Pubs across the country are disappearing at an alarming rate. Figures released last month suggested 150 were lost in England and Wales in the first three months of this year alone.
Government data suggests we have fewer pubs now than ever before with many being demolished or re-purposed for other uses.
This week Peeps is starting a new series – Pubs of the Past – in which we’ll look back at some of the once well-known watering holes in the area.
We start with the Castle Inn, which was for many years a landmark in Upper Hale Road, Upper Hale.
The pub was once run by Colin Hicks, the brother of entertainer and rock’n’roll star Tommy Steele, and underwent a major facelift in 1983, not long after he took it over.
Tommy couldn’t make it for the party held to mark this makeover 40 years ago, but the pub often saw other bands and musicians performing as it was a venue for live music.
In 1887, The Castle Inn was a venue of another kind – for a coroner’s court as the inquest into the tragic death of a young man killed in a nearby gravel pit was held there.
William Albert Mullins, of Heath Lane, Crondall, was digging in the pit with Edward Dimes, of Dore’s Green, Crondall, when the earth slipped completely, burying them – except for one of Mr Dimes’ hands, which indicated his whereabouts and enabled a rescue party to get him out alive.
Unfortunately, Mr Mullins was not so lucky. An examination of his body showed his neck had been broken at the top of the spinal column and death must have been instantaneous.
The men had been working at the pit for about a fortnight and the week previously had undermined the bank a little, causing topsoil to fall on them, which prompted a contractor to warn them not to do it again.
The foreman was aware of the dangerous state of the pit but did not stop them digging, although the pit was being fenced off around the top and a carpenter had told the men he wouldn’t continue digging if he were in their place.
The coroner, Mr Romieu, took the rather unsympathetic view that Mr Mullins and Mr Dimes were negligent, saying: “If men would run a risk after being warned, no-one but themselves was to blame.”
According to the West Surrey Times, this was “another accident of the kind unfortunately so common in this locality”.
The Castle Inn played host to several other inquests including into the death of a two-year-old boy found dead in his bed and a man who took his own life.
Sadly, such a role in local history and its link to a famous name was not enough to save the pub – it is now a Tesco Express store.