughout the city, reflecting a huge upsurge in independent breweries in Sussex. Beer lovers used to have to hop on a train and travel to Brighton to get this kind of choice. Now it’s like a permanent beer festival in the city.
One pub story I would like to mention though is that of the Jolly Fisherman in the old town near the Stadium.
According to research by local pub historian David Russell, deeds show that the building known as the Jolly Fisherman dates back to 1769. It was first licensed in 1834 and by the 1840s the owner had acquired a lease for part of the pebble beach in front. , known as Stade, which included a traditional store of ropes and nets for the use of its fishing customers.
In the 1880s, a lease was issued to “fisherman and landlord” William Adams. His son, Thomas Adams, was a fish wholesaler at the nearby fish market. He also owned a net shack next to the pub. He earned his living from his boat, the market and the pub.
Fishing families had allowances in the pub, which provided credit until the captain paid the bill on a “settlement day”, usually when the trawlers returned. Wives also had butcher’s and baker’s allowances, which were paid in the same way. The fishing community was very pub based and until 1855 some pubs were open all day and all night.
In 1855, a woman accused of disturbing the peace at 3 a.m. claimed that she had just left the Jolly Fisherman “following the landing of a collier”. These cases demonstrate that fishing pubs opened and closed on demand to serve the crews of colliers, traders, brigs and trawlers.
In 1925, the Jolly Fisherman again applied for an early morning license from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., on the grounds that “several hundred people stroll through the fish market during these hours” and if the pub was closed, ” fishermen would not. get their glass of milk and whisky.
In 1942, the Jolly Fisherman, being in the front line, suffered enemy bombardments. Although it was not directly affected, it closed for the rest of the war.
The Jolly Fisherman closed in 1959 and has been used for various purposes over the years including a tea room.
But in 2016, Lewes couple Oliver and Becky Bostwick reopened it as the Jolly Fisherman. They spent long hours researching the history of the pub and recreated it almost exactly. It became the city’s first micro-pub and is currently thriving.