Inns and Alehouses

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It is said that a village pub is the heart of the community. If this is the case then Lindfield must have always had a big heart. This is the first of two articles looking at the background of the inns and alehouses, past and present.

The selling of beer has been regulated ever since the time of the Magna Carta (1215). Richard II passed a law in 1393 requiring a painted sign to be hung outside all premises selling beer. In 1495 the Justices of the Peace received powers to supervise and suppress disreputable establishments. There were broadly two categories of pubs – alehouses licenced to sell beer and cider only, and inns that were permitted to also sell wines and spirits, additionally they traditionally provided food and accommodation to travellers. The former comprised one or two small rooms in a house. In the absence of other entertainment the number of licenced premises grew, as did drunkenness; this was no different in Lindfield.

The beheading of Charles I in 1649 led to the introduction of The Commonwealth that heralded an attitude of puritanism. Oliver Cromwell’s newly appointed Justices decided there was too much drunkenness and far too many alehouses and inns in England. Large numbers had their licences withdrawn and were forcibly closed. Lindfield did not escape this purge, and the Justices decided that the four licenced establishments should be reduced to one. The parish’s population numbered fewer than 650 people. Eventually the number of licences allowed to remain was increased to two. Unfortunately, the location of the permitted licenced premises is unclear, although one was an unnamed inn, possibly The Tiger. The other was Fuller’s alehouse about which no further details are known. On the restoration of the monarchy the number of licenced premises soon increased.

The former Tiger Inn standing at the churchyard entrance was originally an open hall house built, around 1400, by the College of Canon of St. Michaels at South Malling as Lords of the Manor. It is believed to have been used as the parish guest house. Subsequently, it became a house occupied by the Michelbourne family. Edward Michelbourne, the family’s most noted member, was knighted in 1599 and was a merchant adventurer licenced by James I to trade with other countries. During his voyages he discovered the entrance to the Hudson River and Coney Island. When the family moved away from the village, during the 1500s, the house became the Michelbourne Arms. Later the name changed to Tiger |Inn, allegedly after Michelbourne’s ship.

The building has been much extended throughout its life. In the late 18th century stables were built at the rear and it became a coach stop on the minor London to Brighton route; this ceased with the coming of the railways. It retained the character of a traditional inn and was frequently used for parish events, ranging from Lindfield Friendly Society’s meeting place to drill practice by the Lindfield Company of the Sussex Rifle Volunteers – a militia formed in response to the Napoleonic threat of invasion.

The tiger closed in 1916, having been an inn for some 350 years, and was purchased for £700 by subscriptions from parishioners becoming All Saints’ Church House. During World War II it was used as a YMCA canteen for soldiers and an Air Raid Precaution first aid post, with the wardens, both men and women, sleeping in the cellar when on night duty. An ambulance was kept in the garage at the rear.

Further down the High Street, an alehouse has existed on the site of the Bent Arms since at least 1660 and probably appreciably earlier. In 1682 it acquired a wine licence, becoming the White Lion Inn; an ermine lion featured on the Newton family crest who had been Lords of the Manor from 1618 to 1632. The main parts of the building can be traced back to this time. From the late 1700s the inn was owned by Richard Wichelo, a brewer from Brighton. The Assembly Room was added in 1785 creating the main entertainment and social venue for the village for the next 100 years.

During the late 1820s the White Lion was acquired by John Bent and the name changed to the Bent Hotel. John Bent had owned a sugar plantation and many slaves in British Guiana before becoming the MP for Sligo and then Totnes. He invested his money in land and property in Lindfield and built (Oathall (bottom of Oathall Road) as his home.

In 1839 the London to Brighton coach, ‘The Accommodation’, left the Bent for Brighton at 3.30pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Trains were soon to replace coaches, but brought with them a new trade – the summer day trippers on Sundays. To meet their needs the Bent introduced ‘an Ordinary (dish of the day) on Sundays at 2pm’.

Adverts in the 1880s described it as ‘The Bent Family and Commercial Hotel with private apartments and every accommodation for families’ and boasted a lock-up coach house and stabling and attractive gardens. A far cry from the 1960s when it was frequented by bikers creating much noise and drunken brawls in the street!

The Red Lion was established around 1747 as an alehouse by Mary Bishop, not at its present location but lower down the High Street at Ryecroft (next to the URC). Early inn signs often reflect the crest of the owner of the property. Land in the area of Ryecroft was owned by the Russell family and their emblem ws a rampant Red Lion. The Fairhall family became the landlords from 1785, and in 1804 the sign of the Red Lion moved up the High Street to Porters, also owned by Richard Wichelo. In 1833 the sign moved next door to its present location at the purpose built pub we see today; like the inns above, the Red Lion was also, for a time, a coaching stop.

The Mills family took over the inn and were enterprising landlords and during their time made Lindfield Sauce, similar to Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce. According to the bottle label it was served at George IV’s coronation banquet. The sauce had quite a following, with Willkie Collins, the famous Victorian author, regularly ordering half dozen bottles, as did other London gentlemen. Charles Mills issued token coins and on the reverse was the clasp hand motif of the Lindfield Friendly Society, suggesting the Society had moved from The Tiger to the Red lion.

The outbuilding to the rear was the HQ for the Lindfield Platoon of the Home Guard during WWII. Today in the garden stands the horse powered pump house relocated from Durrant’s Brewery site behind the Stand Up.

In 1853/4, John Arnold built the give houses and shop, known as Arnold Terrace, to the north of Denmans Lane. The Stand Up, occupying the northernmost house, was the beerhouse of Edward Durrant’s Brewery. Its name is derived from having no chairs or tables, so workers would not linger over their beer.

Following the demise of Durrant’s Brewery around 1906, it became ‘tied to Page & Overtons, the Croydon based brewery with its roots dating back to 1586. It remained a beer house, with two small bars and limited opening hours, until well into the 20th century; a wine licence was not obtained until 1929. Now occupying three of the five original houses, the Stand Up has retained its character as a ‘locals’ pub. For a time the name was changed to the Linden Tree.

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