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Whitstable Memories - Whitbread Cards

 ...with thanks to Sue Pidford, Joe Gibbons, Brian Smith, Geoff Drury and Brian Smith

What Were Whitbreads?


Kids collected many things in 1950s Whitstable..... but, looking back, there can be few more endearing items than those provided by the Whitbread Brewery. The company published small cards - each containing the sign of one of its local pubs with a brief comment on the back. Some were were printed on ordinary card but others appeared on thin metal.

The "documents" were obtained by visiting the relevant hostelry and they became known simply as "Whitbreads". Dads were often guided to their pints of mild by gaps in the Whitbread albums of their offspring!


Fifty Years On!


I hadn't seen one of the cards for almost half a century. Then, Joe Gibbons forwarded this sample from his home in Leicester...



The back of the card (featured on the right) reads as follows...


"The gaff rigged yacht shown is on a "reach" or sailing with the wind, free. She is seen heading towards Long Reach, as sailors of old referred to the waters between Sheppey and the mainland on the eastern side".


As you can see, they served as mini-history books..... as well as mini-marketing tools. The Long Reach card is part of what is described as 'a series of 25 maritime inn signs".


The Different Series...


After Joe's card appeared on Simply Whitstable, Geoff Drury kindly wrote to us to point out that there were in fact a number of different series....


As a point of fact series 1, 2, 3, and 4 were metal and it was not until series 5 that they were replaced with card. I do have a full set of series 1. 

Geoff Drury


More... From New Zealand!


Within a week of Joe's card being sent to Simply Whitstable, we realised that  our local pub history had been distributed around the globe by ex-pat natives and a selection of further examples arrived from Sue Pidford in New Zealand. The first of these provided evidence of the different issues. Take a look at Sue's card for the Long Reach.....


Card for the Long Reach

"Before being removed to its present site, this inn stood in a position commanding a view of the historic Long Reach, whence its name was derived." 

Design Violet Rutter 
Built Wateringbury Brewery 1939."


As you can see, the accompanying text for the Long Reach had started to move away from the nautical explanation etched on Joe's version. The card referred to a "current" site and that meant the present day location of the pub - alongside the Long Reach roundabout on the Old Thanet Way.

Thanks to Brian Smith (Victoria, Australia), we can swiftly identify the original location  - set on the brow of Borstal Hill in the building shown below....



When the hostelry was relocated, the old premises became a grocers... then a hair salon... and now a B&B. The present day Long Reach on the Thanet Way looks like this...... 



.... and it has itself undergone many changes. 

It is now owned by the Beefeater chain and trades as a combined pub and restaurant. It survived a major fire and two changes of address... from "Coastal Road" to "Thanet Way" when things started to get posh... and from "Thanet Way" to "Old Thanet Way" when the new A299 was constructed to enable people to access "posh".

While all this was happening, a motel was added at the rear and a new business park (The Chaucer) mushroomed along its western boundary. Thus, the once isolated pub has become part of a substantial complex.....



The tentative move away from nautical connections (indicated in the two versions of the Whitbread card) has continued in more dramatic fashion in recent times. The Long Reach sign has progressed as follows....


Year 2000

Year 2005


Apart from a distant glimpse of water and an island, the year 2000 sign barely acknowledges the pub's maritime connection and the 2005 sign has lost it completely.

You could argue that this is a sign of the times.... now that Whitstable has lost most of its fishing boats and fishermen. However, there was at least one pub that took the opposite route. Take a look at Sue's 1950s Whitbread card for the Pearson's Arms....


Card for the Pearsons Arms

"To Charles Pearson, Lord of the Manor of Tankerton, part progenitor of the original Whitstable-Canterbury Railway, the first passenger railway in the country (May 3rd, 1830)." 

Design Violet Rutter. 
Built Wateringbury Brewery 1949.


Despite its seafront location at the Horsebridge, the Whitstable connection was railway rather than maritime oriented. I must admit that I never actually knew about the pub's links with the old Whitstable-Canterbury railway line.... until Sue forwarded that card! 

Unlike the Long Reach, the "Pearsons Arms" progressed towards a more nautical image... by changing its name to "Pearsons Crab and Oyster House" and incorporating popular restaurant facilities. In fact, the Horsebridge was at the centre of early initiatives to breathe new life into the town after the decay of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with the nearby Oyster Store restaurant, the Pearsons played a significant role in that regeneration and in keeping with its modern functions and sea wall position, it adopted a nautical theme for its sign for a while....



However, I understand that it has now returned to its original Pearsons Coat of Arms. 


Other Cards


As you can see... there is so much to discuss when you have a Whitbread card or two! There are also some surprises to be found. Let's move on to Sue's next card for another pub with sea views..... the Rose in Bloom in Joy Lane. As far as I was concerned, the name had no nautical connection whatsoever... until I read this ...


Card for the Rose in Bloom

"The famous "Pollard" oyster bed hereabouts belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury and it is said the name of this inn was taken from one of the best-known bawley boats then engaged in the fishery. 

Design Marjorie Hutton. 
Built Wateringbury Brewery 1949.


Like many of our local inns, The Rose in Bloom now has an extension housing a restaurant area but the sign retains that well-known Rose. This was the scene in 2005....



However, even this sign shows a "change in the times". Back in the "make do and mend" days of the 1950s, gardens grew spuds and roses were rambling. In the "garden centre" days of the new millennium, spuds come from Tesco and roses are cultured!

Like the Rose in Bloom, other signs have retained their basic content but with some variations to suit a new age. Let's move to the High Street and the popular Ship Centurion...


Card for the Ship Centurion

Based on the famous 18th century figure-head of HMS Centurion. By express permission. 

"Ornament cannot be overcharged if it is good, and is always overcharged when it is bad". Ruskin. 

Design Harvey James. Built Wateringbury Brewery 1948.


The basic figurehead of that 1950s Whitbread had been retained in the year 2005 sign....



... but, perhaps, in a more dramatic setting for a more 'racy' ageof marketing. Of course, some signs changed very little over the decades.... as with The Wheatsheaf pub at Swalecliffe...


Card for the Wheatsheaf

The earliest miracle known to man was when the good earth returned the fruit of his toil. 

By the yearly lesson of the growing corn, he was taught the first of the arts - ploughing- and from time to time immemorial a wheatsheaf has been the symbol of life and good husbandry. Hence, no doubt, its continued choice among inn signs. 

"Heap high the golden corn! No richer gift has Autumn poured from out her lavish horn". Whittier. 

Design Vena Chalker. 
Built Wateringbury Brewery 1939.


I just love that 1950s write up. Apparently, my dad was just practicing "good husbandry" when he took our border collie for a "pint of mild"..... and my old mum was merely involved in good "wifery" when she dumped his congealed Sunday roast in a dustbin. Even in 2005, the current day sign retained that gentle and sedate country air....



... but eventually changes took place to the pub itself. In order to reduce conflict between husbandry and wifery, it incorporated a Hungry Horse restaurant and now caters very much for families. Recently, the Wheatsheaf sign has disappeared in favour of the more global sign of the Hungry Horse business chain.  


More on Whitbread Cards...


Martin Beale  has pointed out that framed copies of the first two series of Whitbread cards can be seen at the Royal public house. They hang on the wall of the public bar.




That's it! Thanks to Sue, Joe, Brian, Geoff, Martin and the old Whitbread Brewery, we have been able to take you back half a century to those halcyon days of the 1950s and assess some of the changes to our town.

Now, wouldn't it be nice if Whitstable's landlords got together and introduced a new series of cards? You never know... somebody might just write an article about them in the year 2050!