Eastbourne pub petition stirs memories of tenant’s family

Eastbourne nostalgia. Chippy. SUS-170918-103116001
Eastbourne nostalgia. Chippy. SUS-170918-103116001

Historian Elizabeth Wright looks back at memories of growing up at the Windsor Tavern in Langney Road.

The mention in the Herald (September 6) of the petition being set up to save an Eastbourne pub, the Windsor Tavern in Langney Road, bought back memories of the time my family lived there from 1949–1955.

SUS-170913-105642001

SUS-170913-105642001

My father, Frederick Edward Wright, a retired Metropolitan police officer, my mother, grandmother, cousin Clive, and myself, moved to Eastbourne from the Hare and Hounds pub at Flimwell, on the Sussex border.

I can remember there was a big garden out the back where my father grew fruit and vegetables and a grassy area where my pet guinea-pigs and rabbits used to run around.

It was my job to go around on a Sunday afternoon and polish the brass hinges, beer pumps and door handles whilst listening to a popular children’s radio programme called ‘Lost in Space’.

Afterwards I would put out bowls filled with crisps and salted nuts for the evening customers to help themselves.

Chippy SUS-170918-102048001

Chippy SUS-170918-102048001

Although there was a gents’ toilet off the big Public Bar, the ladies’ toilet was a small brick lean-to at the back of the building that permanently smelt of damp and didn’t appear to have any lights or wash basin.

Ladies who wanted to use this convenience had to run the gauntlet of disturbing the darts teams playing in the room behind the Public Bar, and hold them up again on the way back.

There was a small central, quiet ‘Snug’ which could fit in about four elderly ladies and a ‘Saloon Bar’ for the ‘posh’ customers, which had a carpet on the floor.

Separated from the Saloon Bar by a frosted glass and wood partition was our family’s ‘lounge’ which had a sturdy square wooden table in the middle, two typical 1940’s brown ‘leather’ armchairs, a bureau, cottage chair and open fireplace.

Elizabeth Wright with Chippy SUS-170913-105706001

Elizabeth Wright with Chippy SUS-170913-105706001

A passageway led to the kitchen at the back; halfway down was a larder storing the perishables, no fridges or freezers here then.

Upstairs there was a front room that ran the length of the building and had probably been used as a meeting place in previous times because there was a staircase leading up from the Public Bar.

Dad divided it into a bedroom and a lounge.

There were three other bedrooms and a bathroom.

Under the building was the cellar where my father used to retreat to “clean the pipes out” as the beer was stored in barrels and brought up to the bar to be dispensed into glasses by shiny, hand operated pumps.

Down the middle of the cellar was a length of raised concrete and if it was quiet we could hear water running through it. We were told that this was the Bourne Stream.

Opposite the Windsor Tavern was a large showroom, Wenhams, where auctions were frequently held. Next door to it was a tiny shop that sold fishing tackle and live bait and adjacent to that was an insipid building, a B&B used mainly by commercial travellers.

In later years all of this was pulled down to be replaced by residential accommodation, Phoenix Court.

Shortly after we moved into the pub I found a baby bird in the playground of my school, St. Helena’s – West Hill.

I brought it home and we succeeded in rearing what turned out to be, not a sparrow as we had thought, but a greenfinch, which we called Chippy. Having been hand reared, he had no fear of people and ended up entertaining the pub customers.

In the 50s and 60s there were few health and hygiene laws so the bird enjoyed flitting from person to person, tweaking playing cards from players’ hands and doing a ‘dam busters’ flying routine across the top of their carefully stacked dominoes, scattering the ebony and ivory pieces in all directions.

We did have to dissuade Chippy from drinking out of their beer glasses because after a couple of sips of alcohol his matchstick legs simply went from under him.