Vauxhall Inn, for a quick pint. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the weather, which was wet and windy, wasn’t exactly conducive to gardening. So, needing an excuse to stretch my legs and get out of the house, the Vauxhall fitted the bill, even though at the time, I considered it something of a distress purchase.
I was feeling too lazy to walk down to a proper pub, such as the Nelson, or a beer café like Fuggles, so the Vauxhall it was, because when it comes to pubs, there is not much choice within the proximity of Bailey Towers. In fact, since the closure and subsequent demolition of the Primrose, the Vauxhall and the Cardinal’s Error are the only hostelries within 10 minutes’ walk of home and picking a pub from those two is pretty much Hobson’s Choice.
pub building. So instead of a flat-roof, concrete box, we find instead an attractive old tile-hung pub which in 1949, was converted from two former farm cottages to serve the surrounding post-war housing development. As with the Vauxhall, which I will come onto in a moment, I’ve enjoyed a mixed relationship with the Cardinal’s Error over the years. When I first started working in Tonbridge, which was some five years before I moved to the town, the Cardinal’s was a good place to enjoy a lunchtime drink. No one really batted an eyelid back then, about having a couple of pints at lunchtime, and the pub did serve a particularly well-kept pint of Fremlin’s Bitter.
The cosy atmosphere of the former saloon bar vanished, as did the rough and ready feel of the public bar, and today there is still an uneasy truce between the two halves. The Cardinal’s also turned into much more of a local’s pub than it had been previously (probably due to the demise of the lunchtime, office, drinking crowd). There’s nothing wrong with this change, of course, but the pub isn’t really some where to go for a quiet drink, especially when one is on ones’ own.
For these reasons, it was the Vauxhall that I headed along to the other Sunday, and despite my initial misgivings, the pub managed to tick many of the right boxes. The Vauxhall is a former coaching inn, sited on what was, once the main road between London and Hastings. When my wife and I first moved in with one another, we had a dog, and our canine companion needed plenty of exercise.There is an area of enclosed grassland, sandwiched between the A21 Tonbridge Bypass and a track leading up from the Vauxhall pub. It is the site of the former municipal tip, although the tips has been filled in and the area grassed over. It is known, rather unimaginatively, as “The Field,” but it provided a good area to allow the dog a good run around, and then repair to the Vauxhall for a couple of pints.
There was a young girl with a puppy, sat at one side of the bar, plus an older gent with a quite boisterous beagle. I struck up a conversation with him, and it turned out that he lived locally, and normally drank in the Nelson. He had called in at the Vauxhall, for a change – rather like me really, and again like myself, was enjoying the Black Sheep. This was a pale coloured and well-hopped ale, which I believe is a relatively newcomer from the Black Sheep pen (horses are kept in stables, whilst sheep are kept in pens!)
Later on, as if to complete the canine line-up, a couple came in accompanied by a large and rather elegant looking Afghan hound. All in all, it was a pleasant half hour or so’s interlude, and all things being equal, I’m quite likely to call in again.
For those contemplating a longer stay, there is a Premier Inn adjacent to the pub, which makes this a good base for those visiting this attractive part of West Kent; although like many of the chain’s other hotels, there is a busy main road within earshot.