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The Tubman Saga

David and Lynda Russell, authors of The Pubs of Hastings and St Leonards, on the case of the pub, the pub mural and the officers who said “‘ere, ‘ave you got Planning Permission for this ‘ere whadayacallit?”

It seems that Hastings Borough Council have got themselves into a very awkward position with their reaction to the newly painted Tubman public house in Cambridge Road.

The Planning Department last week, described the mural as ‘an advertisement’ in ‘a conservation area’ (which it isn’t) and ruled it out of order as permission had not been applied for.

Painted two weeks ago by Aaron Hosanna and the team from ‘Inspire’, 34 Robertson Street, the pub hasn’t been out of the national and local news since. Aaron specialises in indoor and outdoor murals and a lot more. He did the artwork behind the Brass Monkey and on the Bexhill skate board ramp.

‘Nearly everyone has expressed support for the new Tubman mural’, he said. ‘However an elderly resident in the sheltered accommodation opposite felt a little unease with the painted skull at the top of the building. But then admitted it wasn’t really out of place in the Pirate Capital!’

‘Our petition has grown by 1,200 signatures in the last week and that’s only the start.’

Landlord Paul Osmond has denied there was any intention to advertise. He only wanted to brighten things up. And after all the Tubman is next door to a town centre eyesore: the old Observer building, which has also caught the artist’s eye and imagination.

‘We could do a major piece with that building’, he said. ‘I have a vision of the  building painted over with its history. A series of graphics telling the story of its industrial life and maybe the history of the area like they have with buildings in Philadelphia.’ But the battle for the Tubman must be won first.

I would urge everyone to give their support to both the pub and the artist. Visit the pub and ‘Inspire’, sign the petition and lobby the council.

Printers, Chess and a Spitfire

For most of the pub’s life it was The Cambridge, and had an especially well used upper room. Being next door to the Observer and round the corner from Parsons Print in Claremont, it was used for print union meetings and printers’ “smoking” concerts, with singers, instrumentalists, comic turns and other acts.

In the Second World War the clubroom led a campaign to fund a Spitfire (called the Hastings): a poor throw at darts forfeited a halfpenny in the Spitfire jar. For 20 years from the 1960s it was Hastings’ most popular pub, used by most of the local trade unions and Trades Council, but also the Caged Birds Society and Hastings Hill Walkers. Last ditch adherents to the Latin Mass even hired the room to keep their traditional mass going. Painters Ed Burra and John Banting drank there, and so did George Melly.

Another patron was Frank Rhoden, who ran the Hastings International Chess Congress, so past drinkers include major chess legends, who all wanted to sample a real British pub, coming in dressed up in tweeds and what they supposed were appropriate “English” outfits. Chess games would be played with the regulars, some Grand Masters playing everybody in the pub at once.

Since the Observer closed down on that site the pub has gone through several changes of name and identity, currently a goth-style youth venue.


Posted 00:13 Sunday, Aug 22, 2010 In: Home Ground

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