Hastings pub history: Who remembers The Penny Farthing?

How many local people can remember when the popular Jenny Lind pub in Hastings Old Town was briefly re-named The Penny Farthing.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 2:33 pm

Local historian Steve Peak shared this photo with us and said: “I happened to be passing with my camera when the pub was being re-named and took the picture when the painters stopped for a tea break.”

The Jenny Lind, in the High Street, has had a long and illustrious history but also suffered some down-turns in fortune over the years.

The pub takes its name from a world famous as a soprano singer, who was known as ‘The Swedish Nightingale’. She was hugely successful in Europe and toured America from 1850 –1852.

Jenny Lind as Penny Farthing SUS-210727-141641001

David Russell, who wrote a superb history of Hastings pubs, said: “The Jenny Lind opened in 1851. It stands on the site of the Bell, an old Hastings Inn dating back to the Reformation of 1600, and a close neighbour of St Clement’s church.

“As with all churches in the 16th century St Clement’s was a hive of community activity. Pageants, processions, theatre, harvest dinners, dancing, music, games and brewing of Church Ales, Bid Ales and Scott Ales all took place within the church precincts. But under pressure from the Protestant Ascendancy these activities were banned from the church. As a result inns and alehouses flourished as they inherited and took over these former church activities.

“There was no continuous licensing from the time of the Bell to the Jenny Lind but instead a gap of perhaps 200 years and by the late 18th century a tailors shop was located here. From 1850 until 1898 the Jenny Lind was a free house until the freehold was purchased by Watneys. Then, just before the First World War, the police opposed the licence. However, not enough money was available for the compensation payment and they withdrew.

“In 1932 the police opposed the Jenny Lind licence again because of ‘poor sanitation’. Watney’s agreed to make improvements and acquired an adjacent house allowing them to enlarge the building to the size it is today. Consequently the Jenny Lind was reprieved.

“During these alterations some old woodwork originally belonging to St Clement’s Church was discovered embedded in the walls revealing a further link between the church and the pub.

“On the outbreak of the Second World War and with the evacuation of the town during the Battle of Britain, the Jenny Lind closed and in 1941 its licence was transferred to the brewers. In 1943 it was badly bombed and after the war it had to be demolished and completely rebuilt. The interior of the back bar was restored with old timbers and the pub re-opened in 1951, a century after it first opened in 1851.

“In 1957 retired boxer Don Cockell became landlord. He is remembered for his famous fight with Rocky Marciano for the world title in 1955. However, he didn’t stay long and in May 1959 he gave up the licence to become a blacksmith.

“In 1980 landlord Graham Browne had to argue to get his licence. He had previously been the licensee of Tumbledown Dicks in Farnborough, described as one of the toughest pubs in Britain and a favourite of military personnel returning from overseas duty. But by 1982 he was struggling. “There are too many pubs in this small area”, he complained. “I would close down if I could get a satisfactory settlement. We have lost money this year.” But within 10 years the local economy had improved and with it the Jenny Lind’s fortunes.

“In August 1990 the pub changed its name to the Penny Farthing. The ground floor windows, etched with silhouettes of Jenny Lind holding a nightingale and the carriage lamps at the front, were removed. However the name of Penny Farthing lasted for only a short time before reverting back to the Jenny Lind.”