Duke of York pub, Tunbridge Wells


A couple of photos from last year – outside the Duke of York with the fishmarket still as Tourist Information, and a view inside DofY of unfest 2013 with Jessica Johansson band. In that time the TI has moved into the Corn Exchange, and the fishmarket has become Sankey’s Champagne & Seafood bar. Today (Saturday 29th march 2014) the Duke of York will close for a period of renovation.

I suppose when you look at the photos, it probably could do with a little renovation… It’s one of the pubs I went to a lot when I first moved to Tunbridge Wells twenty-two years ago, and I don’t feel it’s changed much – awkward seating, hops as decoration, toilets with odd angled-doors. The charm is, it feels like it probably always was like this, it evolved into what it is. The trend now seems to be to strip everything, decorate and polish it, then add in some bought retro pieces, and there’s your pub, bar or coffee shop. Increasingly everywhere is looking the same.

Someone mentioned jumble sales today, and I was taken back to being fourteen (again) spending Saturday afternoons rummaging through piles of (smelly) old clothes laid out on tables in church halls and school halls, looking for things that were a bit different. I was lucky to bag a couple of 1950s dresses, which now I think about it, would have been 30 years old, and I can’t imagine anyone now being excited about finding my 1980s clothes for 10p in a jumble sale…

The places we went to in Canterbury after school, to spend as little money as possible, were touristy tearooms or greasy cafes, each with their distinctive feel, but neither feeling like someone had spent ages creating a design. They were places that seemed to have happened, as were all the pubs we went to in later years, accumulations of years of living. I suppose Wimpy was the first restaurant I went to that had a sense of identity, and once McDonalds took hold, it seems to have gone down hill ever since. You aren’t a proper business if your tables and chairs don’t match, or if you write your menu out by hand on some cards, or you can’t sell cappuccino and cupcakes, or real ale. In a country not tied by the Communist ideal of all things being equal, it seems the Capitalist way to succeed is to… make everything look the same…

Waiting to see what happens to the Duke of York, as the toilets move, the bar moves, more seating is put in. I don’t think it’s going to be quite the same – but it will be samey.


Jumble Sale inspiration from Antonia Makes


3 thoughts on “Duke of York pub, Tunbridge Wells

  1. Jumble sales have given way to ‘Vintage’ – same old tat, but instead of costing fifty pee and benefiting whatever charity the WVS ladies were backing that year it costs fifty quid and benefits the ‘micro-entrepreneur’ (hem hem) shopkeeper buying up stocks from charity shops and depriving the genuinely needy their chance of a bargain…

    Cafes and pubs that look like the ones you mention do exist, but they’re engineered to do so and usually cost far more to drink in than the pubs and cafe chains that are more up front about their origins. And they lack the vital ingredients of authenticity and ‘community’. They become flavour of the month for, erm, a month or two, and then their key demographic move on to the next big thing, taking their disposable income with ’em.

    Just the same tired business models chasing the same customers from venue to venue… I was told the other day that the term ‘Gastropub’ is now old hat. It might have a new name now (and I neither know nor care what it is!) but it’ll be the same overpriced offcuts and offal on the menu, pushing up supermarket prices for cuts that were once affordable by people who couldn’t afford gastropubs but who now have even fewer options available to them.

    *Sigh* 😀

      • I tried, but couldn’t get through the door for micro entrepreneur yummy mummies stocking up their vintage boutiques and car boot sale stallholders stocking up their stalls for the weekend. One little old lady, I hear, almost managed to snap up a bargain plastic tea strainer for five pee, but then a ‘trader’ realised it was a limited edition collectable given away with packets of PG tips in 1976 and started bidding on it. Finally went for £35.00, and is already in the shop window of ‘I Saw You Coming’ Antiques with a price tag of £250.00 Harrumph 😉

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