Sort file:- Dover, July, 2022.

Page Updated:- Tuesday, 12 July, 2022.

PUB LIST PUBLIC HOUSES Barry Smith and Paul Skelton

Earliest 1964

(Name from)

Crypt Tavern

Latest 1977

10 Bench Street


Crypt Tavern 1974

Above photo, July 1974.

Crypt fire 1977

Crypt fire 1977.

Crypt fire 1977

Above photo, 1977.

Crypt fire

Aftermath of fire in 1977.

Crypt Tavern

Picture circa 1980.

ONE main street frontage that disappeared in 1985 was that of The Crypt in Bench Street. The Rabb Inn-owned bar was so seriously damaged by fire in 1977 that it never re-opened and became a disgrace to the town. So, eventually, the new owners decided to demolish the building under which was their cellar of what some locals believed and the premises advertising depicted to be the 900-year-old Flemish church of St Nicholas with Norman arches.

The actual Crypt as found and documented by the Rev J. Maule in 1856 is not under this premises. The real crypt, drawn by Rev. Maule and originally believed to be St. Nicholas' church but probably a Norman fortified merchants house, was opposite under the old Bench Street Post Office. It was discovered in the 1830s when the street was widened and it had to be demolished as most of it would now be under the new roadway. During the building of the slope entrance of the underpass it's remains were rediscovered, at the same time as the Bronze Age Boat was discovered in 1992. (Mark Frost)


AT WORK: The crypt drawn by the vicar of St Mary's the Rev J. Maule, dated 1856.

Archaeologists revealed crypt

THESE are pictures of the Bench Street crypt, not the crypt under the Shakespeare Hotel which in the main dates from 1924.

The drawing in 1856 was by the vicar of St Mary's, the Rev J Maule.

The early crypt was not part of St Nicholas Church nor was the tower, which disappeared when Bench Street was widened.

It only re-appeared when the archaeologists were clearing the ground for the underpass.

At the same time it was proved that the tower was a separate entity and was a defensive structure and at one time was used as a prison.

The Rev Maule shows it with a workman with a pickaxe.

The lower picture by James Tucker, dated 1912, shows a lady and gentleman inspecting the crypt and also giving a date of 1320.

The tower was a very solid building and needed a charge of gunpowder to demolish it.

St Nicholas Church is now accepted to have been a side chapel of St Martin le Grand.

Joe Harman.


CURIOUS COUPLE: James Tucker's picture of the crypt with the date of 1320.

Crypt Tavern

Above photo Crypt Tavern 1981 photo by Barry Smith.

Prince Regent

Above photo Crypt Tavern 1981 photo by Barry Smith.

Crytp Tavern rear

Above photo showing the rear of the Crypt Tavern 1981 photo by Barry Smith.


From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 7 June, 1929. Price 1˝d.


At the Dover Police Court on Friday at the Licensing Transfer Sessions, the magistrates were Sir William Crundall, Messrs. W. J. Barnes, J. W. Bussey, T. Finnis, G. Golding, S. Lewis, C. E. Beaufoy, W. Bradley, W. J. Palmer, C. Chitty, W. S. Lee, T. A. Terson, C. J. Sellens, W. J. Law and Dr. Wood.


Mr. Carder submitted plans for alterations to the “Crypt Café,” Bench Street. The premises were formerly the “Shakespeare Hotel,” which had been a licensed premises for nearly one hundred years. Considerable alterations was made to the hotel some time ago, the upper part being turned into flats and the ground floor divided into two, the licence remaining for one side of the division only. The other side was for the service of meals and refreshments of all kinds, but they were under the disability of being unable to serve any liquid refreshment except by sending out into the street into the other part although still on the same premises. To avoid this annoyance to customers and delay the lessees were asking that the alteration of cutting through the wall and opening again the other half should be sanctioned. He could see no objection to it and it seemed farcical that the privilege should not get granted.

The Magistrates' Clerk said that the Police had no objection.

Mr. Carder said that there was no intention to erect a bar.

The 15 Magistrates present voted on paper and the Chairman said that the application was granted.


From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday, 10 April, 1931. Price 1˝d.

Advert 1931

From a letter dated 10 August 1949.

Lukey letterhead

10 August, 1949.

E.H.T Wiltshire Esq,

Ministry of Town and Country Planning,

38, Onslow Gardens,

South Kensington,

London, S.W.7.

Dear Sir,

For nearly three years now we have been fighting against the Town and Country Planning proposal to pull down No. 10, Bench Street, Dover, we now receive a communication from you dated 8th August, 1949 asking us to co-operate in preserving this property as far as possible in this present form.

We are at a loss to understand what is happening to this property, does it mean that No. 10, Bench Street will now be preserved and not ruthlessly destroyed by the Town and Country Planning Department?
Yours faithfully,



From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday, 4 July, 1952.


Alterations and minor improvements now in progress at the "Crypt Restaurant" which has been closed temporarily, have resulted in the opening of the restaurant known as the "Shakespeare Lounge," adjoining the Shakespeare Buffet, in Bench Street.

In a totally different style, the lounge which was last in use as an amusement arcade, has been attractively furnished and decorated and includes a large entrance hall where patrons may wait, a small but luxurious cocktail bar, and a dining room which lacks none of the atmosphere which made the "Crypt" so popular. An interesting feature for Dovorians is the polished wood floor in the dining room, which was taken from the old Granville Gardens roller skating rink about twenty years ago.

The lounge was opened essentially as a substitute for the "Crypt," which will be closed for a few weeks. Business will be resumed in the "Crypt" and if there is sufficient demand the Lounge will also remain open.


From the Dover Express and East Kent News. 17 May, 1963.

The Crypt's Future

Dover's internationally famous restaurant, The Crypt, may be purchased, it is understood, by one of the largest catering firms in the country.

The sale, expected to be completed shortly, will probably include the "Shakespeare Bars" which adjoin The "Crypt" with its underground restaurant.

The present owner, Mr. J. P. Watts, a restaurateur of Exeter, bought the "Crypt" and "Shakespeare Bars" late last summer from Messrs. John Lukey and Sons the well known East Kent wine Mrchants. Mr. John Lukey - the grandfather of the last owner - started in business in Bench Street in 1853.

Up to a year ago, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Grace were the managers of the "Crypt" and "Shakespeare." The present manager is Mr. Julian Slattery.

Mr. Slattery this week refused to comment on the reported change of ownership of the premises.



Formerly the "George", "The Vine" and the "Shakespeare Hotel", it became the "Crypt Tavern" after a long and interesting history, in 1964. The new owners were Raberni Inns who reopened after extensive alterations plus the creation of new bars.


From the Dover Express 14 November 2002 by Bob Hollingsbee.

Interior of Crypt Tavern

THIS old postcard from my collection shows the interior of the once popular Crypt Restaurant in Bench Street sadly now demolished after a disastrous fire - referred to by Jean Charman. Note the Bentwood chairs and tables of the restaurant in the ancient crypt. Under a strong glass the postcard photograph, posted in 1949, reveals that on the right-hand wall was a plaque which stated "Restored 1923-24, Contractor R.J. Barwick, architect Vernon Shone."

Crypt interior

Information I have with the above photographs says late 40s, so either the information is incorrect or this was taken when the premises was still called the "Shakespeare Hotel."

Crypt bar

Above postcard showing the inside bar area, date unknown.

Crypt inside 1960

Above photo 1960s.

Crypt card

Above card, date unknown.

Crypt card reverse

Above showing the reverse of the card. Kindly sent by Chris Excell.

Crypt 1935

Above photo, circa 1935, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Crypt 1935

Above photo, circa 1935, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.


Fire visited the premises several times during 1968 and 1969. No one outbreak being disastrous in itself but the cumulative results no doubt leaving scars.


Ownership passed to Rabb Inns in December 1971 and some years later, early one Sunday morning, the 27th March 1977, a passer by reported fire. The conflagration proved serious that time and although many of the residents escaped or were rescued, seven fatalities resulted including one of the firemen.


"The Crypt Tavern and Restaurant", with apartments over, were described subsequently as a mass of reams and passages which could be compared to a rabbit warren. The owners were refused permission to reinstate the damage in April 1981 but were authorised instead to demolish the remains in November 1982. It was April 1985 before that happened however and the site is still vacant in April 2007.


The rest of these photos by Barry Smith show the Crypt being demolished in April 1985.

Crypt Tavern demolition
Crypt Tavern demolition
Crypt Tavern demolition
Crypt Tavern demolition
Crypt Tavern demolition
Crypt Tavern demolition


Video link to exploration October 2016.


From the Dover Express, 16 February, 2017. By Gabriel Shepard.

TRAGEDY struck in Dover on March 27, 1977 as fire tore through The Crypt restaurant.

Crypt renovation

Seven people died in the blaze which was later put down to an electrical fault.

But despite being a prime town centre plot the building’s ghostly shell remains in an ever-decaying state.

And now - tying in with next month’s 40th anniversary - Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke is calling for the site to be cleared.

The four-storey Bench Street building was erected in 1840 and contained bars and restaurants on the lower floors and accommodation upstairs.

Mr Elphicke said: “For decades the former Crypt site has been left to ruin. It’s high time this area was cleaned up.

“Work on the exciting St James scheme continues. Yet we must make sure Dovorians can be proud of every corner of the town centre.

Better future.

“We need to build a better future for Dover and I have been urging the council to take action.”

Mr Elphicke has written to Dover District Council, calling for work to begin soon.

The council says the owner will take down the scaffolding before a general tidying-up. Historic England will then likely launch a consultation over The Crypt’s future use.

From the Dover Mercury, 16 February 2017.

Time to clear former Crypt site says MP.

A call for action has been made to clean up a prime town centre site left in ruins by a fatal fire 40 years ago.

The Bench Street building, formerly known as The Crypt, was destroyed in a devastating blaze on March 27,1977, killing seven people.

Previously a four-storey premises consisting of bars, restaurants and accommodation, the empty shell has since been left to decay, bearing the scars of that tragic morning.

Now, four decades on, Dover MP Charlie Elphicke is demanding the district council turn its attention to the site.

“For decades the former Crypt site has been left to ruin,” he said. “It’s high time this area was cleaned up.

“Work on the exciting St James scheme continues. Yet we must make sure Dovorians can be proud of every corner of the town centre.

“We need to build a better future for Dover and I have been urging the council to take action.”

Mr Elphicke has written to Dover District Council demanding work begin soon.

Council spokesman Andy Steele confirmed the authority is working with the site owner to look at how the location can be improved in the short term.

“We are also looking at the site in the longer term as part of the master planning process for the Western Docks/ Bench Street area,” he said.

“We envisage that, following the recent completion of junction works, it will be possible for the current owners to access the site from York Street with the equipment necessary to clear the vegetation, as a starting point for further works at the site, which is a listed building.”

Historic England, a body helping to look after the country’s heritage, said it is aware of the current state of the building and has visited the site with the owner and council staff.

Spokesman Rosie Ryder said: “The site is Grade II listed so the future of the remains of the undercroft, known as the crypt, is a matter for its owner and Dover District Council as planning authority.

“Historic England usually only advises on plans for Grade II and Grade I listed sites.”


From the By Lauren MacDougall, 17 June 2018.

The tragic story behind one of Dover's biggest eyesores and how it came to be this way.

The site of the Crypt was once a thriving hub of activity, with bars and restaurants on the lower floors and accommodation upstairs.

The site of the Crypt in Dover has long been regarded as one of the town’s biggest eyesores.

Found next to the controversial ‘Welcome to Dover’ sign, the area in Bench Street is characterised by its crumbling hoardings and charred exterior.

But it wasn’t always this way. The four-storey building was once a thriving hub of activity, with bars and restaurants on the lower floors and accommodation upstairs.

That was until tragedy struck on March 27, 1977 as fire tore through the popular site, which was first erected in 1840.

Crypt Tavern fire 1977

Seven people died in the fire.

Seven people perished in the blaze, which was later put down to an electrical fault.

Those who tragically died as a result of the fire in the early hours of Sunday, March 27 were five members of the resident Clay family, a visitor from London and Canterbury leading fireman John Sharp, 31.

Crypt Tavern site 2018

The Crypt site and 'Welcome to Dover' sign.

But despite being a prime town centre plot the building’s ghostly shell remains in an ever-decaying state in the centre of the town.

The Godden family now own the area and buildings covering the Crypt and the Banksy.

Residents have been calling for the site to be cleared up for decades, desperate to revive the eyesore now just a stone’s throw from the St James development.

But no progress has ever been made.


Crypt Tavern committee

Charlie Elphicke with fish and chip shop owner Silvio Macari and Graham Hutchison, chair of the White Cliffs Country Tourism Association, at the Crypt site.

Now Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke is proposing a three-point plan to tackle the problems – to tear down the ‘Welcome to Dover’ sign, clear up the Crypt and for more town centre car parking.

He said: “The former Crypt site is still left to ruin – more than 40 years since the building was devastated by fire. This area urgently needs clearing up, while the Banksy must continue to be protected.”

Mario Macari runs Europa Fish & Chips, right next door to the former Crypt site. He said: “All these hoardings are rotting away and it’s quite embarrassing. A lot of traffic comes through here and other people who live in England see that and think ‘this is Dover.’”

Dover District Council’s head of inward investment Tim Ingleton promised a brighter future for the tragic site though.

He said: “We are having positive discussions with the landowner and we anticipate being able to say something further within the next two weeks.”


From the By Sam Lennon, 27 March 2019.

Unveiling of memorial plaque for 1977 Crypt restaurant fire in Dover by fireman's widow Glenda Sharp.

Hundreds of people attended a ceremony to mark one of Dover's worst fire tragedies.

A memorial plaque was unveiled today on the exact 42nd anniversary of the Crypt restaurant blaze, which killed seven people including three children.

The plaque is on the entrance slope of the Townwall Street subway, just feet away from the site of the blaze at Bench Street.

Crypt plaque unveiling 2019

Firefighters in a land stand to attention in front of the plaque.

There were no women firefighters in the UK in 1977. The first was in 1982.The land has never been built on since the fire.

Glenda Sharp, widow of the one fireman killed that night, carried out the unveiling.

She told Kent Online: "This is very important for all those who died alongside my husband and very important for everyone in here in Dover.

"I would like to thank everyone who organised this event for their support and kindness.

"You never forget something like this, the memories keep flooding back.

You never get over it."

Glenda Sharp

Glenda Sharp.

Mrs Sharp, 73, who now lives in Canterbury, said; "I never thought about marrying again after John. He was such as wonderful husband and father to my children. There hasn't been anyone since."

Leading fireman Sharp had only been based at Folkestone Fire Station for a new months before he died, aged 31.

He had moved from Canterbury and the couple had two children, aged five and six.

Mr Sharp was posthumously awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.

Cllr Wanstall and Dover mayor Sue Jones

Cllr Wanstall and Dover mayor Sue Jones.

Cllr Graham Wanstall, chairman of plaque and ceremony organisers the Crypt Group, said: "This day has brought people together.

"We've had the people who have lost their loved ones here who I think are very grateful that Dover has remembered."

Cllr Wanstall, whose Castle ward covers the site of the doomed Bench Street restaurant, introduced the proceedings.

Afterwards James Wraight, who was one of the firemen on the night of the tragedy, read The Firefighter's Prayer.

A speech was followed by by Sean Bone-Knell, director of Operations at Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

Prayers were led by by Fr Jeff Gridland of St Paul's RC Church in Dover.

Chrstine McCaughan

Chrstine McCaughan.

Christine McCaughan, who lost three of her family in the blaze, then read the poem Broken Chain.

She afterwards told Kent Online: "This ceremony has been lovely and I needed it. It's been a long time.

"It's nice to know that everybody has been remembered."

She had been in the burning building that night, as a 14-year-old, and survived.

Stephen Ashton

Fire tragedy relative Stephen Ashton.

Another victims' relative at the unveiling was Stephen Ashton, 67, who now lives in Devon.

Both his mother and daughter had perished.

He now said: "Today is a very important day. Forty-two years on, to see the people of Dover and the emergency services coming together to pay their respects is absolutely phenomenal.

"For a long while we thought we were on our own.

"I would like to thank the people of Dover and the police and fire services for commemorating this.

"It brings us great closure."

Hymns sung included O God Our Help in Ages Past and Abide with Me.

During the ceremony two lines of serving firefighters stood to attention in front of the plaque.

With them were a group of retired firemen who had tackled the blaze on that fateful night.

Others attending also included Dover mayor Sue Jones and fellow town councillors.

Crypt Tavern ceremony

The crowd at the unveiling ceremony.

The Crypt Restaurant fire happened in the early hours of Sunday, March 27, 1977.

It had started at ground level and quickly spread to the upper floors through a number of voids.

It then spread laterally through the building's flats.

The alarm was raised at 2.49am by dog walker Peter Waters, who saw smoke coming from the restaurant.

The first fire engine arrived at 2.55am and a total 20 ended up at the scene, from Dover, Folkestone, St Margaret's-at-Cliffe, Whitfield and Deal.

By 4am nine people were carried out of the burning building by firemen, two confirmed dead.

Firemen had gone inside to confirm everyone was accounted for but while checking part of the building collapsed burying some of them.

The inquest found that the fire had been caused by an electrical fault.

The hearing was told that the blaze would not have happened if an electric mains switch in a downstairs bar had been turned off.

Coroner Wilfred Mowll recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Crypt Tavern Plaque

The brand new plaque with its mirror effect.

Crypt Tavern tributes

Tributes left at the plaque.

Three of those who perished were from the same family, who lived upstairs in the building - Mrs McCaughan's mother and siblings.

These were Marion Clay, 32, wife of licensee Alec, and two of their children, Shane Clay, six, and Charlotte Clay, 18 months.

A family friend who was there that night, Phyllis Conlon, 43, died in Buckland Hospital three days later and her grandaughter Janusia Ashton, five, had also perished.

These were Stephen Ashton's mother and daughter.

Live-in nanny and restaurant worker Anita Lee, 19, was the seventh person killed.




LUKEY John E (Crypt Cafe) Oct/1929

Last pub licensee had BROWN Frank Edward Oct/1929+


BROOK Stanley 1954

EVANS Mr and Mrs W J prior to 1956

GINGELL Reginald 1967-68

RABAIOTTI & BAMFORTH A J 1974 Library archives 1974 Rab Inns (Southern) Ltd

HEIL W F 1975

CLAY Colin A 1975-77 end


Library archives 1974Library archives 1974


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