Monday, 29 October 2012

The Crown & Anchor, Brighton - Once a House of Repute in Sussex

This plainer of the two adverts on this Blog appears in the Kemp Town Brewery publication of c. 1932, “Houses” of Repute in Sussex; also on p. 22 is the following passage on the hotel:

“Farther along Preston Road the Crown & Anchor represents the rebuilding of a house established as long ago as 1711. Its predecessor must, therefore, have ranked as an inn of some importance by reason of its situation on the main London road, when Brighton began its development as the world’s first seaside resort. It is a name that smacks of the sea, and its sign treats the old device of the crown and anchor in original modern fashion. The house is most conveniently placed for Preston Park, with its charming gardens and recreation facilities, and by its long establishment is one of the best known and certainly one of the favourite houses in Brighton”.

The original inn was of some importance; it was there on Sunday 14th August 1831 that the inquest was held into the death of one Celia Holloway. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against her husband, John Holloway. His lover and possible accomplice, Ann Kennett, was remanded for further questioning. The case against Holloway was compelling. Celia was killed and dismembered at a house in the North Steine. Some of her remains were then transported in a wheelbarrow by the accused couple to a copse in Lovers Walk, not far from the Crown & Anchor, and buried in a shallow grave. Holloway was hanged at Horsham Gaol on Friday 21st December 1831; Kennett was subsequently discharged.

The recovered portions of Celia were interred at St John’s Church, Preston. A plaque in the churchyard wall marks the spot.

The older, ornate advertisement appears in the 1901 Towners’ Directory of Brighton. It tells us of the hotel that it had an assembly room to seat three hundred; that it was the headquarters of Brighton Rugby Football Club; and that it boasted hot and cold baths. The Simmons catalogues of licensing records at Brighton History Centre suggest that the G. Short of the advert was the George Short who had held the pub since 1884 and that he may have died by 1908 as his wife is given as sole licensee for that year. Also interesting is that no license for the property is given prior to 1874. Perhaps the hotel was rebuilt about that time. Its present appearance is consistent with that period of public house architecture.

The Crown & Anchor was acquired by the Kemp Town Brewery in the 1920s from local rivals Smithers and Sons Ltd. (That latter brewery’s name is just visible, etched in the hotel’s windows of the 1901 advert.) Although the premises must have been internally altered at some point, there are no architect’s plans in the East Sussex Record Office and the hotel is not one of the brewery’s ‘improved’ public houses.

The Kemp Town Brewery’s past domination of this part of Brighton is quite remarkable. Starting at the Crown & Anchor, it would have been possible to complete a KTB pub crawl of quite staggering proportions without having to venture south of Preston Circus. But I will leave that as the topic of a future Blog.

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