Page Updated:- Friday, 13 January, 2023.


Earliest 1861-

Railway Tavern

Open 2023+

Wrotham Road / Hoo Green


01474 813211

Railway Tavern 1904

Above photo 1904, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Railway Tavern 1913

Above postcard, circa 1913, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe. Possibly showing George Meakin, his mother Caroline and some staff.

Railway Tavern

Above photo from the book, 1975, Pubs of Meopham by Jim Carley.

Rauilway Tavern 2011

Above photo 2011.

Railway Tavern 2023

Above photo, 2023, kindly sent by Ray Petri.

Railway Tavern sign 2023

Above sign 2023.


This pub is situated at the north end of the village which, under proprietor Bill Friend was famous for its range of whiskies, at one time offering more than 150 brands. It was a staging post for the Mail Service between Gravesend and Maidstone and pre-dates the building of the railway station that opened on 6 May 1861.

The following has been taken from the 1975 book by Jim Carly, slightly amended to correct inaccuracies.

The pub used to be called the "Railway Hotel" till circa 1905 and was built before the railway was constructed. The line was opened to traffic on 6th May 1861, and no doubt the premises were ready to serve the first travellers, and indeed for the use of the construction workers.

The first licensee was George French, a member of the well known local family, who still farm (1975) extensively in and around the parish. His family owned much of the land in the vicinity. A relic from his times - a clock case bearing his son, the second licensee's name - survived until the 1950's, but was unfortunately destroyed. George's son, Thomas French was the second licensee and he died at Nevill House, Hook Green on 23rd March, 1877, and he was succeeded by William Smith.

Very little is known about the early licensees, or the way they ran the house. The late Alfred Roots, a life-long resident of Meopham, told of a tragedy during the time that Mr. Alderton was there. His young son, supposedly under the care of a maid, was burnt to death in his bedroom through playing with matches. The maid had unfortunately gone out with her boy-friend.

The next licensees were Mrs. Caroline Meakin, and her son George who moved down from the "George," of which she had been the landlord for several years. It is thought that her father was William Oliver, the last licensee of the "Prince of Wales." George Meakin remained until 1940, probably holding the Meopham record of 42 years. He married, fairly late in life, a Miss S. A. Cook of Culverstone. After their retirement the licence passed briefly to a lady, and then to William (Bill) Friend, who was the last licensee under private ownership. On his retirement in 1973 the owners. Courage (Eastern) Limited, followed their policy of placing the house under management.

Bill Friend was not unknown in the village, having previously had a fish shop at 3, The Parade, a business which he established in a newly built shop just after the war. Before that he had served in the Royal Navy on a regular engagement, a fact which he proudly mentioned in his advertisements.

A feature of the house during Bill Friend’s time was the collection of whiskies on sale. This started rather by accident, out of post war shortages. The brewers were often unable to supply the required quantity of the well-known brands, and under pressure often came up with some very uncommon names. These were accepted by the customers out of interest, and when supplies became more plentiful, he decided to continue with a wide selection. At the peak he was able to offer as many as 150 different brands. Even this number was very short of the 2000 - odd brands registered with the Scotch Whisky Association. Customers would often ask for little-known brands in the hope of catching him out, but this rarely succeeded, unless he was genuinely out of stock of that particular brand. Whenever he was asked for something new he soon took steps to have it available. He sought to uphold his advertising claim of ‘Whisky Specialist’. He never undertook any formal catering, but was widely known for his bar lunches of French Bread and Cheese, served in all the bars.

The premises were built by the Dartford Brewery Co. Ltd. This company was later bought out by Style and Winch Limited of Maidstone, who in due course entered into a partnership with Barclay Perkins. At a decent interval after the death of the last member of the Winch family (who died on a plane while returning from holiday) the brewery gave up the old title of Style and Winch and the name was changed to Courage-Barclay Limited. A subsequent re-organisation of the group led to the present name of Courage (Eastern) Limited.

Structurally the premises are not especially interesting, and so far as is known only two alterations have been made since the house was built. The first was the addition of the bay windows and the porch leading onto Wrotham Road. This happened while George Meakin was the licensee. It is said that the Railway Company objected, on what seems to be very flimsy grounds that the station would be less visible to traffic on Wrotham Road, but the brewers won.

The other alteration was the addition of a sun-lounge in the rear garden, which happened while Bill Friend was there. There is quite a large garden at the back, and Bill took a great pride in it. Seats were provided for use when the weather permitted. The brewers ran a competition for well-kept pub gardens. Bill entered the competition 11 times, winning in all four 1st prizes, three 2nd prizes and one 3rd prize, but not in that order!

The former stables at the back of the house served in their day as a staging post on the mail service between Maidstone and Tilbury, via Gravesend Ferry. The horses were changed there in both directions. A part of the stables was set aside for use as the village mortuary, and continued to be used as such until some time after 1945, by which time improved transport enabled this work to be undertaken in town.

The licensee had the responsibility of seeing that any bodies were cleaned ready for the Coroner to hold his inquest. The stables were cleared out, and turned into a beer store by Bill Friend.


As the information is found or sent to me, including photographs, it will be shown here.

Thanks for your co-operation.



FRENCH George 1847+

FRENCH Thomas 1861-74+ (also jobmaster age 25 in 1861Census)

SMITH William 1878+

PRIOR Henry 1881-87+ (age 33 in 1881Census)

RANDS James 1895+

WATSON James Henry 1899+

GOLDEN George 1903+ Kelly's 1903

ALDERTON Albert Edward 1904-05+

MEAKIN George 1913-38+

FRIEND Bill 2014+


Kelly's 1903From the Kelly's Directory 1903



If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-