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For bohemians everywhere

The Tower, London Road

By David Russell (Jun 2011)

This pub is named after a former toll gate and tower on London Road. A painting from 1865 shows a very different tower from that on the pub sign. It opened in 1866 with twelve rooms, two parlours and a bar. In the final years of the 19th century there were reports of customers drinking ‘pots of gin hot and eating Welsh rarebit’.

Hustling the Hat

The custom of ‘Hustling the Hat’, a means of deciding who paid for the drinks, was practiced here. Each participant put a (marked) coin into a hat which was shaken and tipped out. All coins showing heads were withdrawn. The tails were put back into the hat and the process repeated. The final or ‘true tail’ had to pay for ‘pots all round’. This was a custom that sometimes led to trouble and was frowned upon by the police.

Concerts in the parlour

A hundred years ago concerts were held in the parlour. Customers wearing buttonholes, listened to long forgotten songs including My Daddy’s A Gentleman, Look At Me Looking At You (“convulsed the audience”), Alice Where Art Thou? (“encore of the evening”) and My Sweetheart When A Boy (“thunderous applause”) all accompanied by banjo, violin or mandolin. Other acts included The Local Comedian, Merlin the Magician and Mr C. Harris who gave imitations of the Skylark and Nightingale (“by throat only … truly wonderful”).

Bombed

In 1943 the pub was bombed by the Luftwaffe and a thousand-pound bomb landed in the cellar, miraculously failing to explode. It was defused and lifted out through the cellar flaps. In 1991 the pub was threatened again, this time with demolition, to make way for the proposed Hastings bypass. A curious wooden sign in the bar states that: ‘Members of the Hastings Temperance Society are banned from this pub’.

David is interested in your memories and photos of Hastings and St Leonards pubs – David Russell.

Tower Pub 1975 (photo courtesy Joyce Letchworth)

Tower Pub 1975 (photo courtesy Joyce Letchworth)

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