Having decided to write a prequel to my Dungeness based family saga of novels, I’ve been back exploring the area. This time a lunch in the Britannia was followed by a hunt for the remains of the original pub. Both the current Pilot Inn and Britannia Inn are sitting on slightly different locations than the original buildings.
Built in 1850, the British Inn would have been a simple tavern, built of wood. It was sometimes known as the Black Pig, so I assume its plank walls were tarred. The Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway’s Britannia points are a good clue as to where the pub was, and the remains can be found close to the train track. It wasn’t until about 1890 that the pub was known as The Britannia. In 1926, it was rebuilt, mostly in corrugated iron; there are still rusting sheets of this on the ground near the site. By the 1950s, the Britannia Inn had burned down, and was replaced by the current brick building in a location to the south.
It took much to-ing and fro-ing around the area before I found the remains of the pub in a hollow previously disregarded as being too small to be of any interest. There were no visible foundations or walls. It is likely the pub stood on timber joists, or perhaps a concrete base has been covered by the shingle. Expecting to find a few beer bottles and rusting lids, along with building rubble, I was amazed that once the site was found the treasures kept coming…
My first finds were earthenware pieces of what I suspected were chimney pots. Next it was beer bottle lids and part of a wine glass. But soon I discovered a lovely section of cut glass, and then pieces of decorative plates – no doubt belonging to the landlady. One very special find was part of a mug, with a section of shield and a B within the shield on it – it must have been part of Britannia! Another favorite find was a jam jar lid with these words printed on it: Nell Gwyn Marmalade and Fresh Fruit Jams by Crosbies. Later at home, a search on the internet led to finding out that this would have been produced in the 1940s. I never expected to see such interesting objects and so easily.
The British Inn, will feature in my novel and so it was particularly exciting to explore the area. I’m also keen to revisit the old lighthouse. Although not the lighthouse of my novel, this old lighthouse is thirty years too modern for me, I am hoping the displays will help and inspire my writing.
My, as yet un-named, novel is well underway and I plan to have it published in the late autumn!