The Sunday Reader

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




The Perfect Finish

The Royal and The Secret St Leonards Walking Trail

Royal Picture

The railway came to Gensing and the station, designed by William Tress (architect of most of the stations on the line to Tunbridge Wells) was built in 1851, marooned a mile from the seafront.

The station made St Leonards and Hastings accessible by train on a direct line from London and from along the south coast. First class for the wealthy and second and third for everyone else and suddenly St Leonards was on the map.

The coming of the railway heralded the development of both London Road, King’s Road and Warrior Square and the Railway Inn was opened in 1854, first as a beer house and later with a full licence, on the corner of Kings Road and Western Road. There was little else around.

As the town grew and grew, the land around the station developed with a hotel built (1876) on the opposite corner to the Railway Inn. By 1884 it was known as the Royal Hotel with a large and classy saloon bar, a public bar and a ‘snug’ that catered for all classes, but everyone knew their place in the drinking hierarchy.

One can imagine the quiet snug, the spit and sawdust bar and the upmarket saloon of wood panelling, polished floors, glittering chandeliers and maybe a potted palm or two all reminiscent of the large Victorian pubs that still exist in parts of London.  The commercial traveller, his trilby and heavy three-piece suit, his pocket watch and his case of samples, eating lunch, buttons straining and perhaps time for another bottle of beer and a cigar before the train home.

In his place today are suits and open necked shirts, bringing the noise of shared jokes and conversation, grouped by the bar and ladies sat, with a bottle of white wine in a chiller, sharing gossip. It is a meeting pub, a drink straight from the train or from work pub. It is like the bars that I used to visit, straight from work in London, some 45 years ago but without the layers of smoke. I’m glad to see that it is alive and well in St Leonards and that pint of London Pride brings back more memories (Theakston Lightfoot was the alternative) and Pride wins it for me.

I would have liked to have seen the Royal in all its Victorian splendour but, after its recent doldrum years, it has been transformed into a one roomed destination pub. The high ceilings and sense of space are remnants of its former grandeur and although the wood panelling is now deep blue it is the clientele that has changed the most in this mix and match pub – it is now the perfect finish for the Secret St Leonards Walking Trail.

Book 5 Cover new

Walks in 1066 Country

Pub Walks in 1066 Country

I want to tempt you with some short but exhilarating walks, a wealth of fascinating local history, good pubs and of course, good beer.

Book 9 poster

Click here to Look Inside

Here is a selection of four Pub walks that encourage you to explore 1066 Country on foot and in the process, discover some tremendous country walks.

I am not claiming they are the best pubs but they are ones that I enjoy, chosen for their location, beer and conviviality and the opportunity to walk, to explore and discover the 1066 Countryside.

All the walks are accessible by public transport, mostly by Stagecoach services, and the occasional train. Leave the car at home and enjoy a pint and let the ‘bus’ take the strain.

In these Four Pub Walks, it is the walk that takes pride of place and that welcome pint in that friendly pub is the reward for all your effort.

Enjoy the experience.

The Ramblers have crowned Hastings Old Town as Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood 2018

Pub Walks in 1066 Country is available now from Hastings Tourist Information, Hastings Pier, The Bookkeeper (Kings Road St Leonards) and British Design, British Made and AHA in Battle or direct from History Walks

History Walks – more than just steps on a footpath. 

Rock a Nore to De La Warr

Book 8 poster

Click here to  Look Inside

This is a walk that starts at Rock a Nore, at the easterly extreme of Hastings, and finishes at the De La Warr – that grand art deco pavilion on Bexhill’s promenade.

It is an historic route with much to occupy the imagination.

It is a hop on and hop off kind of walk, do as little or as much as you want but it is not a race. Take your time and enjoy the history with plenty of opportunity to stop for tea, coffee and, if warm enough, ice creams with a Stagecoach bus to take you home.

The Ramblers have crowned Hastings Old Town as

Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood 2018

Rock a Nore to De La Warr is available now from Hastings Tourist Information, Hastings Pier and The Bookkeeper, Kings Road St Leonards.

and direct from

History Walks

History Walks – more than just steps on a footpath

Something for the weekend

If it is not too cold or it is not too wet and the match on the television is not worth watching, try something a little special to add a little extra to the weekend.

Havelock Poster  Pier Poster

Walk from General Havelock to the Pier and back around the America Ground.

You may have walked the route many times before but on History Walks there will always be something new to catch your attention before indulging in that much needed pint.

Book 6 Cover new

Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards is available from

  • Hastings Tourist Information, Breeds Place Hastings
  • The Bookkeeper, Kings Road, St Leonards
  • Mail Order fro History Walks

Tis the season to be walking

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Kick the leaves in Alexandra Park this Christmas and treat yourself to a pint at The North Star before returning home.

You deserve it.

Watch the walk on You Tube

Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards is available now from Hastings Tourist Information and from The Bookkeeper, Kings Road, St Leonards on Sea.

Also by mail order from History Walks



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‘Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards’ will tempt you with some short but exhilarating walks, a wealth of fascinating local history, good pubs and of course, good beer.

But to discover Hastings and St Leonards’ best beers you will need to strike out beyond the promenade – and take a brave step that often defeats many visitors, and even residents, by visiting places that are not on the usual tourist trails.

This selection of five Pub walks will encourage you to explore another side to Hastings and St Leonards and in the process, discover some tremendous urban trails.

Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards is available now from Hastings Tourist Information, Breeds Place Hastings and from The Bookkeeper, Kings Road St Leonards.

Also available to download as an e-book from Kindle

and direct from History Walks