The Public House, the pub, with maybe the church, was once at the centre of every English community. In my parent’s generation most men, and sometimes women, would have ‘a local’ a place to go and chat with friends about their lives, their troubles, or at least how poorly their football team were playing that week.
Yes, they sold beer, but mostly they were about community. Where I grew in south-east London, they served a very small clientele, that might only be the residents of half a dozen streets. Most of their regulars knew each other, they knew their partners, their parents and their children. It was a very territorial thing, half a mile if that sometimes, further up the road would be another local with its own regulars, another separate, distinct community.
Over the last 25 years, maybe more, that’s changed. In my own town of Gravesend since the turn of the century, 24 pubs have closed. Granted we started with a lot, being an old port on the Thames, Gravesend had more than its fair share of pubs. Nevertheless, the attrition rate is shocking.
The Ascot Arms is the latest to close, finally shutting its doors earlier this year. The brewery has advertised for new tenants, but it seems more likely it'll be turned into yet another convenience store, or demolished and the land used for housing. The Ascot Arms started life as the Central Hotel; opening in 1932. It’s a huge rambling place, so it’s hardly surprising the latest landlord struggled to keep it open.
Part of an ongoing project.