Visited on: Sunday 26th March 2017
Queenborough and its larger neighbour, Sheerness, are both towns steeped in maritime history, so maybe the name of this pub should not be surprising considering its location. However please look carefully at its name which is the Admiral’s Arm and not the Admiral’s Arms. This is because it refers to Admiral Nelson’s actual arm. It is not clear whether this was the one he lost or the one he used to hold his telescope.
Nelson has many connections with the Medway and the Thames estuary. In earlier years when he was a mere Captain he appears in the history of the Three Tuns in Faversham where it is said he twice paid off his crew who were from the town. He also rented a house in Queenborough where he lived with Lady Hamilton so he was no stranger to this town either.
Whilst on the subject of naval history I would like to digress slightly whilst still keeping on the topic of the town of Queenborough. Whilst researching this article I found out that the town celebrated Queenborough Independence Day on 17th June 2017.
This commemorates a ceremony on the same day fifty years previously (1967) when the Netherlands Government handed the town back to its Council.
This rather strange story begins during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (March 1665 to July 1667). The Royal Navy had been routed by the Dutch and had sent most of their fleet to Chatham for repairs. The Dutch followed them across the North Sea. One part of their fleet went up the Thames towards London, later turning back. The remainder headed up the Medway.
It is known as the Raid on the Medway. They broke through the defensive cordon and then burnt the British fleet at their moorings. It took place between 9th June and 14th June. As part of their preparations they took the fort at Sheerness and the town of Queenborough. They left towing the British Flagship HMS Royal Charles back to the Netherlands. Its coat of arms is displayed today in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
This was the worst defeat in British Naval history. If I have the story right they claimed the town of Queenborough for the Netherlands crown, yet never gave it back when they left.
I believe the ceremony in 1965 was to finally do this in a formal manner. It is an interesting story that I had not heard before, so I hope you didn’t mind me sharing it.
So, to the pub. It opened on 21st October 2016, aptly Trafalgar Day. The inspiration behind this venture are Chris and Rachel Collier, both local residents. They are assisted in the operation by their son, Joe.
The premises were previously used by a courier and distribution company named Pack & Post. They are still located in the same street so I guess they occupy the building behind the pub.
The Admiral’s Arm is quite large to be micropub yet it shares many of the features of that genre. However, its size is totally immaterial when it comes to having an article in BeerVisits, as it is a wonderful pub regardless.
Chris and Rachel have both been in the pub trade previously and it is clear that they have a very positive view of what they want in their own place and it shows.
The exterior view of the pub shows it to be wood-panelled with some blue trim. It is surmounted by a metal weather vane depicting a sailing ship. Boat’s life belts adorn the outside walls. I was with wife Linda and once inside we had to adjust to the low light. Looking around we could see on the right there was a high L-shaped table with fitted padded benches in a similar shape around it.
This is a two-roomed pub and in the main bar room there are two levels with the bar counter at the back on the upper level. It is reached by going up three or so semi-circular steps.
Back on the lower level another feature is the bookcase on the left of the door. On its top are many magazines and its lower shelves are crammed with games, many of the board variety but there are also others, including a miniature snooker table!
Up the steps we found the wooden bar counter facing us on the left side of the room. Against the right wall there are a couple of tall round tables with four high seats each. The toilets are found along a corridor on the right of this room. Back to the wooden bar counter, we found four hand pumps arranged along the back wall below a glass window with views of the stillage in the cool room.
A novel approach to beer dispense has been taken by the owners as each cask has a double tap with a line from one side going directly to the appropriate hand pump. The tap on the other side is used to serve the beer directly from cask to glass. Behind the counter on the left is a serving window that accommodates drinkers in another room. I then went to investigate it.
Going from the main room, I turned first right then left, passing a tall circular table and then two tall tables against the wall with tall seats. The side room contains five tables with loose chairs and some low stools. At the far end are some French doors that lead to a smoking area. I haven’t mentioned the wall decorations until now but they are very eclectic. Mostly maritime artefacts, there are ropes, baskets, pictures, photographs, life belts, notices, flags, a blue guitar and a plastic shark dangling from the ceiling.
Usually there four cask beers offered but on this day there were three. However, all of them were very unusual for this area. The following was offered: Humpty Dumpty (Reedham, Norfolk) Swallowtail (4.0%); Bays (Paignton, Devon) Springtime (4.5%) and Wiper & True (Bristol, Gloucestershire) Milk Stout Milk Shake (4.3%). It is not known where this was brewed as Wiper & True are a “Cuckoo” brewery, making their beers at many small breweries in Bristol and throughout the Southwest.
When it comes to cider and perry this pub excels itself. The blackboard behind the counter divides them into traditional and fruit-flavoured, a very sensible idea if you are not familiar with the various brands. There were a considerable number of flavoured ciders, several at 4.0% abv from Lilleys of Frome, Somerset: Mango, Lemon & Lime, Strawberry, Colider (Cola), Apple & Blackberry and Apple Mead.
Not strictly flavoured was Thistly Cross (Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland) Whisky Cask Cider (6.9%), as it is matured in whisky barrels. Other flavoured ciders were Turner’s (Marden, Kent) Apple Pie Cider (Spiced Apple) (4.0%), Snail’s Bank (Worcester, Worcestershire) Elderflower, Gin & Tonic (4.0%), Celtic Marches (Bishops Frome, Herefordshire) Cuckoo Penny Cider (Rhubarb) (4.0%), Dudda’s Tun (Doddington, Kent) Salted Caramel Cider (4.0%) and Cotswold Cider (Coleshill, Oxfordshire) Horn Blower Spiced Cider (4.0%).
More conventional offerings were: Broadoak (Clutton, Somerset) Moonshine Cider (7.5%); Orchard Pig, (Glastonbury, Somerset) Hog Father (7.4%); Vintage Garden (Chiddingfold, Surrey) Cider (6.0%); Biddenden (Biddenden, Kent) Dry Cider (8.4%); Johnson’s (Minster, Sheppey, Kent) Marsh Monkey (8.3%); Hallett’s (Crumlin, South Wales) Perry (4.5%); Gwatkin (Abbeydore, Herefordshire) No Bull Medium Cider (4.5%) and finally a new cider from Biddenden (Kent), Red Love (5.0%) made with Red Love apples, a new variety developed in Switzerland, that gives it a natural red colour.
This pub was selected as CAMRA Swale Cider Pub of the Year 2017, surprisingly after it had only been open for four months. It certainly has a great selection.
No food is served apart from the usual packaged snacks with scotch eggs and pork pies from M & B Farms of Stockbury. However there is a free cheeseboard with home-baked bread offered on Sunday lunchtimes, also roast potatoes, and it was very nice too.
There is a quiz every Thursday night at 20.00, and they host occasional live music. This pub is well worth a detour to visit and is within easy reach of Queenborough station, please see below.
Since this article was first written the Admiral's Arm has won the overall CAMRA Kent Cider Pub of the Year 2017.
The Admiral’s Arm, Trafalgar Court, West Street, Queenborough, Kent ME11 5AD. Tel: 01795 668598
Hours: Sunday-Monday: 16.30-21.00 (last orders 20.30); Tuesday-Wednesday: 16.30-21.00 or later;
Thursday: 16.30-23.00 (quiz night); Friday-Saturday: 12.00-23.00.
There are some buses that call at Queenborough railway station but the best way to get there is by train.
It is located on the Sittingbourne to Sheerness branch line. Trains run every half hour Monday to Saturday.
On Sunday the service is hourly. Sittingbourne is served by two trains an hour from London Victoria.
There are also two trains an hour via the high speed line coming from London St Pancras.
They also come via the Medway towns going on to Faversham, Margate, Ramsgate, Canterbury and Dover.
From Queenborough station go up the station approach to the roundabout. Here go right.
Pass the Queen Phillippa, turn left into High Street. Continue along passing the Rose pub on your right.
You will see the Flying Dutchman on your left. After, go left into West Street, the pub will now be in sight.