There’s something warm and welcoming about the friendly light shining out from a pub window, on a dark winter’s night. I was reminded of this the other evening, whilst driving home from work. My route takes me to the edge of the “estate village” village of Leigh, before turning off, towards Hayesden and Tonbridge, via Ensfield Bridge.
It’s quite easy to miss the turning, which is between a row of houses and the Fleur de Lis pub; although the welcoming light shining out from the pub, does make things somewhat easier. The pub itself is an attractive mid 19th Century building sited a short distance from the village centre, on the junction of the road which leads down to the station.
Like much of Leigh the Fleur is built in a particular style, and this is due to the influence of two wealthy families who constructed many of the distinctive buildings present today. The stately pile of Hall Place, is the best known, but there are others including Forge Square and the School Master's House.
When I first became acquainted with the village, the Fleur was a Courage pub, but today it is owned by Greene King. Since the closure of the nearby Bat & Ball, several years ago, the Fleur De Lis is now the only pub in Leigh itself; although the Plough Inn, located to the east of the village in Powder Mill Lane,is still trading.
I’m pretty sure the Fleur must have changed its opening hours, as in previous years I only recall the light shining out on a Friday evening. This year, its welcoming glow has been shining out every day of the week, signifying a 5pm (or earlier), opening.
I only noticed the light from the pub, a couple of weeks ago, after the clocks were put back an hour, due to the change from British summer time, as during the hours of daylight it would be nowhere near as visible. During the winter months, my homeward commute changes from a pleasant drive, through some attractive countryside, to something a little more challenging.
The road twists and turn, as it descends towards the crossing over the River Medway, before rising sharply, as it skirts the outlying flanks of Bidborough Ridge, and it is on some of the bends and ridges that one inevitably ends up being dazzled by oncoming drivers, who are too lazy to dip their increasingly powerful headlights. So whilst my commute is a joy in summer, and is also fine on a crisp winter’s morning, it is nowhere near as much fun on a dark winter’s evening.
It is therefore good to see the light shining out from the Fleur, guiding me to the turning. As I slow down to make the sharp right-hand turn, I can see right into the pub, and the illuminated interior looks particularly appealing. So much so that there is almost a compelling reason to stop and call in for a quick drink.
The “Friendly Light” was the logo and trademark of the long defunct brewery of Thompson and Son Ltd, who were based at Walmer, on the Kent coast. The brewery sign depicted a lighthouse atop the nearby White Cliffs, guiding sailors away from the treacherous water below.
For copyright reasons, I am unable to display the old, “Friendly Light” poster on this page, but you can find a copy on the Brewery History Society website. My photo, which is purely for illustrative purposes, is one I took of the old lighthouse at Dungeness. If you look carefully, you can also see the new lighthouse, in the background, to the right.