High Street Vat

Hole in The Wall, High Street, Tunbridge Wells?

Fairey Bell A. Allman.

High Street Vat 2

At the back of a tobacco shop on Tunbridge Wells High Street, was an etched panel door engraved ‘smoking divan’ that led into a small bar known for many years as Allmans up to the 1970’s (a connection perhaps with Fairy Bell A. Allman). A small door from the bar led to an outside ally where there was a men’s lavatory. As the bar could be entered from the alley, it was popularly known as The Hole in The Wall.

The bar claimed to have a special charter to operate under a Royal Warrant, some say from Charles II, but most certainly from King Edward VII. The landlord of the bar in the late 1960’s told a customer that King Edward VII had been horse-riding with his entourage in the paddock at the rear of the Pantiles, when he fell off his horse and was winded but otherwise none the worse. The Landlord of the bar at the time was quick to the King’s aid, walking over with a tankard of ale.

‘Have that while you’re getting your breath back, Sire.’

‘Good Lord,’ said the King. ‘Where did you spring from?’

‘The Hole in The Wall over there.’

The King walked back with him and eventually managed to squeeze himself into a seat and finished his ale. ‘Do you pay for a licence for this place?’

‘I do, Sire. I do.’

‘Not any more’, said the King and the Warrant was issued soon after but there was a condition that the bar stayed in the family. The storyteller in the 1960’s was the grandson or great grandson of the landlord at the time of the king’s visit.

The bar was closed in the late 1980’s and since then has been a card shop, a tea room, and a children’s clothes shop.