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Author Topic: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]  (Read 13168 times)

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Offline Riding With The Angels

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2012, 11:15:36 »


This is from Maidstone Council's website, giving ‘tourist’ information about West Malling:
"18th century manor house built by Thomas Augustus Douce is now a commercial training centre". It's not clear if it's referring to the same place, but the next paragraph begins: “The mansion was a rest base for airmen operating from the Second World War West Malling airfield. Its cellar was the war-time Twitch Inn, on the ceiling of which airmen, including some of the famous air aces of their day, wrote their names in candle flame
Yet another pub mentioned! In his book, as well as specific reference to the Startled Saint, Gibson also wrote that in the area “there are many pubs, and good ones at that


 There are images in Robin Brooks book and yes it is the same place :-)

seafordpete

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2012, 10:36:44 »
Gibson describes ‘The Hermitage’ as a “fine old Victorian country house”, and the ground crews being “put up in an older castle nearby”, if that gives any clues.

Yet another pub mentioned! In his book, as well as specific reference to the Startled Saint, Gibson also wrote that in the area “there are many pubs, and good ones at that


I suppose the abbey could have been confused as a castle or the monastry both close to Hermitage. I reckon that even in the 1970s there were at least 8 pubs at least in Malling so probably a good dozen back then.

Offline Spekes Bottom

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2012, 10:21:33 »


I found this 1980s photo on Flickr, originally submitted by "TASI_B.C."

Offline peterchall

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2012, 10:18:15 »
Gibson describes ‘The Hermitage’ as a “fine old Victorian country house”, and the ground crews being “put up in an older castle nearby”, if that gives any clues.

This is part of an account by a member of No25 Squadron, arriving at West Malling in 1946:
The George in West Malling was the "watering hole" for all of the Squadron. The landlord, a publican of many years, always gave us a warm welcome. The Startled Saint with its halo of Spitfires, was a non starter
So the Spitfires on the Startled Saint sign were NOT a post-war addition, unless put on immediately after. (I have seen a better photo of the sign, and they are definitely Spitfires and not just generalised aircraft as I suggested earlier)

This is from Maidstone Council's website, giving ‘tourist’ information about West Malling:
"18th century manor house built by Thomas Augustus Douce is now a commercial training centre". It's not clear if it's referring to the same place, but the next paragraph begins: “The mansion was a rest base for airmen operating from the Second World War West Malling airfield. Its cellar was the war-time Twitch Inn, on the ceiling of which airmen, including some of the famous air aces of their day, wrote their names in candle flame
Yet another pub mentioned! In his book, as well as specific reference to the Startled Saint, Gibson also wrote that in the area “there are many pubs, and good ones at that
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

seafordpete

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2012, 09:33:47 »
Strange that the Saint had very little  photos or memorabilia  there. I worked in Douces Manor bar several times installing beer , apart from the candle marks there were a lot of sketches, doodles and comments pencilled on the walls too.

Offline Riding With The Angels

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2012, 01:13:56 »
Alice Baker was indeed the landlady and several of the members of 29sqn had pewter tankards with their names engraved on over the bar.

The Manor House was the officers mess and the cellar was converted into a bar where the pilots burnt their names on the ceiling with candle smoke. I'd like to think this is still there although it has been converted into apartments recently - wonder if an enquiry may yield an answer?


seafordpete

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2012, 18:33:09 »
Googling the pub brought up her name as Alice Baker -memory getting iffy (or iffier).

Offline peterchall

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2012, 18:16:20 »

When did Malling go RAF? I would have thought it was part of the prewar build up in 1938/9.
West Malling was requisitioned by the RAF from Malling Aero Club "on outbreak of war" (Action Stations, Vol 8), but I suspect that it was just 'on paper'. The first squadron moved in on 8 June 1940. Gibson moved in with No29 Squadron on 27 April 1941 and writes of 'taking over' the Hermitage and castle, but it's not clear whether from civilians or from previous RAF occupants - I suspect the latter. Perhaps it was because of being an improvised Officers' Mess that they relied on the 'Startled Saint' for booze rather than the Mess's own bar.
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

seafordpete

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2012, 17:47:20 »
Could have been Malling Place which is next to St Leonards Tower. The Hermitage & Hermitage Fm are off Swan St near the Rail Station, quite a long way from the airfield

seafordpete

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2012, 17:22:48 »
Strange, cos there is nothing nearby although the twin is in an area more suited to the style. When did Malling go RAF? I would have thought it was part of the prewar build up in 1938/9. Forgot to mention the landlady always said they opened the first day of the war so Monday Sept 4 . It is town side of the airfield Opp Teston Rd junction,, only castle around is Mereworth or Douce's Manor which became the Officers Mess later (a Georgian Manor). No idea on Hermitage etc I'll do a bit of hunting later

Offline peterchall

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2012, 16:31:40 »
Thanks.
I was mis-led about the age because it looks a much older building than 1939, perhaps to be compatible with existing ones nearby. When the pub was built the airfield was a civil flying club but not an RAF station, so the planes are either just generalised symbols, or were added later to the original sign, which seems likely because they are 'outside' his halo.

Is the pub further towards the village, because Gibson writes of a house called the Hermitage being used as the Officers' Mess, and ground crew being accomodated in a castle nearby?
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

seafordpete

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Re: Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2012, 13:29:08 »
Thanks to the landlady, I know the tale. It was designed and built in 1939 as a sister to the Duke Without a Head ouside Wateringbury. Unusual in that the cellar was at first floor level and the beer drained to taps set in dummy cask heads set in the back fitting. The wife of the couple that took it on from day one was still there until about 1978. She still had some of the original glasses engraved with the pub name which a chosen few were allowed to use. (Being engraved was according to her a legal requirement during the war.) I think her name was Annie, she retired and the pub was taken over by a guy who had had the pub at Bean. He carried out masses of alterations and tried to build up a restaurant trade but it never quite took off. I think there were another couple of short term tenants then Whitbread de licensed it. The sign is the original as far as I know, probably painted at Wateringbury Brewery. It must have been a Whitbread pub from opening as the cask heads (one of which I got when the alterations were going on were branded Whitbread and all 1938 or 39. I think the brewerey banner at the top of the sin did get changed to Fremlins at one time. The Landlady's brother had the Rising Sun in East Malling and had the dubious distinction of being knocked over by a billygoat and stamped on resulting in his death about a week later . In my service engineer days I used to call on both houses. Pub signs then were made of copper or aluminium sheet and the design drawn on, it was then marked out using a punch so that susequent repaints could be done by anyone- virtually painting by numbers. The artist may well have been a John Cooke who ran the signwriting dept about that time.

Offline peterchall

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Startled Saint, West Malling [i]
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2012, 12:41:08 »

Specially mentioned by Wing Cdr Guy Gibson in his book ‘Enemy Coast Ahead’ as being near West Malling RAF Station in 1941.

I believe it is now closed but wonder just how ‘near’ it was, because I don’t remember a pub on the road going past the airfield. Also, did it have any mementoes of its association of the sort that the ‘White Hart’ at Brasted had with Biggin Hill? (A panel signed by many pilots).

Its last inn sign was amusing in that it showed the Saint being startled by a halo of Spitfires flying round his head

Obviously not the original and I wonder if anyone knows anything about the sign and the earlier history of the pub (or its wartime and later history, for that matter)
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

 

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