Last Orders – 1900s

The 1900s saw a decline in pub numbers, not just in Dorking, but across the country. The Licensing Act 1904 empowered magistrates to close public houses where they considered there were too many in the vicinity; several Dorking establishments, including the White Lion on South Street, were affected. The White Lion’s licence renewal was refused in favour of the larger Bull’s Head opposite. 

The growth and influence of the Temperance movement had a part to play, and licensing restrictions, introduced in the First World War to avoid drunkenness amongst the troops, had an impact on business. In 1926 the market moved from the High Street to the Three Tuns yard, taking trade away from the pubs on the High Street.

As travel became faster there was less call for overnight accommodation. Coach travel was replaced by rail travel and subsequently by car ownership. By 1934 Dorking’s licensed premises had fallen to 24 and numbers continued to fall as market conditions worsened.

During the 1900s twenty pubs within the Dorking area closed their doors. The introduction of drink-driving laws, the smoking ban, and the growth in supermarket alcohol sales have contributed to the decline in the numbers frequenting the town’s hostelries. Those within the town have largely been converted into retail units and those outside the town demolished or converted for residential use.

The Old King’s Head c1890

In 1903 the Old King’s Head’s licence renewal application was refused. Police Supt Alexander reported that the property was ‘a tramps’ lodging house’. He reported that there had been frequent disturbances and cases of drunkenness on the part of the lodgers, who had locked the landlord in his bedroom, and that the landlord was often in a state of semi-intoxication, when he was not in a fit state to manage the house.

The Rock Brewery and Beerhouse – 1898

The Rock Brewery, owned by members of the Lucock family, was in business from the mid-1850s until the mid-1880s. Its beerhouse closed in 1913, a victim of the 1904 Beerhouse Act.

The Gun – Pencil drawing by Arthur C. Fare of The Gun Inn – 1940

The Gun Inn in North Street was originally part of the extensive Queen’s Arms. The huge fireplace on its north wall (which dates from the 1500s) was reputedly big enough to roast an ox. It opened about 1881 and closed in 1955. It now houses an art gallery and shop.

Temperance Hotel (on the right of West Street) – c1890

It is said that we owe the term ‘teetotal’ to Richard Turner, a member of the Preston Temperance Society who, suffering from a stammering impediment, preached ‘tee-tee-total abstinence’ in a speech in 1836. Dorking’s Temperance Hotel on West Street was set up in 1890, replacing a butcher’s shop and slaughter house that had occupied the site. It became the headquarters of the Dorking Temperance Cycling Club. The hotel closed in 1956 and is now a specialist furniture shop.

The Bell Hotel – 1907

The building dates back to at least 1427, and was known as ‘Nobles’ after a butcher who once lived there. From 1591 the building was used as an inn, originally known as the Star. There was a brewery on site by 1622. It is said that Dick Turpin used to frequent the pub, which closed in 1981 and was converted into offices. The carved wooden bells on the beam at first floor level can still be seen from the street.

The Norfolk Arms – 1975

The Norfolk Arms was built on the Dorking to Horsham turnpike road in about 1830 when diversion of the road at Mid Holmwood left the Nag’s Head opposite stranded. In 1892 a return of licensed victuallers described its clientele as ‘suspect persons’ and ‘a low class of working men’. A large room upstairs was the meeting place for the Holmwood branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters. The pub closed in the early 1970s as widespread car ownership resulted in a decline in coach parties stopping there.

The Kings Arms is the oldest remaining pub in Dorking which first opened its doors as a hostelry sometime before 1724 but parts of the building date back to the 14th century.

In the 21st century, the Windmill, the Malthouse, the Plough, the Bush, the Pilgrim and the Red Bar have all closed. In 2021 Dorking still has 17 public houses (including a micro pub) – all of which continue to provide a hearty welcome to weary travellers and locals alike!

Last : Bursting at the Doors

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