Lockdown 3.0 continues. Shielding continues. Occupying the daylight hours continues. From time to time, rooting around through my mass of old images, something pops up which really captures my interest and sets me off delving deeper into the directories. Something which just can't be ignored. I just have to get digging. Let's face it, there's been plenty of time for rooting around recently and this image, above all others, drew me in. I just had to investigate. And let's face it, there's been plenty of time for investigating recently.
A very striking building you have to admit, but where is it? Is it still a pub? Is it even still standing? Nothing written on the back. No name, no date, no hint of a location, nothing but about twenty square inches of white. I Google-search the image. Nothing. Surely any existing pub would broadcast its 1593 origin, wouldn't it? I Google '1593 pub'. Nothing. '1593 inn'. Still nothing.
Let's try a bit of technology. What, if anything, can be read on the signpost? Enlarge the image. Nothing. Sharpen the image. Still nothing. Just where was this old boozer advertising its fine ales and porter?
Let's have a closer look at the central section.
Definitely 1593, but what's that monogram? And what's that ETA 69 all about? Surely there must be some record of the place somewhere.
With it dating back to the sixteenth century, and being such an impressive building, perhaps it was featured in Charles G. Harper's 1906 publication, The Old Inns of Old England. I looked through Volume 1. All 327 pages of it. Nothing. On to Volume 2 and on page 221 I came across this sketch.
Bingo! Cracked it! Pounds Bridge Inn near Penshurst, Kent. Here's what Harper had to say about it in 1906.
An inn with a similar history to that just mentioned [The Old House at Home, Havant] – although by no means so humble – is the “Pounds Bridge” inn, on a secluded road between Speldhurst and Penshurst, in Kent. As will be seen by the illustration, it is an exceedingly picturesque example of the half-timbered method of construction greatly favoured in that district, both originally and in modern revival. It is, however, a genuine sixteenth-century building, and was erected, as the date upon it clearly proclaims, in 1593. The singular device of which this date forms a part is almost invariably a “poser” to the passer-by. The “W” is sufficiently clear, but the other letter, like an inverted Q, is not so readily identified. It is really the old Gothic form of the letter D, and was the initial of William Darkenoll, rector of Penshurst, who built the house for a residence, in his sixty-ninth year: as “E.T.A. 69 – ”his quaint way of rendering “aet.,” i.e. aetatis suae – rather obscurely informs us. Three years later, July 12th, 1596, William Darkenoll died, and for many years – to the contrary the memory of man runneth not – the house he built and adorned with such quaint conceits has been a rustic inn.
So Harper has cleared up the monogram and that ETA 69 thing too, but William Darkenoll didn't actually build the house – his son John did. John was a master carpenter and builder of timber-framed houses who, with his brother Brian, constructed this residence for his father. John's building firm continued to exist, with the spelling of his surname evolving from Darkenoll through Dartnoll, Durtnall to Durtnell, for thirteen generations. It was even involved in the restoration of John's original building before finally ceasing operations in 2019 when it was reputedly the third oldest continuously-trading company in the UK after the University Presses of Oxford and Cambridge.
If finding the location of the building was tricky, trying to pin down its history as a boozer has been equally so. This wasn't helped by it seemingly having had a number of name changes and the one-time presence of a Bridge Tavern in Penshurst itself. Quite how much of its life was actually spent as a hostelry, and when this started, I'm still not at all certain.
The Victoria & Albert Museum have this water colour painted by Samuel Prout sometime between around 1800 and his death in 1852. Its title – Old House at Pound's Bridge, near Tonbridge – gives no suggestion that it's operating as an inn at that time.
The discovery of Prout's painting has helped though. Melville's 1858 directory gives one Henry Gyle as a beer retailer at Poundsbridge but fails to mention any pub name. Three years later and the 1861 census shows that quarryman Henry Gyle has a side line as a beer retailer at The Old House at Home in Poundsbridge. He and his wife Mary had been living in Poundsbridge at the time of the head count ten years earlier but there's no mention of a pub or any beer selling. Henry's still there two years later if Kelly's publication of 1863 is to be believed but then he seems to disappear from the face of the earth. No sign of him or Mary in 1871, and no sign of any deaths. Perhaps they were taken by aliens.
Henry and Mary may have gone but the pub's still there in 1871. Now known as the King's Arms it's run by bootmaker William Collins who had moved in by the time that the 1867 Post Office directory was being compiled. It seems as if the property had been split into two dwellings by the time of the next census as The Old House is housing two distinct households. Why the return to its former name? Who knows? But it's the King's Arms once again in 1891 with painter William Izzard doing the beer dispensing. It still appears to be two residences with one being recorded as King's Arms Beer House and the other, non-refreshment-providing, one just as the King's Arms.
The appearance of the building in Prout's paintings – there is at least one other – may well account for it becoming known as the Picture House. I've also found it written as the Pitcher House which might well be more appropriate for a pub. The 1911 census has Alice Brown as a beerhouse retailer living at The Picture. She and her husband George were there ten years earlier and she took over its running when George died in 1907. I don't know when she left but it seems as if it must have been George and Alice who provided Charles Harper with sustenance when he was passing, assuming that he called in and didn't just stop to sketch the place.
Quite when it stopped serving I don't know. It was certainly still in operation in the 1930s, although possibly only with an off-license, trading once again as the King's Arms according to this extract from Barclay, Perkin's Anchor Magazine quoted on dover-kent.com.
Barclay, Perkin's Anchor Magazine. Volume XIV, No.6, June 1934.
King's Arms, Poundsbridge, Penshurst.
A FINE OLD OFF-LICENCE.
This off-licence, known as the "King's Arms," Poundsbridge, Near Penshurst, Kent, is a fine example of Tudor architecture.
The property belongs to Messrs. Style & Winch.
It was originally built for William Dartnell, Vicar of Penshurst, as a Dower House for his wife but it is not known when it became an inn. Up to 60 years ago the house was an On-Licence known as the "Old Picture" but it is now an Off-Licence under the sign the "King's Arms."
Dover-kent.com also has this photograph which appeared in the Kent & Sussex Courier on the 28th January 1938 when the inn was selling Maidstone's Style & Winch ales.
The landlord at the time, assuming it had regained its on-license, would've been one Ernest Gibb. The 1934 directory from Kelly has him retailing beer in Poundsbridge and the 1939 Register records him at the Picture House Tavern. And that's where my trail runs cold. I can find no reference to it post WW2 other than it being given Grade II listed status in 1954 as The Picture House, which is how it's known today. Unless it's being called Poundsbridge Manor, that is.
Now in residential use, its restoration seems to have included adding half-timbering to the lower part of its right-hand side as can be seen in this shot from 2015.
So, that's it. Another post produced without leaving the house. Boris's recently published road-map suggests that the next few will still be of a similar nature.
Oast House Archive's image of The Picture House is copyright and reused under this license.
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