|Robertsbridge High Street|
The town of Battle grew up around the Abbey, which was erected on the site of the most famous battle in English history, by the victor, Duke William of Normandy. On 14th October 1066, the area witnessed the most celebrated confrontation to take place on English soil – the Battle of Hastings; an event so significant it completely changed the course of English history.
Following the battle William the Conqueror built Battle Abbey, as a penance ordered by the Pope for the loss of life incurred in the conflict. Today, Battle is a thriving market town featuring Georgian and medieval cottages amongst a host of interesting shops, restaurants, historic pubs and tea-rooms.
I looked at several options, but as well as somewhere with a decent pub (or pubs) serving good beer, I wanted a place which offered reasonably-priced food; something not always readily available on a Saturday evening. Quite independently we both decided on Robertsbridge; one stop nearer to home, and the place where trains would be terminating and the rail-replacement buses would be taking over.
We had noticed the village supports two pubs; with a third currently closed. The Ostrich Hotel, virtually opposite the station, looked the best bet so far as the reasonably-priced food was concerned, but the George Inn in the centre of the village, also looked worthy of closer inspection.
Robertsbridge is a large village which dates back to the 12th Century, when a Cistercian Abbey was founded there. The latter was dissolved in 1538, on the orders of that well-know Tudor vandal, Henry VIII, but the town continued to prosper and today contains some attractive half-timbered cottages and other buildings dating from the 14th and 15th Centuries. The opening of the London to Hastings Railway, in 1851, brought further prosperity to the town, and the completion of a bypass in 1992, removed much of the traffic which had been choking the town.
We caught the 16:29 train from Tonbridge, travelling down through the attractive countryside of this part of the Sussex Weald, and arrived in the village just before 17:10. After confirming the departure times for the return journey, we walked across the road to the Ostrich Hotel, which shone out like a friendly and welcoming beacon against the gathering dusk.
|Ostrich - Main Bar|
Harvey’s Sussex Best and GK Old Speckled Hen were the two cask beers on offer, and I also spotted the Curious Brew lager, which I wrote about last week, available on keg. There was a group of walkers sat around one of the tables; we almost tripped over their boots which were stacked just inside the door!
|Ostrich - Games Room|
We had already decided not to dine at the George, having previously on-line at the menu options for both pubs. Prices at the George were around 50% higher than the Ostrich, but we set off anyway, just o give the pub a try. We walked up the narrow road, which leads from the station, to the High Street, and turned right towards the George, which we could just see at the end of the road.
Beer-wise Harvey’s Sussex Best and Dark Star APA were available, but unfortunately the latter had run out, just as we arrived. We went for the Harvey’s again, even though the landlord said Tonbridge Rustic was about to come on. The Sussex Best was, if anything, even better than in the Ostrich. The landlady was quite chatty, but the locals were all busy engaged in their own conversations. We both liked the George, more than we thought we would, but as we were getting hungry, we headed off back down to the Ostrich.
|George Inn - interior|
We returned to the bar after our meal, and continued our pre-dinner conversation with one of the pub regulars plus, when he could spare the odd moment, the landlord. The latter told us he had bought the Ostrich from the owning brewery, back in the mid 1990’s, and described the establishment as a “proper pub”. It certainly is a good, old-fashioned sort of pub, of the type both of us remember with affection from our youth. We chatted briefly about the potential re-opening of the Rother-Valley branch line up to Tenterden, and also about the Seven Stars.
The latter is a 14th Century at the opposite end of the village to the George. It is a Harvey’s tied pub, which makes its current closure all the more strange, but there was talk of high rents and equally high business rates. Perhaps in today’s changing times, there just isn’t sufficient trade in a village the size of Robertsbridge, to support three pubs.
We caught the 21:14 train back to Tonbridge; well-fed and suitably refreshed. We were glad that Network Rail had scuppered our original plans, but we will make the trip out to Battle before too long. We will also be retuning to Robertsbridge and its two excellent pubs.