The Eight Bells Pub, 19 Cannon Street, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom

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John Latter on March 20, 2009

J D Wetherspoon's 'The Eight Bells' public house at 19 Cannon Street [1], Dover, Kent, was formerly the Plaza Cinema, the Essoldo Cinema, and finally the Rio Bingo Hall. The Metropole Hotel and Metropole Bars ('Met Bars') were also located on the upper floors prior to it becoming a pub. Outside in the above photo, Cilla Eivers is enjoying a Sunday morning breakfast.

From Wetherspoon's The Eight Bells website:

This Wetherspoon pub is part of the former Metropole Hotel. Built at a cost of £17,000, this grandiose building opened in October 1896. It was later used as a garage, showrooms and offices. From 1929, it accommodated the Plaza cinema, which, in turn, became a bingo hall.

How this pub got its name: This Wetherspoon pub stands in the shadow of St Mary’s, one of Dover’s main parish churches for more than 400 years. The church was totally rebuilt in 1843 except for the tower, which has the eight bells - which gives this pub its name.

In its days of being a cinema and bingo hall the interior of the building opened up into a huge triangular auditorium extending behind the shops shown in the photo as far as New Street. There were two exits from the cinema into New Street (ex Turne-againe Lane) which joins Cannon Street one shop beyond the red 'British Heart Foundation' premises shown on the right of the above photo. J D Wetherspoon may have had some inspiration for choosing their pub's name from an earlier ale-house once located in New Street. An entry in Barry Smith's 1991 edition of, "By The Way: The Dover Pubs" reads:

Eight Bells: An early beer-house, probably opening in the 1840s. It stood on the same side as the "Metropole" trade entrance. An outlet of Phillips, it was used for many years, unofficially up to 1913, as a common lodging house. Although aware of its existence, the police turned a blind eye because they admitted in 1911, although very old it was always clean and well kept.

Walter Drury was a drayman for the Diamond Brewery for fourteen years before starting here in 1908. He made his arrangements with the gods in 1915, shortly after the closure. That was in 1911, when it was declared surplus to requirements and compensation of £467 was made to the brewer and £70 to Drury. It was fully licensed and a public and a private bar were available. It continued as "Ye Olde Eight Bells Lodging House" well into the thirties.

Another with the sign had previously traded from Townwall Street, later becoming the "The Granville Hotel" and others were kept by Jones in 1791 and Wyndham 1805. I have no addresses.

[1] From Dover Street Names Origins:

There was a Cannon Ward in the earliest days of the Dover Corporation, and was the portion of the town under the control of the Canons of St Martin-le-Grand [in the Market Square]. It has been argued that the street takes its name from this ward and is thus misspelt. However, the street never bore this name at the time of the canons. A more likely explanation is that Captain Henry Cannon, who was Deputy Governor of Dover Castle during the Commonwealth, owned property in the street.

J D Wetherspoon's also own the building that once housed the very first Granada Cinema which opened in Dover's Castle Street in 1930.

This is the Images of Dover website.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 20, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/03/15 09:38:16
    • Exposure: 0.006s (1/180)
    • Focal Length: 28.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/6.700
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash