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Today's offering was probably a product of the 1830 Beerhouse Act which permitted any rate-payer to brew and sell beer provided they'd purchased a two guinea license. The White Horse of Kent stood in Church Street, Great Maplestead – which is not in Kent, but Essex. I've no idea quite why this boozer decided to add the south-eastern county to its name when virtually all other pubs using the sign of the rearing white horse, the symbol of said county, didn't. Indeed, quite who it was that named the pub is equally a mystery.
The earliest record of a beerhouse that I've come across is in White's 1848 directory which records Richard Cracknell as a beerhouse and shopkeeper.
Seven years earlier the census gives Richard as a shoemaker although he was living in Church Street. Was he serving beer along with his brogues?
Whether or not he was selling stout with his shoes back in 1841 he was certainly selling the stuff in Church Street for quite a while. He's described as a beer retailer or similar in directories and censuses up until his death in 1873 with the 1861 census also listing him as a brewer.
Not a single one of these entries mentions the pub by name. Numerous folk take the place on after Richard's death, but the earliest reference to the White Horse by name comes in the 1911 census which shows Frederick Marchant as a beer retailer and army pensioner at the White Horse of Kent. Frederick had been there at the time of the previous headcount ten years earlier but the pub's not named and he is described as a Licensed Victualler (Off). Was the place only licensed for off-sales and didn't became a proper pub until sometime between 1901 and 1911, whereupon it acquired a name?
If so, it's christening must've been kept quiet for not one of the Kelly's directories that I've had my nose in, from the 1912 edition up to that published in1933, refers to the place by name. Not one, that is, until 1937 when that year's edition tells us that the White Horse of Kent is being kept by Albert Edward Saunders.
Albert ran the pub through the second world war and must've had the fright of his life on this day in 1944. On Tuesday 2nd May 1944, 2nd Lt Victor T. McConnell took off for a test flight in a Lockheed P-38 Lightning from RAF Wormingford, a few miles northwest of Colchester. Things did not go well.
It's thought that the Lightning developed an engine fire and McConnell was forced to bail out from a height of about 600 feet when the plane went into a 35 degree dive at around 400mph. That didn't go well either, for it seems that his parachute became snagged on the aircraft's tail and both came down in the field immediately behind the White Horse. I don't know what happened to the Lightning, but 'Mac' McConnell is buried in the American Cemetery at Cambridge. Fortunately, unlike the events a few months later at the former Cyclists Arms, there were no other casualties.
Victor 'Mac' McConnell died in 1944, Albert Saunders died in 1956 and the White Horse of Kent died in 1985 when its final landlord retired. It is now in residential use.
We may have lost a pub but we mustn't forget that others lost a whole lot more.
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