This pub was originally about a quarter of a mile west of its current location, about where the Junction of Khyber Road and Prince Arthur Road is now. It started life as a farmhouse at the junction of (the now long gone) Gillingham and Spray Lanes. In 1716 Jerimiah Curtiss of Chatham built a number of furnaces on the fields, which he sold to Jerimiah Gregory, another Chatham man, in 1724. Curtiss is recorded as replacing a man named Welch at the Black Lion, but whether it was a farm or a works at that time is unclear, and the purpose of the furnaces is also uncertain. It has been suggested that the furnaces were associated with ironworks, and the Black Lion name comes from an association with blacksmiths. The first record of an inn on the site is 1766, although it may have been there earlier. In 1766 the licensee was John Huggins, but Daniel Coombes took over in 1768.
In 1769 the government decided to extend the field of fire for the newly built Chatham Lines and bought the surrounding land, leasing it out for farming for another 20 years. During this time the inn continued to trade, and when the lease expired, rather than abandoning the inn, the owner decided to move it complete from the Government land. It was moved across the fields to its present position in Mill Road (then known as Fox Lane) at this time. A local diarist recorded the feat:
4 June 1789 The Black Lyon was moved a bought [about] 16 foote and on Satterday moved the house Six foote over the heag [hedge] on end of the house.
Monday June 11th, the Black Lyon was moved Althought [athwart] the Lane, and on Tuesday 12th, Got the house into Fox Lane where they wanted to get it.
It had taken nine days to move the house, which was presumably a timber structure, and must have been a remarkable feat to see, especially as they seem to have lifted it over a hedge!
It was later known as the Black Lion Hotel, and was rebuilt in brick in 1896, the building that is there today. In the late 1920s the licensee, a Mr Cockrill, convinced the brewers to drop the misleading word 'Hotel' from the name. This part of the Lower Lines came to be known as Black Lion Fields and the name was used for the Sports Centre built on the fields in the 1970s.
Photos Feb 2011