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The History

As a 15th Century Smugglers Pub there is a lot of history in our walls, have a read and come to talk to the Landlord to find out more!


In 2014, Leigh took over The Red Lion after previously owning pubs for 20 years in Rolvenden, Kent. 

Pictured here with his father Roger who has owned pubs across London and Hastings since 1975. Securing the pub into good hands with a combined 60 years experience.

Leigh is only the 6th Landlord of the Pub in 120 years, after the Barton family who had the pub in their family for over 90 years!


The Smugglers

James Blackman is believed to be the Landlord from 1733 to 1749. Born into a prominent local farming family Blackman became a successful smuggler financing and organising the local gang known as "The Hooe Company" used the Red Lion as their headquarters. The Blackman's family home and ancestral graves can still be found in Hooe.

Blackman's criminal career also continued into the Hawkhurst and the Groomsbridge Gang where he supervised armed convoys transporting contraband from the Sussex coast to depots in Ashdown Forest.

"Money for old rope"

The phrase "Money for old rope" originates from this pub, thanks to the smugglers tobacco mill in our attic. The smugglers would hide their illegally sourced tobacco in the centre of woven rope and sell said rope, hence the saying "Money for old rope". 

The Ghosts

Aswell as the Landlord and his family the pub also hosts 2 ghosts within its walls! Dozens of patrons and residents have experiences the ghosts and their activities. A common story that many have experienced is seeing a man in unusual clothing, not of this time, walk into the ladies bathroom. However, when the man is chased down and informed of his mistake there is no-one to be found. We wonder what his motives are!?

Mr Keith Barton, Landlord from 1968 to  1997, tells a story of how he woke up early one morning and saw a man at the foot of his bed wearing an old-fashioned overcoat with full shoulders and watched as he disappeared into the wall. The wall the ghost disappeared into is in fact a built in cupboard and by flicking a peg part of the panelling opens inwards and provides direct access into the attic roof where the smugglers tobacco mill can be found.

Although it is not confirmed, it is believed that during a shoot out a smuggler was shot over the hatch to the cellar and his policeman counter part was shot outside the ladies bathroom only feet apart from each other. 


This tobacco mill can still be found in the attic of the pub and still turns. Below is the pub as it stood in 1927.

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