Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Horse and Groom landlord Dave Sansbury sat at his favourite spot at the bar. Photograph © James Dexter

End of an era at The Horse & Groom

It is with great sadness that HOT shares the news of the death of Horse & Groom landlord David Sansbury, who died in hospital on Saturday 19 February aged 68. HOT’s Erica Smith pays tribute to her favourite landlord.

Like so many other people, I’ll never forget the day I first walked in to the Horse & Groom. It felt like coming home. Brown wood, padded red velvet upholstery, the smell of Harveys ale and the lovely quietness that only comes from very old carpet and the company of people who would rather concentrate on their drink than talk loudly to each other on top of over-amplified popular music.

Dave was landlord at the Horse & Groom (affectionately known as the Doom & Gloom) for 27 years. He kept his pipes clean and an orderly pub. If Dave took a dislike to you, you could be made to leave for all sorts of minor offences, including, notoriously, having the wrong kind of laugh.

In 2014, when I found out Dave was allowing UKIP to hold meetings in the back room, rather than choosing to boycott my favourite boozer I organised a “UKIP Put Me Off My Beer” drink in the pub – you can read about it here. After that, Dave and I always had a slightly awkward relationship at the bar – I swear he would do his best to avoid serving me – but thankfully he never banned me, and I never stopped drinking at The Doom. If I ever bumped into Dave in the street or at the counter of Fastprint, we always had a friendly chat. He’s one of very few people I’ve ever sent a Christmas card to.

That’s my Dave Sansbury story – of course I have many other Horse & Groom stories too – as do thousands of other people who have walked through that rather challenging front door – if you are a Facebook user, you can read other people’s stories on this St Leonards on Sea is THE place to be thread. Dave and I held very different political views, but I know that behind his sometimes grumpy exterior, he was a kind person and would always help out if his friends were in need.

David Sansbury © James Gulliver

Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer last October. The prognosis was not great, but he was in the bar on Friday night chopping up logs for the fire! On Saturday he was taken into hospital and sadly died later that day  – it was a shock to everyone. It is too soon to say very much more, but when I spoke to a close friend earlier this evening, she said the future for the Horse & Groom staying close to Dave’s vision is looking good. That’s very good news to hear on a very sad day.

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Posted 20:50 Sunday, Feb 20, 2022 In: Hastings People


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  1. Ray Gerlach

    So sad to hear this news. Have only lived here for 6 years but the D&G was always the first port of call whenever visitors arrived. Definitely some of the best insults ever from a landlord so it was always worth going back ! The last one being when a visitor had the temerity to ask for a coffee. Dave’s immediate response ‘ Would you go into a cafe and ask for a beer ?’ – Sheer brilliance. He was unique and will be sorely missed. Condolences to family and close friends.

    Comment by Ray Gerlach — Wednesday, Mar 2, 2022 @ 16:09

  2. Christina MCCAUSLAND

    My heartfelt condolences and sadness at our shared loss. My very best wishes and support towards your follow up arrangements … Christina

    Comment by Christina MCCAUSLAND — Monday, Feb 21, 2022 @ 19:00

  3. Erica Smith

    A little update… Because Dave was the registered Licensee, the pub will be closed until a new Licensee can be registered. HOT knows lots of people will be worrying about the future of the Horse & Groom, but to our knowledge, it will continue to be run in a way Dave would be happy about. It is very early days and Dave’s family and friends have a lot to sort out, as well as grieving.

    Comment by Erica Smith — Monday, Feb 21, 2022 @ 15:59

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