The new year is traditionally a time for looking forward. All those new year's resolutions such as I will only eat fig rolls when out on the bike, or I will only eat chocolate hob nobs when out on the bike and the inevitable I won't have a packet of peanuts with every pint that I buy.
But in this post I'm going to look back. Yes, any post about a bygone boozer by definition will be looking back and in most of my posts I seem to start early in a pub's life and end with its demise. This one will start with an image captured by Mr. Google in August of last year. That's August 2023. Yes, 2023 is now last year.
Anyway, in August 2023 Mr. Google drove along London Road in Bromley and snapped this view at its junction with Farwig Lane. A new block of flats is being constructed.
The flats are being built on the site of a former pub which closed on the 12th May 2019 – the Hop and Rye. Here's how it looked on one of Mr. Google's earlier visits.
The Hop and Rye opened on Thursday 27th June 2013. Or at least it might have done as PubCo Stonegate's press release, announcing its future opening, went back in time, for it contained the sentence "Hop and Rye on London Road, named after the historic main route from London to Kent’s lush hop fields will open on Thursday 27th June." The statement was issued a week later on Thursday 4th July. I hereby recognise that the errors in grammar, punctuation and the space-time continuum are Stonegate's.
The Hop and Rye wasn't always the Hop and Rye. Prior to Stonegate's refurbishment it was known as the Beech Tree...
...and was opened in 1958. The photograph below was taken around the time, by Charrington's surveyors, as part of an audit of the brewer's estate.
It was built as a replacement for the original watering hole that bore the name which was destroyed in the second world war by one of these.
The landlady at the time was Florence Foster who, unlike her pub, survived the doodlebug.
I'm presuming she'd been at the Beech Tree since 1920 as she appeared in the telephone directory that was published in October of that year...
...but six months earlier hadn't been in the April 1920 edition. This means that she would've been there in 1927, six years before Charrington's acquired Hoare's Brewery.
Prior to that she'd been helping her mother, Harriet Collins, run the Giraffe in Newington, which has appeared in this earlier post, before taking on the Old Greyhound in Cripplegate and then marrying cigar merchant Thomas Foster and moving to the Artichoke in Camberwell. Both of these establishments have joined the Giraffe in the ranks of bygone boozers. It's always nice to be able to put a face to a name. Here's Florence, probably from around the time that she and her husband were in the Artichoke.
Florence and Thomas very likely took over at the Beech Tree from long term tenant John Kincey. He was certainly in residence in 1918...
...and it looks as if he might very well have been selling Bass at some point. And does that sign say 'Rabbits'? "Boiled bunny and a beaker of Bass, please, landlord."
The Kincey family had been in residence when the Ordnance Survey mapped the area in 1894...
...as John was listed in the Post Office's directory of London's southern suburbs a couple of years earlier...
... and just like with Florence we can put a face to a name.
The previous year the place was being run by Thomas Wall...
...who wasn't a particularly long-term tenant as the Post Office's directory from 1884 shows us that another Thomas, one Thomas Littlecott was the proprietor. By the way, the Rising Sun that Martha Lines was occupying in 1884 closed in March 1977.
He and wife Emma had been there in 1881...
...and the 1874 register of electors has Thomas there too.
The Littlecotts had been at the Beech Tree for over a decade, so I wonder why they moved on. It's here that I fell into one of those rabbit holes that I stumble across occasionally, for they were involved in what was quite a rare occurrence in the nineteenth century – a divorce.
In 1888 Emma petitioned for divorce. She cited at least five cases of adultery, including these two which took place with Rachel Hobbs in the Tramway Hotel in Gorleston.
Why the rabbit hole? Well Gorleston is my hometown and I've supped a pint or two in my time in the Tramway. OK, it wasn't in the same building, the Luftwaffe made as thorough a job of the Tramway as the V-1 did of the Beech Tree, but it was quite a surprise for a pub in my hometown to pop up when I was delving into one in Kent.
And it seems that a bit of illicit hanky-panky wasn't all that Emma had had to endure.
Emma was granted her divorce, Thomas went on to marry Rachel Hobbs the following year and in 1890 the Norfolk Pubs website has somebody with the surname Littlecott at the Crown on Crown Road. It looks very much as if it could've been our Thomas as Crown Road is shown as the location of one of a number of qualifying properties on the register of electors in 1892.
Let's now climb out of the rabbit hole, leave Norfolk and return to Bromley. Three years before Thomas Littlecott was recorded in the Register of Electors as having been at the Beech Tree, the census of 1871 shows a George Eaton in residence...
...and a few years earlier it had been Hannah Sutton who had been running the place. There the trail goes cold.
The pub is not in Kelly's 1862 directory, although the Farwig gets a mention along with loads of other boozers on London Road, and I can't find any earlier reference to it either, so we've probably taken the Hop and Rye back to its very origin. All that's left to do now is to wish you all a Hoppy New Year.
Thanks to Steve King for the picture of Florence Foster, his great grandmother and to Mette Sensky for the one of John Double Kincey.
The Charrington surveyors' image is copyright and is reused under this CC BY-SA licence.
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