Hearts of Oak

From Historical Hastings

The Hearts of Oak was a beer and lodging house located at 116 Bohemia Road. The public house was tied to Breeds Brewery, Hastings, from about 1860 and by 1875 it became known as the Barleycorn.

It is recorded that in 1881 Mary Waghorn held the licence until Thomas Player took over in the 1890s. These were hard times and to make ends meet he also worked as an undertaker. A threat to the inn's livelihood arose in 1892 when a grocer’s shop opposite started selling beer and spirits. Thomas Player opposed the licence and sent one of his customers in for some bacon, cheese and tea. The customer reported back that all he could buy was alcohol. There were no groceries in the store at all. Quite understandably, the grocer’s licence to sell alcohol was not renewed.

Slate Club

John Standen (who lived at 35 St Pauls Road) was landlord from 1907 until 1924 and organised the Hearts of Oak Slate Club, a local benefit society that had eighty members. This permitted members to pool their savings and allocate a share of the total returns to each member, typically once per year. A typical Christmas pay-out in 1910 allocated £1.7s (£102 today) to each member. In 1922 Standen was summonsed for giving a glass of beer during prohibited hours to a thirsty coal merchant who was delivering the coal. For this offence he was fined 40s. He regarded his beer house as a man’s pub. “I never admit women,” he said. However, when the police visited in 1926 to ‘establish the custom’, they counted nine females among the drinkers. The police described the tap room as “indifferently lit because there were no windows. Daylight passed into the bar through the glass door panels and the electric light was on all day.”

The Bohemia community considered the Hearts of Oak cellar to be the finest in Hastings. “In summer the beer just comes up beautiful and cool,” reported the last landlord. In 1927 the pub was declared redundant. It was closed and the landlord compensated financially.


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