30 March 2018

The Crown Inn, Portslade

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2018)

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph  from his private collection.
The junction of Wellington Road and Church Road, to the right is the former Crown Pub, now demolished, which made way for a larger road entrance to the present day Travis Perkins building merchants at the former John Eede Butt's Baltic Wharf.

An Ancient Pub

The Crown Inn was situated at 38 Wellington Road with its back to the coast road and looking out over the canal. It was also a ‘corner’ pub, next to a road leading down to the wharf. Nearby was the Anchor Beer House. It seems odd that those two should have been in close proximity with those particular names because the Crown and Anchor was a popular pub name for seaside haunts, the device being the arm badge worn by petty officers in the Royal Navy.

In the early days the pub’s location was defined as being in Copperas Gap – the old name for this part of Portslade. It is not known when the pub was built but it was certainly already in existence in December 1831 when an inquest was held there. It was not unusual for a pub to be used for such a purpose because beside the church, it was the only building with space enough to accommodate a number of people. It is more than likely that a number of inquests were held in the pub over the years and the following can be seen as three examples. 

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
  A view from the Aldrington Canal of the six windowed Crown Inn next to the light grey buildings which are Canal Cottages

Inquest – December 1831

The inquest on Hannah Hobbs was carried out at the Crown Inn in December 1831. The body of the unfortunate woman was found on a beach in Aldrington, but with the gruesome detail that her head and lower arms were missing. When this sensational news leaked out, there was considerable interest in the entire neighbourhood, with people from Brighton hurrying over hoping to view the body. The authorities had anticipated the ghoulish demand and Hannah’s body was placed in a locked barn. Unfortunately, a farm labourer saw the opportunity of making some money, and allowed visitors inside the barn at a fee of two pence each.

Needless to say, the pub was packed to the rafters when the inquest opened on Wednesday, 7 December and continued until the Sunday. However, nobody was ever charged with murder.

Inquest – May 1898

In May 1898 Mr G.E. Hillman, acting as coroner, held an inquest at the pub into the death of Susannah Gilbert. The deceased woman had lived at 10 Gardener Terrace and drowned when she threw herself into the canal. Mr Gilbert’s eldest step-son said ‘his mother was very eccentric, and in his father’s time would go out on the Downs without a cause.’

Inquest – July 1898

Mr H. Sprott, deputy coroner of East Sussex, held an inquest into the death of an old man named James Farmer of Burgin House at the pub in July 1898. Mr Farmer’s daughter, Catherine Farmer, said her father had been ill ‘with natural decay’ for three or four years.

It then transpired that Charles Marshall Kempe, Shoreham surgeon, who had been attending James Farmer, had not actually viewed the body. While the jury sat and waited, Dr Kempe went off to inspect the corpse. When he returned Dr Kempe gave his opinion that James Farmer’s death was due to senile decay, accelerated by shock when he fell out of bed and fractured his hip.


Richard Tamplin, founder of the famous brewing firm, owned the Crown Inn in 1841. But it seems that at some stage he must have relinquished the property because Tamplin’s did not become owners again until 1896 and the firm kept hold of the pub until 1963.

 copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
This historic photograph dating from around 1914 shows long-vanished parts of Portslade. The Britannia Flour Mills stand at the centre with a ship at the wharf, the Crown Inn with the Tamplin's Ales sign is on the right, the Star Model Laundry is on the left while in the background the spire of Our Lady, Star of the Sea & St Denis is visible.

1841 – Jeremiah Graves
1851 – John Barnett, aged 34, born in Southwick, widower, lived with son and daughter
1858 – Charles Hammond
1861 – James Carter, aged 55, wife Ann aged 43, daughter Elizabeth aged 14. Also living in the pub were three lodgers, two of them being brick-makers
1870 – Mrs Eliza Bodle. The 1871 census described her as a 53-year old widow, living with son William aged 17, and daughter Emma aged 24.
1881 – William Bodle, wife Mary, aged 28, son George aged 2
1891 – Henry James Standen, aged 35, born in Lewes, wife Jemima, aged 38, and son Harry aged 6. Also living in the pub was Alice Wood, servant
c.1898 – J. W. Rich
1902 – George Greenyer
c.1910 – Mrs E.R. Gosling
1930 – E. Acton
1935 – Edwin Constable
c.1945 – Cecil Day
1951 – Alfred Hands
1954 – Henry James Davis

J. W. Rich

The Sussex Daily News (17 March 1898) carried a report that for the first time since its inception in 1863, members of Court Olive Branch of the Brighton District Ancient Order of Foresters ‘gathered round the festive board at the Crown Inn host J.W. Rich served an excellent meal and his catering gave every satisfaction.’

It is interesting to note that a John Rich was landlord of the Stag’s Head in 1888 and landlord of the Clarence Hotel in 1895 and 1899.

Some Patrons

Frederick Charles Hill (of Hill’s Radio fame) was born in 1910, and when he was aged twelve or thirteen he often used to help out at the pub. In doing so, he had the privilege of meeting all sorts of interesting characters, including captains of windjammers that still sailed into Shoreham harbour in those days.

Two regulars who used to visit the pub for a lunchtime sandwich and beer were Frederick Miles (later a famous aircraft designer) and Cecil Pashley (the notable pilot). At that time they were hard at work in the yard of the Star Model Laundry in Wellington Road constructing an aircraft.

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph  from his private collection.
 The Crown Inn is in the centre of this 1920s photograph with the white banner, to the left is the tall building of the former St Andrew's School, on the right of this view with the white box tower is the Britannia Flour Mills.

Smuggling Yarns

The Crown had old, deep cellars and it was quite likely that it had links to the smuggling trade in times past. There was rumoured to be a smuggling tunnel leading from the pub up to St Nicolas Church. Another yarn from smuggling days was that the smugglers attached small barrels to trained dogs that would swim from the smugglers’ boat to the shore at Copperas Gap.

The Crown Inn was demolished in 1969.

copyright © D.Sharp
The former Copperas Gap area of south Portslade in August 2016, the former Crown Inn would have stood where the traffic light on the right is today.


Census Returns
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Interview with Mr Frederick Charles Hill
Street Directories

Thanks are due to Mr G. Osborne for allowing me to reproduce three of his wonderful photographs  

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018
page layout by D.Sharp