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Pub Visit - England

Hovelling Boat 1Tuesday 30th April 2013

Bob Thompson

This was a first in two ways; a first time visit for me, and the first of the new wave of micro pubs that was once a pub previously. Its history is very interesting as its first license was given up in 1909 so that there were 104 years when it wasn't a pub. This beats the previous longest de-licensed period I have discovered. That was the 71 years that the Black Country Arms in Walsall was not a pub between 1905 and 1976 and you will find an article on it in BeerVisits. Also, the Hovelling Boat retained its former name whereas the West Midlands pub did not.

This Ramsgate pub is very old, as we know that when it became a listed building in 1988, it was described by the experts as originating in the 17th Century. The first record of it being a pub was in 1858. After 1909 it became the Perseverance Dining Rooms and that's the way it stayed until 1988.

Hovelling Boat 2The area was being redeveloped by Thanet Council and there was a compulsory purchase order on it. When you see the architectural abominations that grace the other side of the street, you realise how lucky it is that the basic fabric of this building remains. Between the harbour and the pub all of the buildings were destroyed.

Presumably the Hovelling Boat's building was allowed to stand, as it was listed. It became a Florist and Gift Shop until acquired for re-use as a pub.

What is a Hovelling boat? Well, it's an eminently sensible question as I didn't know until I researched this article. Well, its a small wooden boat with one mast and sail like a small smack, that was used to go out to the Goodwin Sands to recover anchors that had been lost by ships wrecked or even just grounded on the that treacherous bank.

Hovelling Boat 3It seems that there were an awful lot of these wrecks and the business wasn't entirely legal. It was known as Hovelling. They also transported survivors and dead bodies back to the mainland. At quieter times between these slightly gruesome businesses they were used for more normal tendering jobs and mackerel fishing. There was a similar boat, the Foy boat, which is also commemorated in name by a Ramsgate pub. This was used for normal, and legal, tendering of vessels and supplying them with fresh victuals.

The re-incarnation of this pub culminated in its opening on 29th March 2013, just a month or so before our visit. It was the idea of Paul Spitchett to bring the pub back to life and he was on hand that day to serve our small party. I was with Linda, Shirley and Keith and as we settled in I had a look around. The decoration is modern without a doubt yet I must say that this did not inhibit the atmosphere as the place was really buzzing when we entered.

Hovelling Boat 4The frontage to the street is a shrine to the now defunct brewery of Tomson & Wotton, once a claimant to the "Britain's Oldest Brewery" title as it is first mentioned in 1554. I well remember their signs on pubs, although by that time the brewery had closed. That occurred in 1969 after the company's take-over by Whitbread in 1968.

Their beers are still remembered in the area and the etched glass windows and door that displays the image of Cavalier Pale Ale, are fitting reminders of that well-liked brewery.

Hovelling Boat 5The main room is at the front of the building with two bare brick walls to the left. On the right there are three shelves that display some breweriana and have a collection of books for the customers to read. Beyond this is a fine example of an old Whitbread mirror. It is also an art gallery as local artists are invited to display their works.

The cool room is on the left with a window from the side corridor on the right. There are a number of stools in this corridor with a shelf along the wall for depositing your glasses. The facilities are at the back and there is another door to the outside world that leads to an open space known as Charlotte Court. Out here there are seats and tables for al fresco drinking and there is also Petanque pitch here and the pub has organised matches on it.

Hovelling Boat 6There were three cask beers offered when we visited and these were Sambrook's (Battersea, London) Pumphouse Pale Ale (4.2%); Gadd's (Broadstairs, Kent) Old School Mild (4.0%) and Wantsum (Hersden, Kent) Yellow Tail (4.5%).

The cider range was even more extensive, comprising of: Weston's (Much Marcle, Herefordshire) 1st Quality; North Downs (Faversham, Kent) Medium (6.0%) and Scrumpy (7.5%); Broomfield Farm (Broomfield, Kent) Sweet (7.0%) and Medium (7.0%).

It has the most extensive wine list of any micro pub that I have been in, with the more normal brands being available in pre-packaged form and by the glass and bottle. There is also a fine wine list available on request. They also sell bottled foreign (Belgian) beers and some bottled-conditioned beers from Kentish brewers. Soft drinks, fruit juices, tea and coffee are also offered.

These are many reasons to visit the Hovelling Boat, which I thought was one of the best micro pubs I have come across.

Important Information:

The Hovelling Boat, 12 York Street, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 9DS. Tel: 07974 613030

Open: Monday-Thursday 11.30-21.30; Friday-Saturday 11.30-23.00; Sunday 12.00-16.00

This pub is located down near the harbour in the centre of town.
This is served by several bus routes but probably the most important is the "Loop" which goes through nearly all of the East Thanet towns and includes Ramsgate station on the way. This is important, see below.

The railway station is around a mile from the harbour area, yet they are connected by the aforementioned and frequent "Loop" bus.
There are trains to and from Ramsgate as follows: London Victoria via North Kent (2 an Hour), London Charing Cross via Ashford, and Canterbury (hourly) and from London St Pancras via the High Speed Line, Ashford, and Canterbury (hourly).
On Sundays all three routes are hourly but beware of engineering works.