A Taste of St Leonards – The Horse and Groom
Posh St Leonards, still full of Victorian and Edwardian grandeur. Those dreams that occupied the rich and famous have been largely replaced by a more pragmatic approach to urban living. The big houses still command Burton St Leonards but many have been converted to flats. The little terraced cottages, that housed the tradesmen and the washerwomen, now possess a chic that is more appealing and far more affordable.
Burton St Leonards was the first new seaside resort for the wealthy and became instantly popular with royalty and aristocracy. There were service areas for the new town; Mercatoria for shopping, and Lavatoria for laundry.
It was said ‘We should look in vain on any other coast in England for such a range of buildings as those he (James Burton) has raised below St Leonards Cliff; of a superior order, though not so ornamented as some of his previous structures. None but the unrivalled crescents of Bath and Bristol is superior to the Marina of St Leonards’. (Spas of England and Principal Sea-Bathing Places A.B. Granville, 1841).’
‘The Horse and Groom’ was St Leonards’ first pub, built and licensed in 1829 for the benefit of the workforce busy constructing the new town of St Leonards. It is on record that they were so thirsty that the pub opened before the windows were installed. Workers also came to the Horse and Groom on Saturday nights to be paid their wages and were called in from the street one by one. They came again on Sundays to quench another thirst, this time to listen to the newspapers being read aloud. Edward Thebay was ‘Sunday reader’ at the Horse and Groom for many years. (Hastings Pub History).
Thirsty workers/walkers still seek out The Horse and Groom. Warm and friendly, the two rooms are separated by a horseshoe bar and a back room for larger groups. The beers, Harvey’s Best and one or two guests, are always good and you get the feeling of a proper pub with no taped music, no food (just cobs on the bar, if you are lucky) and eclectic decoration. A quiet, atmospheric, dog friendly pub where you can enjoy good conversation and when I visited, the guests were Young’s Winterwarmer, Longman Long Blade and a fine Green King Abbot that slipped down a treat.
Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards is available from Hastings Tourist Information, Hastings Pier and from The Bookkeeper, Kings Road, St Leonards and by mail order.
For a full list of stockists visit www.1066haroldsway.co.uk