|Doris last year, receiving her GBG 30 year certificate|
As an infrequent visitor to the Red Lion, I don’t feel qualified to write much about Doris, apart from saying that she was always there. Sometimes she would be serving behind the bar, but more often than not she would be sitting in a corner, close to the bar, either reading or knitting, but still with time to chat to the customers. On my last visit to the Red Lion, Doris's daughter Kate was behind the bar, but later on the lady herself put in an appearance, although she left the serving to Kate and her partner. Wherever she happened to be, her presence was always there, so it is no wonder the pub was known far and wide, simply as Doris’s.
Doris was an ex Land Girl, originally from London. After joining the Land Army when she was 18, she was posted to a farm near Snargate. She met her future husband in the village, where his father was landlord of the Red Lion. Doris and her new husband eventually took over the running of the pub, keeping it much as it had been since the beginning of the last century. When Doris’s husband died 30 years ago, she decided to keep the place just how it was, and today it serves as an example of a pub where time really has stood still.
|My last visit to the Red Lion - March 2010|
The Red Lion features on CAMRA's National Inventory of unspoilt Heritage Pubs. It has been run by the Jemison family since 1911 and, except for the odd lick of paint, has not been redecorated since 1890. It is situated on the busy B2080, close to the 13th Century St Dunstan’s Church in Snargate; a small village on Romney Marsh. The church was one of the many mediaeval churches on the Marsh that were involved with smuggling; their isolation making them good places for the smugglers to hide their contraband goods before their distribution.
Romney Marsh is a flat and sparsely populated wetland area which just out into the English Channel. The majority of the Marsh is situated in south-east Kent, although a small section to the far south-west lies in East Sussex. Romney Marsh covers about 100 square miles. The Marsh has been built up over the centuries, with land gradually being reclaimed from the sea. Because of its situation it is sometimes known as the “Fifth Continent”. "The world according to the best geographers is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Romney Marsh" from the Ingoldsby Legends, written by Reverend Richard Harris Barham (Rector of Snargate).
|Bar counter - Red Lion|
Apart from crisps and nuts, the Red Lion doesn't serve food, but Doris was always quite happy for people to sit in the games room and eat their own sandwiches and in summer time, there was always the sheltered garden behind the pub. The other thing for lovers of traditional pubs to note is the toilets are outside!
I have known the pub for many years, and whilst I don't visit it as often as I’d like, I do so whenever the opportunity arises. An excellent pub like this is not the sort of place to drive to, (for obvious reasons), but equally it is not somewhere which is readily served by public transport, because of its isolated situation. However, with a little forethought and slightly more effort, it is entirely possible to enjoy more than a few pints in the Red Lion without getting behind the wheel and breaking the law.
The Marsh-Link rail-line runs from Ashford, across Romney Marsh, down to Rye and eventually on to Hastings. I have walked to the Red Lion from both Ham Street and Appledore stations; sometimes across country from the former and along the road from the latter. However, the 30 minutes walk, from Appledore station, along the busy B2080, is not particularly recommended and sometimes requires quick-witted action to avoid speeding motorists who seem to regard the road as a race track. An OS Map though, will allow the keen walker to take the far more pleasant and scenic cross-country route from Ham Street station.
|Games room - Red Lion|
Although I am an infrequent visitor to the pub, there are plenty of tales I could recount of my experiences at the Red Lion. It’s the sort of pub where everyone gets drawn into the conversation, and like as not you will meet some real characters there.In view of Doris’s passing I will save these tales for another time, as for the moment thoughts must be with Kate and other family members and friends. As I mentioned earlier, the Red Lion is currently closed, but I am sure CAMRA’s WhatPub website will provide details of when it eventually re-opens.
In the meantime why not raise a glass to a lady who was one of the longest serving licensees in Kent, and whose name will live on as the unofficial title of the wonderful pub she ran for so long.
Photos - Ashford, Folkestone & Romney Marsh CAMRA; http://theromneymarsh.net; Paul Bailey.