DOVER KENT ARCHIVES

Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

PUB LIST PUBLIC HOUSES Paul Skelton

Earliest 1712-

(Name from)

Swan

Latest 1850

(Name to)

Wrotham Road / Meopham Green

Meopham

Old Swan

Above photo from the book, date unknown, Pubs of Meopham by Jim Carley. Showing the Old Swan, now known as Basque Cottage.

 

This pub can be dated back to the 17th century and was originally called the "Leather Bottle," it later changed name to the "Cricketer's" but information from the Meopham Parish Council say this building is now a private residence, so with that latter information, it's not to be confused for the other "Cricketer's Inn."

Further information tells me it is now known as Basque Cottage. It later changed name to the "Eleven Cricketers," and of course cricket was (and still is) played on the Green. The licence was taken over by a Richard Buggs. The game was very popular and the existing pub was not large enough to cope with the customers it brought, so in 1780 land was purchased nearby. It took a further 14 years before the land could be built upon and then the old pub became a private residence and a new pub was built the "Cricketers." The pub was run by the Buggs family until at least 1895.

 

The following has been taken from the 1975 book by Jim Carly.

Just immediately north of the Cricketers is an attractive cottage called ‘Basque Cottage’. It is certainly well over 200 years old, and used to be a public house. It was formerly known as the Cricketers and probably before that 'The Swan', the licence being changed to the present premises at a date unknown.

The first reference to the Swan is in the register of licensed victuallers for the year 1712, when the landlord of 'The Swan’ was Thomas Romney. He appears each year to 1715, and there is then a gap in the records until 1753. By that date the Swan is not shown, and it is thought most likely that the name had been changed.

While it may be that the Romney family moved house, it seems very much more likely that the property remained in the family, and was re-named to give a topical reference to the game of cricket, known to have been played on Pitfield Green well before 1776. The bi-centenary of the foundation of Meopham Cricket Club falls in 1976. The year 1712 may signify the approximate date of construction of the premises, but it is more probable that in that year a licence was granted in respect of premises already standing.

A title deed dated 1st October, 1779 in the possession of the present (1975) owner of the premises, Mr. W. Townsend, makes it clear that it was an established licensed house at that date.

The first freeholder of whom there is any record was William Tankard. He features in some deeds (held by the present owner) dated 1779. He was described as a Gentleman of Dartford. He had, on 1st November, mortgaged the property, to Edward Peddar, Yeoman, of Southfleet as security, with other properties, for an advance of 630. By 1778, no interest having been paid, a further mortgage was executed to cover the accrued interest of 270, making a total debt of 900. In some way which is not apparent from the surviving deeds, the Reverend Charles Whitehead. Vicar of East Grinstead, Sussex, was also involved as a further Mortgagee. The property changed hands in October, 1779, when William Tankard sold it to Robert Hills, a Cordwainer of Meopham, for 160. In accordance with legal practice of those days, the transaction was carried out in two parts. On the 1st October, 1779 William Tankard, with other persons involved in the title, panted a lease to Robert Hills for one year at a peppercorn rent. The following day & Deed of Release and Assignment between the same parties was executed. The description of the property is interesting. It is referred to as ‘ALL that messuage or tenement with a garden, stable, outhouses and one acre of Hop Ground belonging to same, called or known by the name or sign ’THE CRICKETERS' situated, lying and being at or near a certain place called Pitfield Green in the said parish of Meopham, and now in the occupation of Richard Buggs, his assigns or undertenants. TOGETHER WITH all outhouses, edifices, buildings, hedges, trees, woods, underwoods, ways, paths, passages, waters, watercourses, commons, common of pasture, priveleges, advantages, hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever, to the said messuage and premises, belonging or in any ways appertaining.......' There is a theory that the legal fraternity based their fees on the length of the document!

The next freehold transaction is dated 18th October, 1827, when Robert Hills sold to John Figgess, a grocer. The legal form followed that of 50 years earlier, but the price had increased to 360. The premises were described as formerly called or known by the name or sign of ‘The Cricketers'. The trade of shoe-making continued until at least 1840, since the tithe map and schedule describes its site as a House and Garden, with a Shoemaker’s Shop. John Figgess was still the owner and it had been let to Thomas Hills.

The precise date when the licence was transferred next door has not been established, but on slight evidence mentioned in the next chapter, it may well have been before 1799.

In his 'History of Meopham’ Golding Bird refers to these legal documents, and goes on to claim that the premises were, in the 17th century, called ‘The Leather Bottle'. Unfortunately he gives no documentary source in support of this assertion. The late Leslie Norton, a mine of information about the history of the parish, told the present owners that the premises used to be called ‘The Mitre and Sceptre'. Once again, no written evidence has been traced.

The premises were originally wider than they are now. A further section on the north side, which served in more recent times as a store, has been demolished giving the building a decidedly lop-sided appearance architecturally. The front door, which is of a substantial construction and has an interesting engraved glazing, leads into a small hall, with a welcoming fireplace. On the right can been seen the archways which formerly led to the now demolished part while on the left is the room which was clearly the bar. It has a fine inglenook fireplace, with recesses for the beer mugs. Behind this, in what is now part of the kitchen, is an attractive brass rail, which may well be contemporary with the beer trade.

Beneath the whole of the ground floor is a dry cellar, reached by a ladder from the kitchen. In the cellar wall facing the road is a bricked-up doorway. This lines up with a recently-discovered barrel-run formed by brick walls, and leading down through what is now the front garden of the cottage to the cellar.

The grounds of the premises used to extend southwards up to the side of the present 'Cricketers’ and there is some evidence that at one time the tenant of the present pub had to pay a way-leave to the owner of Basque Cottage for permission to erect a ladder to clean the windows.

The premises were at one time called Walnut Tree Cottage. There is a story that on hearing of a supposed gold hoard buried under the tree from which the house took its name, a former owner got to work and felled the tree. Alas, no hoard was discovered. The origin of the name ‘Basque Cottage’ is not known, but a possible source may derive from the trade of Robert Hills, the Cordwainer or shoemaker. Cordwain is a kind of leather finished as a black morocco, which originated from Cordova, in Spain.

 

From ‘A Precis of Meopham’s pubs, past and present.’ By James Carley. Date Unknown.

The Swan.

Next along Wrotham Road was the Swan, facing Meopham Green. It is now an attractive, but slightly lop-sided house called “Basque Cottage”. At some time in the past the right-hand portion was removed, but internally the doorways can still be traced. The cellar is still there, and was served by a barrel run still existing under the front garden. The front door has an interesting engraved glazing, and leads into a small hall with a welcoming fireplace. On the left is the room which was formerly the bar, complete with an inglenook fireplace, with recesses for the beer mugs.

There is some slight evidence that the pub existed in the 17th Century under the name of the "Leather Bottle." This was a common name for pubs, and there are still premises of that name in two adjoining parishes, Northfleet and Cobham. The register of licensed victuallers starts in 1712, when Thomas Romney is shown as licensee of the Swan. His son, Valentine was without question one of the leading cricketers of that period, and it has been established that cricket was being played on Meopham Green at that time. After a brief period when the name was changed to the "Harrow," another change of name in 1735 gave the village a pub known as the "Eleven Cricketers." This is also interesting in cricketing history as establishing the size of the teams. Valentine’s married sister, Elizabeth Durling was there at the time of the change of name, but by 1753 the license was held by Richard Romney.

In 1765 Richard Buggs took over the license, and he had two sons in the Meopham cricket team. The popularity of the game made it imperative that he enlarged the premises, but this was not possible on the existing site. It was not until 1780 that he was able to buy from his neighbour, Henry Nordish, some land to the south, and not until 1794 that he was able to erect some premises thereon. In the same year the license was transferred to the new house, and the old one became a private residence.

 

LICENSEE LIST

ROMNEY Thomas 1712-15+

ROMNEY Richard 1753+

BUGGS Richard 1765+

 

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