Sex, drink and punch-ups… Chatham through the ages

Let us, dear readers, take a walk on the wild side … a trip through the seamier side of Medway’s history. We are talking about low dives, iniquitous inns, tawdry taverns and pubs that your mother warned you about.

Before readers suggest I am being insulting and unfair, please note: the Brook in Chatham — around which the Medway towns’ vice trade centred — was in many ways a fine place to grow up. Some of the houses were large, if humble, and many correspondents attest that their parents and grandparents said life was tough but respectable.

Let us face facts, however: the Brook and the High Street were filled also with slums and brothels. Brian Joyce’s excellent book, The Chatham Scandal, chronicles some of that era.

Chatham in the 1860s to 1880s was a riotous and unlawful place that was policed only sporadically. Soldiers, sailors, whores, drink and crime: a lethal cocktail throughout time.

Eventually Chatham’s bad reputation led to the introduction of the Contagious Disease Acts, which amounted to government supervision of prostitution in garrison towns. The idea was to lock away the women to protect the servicemen from disease. That, you will have gathered, didn’t work.

Many of the women hawked their trade in pubs, so police retaliated by trying to have pub licences revoked. In 1864 Superintendent Radley of the city police tried to shut down seven pubs: the Lord Nelson in Chatham High Street, the Bear and Staff in Chatham Intra (the place where Rochester and Chatham merge); the Five Bells on St Margaret’s Banks; the Flushing in Horsewash Lane and the Homeward Bound near Gas House Lane (both towards Rochester Bridge); the Duke of Gloucester in Strood and the Maidstone Arms in Crow Lane, Rochester.

That didn’t work, either. Magistrates refused his plea. So the vice continued — and it stayed until sailors left with the dockyard. (It still exists — as anyone who has spotted the whey-faced Eastern European girls gathered on one main thoroughfare will bear witness.)

In the 1960s and early 1970s the towns were still thriving as was the oldest profession. So — scandalously then, in those less enlightened days — was the gay scene.

A memories correspondent, whom we shall call Luton Jack, writes: “The two well-known gay pubs were the Ship and the Fountain. From time to time there’s been other more, shall we say, specialist locations. For example the City Arms in Victoria Street, Rochester, was famous for its drag nights and associated queens. By recollection, not by use, I recall The Rose and Crown in Chatham High Street opposite Gray’s was a gay pub in its last days. I’m almost certain that there was a similar bar in Luton but can’t remember the name.”

Interesting, Jack: the Rose and Crown was a Chatham News lunchtime pub and I never knew that. This must have been after the Grant-Smart family ran it. The Ship was always well-known — now, in these more enlightened times, it is listed in a gay pub directory.

A greengrocer queening it in the red light district

As to the City Arms — thereby hangs a tale. A lovely old chap who was a greengrocer near where I lived had a double life. Fruit and veg in the daytime, drag in the evening. I remember how I found out. But that’s another story that I shall tell when I discover that all participants are beyond this mortal coil (and I am out of reach of their lawyers).

Jack continues his 1970s recollections: “Of the three I drank in most regularly, the Old George in Medway Street, the Prince of Wales in Railway Street and the Cabin, in the cellar of what is now Churchills, the Cabin was easily the roughest. It was, shall we say, a meeting point for locals, Navy and Army. Whenever there was trouble they must have had a hotline to the police station as about 10 coppers would come in to sort matters out. The Prince of Wales used to have discos in the cellar bar called, I think, the Bierkeller, which was a little lively at times and was shut in the 1970s because of this.

“For guaranteed, set-piece brawling you were far better going to the Jack Knife club which was a skinhead, Army and Navy place that I used to avoid. I used to go to the Central Hotel on the A2 in Gillingham. This was a guaranteed underage drinking spot with all the concomitant risks entailed — I don’t think I need to elaborate…

“Often it turned into a battlefield, memorably when Gillingham played Millwall in the last game of the season and announced at the game that the Player of the Year dance would be there that night and a load of Millwall scum unsurprisingly turned up to join the merriment.”

Luvverly. The joys of being a football supporter, Jack.

He continues: “The most notorious place in Chatham in my teens was The Steamboat in the High Street. This place was always trouble and I never went there but it was closed down because of prostitution, drugs, fighting and any other vice that you can recall. Of course, in more recent years, there was the Van Damme Bar in the Pentagon, complete with lunchtime strippers, very definitely on my lunchtime list in the 1970s!”

Yes, I recall that hotbed was known by its initials. (Initials — geddit? Oh, please yourself.)

Thanks, Jack. I should mention, on a legal note, that no slur is intended on any current pubs in Chatham, all of which are models of propriety.

* The Chatham Scandal by Brian Joyce is well worth buying, although, at time of writing, difficult to find.

Rochester & Strood
Medway villages
Medway at war
Crimes that Shocked the Medway Towns

188 thoughts on “Sex, drink and punch-ups… Chatham through the ages”

  1. Hi I used to go to the Jack Knife and to the Central Hotel on a Friday and Sunday. Does anyone remember Mungo and Mike Wade and Guy who used to be on the door? I would love to get in contact with any of them.


        1. My cousin Tony Ripley turned me onto this site I now live in California but grew up on the white road estate I knew mungo & satch most of the others from our school days up through 1980 when I left for California, mungo always had a big record collection long before he became a dj & the last time I saw satch he was resident dj at Neros when we would go there in the seventies , fond memories of the central on a Friday night the owner Charlie cox was an old mate of my dads & one of the directors of Gillingham FC, aurora on Saturday before that Saturday would be the pav (pavilion ) in Gillingham sometimes the central hall chatham high street on a Friday night, whilst we were still at school there was the vault at the old church in luton run then by mick Williams who went on to create palisades a very popular place to be on a Saturday night , then there was the GI club, the cabin was normally where we would all meet at the start of the night , chatham town hall on a Monday night used to be good during the mid sixties we saw most of the top bands there used to be 7s 6p to get in if you paid , while we were all still at school & after we left for awhile we would be at the oakwood youth club during the week on chatham-maidstone road trying to avoid skipper all night who ran it so we didn’t have to pay the tanner to get in ,always a line of scooters outside, myself, my cousin Tony, Alfie Lydell, roy harding, Keith Hewitt, the Scott twins Dave & John, chunky, Colin ward , lagger lyall just some of the regulars ,I went to glencoe rd school with lagger roy harding & Brian hammer, if we weren’t at the gi club most likely be at the pie stall at chatham railway station or the twin dragons for a late night chicken Maryland , I come home once a year in September & still see as many of the the ones that are still about, my sister still lives in chatham & still on the white rd estate, I wouldn’t change a thing from those days & wouldn’t want to be a teenager in this day & age

    1. Hi, The man on the door who took the money was called Guy McFarland, I used to run the membership near the front door with my mate Andy Bottly. We also use to set up the disco and operate the decks until the DJs turned up. I remember Satch and Mungo also Dave Pitt and Lew Hoed.

      1. Hi Kevin, Can you tell us which songs were played at the beginning and end of session,they were the same each week. Colin and Marilyn Hogben are sitting round pool in Spain with Mick and Ann bridge reminiscing.

        1. Mungo and Satch started and finished with, ‘The Entertainer’. Try to listen to it being sung by Tony Clarke 1965, I am sure you will recognise that version. Guy was a good man, I have excellent memories of a late night fry-up at the Motorway after the Central then driving to his club in Hastings for more stupidity.

        2. OOOPS!
          Apology I posted my reply at 4.37am when perhaps sleep might have helped. Hopefully you will remember the final record Mungo and Satch threw us out of The Central R&B was always (?), ‘Go Now’ by The Moody Blues, November 1964 UK (but first recorded by Bessie Banks in January 1964 USA). Listen on YouTube, …….. magnificent!

        3. Hil Marilyn,
          Its been a long time since we met give my regards to Mick and Ann, all I can remember was the last record was call the entertainer by Tony Clark.
          Happy days at the Central R&B any body remember anything get in touch.

          1. Hi Colin & Marilyn,
            I bought your Hillman Minx convertible in about 1969 for 57 quid. Remember?

          2. if you do facebook, there is a group called Central R & B Club in the 60s & 70s Gillingham Kent.

            ask to join, over 70 members including satch and mungo

      2. One of the twins who ran the club went off with the girl I was courting, Antoinette Sautell. Lived near the Central. It was a shock when I heard she was badly injured in a crash on the main road thrown out of his Stingray car. Saw her a few times in hospital. Never did see or hear of her afterwards.

    2. I remember the central very well also guy who apart from always on the door was the person who used to run the club as well and book all those soul artists.I also remember the two DJs mungo and satch think thats how you spell it, he was the black guy and not forgetting arthur who used to run the bars with his wife.We had some excellent nights there in fact most nights were excellent,the DJs also run a small club in Hastings which we used to attend as well,but as for the central nothing but fond memorys and made some good friends.

      1. Hi Peter,
        just wondered if you remember my mum with the small dog in the ladies’ cloakroom, I remember all the fellas used to hang around that area, it was just too the right of the bottom cocktail bar.

    3. i can put you in touch with the people you have mentioned ,
      join us on FB – Central R & B Club watling street in the 60s & 70s
      you will find everyone there ..

  2. A great article which really captures the spirit of those venues. I’m sure I recall Mike Wade as I believe he was Ray Wade’s son. Ray, as many will recall, was something of a local celebrity as he was the manager of the Invicta Bingo Hall and used to call the numbers. He was a near neighbour of mine in Luton.

  3. Hi, I am Ray Wade’s granddaughter,

    Mike Wade still resides in Luton, Kent. He can be found under Mike Wade on Facebook.
    It has been many years now since granddad Ray passed away. He was the bingo caller – correct! My dad Anthony Wade (Dr Voice) can also be found on Facebook.

    I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Serena, I remember your granddad, Ray Wade, a lovely man.

      My wife and I spent many a happy evening when bands appeared there in the early sixties. Mike Wade and I were in the same class at school. I frequently see him at the supermarket and we often exchange memories. I don’t think i know your dad Anthony. Anyway, thanks for the memory. Terry Campbell

    2. i remember all ur family me and my brother went to school with tony ,ur family lived in dagmar road we lived at victoria rd number 22, my sister kay was friends with ur aunty deidere and went to christchurch with her also knew mike and tony , i think they had a dog called judy if i remember right and we knew ur grandad and granma joan and ray wade i knew vikki ,as well. my name was jim and my brother rick and sister kay phillips

    3. Hi Serina,
      I’ve just found this forum, so maybe its closed off now, but will try..
      was Ray who ran the bingo hall was it in Canterbury street..and did he live in Wigmore Road?

  4. Interesting article. I frequented the Ship and City Arms. I’m not gay but a lot of my friends are. There were some great characters about in the early 70s. I miss them.

  5. Hi! Great article! I am from the University of Kent in Medway. I am doing some research about the ‘pub culture’ in Chatham past and present. Does anyone has some good advices to help me? Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi, I saw your post on Medway memories. I am writing a book and I have a chapter which takes me to pubs in Chatham/Rochester in 1918. The characters I am writing about existed. Do you know of any pubs that maybe were linked to bare buckle fighters between beacon road and hospital lane. I would be most grateful for any info you may have.
      Lauren staton

  6. Hi, me and my mates, Mick, George and Albert used to go drinking in various pubs in Chatham, late 60s early 70s. I suppose our regular was the Army and Navy. I seem to remember you had to go down stairs to the Cabin to buy cigarettes, could not see through all the smoke! Don’t remember any real trouble there but saw some fights at the Twin Dragons Chinese across the road. I believe there was also a Irish pub nearby? Never actually visited the Gay pub. Was Grays the motorcycle dealer?

    1. Hiya, my mum’s family was from Medway and her brother was Albert George. Not the same Albert by any chance? I would love to hear of anyone who knew him (and his best friend Andrew Green). Mum’s name was Mary George/Brown and her youngest brother was Martin x

  7. It is interesting to me that Jack mentions The Steamboat as being particularly rough. I was the DJ there, right from the day it opened. I used the name “Lord Snooty” – which I’d pinched from the Beano of course! The DJ booth was encased in fairly stout plexiglass and had a lockable door. Many was the evening when I locked the door, crouched inside and wondered why I hadn’t found some other form of employment. Ah, the lure of ‘show business,’ no doubt. As the DJ booth was in the basement, I had a code to alert management upstairs if I saw trouble brewing; I would play “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations and hoped ‘Security’ was paying attention. For a while, Alex Hughes, aka Judge Dread, manned the door and his mere presence seemed to keep things a bit quieter. I now live in Nashville, but whenever I return on a visit to England, I try to go along Chatham High Street and remember those wild nights at the Steamboat.

      1. I would very much like to have the Steamboat sign back! Actually, because I live in the USA, I would REALLY like the sign to return to the very talented artist and signwriter who created it. His name is Eric Pollard and he lives in Sittingbourne. He is still sign writing all those beautiful hand-painted signs you see on the walls of Shepherd Neame pubs. It would mean a lot to him if he could get the sign back after all these years. How can we make that happen?

          1. Say “hi” to Eric for me, Sam! I sure wish I could find that old Steamboat sign. Eric also painted some murals inside the Steamboat. I’m not sure if the building is still standing now, or has been demolished.

  8. Used to use the Ship, Horse and Groom and City Arms back in the late 70s.
    Great memories. Oh, and the Von Alten as well.
    I came from Gravesend every weekend.

  9. Used to go to the Northgate in Rochester and the Nag’s Head on St Margaret’s Banks near Rochester station in the 1970s. Can just about remember some pretty good times in there.

    1. I used to play in the Northgate around 1965 and before that the Prince of Wales Strood. Anyone remember Kelly in the Eagle and the Dive Bar Chatham?

      Danny Lake

      1. Jesus! …so there are some fellas still around here who probably wore flairs, long hair back then. Walking into the Nags Head, Coopers and the Northgate depending upon where the best “birds” were, saying “alright mate?” in our wonderful Medway accent. And there were also the ones who you knew you had to avoid eye contact with. Anyone still know “Spot the Dog” Guy Velovitch, or Bazza Bailey, Glynn (Westwood). A couple were in the Backhouse James’ Blues Band. I’ve lived in Germany 30 odd years now, but have many good (and bad) memories, meaning my time at Rochester Math. and Mr.Waddams

  10. Interesting reading on here. Does anyone remember The Palisades a club in Nelson Road/Terrace? This club formed part of my younger years as regards “entertainment”. There were appearances by named bands there and it also the odd punch-up/disagreement in there. Unfortunately most problems stemmed from the squaddies that sometimes frequented the place.

    The Palisades was set up by Guy the barber from Military Road, (can’t recall his surname) – all in all not a bad club in its time but I don’t think it lasted that long.

  11. Iceman
    I think you’ll find Mickie Williams had the Palisades along with guys and the fruit and veg stall in Chatham high Street along with a few other ventures. Sadly he died a few years ago. I never went to the Palisades but I remember my husband John Richardson (JR) talking about it. I was more into the 60s Pav in Gillingham and the cabin and army and navy; also the prince of Wales when Ron Davies had it!

      1. I worked in Guy’s in Military Road. With Mick Williams, Stuart, and Bubbles. I watched England win the World Cup with about 30 guys in that barbers. Great times. GI club and the Cabin, Pavilion and the Central. Then I married a Gillingham player, who dragged me off to Essex. Those were the days.

    1. I remember mick Williams very well , he was ahead of his time in the medway towns , we used to go to his club the vault out luton in the early sixties when we re all at fort luton school whenever I hear James brown papa’s got a brand new bag or al Capone by prince buster I think of the vault the palisades was a great place to be on a Saturday night , the barbers shop was called guys I think they also had a little coffee bar in there which was very cool for back then , I seem to remember mick was,nt a very good barber & everyone would hang back hoping to get someone else , the barbers to go to before that was hi fi,s up chatham hill the guy that ran it for yrs can’t remember his name always had cool cars his cousin went to work for mick & he was. car guy same as me so I would always try to have him cut my hair & we would compare our cars , sorry to hear mick passed away I think he used to do a bit of selling at Rochester market after pallisades & most of that area went for the pentagon

  12. The Ship became divided into two clear parts, The Ship – frequented by the sailors and dockers from, for example, Stanley’s Wharf just along the road. The other half was named The Gaiety Bar and frequented by business ladies and fey young gentlemen in fur coats. The Ship had the capability of being an extremely violent place unless you were known. This violence became widely known when a knife fight between Paddy O’Connell (I think it was Paddy not Sonny) resulted in Paddy’s death. I apologise if I remember the wrong brother’s name.

    You may also remember the Von Alten pub whose landlord was the feared ‘Giovanni’ who despite being flamboyantly camp was a feared fighter and not to be messed with on any level. I was advised many ‘hard men’ both civvy and services had only realised their mistake in abusing him when it was far too late for them.

    On my first introduction to him I was advised by my drinking partner, “If he comes out fast from behind the bar … run”.

    I moved away from the towns some 40 years ago now and I understand they have not fared well since then. A great shame.

    1. Paddy OConnell worked among other types of work behind the bar in the ship as did Giovanni. As you quite rightly say Giv’ may have been gay but certainly a force to be reckoned with.. Paddy was a really nice lad and if I sadly remember no-one was prosecuted over his death..

    2. Knew Paddy and his older brother Mick and sister well. Also their mother Paddy. I loved the family. Such shame about Paddy. Buried in Palmerstone Road cemetery. I believe. Wasn’t it the night before his brother got married? His bachelor party?

  13. The Prince of Wales, Strood, was a bikers’ pub; the Northgate, Rochester, was hippy druggy pub; the Nag’s Head was also used by bikers until they got banned after a dust-up with some hell’s angels. The Woodsman, Gillingham, also a was bikers’ place.

    1. The Prince of Wales Strood was never a bikers pub in the 60s.. All the Strood boys drank there..Frank and Esther were the owners then…It never became a bikers pub until the 70s..

  14. Interesting read Ta. I too can remember the Horse and Groom at Rochester. In the early sixties I worked at Rochester station and at the time played a little on the mandolin and tenor guitar. Every Tuesday evening we had a jam in the back room (anything goes).

    I can remember a lot of the taxi drivers came along. Those I do remember were Pete Cowlard, Kipper Duff, Ginger George Thomas, and Daisy Roots, who would lead the evening playing his guitar tuned to the E chord and putting his straight finger across one fret. He was good though. And Tony Hands would come along for the booze and ride. Wonderful days.

  15. I remember most of the Medway Towns pubs through the 1960s and 70s. The Horse and Groom in Rochester was run by the Trowell family in the late 60s. Some people might remember seeing Ken Trowell Transport lorries around Medway – his father ran the pub. I remember the Fountain as a kid walking through the High Street with my parents. There were always fights in Military Road, normally outside the Twin Dragons restaurant, or in the Paddock by the bus terminal.
    My elder brother used to go to the Central Hotel and if there wasn’t a punch-up in there, you was certain to see one at the Top Rank Services afterwards. Another place well-known for fights in the 70s was the nightclub in Strood just over Rochester Bridge by the Prince of Wales. If you were from the Rochester side of the water you were lucky to get out without a thick ear. I made a dash out of there myself one night. I can’t remember the name of it, the Omega Club rings a bell, but I know it changed names a few times. Never altered it though, it was still always a dump.
    I vaguely remember the pubs in Brompton. There were a lot of pubs in a small area, many have closed down now. Going way back in time, Brompton was a real dodgy area because of the Barracks and the Dockyard being so close. Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time for a look…

    1. The club in Strood was also called Blazes and also the Pink Elephant at one point. I think I never went there. Coming from Rochester. I mainly used ones in Chatham.

    2. Hi Ian – Yes it was indeed the Amega Club (think the spelling is correct) – I along with my mate Keith aka “Keith John” – DJ Name were resident DJs in the Amega Club on Thursdays and Fridays (some Saturdays) – mostly upstairs in the smaller “disco club room”. We also worked downstairs doing the “break” for the resident band “Funky Fuzz” (my gran always said that sounded a very rude name! 🙂 ). Remember some fantastic nights there and some punch-ups and also some “bomb scares” as it was the early to mid 70s. Lots of very interesting memories on this site!
      Also remember DJ gigging in the “Good Companions” Club at the top of Rochester Hill when Lou Hoed & Dave were working elsewhere – possibly “Tudor House” in Maidstone. Good Old Bad Old days!!!

      1. Lou Hoad was my brother-in-law for a few short years as he married my sister Anna. She used to get me in the Central, Guy and Dave would turn a blind eye as I was only 14, but to me it was a world of fascination.

      1. I am a Medway Towns girl, and i remember all these places, i now live in Spain, up until recently with my partner who was a 100 per cent strood boy, he often talked about all these people, graham sage, danny lake, the darnley road boys, the foleys, dave hutchinson (doorman) perhaps some of you may know him he was known as “mad Geoff” LOL Geoff Flello sadly he met with an accident this year in August 2017 but his memories of growing up in the hard Medway Towns was always remembered, fighting was the norm . People here find it hard to understand that a strood boy was on dangerous ground crossing the river. Hutch and Mungo i.e. Nicholas Peck we went to school together and he was a DJ at the Ash Tree,

  16. We went to see The Elgins at the Central Hotel on the A2 back in 70 or 71 I think, I lived just down the road in Dason way at the time.

  17. Hi, my dad used to tell me stories about pubs in Chatham, I used to listen for hours. A fond one he spoke about was behind Allders (debenhams now).
    Anyone know the name?
    His name was Jim Taylor married to Diane my late mother. Also my granddad was called ted boast who was married to Mary boast who later married joe gardener

    1. Was that the same ted Boast(father of Tony Boast), used to live on Luton road?
      I lived at number 20.
      Went to Fort Luton school too, cant remember what year I left tho’, I think it was 1970

  18. Oh I came across this by chance and the memories came flooding back, starting off at Trishas in Rochester, they always played Go Now as well and making our way along the High St ,Van Alten, Steamboat, Nags Head and the Ship living dangerously going in the Fountain Inn , The Old Barn and The White Hart I think. Loved the music and the fun. Did not go to Gillingham much , felt that was a bit more violent. Some nice memories.

    1. Hi
      I was reading the comments on Medway memories and your name came up. Are you Fred Somerville’s sister/wife. He and I were friends back in the early 70s in and around South Avenue etc. He would have known me as Smiler back then 🙂

    2. Hi Diana, I also just came across this Chat by chance. I just had to write and Mention that I lived in the Old Barn from 1966 -1976. My Mum and Dad were the Courage tenants at that time. Their names were Cliff and Lynn (really it was Clifford and Lydia). Do you remember them? We also had a lot of Navy and Skinheads along with other locals. I remember all of the pubs mentioned here and I knew the publicans. My Dad used to take me to meet them all quite often. Yes, those were quite rough times, but, I do have a lot of fond memories from those days. Sadly, our pub became a Chinese Restaurant. My parents went bankrupt during the late 70s, during the recession. That was very hard for them, for all our family.

  19. Does anyone remember the penthouse at Rochester airport? Trisha’s and Graham Sage playing Go Now. Plenty of fights and free spring pancake rolls. My first and favourite nightclub was Queen Caroline’s bedroom,now called the George vaults. Also Rochester Week with open-air bands and beer tents, then going to Rochester swimming pool skinny-dipping. Great memories.

    1. I remember the penthouse we would go there sometimes on Friday night , my old friend Paul Dallas met his future wife for the first time there ,teresa harmon younger sister of my old school mate bruce harmon , sadly Paul passed away a few yrs ago but I still hear from teresa once in awhile, Marvin gaye heard it through the grapevine always reminds me of that place the song came out about the same time the place opened I think & they played it often , anyone remember the club that used to be above the Rochester odeon in the early sixties they used to play a lot of Motown, ska & reggae long before there was such a thing as a skinhead , I used to go with bruce harmon we were still at school his older brother & Terry Hewitt would be there & try not to talk to us because we were too young , pretty sure mungo used to go there too

  20. I remember The Penthouse at Rochester Airport, opposite Davis Estate. I went with my sister and her friends and we danced to The Onion Song, I Heard it Through the Grapevine and Israelites. I remember two skinhead boys, Dave Stewart and Bobby Arnold. I also used to go to The Aurora in Gillingham, The Good Companions in Rochester and The Central in Gillingham. All great places to dance. The Aurora played reggae and everyone danced the same dance. I remember walking into the small, packed, sweaty hall and joining in as everyone bobbed up and down in perfect unison. I was 15 at the time.

      1. hello Barry dont know if you would remember me ray adams people used to think we were related but we never was, at the time you used to hang out Brian hammel who I went to school with maybe Dave beniman & few others we both knew , where are living these days , I heard Brian had his own scaffolding firm is that right , all the best.

  21. Does anyone remember Dave Pitt being lead singer in the Band C & A Blues Train. Loxley Ryan played the saxophone.
    My main memories of Gillingham was meeting up at the Old Britannia in Gillingham High Street or the Kent Arms before we went out on a Friday and Saturday night either to the Pav or Grapes down Margate.

      1. Yes Steve I am. I remember the Trafalgar (Trash) Bar and Bob Jackson was the bouncer. Also before we went to the Pav Woodlands youth club was another Venue we frequented. I also recall that when Guy (brilliant bloke) the hairdresser opened Palisades, Love Affair played the first night. The only wrong thing that night was that the murals done by Rochester Art School had not dried and a lot of us ended up with paint on our suits.
        Bowaters also had a venue of a Thursday night, but that did not last long. The first night the Aurora or King Charles opened Ron Allin and Ed Glover got beaten up pretty badly. If I remember correctly, Ron got bottled. He was probably one of the nicest blokes of our bunch.

          1. Hi Ron, hope all’s well. We are all retired now(?) and I’ve started writing my story and came upon this website and it all bought back many memories.
            I thought your surname was Allen, and I remember you as a most lovely man, and also remember the time you were bottled; I thought it was in the Pav. I’m reminded of your lovely friend Dave Gallian, and I remember attending his so-sad funeral. Where are you now, do you still see Trevor Beck or Graham Blood? All the best for Christmas mate. Paul

        1. Just came across this site and it brought back so many memories. I remember Bob Frater as I used to have such a crush on you and often saw you at various venues. You guys always looked so smart. I remember at Bowaters once you asked me to dance, where have the years gone.

  22. Only just found this site by accident, sat reading all the comment with my husband Graham Sage who was a dj at most of these venues over the cheers. Had a chuckle reading this, thanks people.

    1. Used to hang around with Graham back in our late teens meeting up at Rochester Castle with Woody and Dave Mercer> As I recall, Graham made his own bass guitar with 3 or 4 extra frets.

    2. I have been living in Gravesend since I was 14 but born in Chatham and still know loads of people from the Medway Towns due our common love of the Scooter and Soul Scene…

      1. I used to know you and Graham back in the “Bogarts” days in Strood. Was over in Strood just over the bridge on the left. Fantastic nights (and day/nights) in those days. There was another guy who used to DJ there. I cannot remember his name but he was a tall balding guy who was a teacher at Gravesend Grammar School I seem to remember… the actor Martin Freeman was also known to frequent the venue.

  23. I was in a band in the late 50s and used to play Paget Halls, Gillingham, when Len and Ena Wall were there. Brian Poole and Tremeloes were regular visitors.

  24. Just great to hear the old stories regarding the Central. First gig I saw was Ike and Tina Turner. Didn’t pay – just walked in!
    What about Snodland when Desmond Dekker appeared just after his No 1. Georgie Fame at the Central and perhaps best of all repeat visits of the Foundations. Lew and Dave then Mungo, Satch, great selections of top American artists … and best of all … those lovely girls to take home.

  25. Used to go in the Cabin a lot on Friday nights in the mid to late 1960s. Great place to meet the girls. Never ever any real trouble. Ultraviolet light used to show up all the dandruff!

    A Maidstone professional motorbike racer, Bill Ivy, used to park his Ferrari right outside the door by the Town Hall with his mate’s Chevrolet Corvette. When this closed we would all troop to the GI Club on the New Road. Had a 3 or 4 piece jazz band and a roulette wheel. Late-night licence was dependant on food being sold. Either that or up to the motorway cafe at Farthing Corner for egg & skinny chips. Great times when we were young.

    1. my routine was the same as yours, funny we were probably always in the cabin & gi at the same time , I seem to remember it was Leo who looked through the spy hole in the door at the gi & would then let you in or not depending on how he felt , downstairs for the crusty British rail sandwich , the drummer in the band worked at newcomers the mens store opposite corner to the wimpy bar in chatham high street , being a car nut from being able to walk I remember the two cars & bill ivy but I think the vette was bill ivys & during the day on some Saturdays it would be parked in the high street opposite the wimpy bar I would walk up there to see it ,a valuable car now it was a 1963 fuel injected corvette split window with a short license plate that had almost his initials , found the car yrs later by accident at the top of Linton hill sitting in a garage with very bad rear body damage tried to buy it but he would,nt sell & did,nt know the history of it ,I grew up in chatham & was there last year all the old haunts are gone barely recognised railway street & the townhall area , luton road has,nt changed much other than most of the pubs are gone .

  26. I lived in the High Street over Gurr’s the butcher’s shop next to the Duchess of Edinburgh. My father Snowy ran concert party round most Working Men’s Clubs. Snowy and his Gang appeared in a lot all over Kent those were the days. The angelic young choirboy was me.

    1. One of my distant relatives (long since deceased) owned and ran Gurr’s the Butchers in Chatham High Street.

      Would very much love to hear any stories about the shop and the owners!

    1. I remember the GI club well you used to knock on the door and the doorman looked through the small glass and let you in. When in you had to buy a quarter of a sandwich I think it was to do with the late licence. My brother John used it and he introduced me to it, once inside there was a stairway down to the bar. I always found it a nice drinking club never saw any trouble in there. On a good day you could start drinking in your local at 1030 leave before closing 1430 go to the GI and drink to around 1730. Then back to local by opening 1800 of cause leave before closing 2300 and back to the GI to drink until closing time. Memories indeed could never do that now, not even near.

  27. Wow only just found this site. Grew up in Troy Town. My mum was a barmaid in nearly all the pubs mentioned in Rochester and Chatham. Her name was Daisy Stears/Jeanes. Can remember being put behind the bar at the Ship while she was working.

    1. Hi Lorraine remember me? Jill Grant – we were at primary school together then later at Canterbury College of Art. I remember your Nan’s fantastic toffee apples – the best I’ve ever tasted.

  28. I am showing my age now – 80. I had a fab time in Chatham and Gillingham in the mid to late 50s when I was in the RN. The Naafi in Gillingham had some great dance nights (with rockers confined to corners) I had a great friendship with a girl called Sheila who was with the WVS there.

    We also frequented a trad jazz club in Chatham – can’t remember the name (age related). There was also a dance hall in Gillingham that used to have visiting bands and lots more, a coffee bar in Gillingham High Street that had two juke boxes (all the rage then) – one upstairs and one downstairs. Mods and rockers, Italian Suits downstairs, leather jackets and jeans upstairs – but everyone got on (mostly).

    I could prattle on for ages but can’t remember half the names of the pubs but as I said I had a great time back then and made lots of friends. Pity we lost touch, but that’s life.

  29. I have read all those stories wonderful times, I am an avid collector of vinyl records from those times if you have any you would like to sell please let me know, I run a retro disco playing vinyl records so its always great to collect more.

  30. Have enjoyed so much reading about these pubs and places that brought back many happy memories.
    Just wondered if anyone knows of any history to do with The Coachmakers Arms in Chatham as my great grandad, Alfred Attwood, was once the landlord and the reason why the pub got its name as he made coaches out the back! Sadly, the pub was demolished when Tesco and the new road was built.
    Many thanks

    1. Yes, I remember this pub Carol. My Dad was the publican at the Old Barn, just a across the road. Was your grandmother Jesse? If she was, your grandparents were very good friends with my Mum and Dad. I can remember vaguely that Jesse called my Dad to help when her husband collapsed. Think he died of a heart attack. They had a son called Jeffrey, Jeff? I think!? I really dislike all the changes that have happened over the last 40 or more years to Chatham. It’s grown out of proportion I think. All of those pubs, with their history and social culture, gone!

    1. I think that would’ve been the Prince of Orange or Von Alten. I was also the DJ at the Ship Inn on a Sunday night for 9 years! Nicky Peck taught me how to cue records, Graham Sage gave me my first DJ residency at Bogarts (became the Pink Elephant) next to Prince of Wales in Strood. I worked in K-Two Records in the Pentagon and went on to DJ at the Avenue with Paul French (RIP). I DJ’d at the King Charles and in the Dive Bar (aka the Cabin), I DJ’d over the top of the Army and Navy, I DJ’d in the Blue Grotto, Good Companions – I used to go and see Gentleman Jack and his brother Malc DJ there. I went to the Central RnB Club to see Mungo DJ, Dave and Lew at the Ash Tree, the dancehall over Burtons – always fights there! I got taken to the Parlour on the Banks – my brother was a mod and I had frothy coffee in a flying saucer glass cup. My sister taught cha cha at Victor Silvester’s over Rochester Odeon and went to Casa Vantana in Rochester High Street. I also went to a tiny club under what was the old WH Smith – it was called Caesars and I still have the membership card. I’d go to Scamps and the Van Damme – and The Pembroke Club – I saw ‘Super Bad’ there. I saw Brass Construction and Heatwave at Chatham Central Hall … all part of my misspent girlhood!!

  31. Hi, very interesting reading. Bit of a long shot but does anyone remember a guy called John Templeman? He would be about 70 now. He’s my father and I’ve been looking for him for a very long time now.

  32. Interesting thread……left Chatham in 1980….from what I hear Medway is rougher now than it was in the sixties and seveties.
    Being a drummer I played in various bands ( the Fruit Machine/Inner Circle/John Browns Body/Terry Milton sound/Rod Secluna) in many of the venues mentioned in previous posts, true that now and then a fight broke out, but it was nevertheless a safer place in thosedays.
    In 2004 I wrote a book called “Once a Muso” which apart from charting my musical career up to then, is full of anecdotes about the venues in the Medway towns. I know a few of the people mentioned up to now as well, and my mother was the owner of the Twin Dragons…….have lived in France for the last 26 years and often ponder on those Medway memories.

      1. I remember your Mother. My mother was Chinese and we used to come to the restaurant and your Mother used to play mah Jong at our house from time to time.

      1. Hi chris, blimey Inner Circle, that brings back memories! I went out with and married Roy Woolford, your next door neighbour.
        Remember your family and the times we had. Happy days!
        Linda Blackwell nee Alltoft.

      2. Hi Chris, crikey Inner Circle, that brings back memories! I went out with and married Roy Woolford, your next door neighbour.
        Remember your family and the good times we had. Happy days!
        Linda Blackwell nee Alltoft

    1. Hi Ray remember me, Ken Baker? I used to go to school with you at Walderslade boys school. We used to go to your house at dinner time to play on the drums. I remember you brought them to school with you on an assembly and played them on stage. I used to work with John Street the singer with Inner Circle and I used to go to rehearsals with them down at the Three Sisters in Rainham. I went on from there to become a drummer, playing with a band in Medway called the Flourgraiders I played pubs and clubs with them for 10 years between 1974 to 1984. it’s so good to know you are still around,
      Cheers Ken.

      1. Hi Ken, just found this site again, they must have had a third John (John Street) as singer after I left in 1968 Check out the Facebook group “Made in Medway” interesting posts on there Take care

    2. Hello Ray. You don’t know me but you may have known my brother. Wayne Edwards. He used to go out with Jill in the late 60s early 70s. Her mum owned the twin Dragons & I knew her quite well. Wayne is still alive & kicking & living here in Cornwall.
      If I have the correct King Family please remember me to Jill.

      Lyn Sharp (nee Edwards)

      1. Hello Lyn!
        Wow, it was a surprise to read your message. Last time I looked at this site was about two years ago. Hope you and your family are all well! I married a Suffolk boy back in 1980 and have 2 children and a lovely little granddaughter. Great memories of our youth on this site! Jill x

  33. I used to work in the nightclub in the Pentagon the late 70s/80s ‘Scamps’ and also next door in the ‘Vann Dame’ bar also ,iv seen some sights and seen some fights in my time there and many faces from the towns , I still live in the towns having been born in All Saints Chatham in the late 50s and have a good memory for the old places now long gone and have sadly seen chatham go downhill from the lively friendly place it once was .

    1. I was a young trainee computer operator at Lloyd’s in 1978. Went to VD bar at lunchtimes. Ten pence to get in and strippers on stage !
      Went to Scamps many times. One bloke came out of nowhere and whacked me! Thought I was laughing at him and his girl, which I was not.

  34. Here’s a weird thing.
    Not once did I ever see a punch up in any pub in Medway and I was in one or the other of them at least 5/6 night a week from 72 onwards.
    I heard about them of course, just never saw one.

    I knew Ray Wade ( brilliant character and very funny ) and his son Tony I believe who I saw often training at St Mary’s in Luton.

    1. I had to go to Maidstone Crown Court as a witness when a Gillingham supporter got stabbed in the car park of the Central Hotel by a Millwall thug. I was under age and had been drinking but the cops said it didn’t matter so long as I was a witness.

    2. Dave Whitcombe, I used to live almost opposite you on Luton Road(If my memory serves me well)
      I used to deliver milk to your house, when I was about 10 years old, the bloke that drove the electric Bourne & Hilliers milk float was called Ron, he used to pump petrol at the little garage at the Hen & Chicks end of Luton Road too.

  35. Hi, just stumbled on to this website, what memories! I am 67 now, I used to knock about with all-sorts in the late 60’s and 70’s. Was a bit of a twat with my drinking, punch-ups and chasing the skirts. Still married after 46 years, with a grown-up daughter and grand-kids, now retired, sensible and sober and would love to hear from anyone who remembers me. I was there when the lovely Ron Allin was beaten up, and remember all (most) of the girls I used to tease.

    1. Hi Paul, I meant to reply to your comment on Bob Frater’s post a while back, but never got round to it of course. After the beating at the Aurora, (I was 17 and an apprentice at the Dockyard – as you were also) I went off the rails for a few years after getting my revenge on the perpetrators (the bouncers from Hoo whose family name I can’t remember) at an open air live band show (The Four Avengers funnily enough!) at the Riverside, Chatham. They were sitting on the grass with their girlfriends and I just went on the attack, it was in the Chatham Standard at the time but they never did arrest me! After that I was up for it anywhere and everywhere until I regained my composure about eight years later and retired from the street fighting scene! I live near Southampton now and have been in touch with Bob Frater recently – we are trying to meet up for a drink at some point. You also mentioned Dave Gallian. Very sadly I saw him and had a drink with him at what used to be the Aurora early 1992 – he was in a bad state over a woman that had left him – and took his own life the same night. I didn’t find out about it for quite a long time as I went back home to Wiltshire the next day and my mum told me the next time I went back, in fact she had a cutting form the Standard. I did go to Woodlands Cemetery to pay my respects and ask WHY? Very sad. Anyway, I’m still working (abroad) but still not 100% sensible and occasionally not sober!

      1. Hi Ron
        Saw your post about Dave Gallian. I grew up with Dave and Phil Miller and remember you from the Wimpy Bar. I also remember going to the Pav on a Saturday night with all the Wimpy boys, and also the Trash Bar. I remember when Bob Jackson was on the door at the Trash Bar he would let about 12 of us in through the bog windows. Great times!

  36. I was apprentice in Chatham Dockyard 1970-74.
    Went to several of these bars, often you’d meet other dockyard workers and the intro was always “awlright matey”. That was like a freemason’s handshake identifying you.

    Remember first serious drinking session at Coopers Arms, Rochester, with subsequent regrets. Rough times then. It seems worse now though, or perhaps I’ve grown older…

  37. Hello I was after some information older than the 70s – my great grandfather and mother owned a pub in or around Chatham but I don’t know which one. They were Elizabeth Neal, nee Harris, and Charles Neal around the beginning on 1900s and through to at least 1940s. It was originally her parents owned the pub which passed to Elizabeth Margaret.
    Thank you

  38. My grandparents used to run a pub in Chatham near the docks I think. The public bar held a collection of ships and the ladies bar had a glass cabinet all along the top of the walls which contained my grandmas collection of dolls. They had a big white dog for many years. Can anyone tell me more? Grandma died of cancer when I was about 10 – am 63 now, and he lost the pub within a year or two of her death. Their children were John Craigie – went into the RAF – and Joyce Hodges.

  39. The memories come flooding back from my youth on here. I remember the very handsome Paddy O’Connell with his gorgeous smile. Sadly he died 20th October. I always remwmber even after all these years. Four days before my birthday a friend came to my house to tell me the sad news.

    Ray King ( Inner Circle) playing in the Good Companions Club. My friend used to work for your mum in the Twin Dragons many years ago.

    The Parlour, the Prince of Wales pub was my local in the 60/70s. Fights in the Bierkeller. Having drinks with
    some of the wrestlers and going towatch them at the Central Hall.

    Ray Wade with his magnificent moustache.

    The Pembroke Club and the Jacknife. Those strobe lights in the Jacknife showing all your dandruff especially on black outfits.

    Did anyone go dancing at the Central Riverside Chatham? Les was on the gate to take your 1s 6d entrance fee.

    Chicory Tip, Clockwork Orange? Orange Teacup, Inner Circle and the Fringe. Gerard Butler teaching us all the dance moves that he’d learned from up London. Brilliant memories. I’ve really enjoyed reading all the posts on here. Let’s hope more people add to them.

  40. Great times the late 70s
    I loved the Nag’s Head in the 70s after it lost its music licence I was devastated 🙁 I worked in the Van Damme Bar behind the bar for a time late 70s.

    My first shift and the entertainment was a drag act. All the other bar staff cleared off to the sides of the bar when he came on – all except silly me. I was busy still serving when tapped on the shoulder by an enormous dildo held by the drag queen who proceeded to chase me round the bar with it!

  41. Anyone remember either The Markey School Of Dancing, 89 High Street, Chatham or Courts Dancing School? The Courts may have been above Burton’s shop in the high street?


    1. Yes it was on the top of Burton’s. I managed to get a couple of medals there & worked in the tea bar, & as it was known as the local marriage bureau, found my husband there. Used to love Court school of dancing.


  42. Hello Ray King, glad to see you are still around, even if you are in France 🙂 I remember recording Inner Circle more than once at my GPM Studio in Northfleet. Then some of your visits to my music shop on The Banks in the early 1970s. I think we also supplied the disco gear for Steamboat.

    I must have played all the pubs in the 70s and 80s both as a solo act and as a duo called His ‘N Hers. I played The Ship regularly as a solo act on a Monday night.


    1. Hello Roger,
      Good to see that you too are still around.
      I came across your message by chance and it brought back so many memories of the late sixties and early seventies.
      Hope you’re still making good sounds,
      Peter (Midnight Sun)

      1. Hi Peter,
        Great to hear from you after all these years even though it has taken me a year to find your message. Strangely I’m living about eight miles from Lyn and Alan and see them regularly.

        Some great memories from those old days and I stopped playing only about two years ago, mainly due to lack of time. Still got the gear though and plonk about occasionally.

        Roger 🙂

  43. I have been trying to remember the name of the pub on the embankment just up from The Parlour in Rochester High Street. I think there was a Printer’s next door.
    Having been born and brought up in Chatham in the 60s I know all the pubs and clubs mentioned and a lot of the names.

  44. I used to visit Coopers, Northgate and across from Northgate(hotel bar) in early 70’s Nags head not so often.
    I remember after pub grub at Vera’s cafe opposite the market in Rochester!

  45. My name is John Marshall and I am one of 11 children who all grew up in Rochester.
    Firstly, I noticed Marina Elphick has posted on here and wonder if you are related to Colin Elphick of Strood?

    I have a few names that spring to mind when I think of growing up in the 60s. There has been a lot of mention of Dave and Lou Hoed and can remember doing a sponsored pram push with two bunny girls in the prays from Chatham to Tudor House, Bearsted.

    1. Hi John . Did you live in the Fairway? If so you lived next door to my cousins , and our back garden backed on to yours (the Alltimes family)

  46. Hi I grew up in Darnley road (Born 1945) and went to Temple Farm school (started at Elaine Avenue 1950) then on to Strood hill school 1952 then on to Temple farm school 1956 to 1960 when I left,anyone remember the casaventana in rochester high street.

  47. Bob Frater…I wonder if you remember me Linda Tidman (now Clark) and my best friend Jackie Bailey (now Aers) thinking back to what we called the Little Central. It was in the basement of the Central Hall
    Theatre in Chatham high street. We were still at school then aged about 15.

    1. Hello Linda ray Adams here I remember you & Jackie bailey & the central hall ,was Jackie’s brother Keith Bailey he lived on the corner of magpie hall rd & Haig ave where we lived , Keith was older than us & I think he used to hang around with Harry Harmon & terry hewitt both older brothers of my school mates , do you remember the little club at the church hall on Luton rd we would all go to on a Friday night , lots of memories I think we could all write several books of that time period would nt change any of it

  48. Any one with memories of Woodlands Road School – I hated every minute (1960-1965)? Featherby Road School – enjoyed this place (1956-1960)? Chilham Road (1956-1969)? And of course ugly ol’ me?

  49. Ray Adams here Grew up on the white rd estate in Chatham my cousin tony Ripley showed Me this site ,so many memories here I hung out at all the places mentioned & knew a lot of the people , would like to get in touch with mungo if he’s still about knew him since school days , last time I saw satch was in the 70,s he was the d jay at neros in ramsgate, I remember going to Mick Williams little club in Luton when we was still at school ,it was called the vault every time I hear James brown papas got a brand new bag or al Capone prince buster it reminds me of that place , remember palisades well & micks hairdressers on military road guys I believe it was called it had a little coffee bar which was very cool at the time , the little cafe on the top floor of the coop in the high street on a Saturday afternoon , I moved to California 40 yrs ago but come back every year & still have a walk along the high st it was rough then seems to get worse than it ever was then , Chatham is still home though no matter how long I’ve been away

  50. If I remember correctly in the mid 60’s the club above the Odeon cinema in Rochester was Vics (victor silvesters dance school). Mods inside dancing Rockers waiting outside to give grief. I remember Dave Clark’s “Bits and Pieces ” being banned as the stamping caused the film projector to shake. On a Saturday night straight across to Rochester station and up to Charing Cross for a night at the “Mingo”. Saw the Nashville Teens at the Brook Theatre (not sure what it was called then). Being a mod the Parlour, on the Banks, and the Wimpy in Chatham were our favoured meeting places in 63 & 64. I agree the “towns” were a great place to grow up, a little trouble to make it edgy but not too much to spoil an evening out.

  51. Hi, anyone remember my father Alan Bubb from Clarence Road, Chatham?

    We were just reminiscing about old times and trying to recollect all the people who were about then and where they are now

    Anyone who remembers and wants to get in touch?

  52. Hi Raymond, someone has just mentioned that they had seen this post, and that I maybe interested. I am someone from your distant past. Do you remember me, your cousin Mavis. I hope you are keeping well and noted that you are still in USA. Stay safe Mavis x

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