There is some good news at last regarding the fate of the historic Castle Inn in Chiddingstone. The National Trust-owned pub closed its doors back in April, when the former landlord abandoned his tenancy, claiming that the combination of the high rent, levied by the Trust, along with restrictions such as lack of car-parking facilities, had made the business unviable.
The closure decision came out of the blue, and caught customers and local residents completely by surprise. The fact that the pub was closed all summer must have meant a significant loss in income for both the National Trust and surrounding businesses, so the news that it will reopen next month, will delight everyone who is familiar with this lovely old inn.
The new owner is Nick Naismith, a director of Westerham Brewery, and the person responsible, a few years ago, for rescuing the ailing Wheatsheaf pub, a few miles away in Bough Beech. Mr Naismith’s association with Westerham might not be such welcome news to local brewers Larkin’s Brewery, who are based just half a mile down the road from the Castle; especially as Larkin’s were known to have supplied around 80 per cent of the pub’s cask beer, prior to its closure.
According to the local Times of Tonbridge newspaper, which first broke the story, there will be some significant set-up costs involved before the Castle can reopen, as the previous tenant is reported to have stripped the pub of all its fixtures and fittings.
Speaking on behalf of the National Trust, Richard Henderson, Assistant Director of Operations for both the pub, and other NT owned buildings in Chiddingstone village, said “We are delighted to have found a new tenant for the Castle Inn, after a period of temporary closure. Our first priority has always been to find the right person to care for this historic building, as well as having a successful plan to turn the pub back into a thriving business again.” He went on to say, “We look forward now to working with the new landlord to prepare the pub for reopening and welcoming locals and visitors back in the near future.”
Although no firm date has been set for the reopening, the appointment of a new and experienced licensee will be a welcome relief to both village regulars and thirsty visitors alike; particularly as back in the summer there were all sorts of dark rumours circulating about the possible fate of the Castle Inn.
I look forward to the pub reopening its doors, although it will be interesting to see which local beer the new licensee opts for. I’ve a feeling it will be a good old British compromise, and we will see both Larkin’s and Westerham beers adorning the bar. I will, of course, continue to report on developments concerning the Castle, as soon as I become aware of them.