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Star's old pub falls victim to recession

PUBLISHED: 15:46 04 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:50 23 August 2010

A 300-YEAR-OLD pub once frequented by legendary entertainer Tommy Steele is to close as the shocking demise of the borough s pub trade continues. The Terrace Tavern, The Terrace, Gravesend, is among almost 30 pubs in the area covered by the Gravesend and

A 300-YEAR-OLD pub once frequented by legendary entertainer Tommy Steele is to close as the shocking demise of the borough's pub trade continues.

The Terrace Tavern, The Terrace, Gravesend, is among almost 30 pubs in the area covered by the Gravesend and Darent Valley Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to close since 2007.

Recent figures reveal more than 10 per cent of boozers have been axed over a three year period.

Tommy Steele OBE (then Hicks) stumbled across the pub during a brief spell in the Merchant Navy, where he was based at the Gravesend Sea School as a teenager.

Landlady Sharon Taylor, 37, said: "I never came in to this to make money, most people don't these days but I had to say enough was enough. You can't go on losing money. The overheads are just too high. When the bills came in it was quite frankly scary and just too expensive to run.

"My time here has been completely fantastic. I will miss it so much, I came for the lifestyle which I love but I will leave with nothing.

"The pub has such a fascinating history, the regulars talk about the characters that used the pub, even Tommy Steele popped in before he was famous and had a drink and laugh with regulars."

The mother-of-three will quit the Grade II listed pub on September 1, exactly a year after she took over the helm.

Due to the wooden built frame of the pub it costs about £6,000 to heat from November to February, weakly electricity bills of £250, other running costs and decline of the traditional river industry have rendered the pub no longer viable.

Owners Enterprise Inn decided to sell after she announced plans to leave. It is thought the new owner will apply for permission to turn the premises in to a bed and breakfast.

Tommy Steele, 73, was once dubbed Britain's Elvis Presley, and had a series of hits including the Number 1 'Singing the Blues'. The star also appeared in the hit film musical, Half a Sixpence, which was made in Folkestone.

He forged an exemplary West End career and is planning to tour the country again in the lead role of Scrooge next month,

John Meadowcroft, 74, is secretary of the Gravesend Sea School Association and says the actor and singer writes to him after joining the association five years ago.

He said: "I didn't know Tommy at the time as we were a class apart, but certainly some of the Sea School boys would cover their uniforms and pop in for a drink or two.

"The Terrace was a proper rivermens' pub. If you were associated with the river in anyway its likely you would be in there at some stage."

Historian Tony Larkin said the demise of the pub trade in the borough was "devastating".

He said: "It's a crying shame the amount of pub closures. At one time Gravesend had more one pub per every 187 people, now that figure is more like one pub per 1,400 people. Back then it was a completely different social world,

"The ships are were a lot of our entertainers learned their trade. They went off to sea and to keep people entertained they would sing and play music.

"In the '60s a lot of famous faces would have came and played at the Co-op Hall round the corner, you would have a dirnk before in the Terrace Tavern and move on to the dance halls."

CAMRA figures show there were 279 pubs in north Kent in 1980, a figure which now stands at 205, with 27 pubs shutting their doors since 2007.

Recent closures this year include Market Tavern, formerly the Chase, New Inn, and the Terrace Tavern, Gravesend. The Prince Albert, Northfleet, The Colyer Arms, Southfleet, Windmill, Dartford, and Birchwood in Swanley are also boarded up.

On Sunday August 29 The Terrace Tavern is to hold a special closing down event for anyone associated with the river.

Watermen, tug workers, and rowers past and present are all welcome from 7pm. Please notify staff of your attendance in advance.

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