from Sussex Pilgrimages by R. Thurston Hopkins, 1927:
The Old ShipEdit
There can be but little doubt that 'The Old Ship' is the oldest inn in Brighton. John Bishop, in Brighton in the Olden Time, says: 'No authentic data exist relating to the establishment of "The Old Ship".
For all we know, the timber used in the original building may have been part of an old ship, and the probability of this being the case is strengthened by the fact that a piece of an old ship, apparently part of the stern, rudely carved, may still be seen at the east of the ceiling of the Ship Street entrance to "The Old Ship" stable yard.'
The Court Rolls of the Manor of Brighthelmston contained one of the earliest allusions to this inn, in which an admission is recorded on the 23rd August, 1670:
- 'to one cottage or inn, known as "Old Shipp", situate in the Hempshares of Brighthelmston . . . in the tenure of George Hackett.'
During the extreme scarcity of food in 1756 the suffering poor of Brighton expressed their dissatisfaction through the medium of 'The Old Ship' post-box, a paper being deposited there, on which the following was written:
- 'You covetous and hard-hearted farmers, that keep your stacks and mows of corn to starve the poor, if you will not sell them that we may have some to eat we will pull them down for you by night or by day, from
JACK POOR, WILL STARVE, WILL NEEDY, PETER FEARNOT, and others.'===
Of course, 'The Old Ship' has its smuggling traditions. On July 19, 1821, a party of smugglers assembled in the yard—the Custom House officers being then on the Level enjoying the Coronation sports!— and, at a given signal, about thirty kegs of Hollands, brought from the beach, were hoisted on the backs of ponies and horses and carried away before the few persons who were present could comprehend what was going on.
However, the smugglers had very little to fear from the opposition of the townspeople, for in those days everyone sided with the 'poor honest men', both on the coast and inland, and to look at a smuggler when he was engaged in the great game was strictly against Sussex tradition.
People turned towards the wall when the 'gentlemen' came along with their bundles of baccy and lace, so that they could truthfully say that as they had not seen the smugglers it was impossible to identify them. Coker Egerton, a Sussex parson, tells of a Vicar who feigned illness all one Sunday in order to keep his church closed on a cargo of contraband which had been hurriedly lodged in the pews to evade the revenue men.
Rudyard Kipling's song of the smugglers gives us some idea of the instinctive sympathy between the smugglers and the townspeople in olden times:
- If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
- Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
- Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie;
- Watch the wall, my darling, while the gentlemen go by.
- Five-and-twenty ponies,
- Trotting through the dark
- Brandy for the Parson,
- Baccy for the Clerk;
- Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
- And watch the wall, my darling, while the gentlemen go by.
In the old days the wrecks on the coast proved a great assistance to the poor villagers of Sussex. Brighton claims the following yarn, told of a wreck happening a great many years ago:
- 'On a Sunday morning, whilst most of the villagers were in church, a man wishing to inform some of his friends there of the circumstance, quietly slipped in for that purpose, and it was soon whispered from one to another that there was "a wreck", and they so kept going out one after the other that the church got considerably thinned. The clergyman seeing that he was likely to be left nearly alone, and suspecting the cause, he in a loud audible voice said, "If there is a wreck, say so, and let's all start fair." ' The story goes that the news of the wreck was rather a hoax than otherwise, as the fact of 'a four-mast vessel laden with wool and tallow ashore' proved to be nothing other than the carcass of a Southdown sheep washed up by the tide.
Brighton Toy Fair was originally held in front of 'The Old Ship'. This fair was merely a local festivity and was only supported by hobbledehoys and fishermen. Later the fair was moved landwards, where it became more popular. Says John Bishop: It was then frequented by itinerant theatres, shows of fat women, dwarfs, learned pigs, etc., toy and gingerbread vendors, et hoc genus ornne.
It was, however, shifted from one locality to another (in Ireland's Gardens, 1825-35, it probably attained its highest prosperity), and may be said to have died ignominiously about 1890 in a field near the Race Hill.
'The Old Inn 'Shades' has a Dickensian charm, a charm in the piling of its many glasses (all pleasingly engraved with ships) in the dazzle of bottles, in the ripe Stilton cheese and other victuals on the counters. I wonder how many people know that the word 'Shades' was coined in Brighton 108 years ago. Mr. Mark Ambient, writing in the Brighton Herald, April , 1924, says:
- 'In 1816, Edmund Savage became the first licensee of the "Royal Pavilion Hotel", in Castle Square. The "New Bank" was next door, and like the hotel, had a back entrance in Steyne Lane. Mr. Savage arranged with the bankers (namely, Mr. Wigney, the brewer, and others) that they should rebuild the house in the Castle Square front, so that they might have the Bank on the ground floor of the new building, and give up the rooms in Steyne Lane in exchange.
(From the general appearance of the Pavilion Hotel, looking at it from Steyne Lane, I should hazard a conjecture that the disused entrance beneath the billiard room was the entrance to the Bank.) The room where the banking business had been transacted Savage made a smoking-room, and converted the clerks' room into a gin shop which, so the story goes, he wanted to designate a "Gin Palace".
'But Mrs. Fitzherbert, whose house - which later became the Y.M.C.A.—was immediately opposite, very naturally objected to any such sign being displayed so close to her residence, for she was (and had been for over thirty years) the lawful wife of the Prince Regent; and the caricaturists (Gilray, Cruikshank, etc.) were always making merciless fun of her.
They were as ignorant of her secret marriage as the rest of the world until King Edward gave permission for the sealed packet which had been deposited in Coutts's Bank in 1833 to be opened and the marriage certificate and other proofs therein contained to be made public.
'Unwilling to offend so powerful a lady, Mr. Savage set himself to discover a more acceptable name for his gin shop. This successful coal merchant and hotel manager was also a staunch old politician with "the saving grace" of humour. He looked up at the frowning height of Mrs. Fitzherbert's house, which still darkens Steyne Lane, and said to himself, " As the sun cannot shine on my bar, I will christen it 'Shades' ! " So, to Mrs. Fitzherbert's complete satisfaction, he took down the one word "Bank" over the door, and put up the one word "Shades".
'Now the extraordinary result was that his new name immediately caught on. Every "mine host" followed his lead—for all men, even publicans, are only sheep!
The four leading Brighton hotels in those days were the "Castle Tavern" (later Needham's ), opened in 1755 by Mr. Shergold; the "Old Ship Tavern and Marine Hotel" (Mr. Leonard Shuckard); the "New Inn" in North Street (later the "Clarence"), and the "Royal Hotel and Baths" in St. James's Street.
'In a few years the new name spread to London, for in 1823, we read in the Turf Dictionary, "The Shades at London Bridge are under Fishmonger's Hall." And soon the Brighton word spread all over Great Britain and even to what is now the Dry Land of the "Pussyfoot" profiteers.
In 1872 Schale de Vere wrote in his Americanisms - "In the cities, shades are perhaps the most numerous." 'And now the name has spread all over the wide world.'
Black Lion StreetEdit
In Black Lion Street—not far from the sea front—is 'The Thatched House', kept in 1880 by Thomas Ide. Some tales of the eccentricities of this innkeeper have been handed down, and fifty years ago one anecdote was frequently quoted.
It was to the effect that Ide, when he knew he was speaking to a Brighton man in his bar, would tell the story of how a Sussexian and a man from Kent agreed to fight a duel with pistols in a dark room.
'The Sussex fellow,' he would say, 'being unwilling to kill the "furriner", fired up the wide open fireplace—and brought down the Kentisher.' When Ide was telling this tale to a man from Kent he always put the Sussex man up the chimney!
'The Thatched House', back in the dim past, may have once been thatched, but for over two hundred years no roof covering of straw graced it. For a century or more Brightonians were accustomed to a thoroughfare through this inn to the old Pig Market, the old Town Hall and the Town Stocks. Long after the old Town Hall was demolished, the 'stocks' stood by the 'way' leading from the inn to the Pig Market.
Tradition says that it was by these stocks that Mrs. Elizabeth Marsh (in the parlance of the fish market, 'Betty Mash') made that belated challenge to the civil administration and the world at large: 'They shan't put you in the stocks, Jacky! ' and received indisputable answer from her husband, securely held by the legs: 'But I be in, Betty!'
In rough weather the sea front was impassable about 1780— OJ, and the Brightonians would pass from east to west of the town by the twittens. This route was from Pool Lane, up a passage in East Street; then across Little East Street, by the south side of the old Market (the site of the present Town Hall); then from Little Market Street through the lane leading by the old Town Hall to the back of the 'Thatched House'; across Black Lion Street into 'The Old Ship Yard'; thence by a passage in Ship Street (now closed) through some old stables (at the rear of the Jews' Synagogue) into Middle Street, and so on to the west of the town.
These twittens which cut through from one main street to another are the Lanes. As a matter of fact this way of spelling the word is not correct, for it should be 'Laines', which as a matter of fact means 'field'. The Lanes were once the bridle-paths which divided the cultivated plots of the manor.
The 'Lanes' are the real heart of Old Brighton, and some day, some soft night, when the moon is hanging straight overhead and sending short, sharp shadows upon the herring-bone brick and boulder work of the old, old houses in these twittens, you will find that heart.
Do not, for goodness' sake, imagine that the Palace Pier, Sherry's and the Regent are really the sum total of Brighton—they are but a part, or rather a bit of outlawed London. The houses and Lanes are the oddest little houses in England—they shrink back from the footpath in a most timid way, and each year they seem to settle down an inch or so below the street level, with the result that they are often entered by awkward steps.
A visitor from Buxted, in 1800, said that the eaves of a Brighton house were less than 12 feet above the ground, and he thought that this method of digging deep down was a measure taken against the violent winds 'that a man should not be blown out of his bed into Barbary, or God knows where'.
Almost opposite the old 'Black Lion' or rather where it once stood, is the 'Black Lion Brewery', which is indeed a true lion' of Brighton. Thousands of people pass this building every summer without the vaguest idea of the surprising age and history of the place. Local guide-books ignore it. Mr. E. V. Lucas, in his Highways and Byways in Sussex, dismisses Brighton with a 'Pshaw! Glittering, gay . . . but not interesting', and makes no mention of Derrick Carver, who died for 'Ale and the Protestant Religion'. Carver was the proprietor of the Black Lion Brewery in 1545) and ten years later he was burnt at the stake in Lewes at 'the Signne of the Starre' for no other crime than his religion.
Derrick Carver went to the stake with Richard Woodman, an ironmaster and native of Buxted, and, should the pilgrim wish to see the place where Woodman was confined before his burning, he must journey to Warbleton Church where an upper chamber was used as his prison. A wonderful door in the church, a barrier of skilful ironwork and mechanical excellence, has been attributed to Woodman's foundry, which adjoined the churchyard.
But resuming the history of Carver, it is said that he came from Flanders to Brighton, and it is probable that he was originally driven from Spain by persecution on account of his religion. Foxe says 'he was a man whom the Lord had blessed as well with temporall ryches as with spiritual treasures; . . . of the which (his ryches) there was such havock, but the greedy raveners of that time that his poore wyfe and children had little left, save their hope in God'.
Carver was brought before Bishop Bonner on June 10, 1555) who asked him whether he would abide by his confession, with the articles and answers - to which Carver answered, says Foxe, that he would; 'for your doctrine is poison and sorcery. . . You say that you can make a god; ye can make a pudding as well. Your ceremonies in the church are beggary and poison. And further I say that auricular confession is contrary to God's word'.
The Bishop, seeing his steadfastness, and finding that neither flattery nor threats could move him, pronounced his usual 'blessing'. Carver was then delivered to the Sheriff.
We are not now so impressed with the way Mary persecuted those Protestants or the way Elizabeth sent the Jesuits to the scaffold, that we cannot now see that all those who died by faggot or axe for their religion were brave men. Yes, Derrick Carver was one of nature's noblemen, and we must never forget him as we pass up and down Black Lion Street. We must think of him walking calmly to the dreadful pile of faggots, with the gorse-covered Downs before his eyes and the sky full of birds twittering and flying above his head; walking full of faith and fearing no evil.
Ah, readers all, shall we tread so lightly that dread pathway when we come to it? Shall we, like Derrick Carver, fear no evil?
Separated from the Black Lion Brewery by Black Lion Lane, the narrow twitten running into Ship Street, is 'The Cricketers', another very ancient hostelry. This house was originally called 'The Last and Fish Cart'. The jovial fellows of Brighton shortened the name to 'The Last', which no doubt the reader knows is the seafarer's name for a catch of 10,000 fish. Under the sign, immediately over the door, were the following lines:
- 'Long time I've looked for good beer,
- And at "The Last" have found it here.'
In 1792, if the reader consults the local cricket records he will find that Brighton played a match with nine gentlemen of the Marylebone Club on the Princes Cricket ground. Hammond, who was then acknowledged to be the greatest cricketer of his time, made eleven runs for Brighton, and Mr. Jutton was run out for two. It was Mr. Jutton who changed the name of 'The Last' to 'The Cricketers', for in 1790 he became the proprietor of this inn.
Two quaint old barrack-rooms, the remains of the old Brighton Barracks, stood at the back of the 'King and Queen Hotel'. Before this hotel was restored a wicket with a sliding panel existed in the courtyard, and through this the soldiers could receive ale purchased for them by their friends, but they were not allowed to use this aperture when buying drink with their own money.
In Union Lane will be found the quaint old 'Bath Arms Inn', with a grotto-like saloon. The Judge's Chair, used at the 'Hare and Hounds' on the London Road, at the Quarter Sessions (1788-1825) has been built into the wall of an inner room.