Book Review - The Pubs of Hastings and St Leonards 1800 - 2000

The Pubs of Hastings and S tLeonardsI know little about Hastings (apart from the obvious) and St. Leonards, but having now read David Russell’s book I feel that I know not only the pubs but also the area very well indeed.

I have lost count of the number of pub books and guides I have read over the years but The Pubs of Hastings & St. Leonards 1800-2000 stands out for the impressive level of detailed research; not like some authors who merely lift information from works that have gone before. This book is not a pub guide; this is a large slice of social history and a major contribution to cultural studies of this area of Sussex.

And it is not just about pubs, the publicans and the architecture. It is about real people, the customers, the entertainers and performers, the smugglers and ne’er-do-wells, the fishermen, the fish-wives, tenants doing moonlight flits and prostitutes. There are a few hauntings in there too, plus so much more.

This is how local pub history should be written. Informed and informative, ‘The Pubs of Hastings & St. Leonards 1800-2000' brings pubs past and present in the area to life. Packed with real history, fascinating anecdotes, photographs and numerous beautiful illustrations by James Gray, David Russell’s book is recommended reading not only for local people but also anyone interested in the social history of the great English pub.

In the summer issue of the PHS Newsletter members were treated to a couple of ‘taster pubs’ from David’s book (the Nag’s Head and the Prince Albert). What they must do now is buy the book. Trust me. A labour of love this definitely is. An ordinary pub history book this definitely is not.

Copyright Dr Patrick Chaplin, Pub and Pub Games Historian
Pub History Society Newsletter, Winter 2009

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