Remembering Northgate’s former pubs

The Tally Ho is the most recent pub to depart the scene in Canterbury

by Rory Kehoe

The Tally Ho in Clyde Street is the latest pub to shut in the Northgate part of Canterbury.

It appears that it is now being turned into letting accommodation, even though it had been a popular and busy locals’ pub, with active pool and darts teams.

A sad and completely unnecessary loss to the local community, the Tally Ho will be much missed.

But what many people may not know is just how many other pubs used to be in this particular part of the city.

Here’s a brief history and pictures of some of the best known.

The Royal Dragoon in Military Road in 1941

The Royal Dragoon: During the war, the Royal Dragoon was a Mackeson’s Hythe Brewery pub.

The roof of the Royal Dragoon was “remodelled” by the Luftwaffe about a year after this pic was taken and the adjoining buildings were destroyed in the Baedeker Raids.

Shepherd Neame bought the Royal Dragoon in the early 1970s and eventually managed to shoehorn out the old lady who’d been running the pub for donkey’s years.

The Royal Dragoon was very popular in the 1980s/90s but closed around twenty years ago and is now a private house.

The Brewer’s Delight in 1995

The Brewer’s Delight: Like the Royal Dragoon, the Brewer’s Delight was bought from Whitbread’s by Shepherd Neame in the early 1970s.

It was famous, not just for serving good, beer but its beautifully maintained bat and trap pitch.

Despite its previous popularity, trade dwindled when Wetherspoon’s opened up round the corner and the Brewer’s Delight closed in 2003.

The building in Broad Street is now offices.

The King William IV: A photograph from Edward Wilmot’s excellent book on Canterbury’s pubs.

The King Billy was another small, local pub, which opened in the early Victorian days, to slake the thirsts of soldiers from St Gregory’s Barracks, which were just over the road.

The King William IV in 1965

Originally a Rigden’s Brewery pub, the King Billy became a Fremlin’s house in 1949.

It stayed that way until Whitbread took over and closed the Maidstone Brewery in the late 1960s.

The King Billy was a popular community local but probably never really recovered from Northgate’s decline in the 1970s/80s.

It finally closed about 10 years ago, with the building becoming accommodation for the growing number of Canterbury Christ Church University students.

The Vauxhall Tavern: Another Mackeson’s house, the original Vauxhall Tavern faced the main gate of the Cavalry Barracks, now Leros Barracks.

The Vauxhall Tavern in 1950

It was probably not much more than a small beerhouse catering for thirsty troopers.

The Vauxhall Tavern was named after the local gardens of that name and not the car marque.

It was rebuilt in the 1930s, more as a roadhouse – hence the buses – and was a popular pub, right up until the time that Whitbread called time and  converted it into a Burger King.

It was knocked down around 2005 the Vauxhall Tavern. The site is now Majestic Wine store.

Leopard’s Head: A typical 1950s brick shoebox, which replaced the Victorian pub destroyed in the Baedeker Raids, the Leopard’s Head was originally called the Donkey’s Chump.

The Leopard’s Head in 1963

Originally, the army’s main barracks were in Northgate and there were about 20 mostly small pubs in the immediate area serving the troops, support personnel and local residents.

The Leopard’s Head was owned by Tomson & Wotton of Ramsgate, which was Britain’s oldest brewery, established 1634, until being bought and closed by Whitbread’s in 1967.

The boys and girls in this photograph (most of whom would now be pensioners!) are waiting for the Canterbury Carnival procession to come down Military Road.

The Leopard’s Head closed in 2005 and has been a Domino’s Pizza outlet since then.

Still seeking refreshment? Until the 1960s you could slake your thirst and enjoy a pint or three in any one of a dozen other pubs, all of which were within five minutes‘ walk of the Tally Ho.

These included the Yew Tree, Little Wonder, Two Brothers, Union Castle, Victoria, Black Lion, Model Tavern, Waterloo Tavern and the Jolly Sailor.

A potent cocktail of brewery takeovers, subsequent asset stripping and city council slum clearances put paid to most of these. If anyone has photographs of these pubs and/or anecdotes concerning them, please get in touch.

Rory Kehoe is a local historian and collector, with a special interest in the licensed trade and Kent brewing industry.


  1. I like your columns Rory they are historically interesting and amusing. What about hotel bars, one Xmas day in the early 80’s I went out for a drink with my brother and the only place we could find that would serve us was the Chaucer hotel. Labby Labo. Tony griffiths


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here