Sort file:- Herne, May, 2024.

Page Updated:- Sunday, 12 May, 2024.


Earliest 2005

Butchers Arms

Open 2020+

29A Herne Street


01227 371000 / 07908 370685

Prince Albert 1900

Above photo, circa 1900, kindly sent by Garth Wyver and Michael Mirams.

The "Butchers Arms" is shown on the right. Photo by David Anstiss 2010.

Butchers Arms sign 2015

Above sign 2015.


The "Butchers Arms" was the first micro-pub, opened in 2005 by Martyn Hillier.


From the By Jane Fryer, 24 February 2011.

Make mine a small one! At 12ft by 14ft it's Britain's tiniest pub, but is a BIG success.

Martyn Hillier is surveying his business empire — all 14ft by 12ft of it — explaining the ins and outs of running what may be Britain’s smallest pub and giving me a detailed guided tour of his extensive pickled egg and onion selection.

‘We had 28 entries for our last pickling competition. And no rules,’ he says.

‘You could pickle anything. So I did the eggs in all different colours to tie in with the world snooker championship — blue were the most popular. I once pickled some ram’s testicles for a joke.’

Martyn Hillier 2011

Pint-sized: Martyn Hillier serves Jane and other customers crammed into his pub. Photo by Robin Bell.

It’s safe to say that Martyn is not your average landlord.

For starters, he’d never wanted to run a pub: ‘Pub? No, not for me — too much like hard work’.

He hates juke boxes, pool tables and ‘all that Red Bull and vodka and silly shots — what’s all that about then?’

And he has no truck with lager drinkers: ‘Real ale’s much better. It has twice as much hops as lager, and hops are soporific — they’re the same family as the cannabis plant — so you’re more likely to fall asleep after a few beers than start a fight.’

But when, in 2003, he was told by a local licensing officer that, thanks to a change in the law, he could turn his failing florists in the Kent village of Herne into a pub, he had an epiphany.

‘It was a no-brainer. I didn’t stop to think. It was perfect, plenty big enough — I hate big pubs — and I could make it into my dream pub and ban lager, juke boxes, music, darts and quizzes, and cherry-pick the good bits, like real ale and good chat.’

Martyn Hillier 2011

Martyn Hillier, inside the Butchers Arms, Herne Village Kent.

The Butcher’s Arms is quite something. It smells warm and beery and friendly, is absolutely tiny and ridiculously cluttered, with walls covered with beery memorabilia, a table of pickles in one corner, a grimy sink in another and six barrels of real ale (all sourced from small independent breweries) in the minuscule storeroom at the back.

And that’s before any customers have crammed themselves in.

Martyn’s pride and joy is all thanks to the 2003 Licensing Act which made it surprisingly easy to secure a licence and open your own pub pretty much anywhere — in an old shop, a post office, your garage or your front room.

Divorcée Martyn, 51 — who had previously run an off-licence and worked in a motorbike shop but had no pub experience — was one of the first to give it a whirl.

‘It’s easier and, more importantly, much cheaper now. What’s changed is that if I’d applied for a licence before the Act, the big brewery pub next door would have muscled in with their barristers and solicitors and stopped it, but now they can’t.

‘Now there are only four criteria I need to satisfy: health and safety, law and order, protection of children and you’ve got to have been a good boy — no criminal record.’

Martyn Hillier & Jane Fryer 2011

Picture shows publican, Martyn Hillier and Jane Fryer.

Martyn said the choice is limited - always six real ales on offer and free lemonade for the drivers.

He satisfied them all and the Butchers Arms was a triumph from the off. Despite the village boasting two pubs already, locals flooded in for real ale, pickles and a chat.

Today, by precisely 12.03pm, there are already 16 people squashed into the teeny space — his record is 37 — chatting, laughing and waiting patiently under dozens of plastic ham joints and cuddly pheasants hanging from the ceiling.

The choice is limited. There are always six real ales on offer — this week’s selection includes Hop Head, Copper Top and Old Ale — free lemonade for the drivers and a couple of dusty bottles of Pinot Grigio in the back for anyone brave enough to ask for wine. And aside from crisps, pistachios and the pickles, that’s it.

‘I used to sell two wines: red or white. But the ladies were always getting confused between the two — ha, ha — so I kept it simple and cut it down to white only. My motto is, you can’t please everyone, so I don’t bother trying.’

It seems to work.

He has already won the Campaign for Real Ale’s East Kent Pub Of The Year twice, and was so thrilled with his success that he invented an official term for his tiny, homemade pub — ‘micropub’ — and in April 2009 started spreading the word.

Martyn Hillier 2011

Picture shows publican, Martyn Hillier and Jane Fryer with customers.

Phil Ayling, 52, from Newark in Nottingham, was in the audience at the CAMRA AGM in Eastbourne when Martyn gave a 15-minute talk on how easy it is to set up your own pub.

‘I was absolutely knocked out. I’d been made redundant after 30 years as a draughtsman and was living on fresh air,’ he says. ‘Never in my wildest dreams had it occurred to me that I could run a pub. But then I thought, if he could do it, why not me?’

So he did. He teamed up with three friends, found an empty art gallery, applied for a licence and on August 4, 2010, Just Beer in Newark opened its doors to the public.

‘We don’t sell spirits, lagers or keg beer. There are no electric pumps, no beers from big-name breweries, no regular beers, no optics, no pool table, no television.

‘It’s how pubs used to be years ago, before the big corporate groups took them over, ripped their hearts and souls out and turned them into vertical drinking palaces.’

Phil wasn’t the only one tempted to set up a pub with a bit of character. Pete Morgan from Hartlepool was also in the audience at Eastbourne, and within six months was landlord of the Rat Race, a tiny pub based in what had previously been a taxi office at Hartlepool Railway Station.

Another — the Conquerer, squeezed into a former sweet shop in Ramsgate — followed soon after, and there are dozens more in the pipeline.

Which is no surprise, because it’s a fantastically cheap way of setting up your own pub. According to Martyn, it’s all about keeping things simple: low overheads, small choice, simple stock, low start-up costs and minimal paperwork.

On his calculations and with most of the kit — hand pumps, stillages (the stands beer casks sit on), furniture, glasses, beer mats — begged, borrowed or bought second-hand, the Butchers Arms cost just £2,000 to get off the ground.

Martyn Hillier 2011

Picture shows publican, Martyn Hillier.

Martyn has already won the Campaign for Real Ale’s East Kent Pub Of The Year twice

‘But I already had a cooling system,’ he adds. ‘If you didn’t, you’d be looking at about £5,000. Oh yes, and I had to have the walls soundproofed, because the next door neighbours could hear too much laughter and chat.’

Five years since he eventually opened his doors, his teeny 14ft by 12ft pub is also surprisingly lucrative.

‘The average wage round here is £11,000, but I earn double that for a job that doesn’t feel like a job.’

So are there any disadvantages to running your own pub? ‘My ex-girlfriend certainly thought so . . . but I don’t — I love it. What could be better than TAB-ing in here with a load of mates?’


‘Talking absolute b******s, of course. And 95 per cent of it is politically incorrect, but who cares?’

Who indeed? It’s a very male pub. Today the crowd swells to more than 20, including a group from London, a couple from Bath and a chap from Australia, all here to sample his unique brand of hospitality. But other than me, there’s just one lady, called Margaret, who is sipping a half very quietly in the corner.

Is there much demand from the ladies?

‘Enough — ha, ha. We might get one or two on a Friday. I did put up a sign at one time saying ‘Only two women allowed in at any one time’, but I had to take it down again pretty quickly.’

‘You’re very privileged to be allowed in,’ shouts out a fat local called Simon. ‘We usually have a quota for women on the door — ha, ha.’

Gosh. Time to change the subject. Does Martyn like to sample his own beer?

‘God, yes. Though I’m not saying how many, and I never drink before eight o’clock. But you could drink eight pints of the beers I sell and have no hangover.

‘It’s the way I keep them — it’s all about keeping the carbon dioxide out. Of course, you’d be a bit wobbly on your feet when you left, but you’d be fine in the morning.’

So, finally, is Martyn’s original micropub actually Britain’s smallest pub?

‘Well . . . there’s a bit of a dispute going on,’ he says. ‘There’s a converted signal box in Cleethorpes and a pub called the Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds who are battling it out at the moment, but the Signal Box has a large garden, which is cheating, and the Nutshell has an upstairs now, which theoretically makes us smaller than both of them.

‘But I don’t care, because all that matters to me is that I serve the best beer.’

And, presumably, the most eclectic pickles selection.


From the By Emma Grove, 28 November 2015.

Butcher's Arms: Herne micropub still big success.

The popularity of micropubs has soared across the UK – and it’s all thanks to the world’s first, in the village of Herne.

Martyn Hillier opened the Butcher’s Arms just over a decade ago on November 24, 2005, and estimates he has sold close to a quarter-of-a-million pints of ale in that time.

The award-winning free house in Herne Street is thought to be the smallest in England and was named CAMRA Pub of the Year three years after it opened.

There are now about 200 micropubs in the country and demand is expected to grow.

Mr Hillier pioneered the idea after transforming his shop, the Canterbury Beer Shop, and he has had visitors from as far away as Norway who wanted to check out the original.

A haven for real ale drinkers, the success of micropubs is down to their place at the heart of the community and their lack of music and fruit machines, encouraging conversation.

The 56-year-old said: “In 2009 I did a presentation for CAMRA at its AGM, which started the ball rolling.

“Micropubs are bringing people back together – it’s about people having a conversation. It’s the norm to talk to strangers in a micropub.”

He says he always knew the concept would work from his following at the beer shop and said he was also in the right place at the right time.

Butchers Arms 2015

Martyn Hiller has just celebrated the pub's 10th anniversary

Mr Hillier thinks the Butcher’s Arms has probably sold about 240,000 pints of ale, with the firm favourite being a best bitter called Old Dairy Copper Top.

He says he often hears stories about people having wonderful experiences in their own town or village micropub – people who had lived in places for years but did not know anyone until they paid a visit to their local.

He has also spoken to breweries worried about closing because so many pubs were shutting down, which have said they can now see a light at the end of the tunnel, due to the popularity of micropubs.

“It’s a real buzz to hear things like that,” he said.

Martin Hillier 2015

Martyn Hiller behind the bar at the Butcher's Arms.

“When it was just me the turnover was about £60,000 – now the micropub turnover is more than £20 million in the UK. It’s easy to get a licence and you can open one for very little money. And it’s good fun.”

To celebrate the milestone, father-of-two Mr Hillier held a celebration at the community hall on Sunday and the rest of the food and drink was polished off by locals at the pub on Tuesday.



HILLIER Martin 2005-24+


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