Tuesday 5th March 2013
There are many old pubs that acquire a lot of history over the years. Well, this structure also has a long history but it has only recently become a pub. Not only is it situated in the oldest extant building in Broadstairs but even that was built on the site of even earlier structures. Up to 1070 the Saxon church of St Peter's was a wooden structure and in that year it was rebuilt in stone and flint.
This church is some way away from the subject of my visit today. Yet, at that time of the rebuilding it was recorded that, on the site of the present pub or very close by, there was a chapel dedicated to St Mary. There was also mention of the shrine of Our Ladye Star of the Sea, sometimes known as Stella Maris, next to it.
During the 1350s a new chapel was built on the same site. The shrine and the chapel were almost completely destroyed by a tidal wave during a storm in 1520. The present building was completed in 1601 and is said to incorporate what was left of the 14th century chapel.
It diminished in importance as the Holy Trinity became the main parish church and it fell in to disrepair. The church raised funds for its rehabilitation and it became the church rooms.
At some time the church had no use for it and it was sold on to become the Albion Second-hand Book Shop. Please note that the above information was gleaned from two documents displayed in the pub.
One is a page from a publication dated November 1971 written by N.C. and the other has no provenance. Because of this I take no responsibility for the accuracy of this history. Yet, the first document is also useful in establishing that the Albion Book Shop was a thriving concern before 1971, as I could find no record of when it opened.
The person behind its establishment as a pub was Julian Newick who already operated the successful and delightful Lifeboat in Margate. It opened its doors as licensed premises in time for the Broadstairs Folk Festival in 2012. This is a massive bash spread over two weekends, and the week in between. It is staged during August and brings hundreds of people to the town when there is an awful lot of beer consumed.
To be honest I didn't know what to expect when went down a few steps to the front door. I noticed that the original shop doorway was not in use presumably for security reasons.
There were a few more steps down and the carved wooden bar was in front of me, on the left of the room. This is an amazing place and probably unique. I gazed around at all the shelves crammed with books.
But first I had to get a beer and having successfully accomplishing that task, I explored the room.
There is a wooden balcony running around part of the room with even more bookshelves upon it. I have seen it said that this is very old and I know that Julian has replaced the stairs but the rest of it didn't look too ancient to me. There were garlands of hops decorating the bar area and from its days as a chapel there was the wooden frame that showed the order of hymns and psalms at a service.
There were at least a couple of circular chandeliers hanging above me; one looked to be the real thing, i.e. candle lit. The other had at least two electric lights yet there were possibly some candles on this one also. I apologise for not being definitive about this but they were at that middle distance where my eyes don't focus and the photographs don't provide any conclusive proof.
The staff apologised for the state of the pub with boxes and sacks on the floors and tables, yet talking to other imbibers who have visited later than me, this is the norm.
That's enough of the description; I think it gives a good impression of what the pub is like. There were four beers on offer that day, as follows: Ramsgate Brewery (Broadstairs) Gadd's No 5 (4.4%); Hopdaemon (Newnham) Green Daemon (5.0%) and two from Westerham Brewery (Edenbridge) British Bulldog (4.3%) and Grasshopper (3.9%). All beers and ciders are available to take away.
Like the beers all of the ciders and perries come from the county of Kent. The number on offer was truly phenomenal and included the following: Kent Cider Co (Canterbury): Bramleys Seedling (7.5%); Russet and Bramley (8.0%); Gala & Bramley (8.0%) and Henderson's Spiced (5.0%). From Broomfield Farm (Broomfield) there was Medium and Dry (7.0%). East Stour (Mersham) provided Medium (6.0%) and Dry (6.0%).
This selection continues with Kingswood (Barham) Dry (6.5%) and Medium (6.8%); Double Vision (Boughton Monchelsea): Medium (7.4%); Triple Vision (10%!) and Strawberry Cider (7.4%).
Paul Johnson from near Queenborough on Sheppey provided Dabinett (8.2%) and Gobbledegook (8.2%). There was also a bottled champagne cider from Kentish Pip (Bekesbourne). Additionally there were two perries from Double Vision (Boughton Monchelsea): Impaired Vision (7.4%) and Elderflower Vision (8.2%).
Kentish wines were available from the following vineyards: Barnsole of Ash, Terlingham of Hawkinge and Elham Valley of Elham. Each offered several different varieties. Also notable is Julian's commitment to Kentish foods and on the menu there was crab, lobster, mackerel and seafood from Ramsgate along with many different meat pies from Biddenden and sausages from Ramsgate. There were also vegetarian pies from Biddenden along with their goat's cheese and onion lattice tart. Innumerable Kentish cheeses are offered.
During the week there are more reasons to visit apart from the obvious drinking and eating. There are many things going on, all starting at 20.00. On Mondays there is an Open Jazz night. Tuesday night is Quiz night and on each Wednesday evening there are live bands and singers. Every Thursday night is Open Mic night. On the third Thursday of the month there is "Ode to Nowhere", a Poetry & Song evening. I guess the Open Mic evening doesn't happen when this is on.
So a multitude of reasons to call in, even if you are only going to buy a book as it is still a functioning bookshop and opens from 09.00!
It is around 15 minutes away from Broadstairs railway station which is served by two trains an hour from London Victoria via the North Kent Coast; one an hour from London Charing Cross via Ashford and Canterbury; also one an hour from London St Pancras via the High Speed Line, Ashford and Canterbury.
You need to come out of the main station exit. This is the one on the side where the trains arrive from London Victoria via Margate. Walk down the station approach and then the High Street towards the sea. At the end turn left in to Albion Street and you'll see the pub on the right about 100 metres along.
Probably the most useful bus is the "Loop" which is every 7 to 10 minutes during the week and every 10 minutes on Sundays. This leaves from Queens Road which is a little way up the High Street and is on the left.