A less than jolly evening in Arundel at the ‘House of Entertainment’

The Jolly Sailors pub with empty beer crates outside the door, c1900
The Jolly Sailors pub with empty beer crates outside the door, c1900

I am in debt for this month’s article to one of our oldest ‘Mullets’ (born within the parish) Eric Nash.

Eric is an avid collector of all things Arundel and his house is like a time capsule.

Arun Street leads from Tarrant Street to River Road where the Jolly Sailors pub was once located ' 1972

Arun Street leads from Tarrant Street to River Road where the Jolly Sailors pub was once located ' 1972

Everything from his old Home Guard uniform, books on Arundel’s history, original signs from shops that closed down many years ago to original paintings, faded photographs, typeset from the old West Sussex Gazette print works in Tarrant Street (where Eric was employed for many years) and original newspapers dating back to the late 1700s/early 1800s.

However, it is a column from the from the May 10, 1855 edition of the West Sussex Gazette (and County Advertiser) that Eric showed me during a recent visit to his home from which much of this month’s article has been taken.

Under the heading ‘Local Intelligence’ and the somewhat bizarre sub-heading of ‘THE ‘SOFT’ SEX – Caroline Moor v Catherine Smith’ – we find details of an assault hearing that involved a ‘fight’ between two local ‘ladies’ in a public house along the Ship Yard, an area better known today as River Road.

The Jolly Sailors public house, or the ‘House of Entertainment’ – as it is referred to in the article – opens on to River Road and backs onto the River Arun.

Richard 'Pegleg' Hulls, licensee of the Jolly Sailors from 1869 to 1900

Richard 'Pegleg' Hulls, licensee of the Jolly Sailors from 1869 to 1900

It ‘Boasts a proximity to a square, which perhaps is little known to many of our readers, and is familiarly called ‘Turnip Green Square’.

Local tradition tells us that the turnip reference refers to the makeshift missiles once used by the locals against some rather foolish teenage ‘Townies’ who dared venture into the area.

However, the article from 1855 suggests that the name arose from the locals gathering and selling the green tops of turnips.

It goes on to add strangely that this was ’a branch of political economy to be highly commended’.

Richard 'Pegleg' Hulls and his extended family taken early 1925. Richard died in October that year

Richard 'Pegleg' Hulls and his extended family taken early 1925. Richard died in October that year

In this rundown area of the port, brothels and rat-infested lodging houses were plentiful, sanitation was almost nonexistent and dysentery was rife.

The pub had a reputation as a hangout for local ruffians, sailors, and a certain type of woman who tended to frequent such places.

It was known as a rather ‘less than desirable’ place of entertainment for most townsfolk and at the time was viewed as perhaps the most dangerous drinking establishment in the town.

From the article: ‘Although the people of this neighbourhood live in comparative quietude from the busy thoroughfares, they are not free from the little disputes which are innate in mankind.

‘Neither are these quarrels settled quietly between themselves, but like their richer neighbours, they are not unfrequently (sic) compelled to appeal to a higher tribunal to get these little peccadilloes satisfactorily adjusted.

‘This was one of these cases, in which two females were concerned—one as a plaintiff, and the other a defendant.

‘The quarrel took place at the aforesaid Jolly Sailors. The defendant is landlady of this public house, and it appeared that the husband of the plaintiff had been attracted hither by the inviting character of the house, for be it known, that the sign-board suspended in front of the building illustrates two sailors dancing most merrily; being in an enviable state of jollity.

‘The plaintiff went to this house for her husband, and thus came in contact with the defendant, and, after a few discordant words, in which the plaintiff accused the defendant with being on terms of objectionable familiarity with her husband, matters assumed a warlike aspect, and so high at last the contest rose from words they came to downright blows.’

As the faces of both the plaintiff and defendant gave conclusive evidence. The sober facts of the dispute will be better learnt by the following evidence taken before the magistrates.

Caroline Moor sworn: ‘I am the wife of James Moor, a blacksmith, of Arundel. On the 2nd of May, at about quarter past nine, I went to the Jolly Sailors public-house for my husband, whom I supposed was there drinking.

‘I opened the door and spoke to my husband, asking him how long he should be there. He gave me some sort of reply, which I do not exactly recollect, and Mrs Smith (the landlady of the house) slapped me in the face, and put me out.

‘I opened the door again, and Mrs. Smith pulled me in and scratched my face in a disgraceful manner, and cruelly pinched me. The marks now on my face are those done by Mrs Smith. My husband did not offer to interfere, but stood and laughed at me. He was worse for liquor. I think I scratched Mrs Smith again, but I am not certain of it. It was not a regular fight.

‘The defendant made a widely different story of the matter. She stated that Mrs Moor came to the house and opened the door violently, knocking Stillwell out of the chair. She accused her of being her husband’s w---e. And I am sure (added the defendant) I know no more about him than I do you gentlemen (meaning the magistrates ;) for I have got a husband of my own!’

Charles Stillwell corroborated the evidence of the defendant, and added that Mrs Moor floored Mrs Smith – a fact, however, which appears somewhat contradictory, in looking at the relative sizes of the plaintiff and defendant.

The Mayor observed that the evidence was very conflicting, and as the witness Stilwell had corroborated the evidence of the defendant, the case was dismissed.

The earliest record I came across that mentioned this drinking establishment was from the 1793 Pigot directory, although it is likely that a drinking establishment of some form existed here much earlier.

Richard Hulls appears to have been the licensee in 1869 until around 1900 when his son Ernest George Hulls took over.

Richard was better known locally as ‘Pegleg’ Hulls following the loss of part of his leg in a work accident that was replaced by a wooden ‘peg’ leg, as it was known at the time.

In 1895 he was awarded a certificate by Arundel residents for his years of service of rescuing people from the river and recovering dead bodies.

A tale that has been passed down refers to a time he jumped into his rowing boat and his wooden leg went right through the bottom of the hull – an incident in which the rescuer himself required rescuing.

In 1930 William John Lee is recorded as being the beer retailer and the pub ceased trading shortly afterwards, around 1932.

Forthcoming events at Arundel Museum:

n Thursday, October 8 - An evening with Michael O’Leary, the Hagstone Storyteller.

n Saturday, October 24 – The Big Draw @Arundel Museum, a collaboration between Young Arts at West Sussex Decorative Fine Arts and Arundel Museum.

n Thursday and Friday, October 29/30 – Guided walk, Ghosts, Murders and Mysteries of Olde Arundel.

For more details, visit www.arundelmuseum.org.uk or call 01903 885866.