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The Royal George and the “High and Dry”

The Royal George was renamed the “High and Dry” around September 1974 at the instigation of the then licensee, Bob Wells. He was a former pitman and had been licensee for seven years. He pointed out to Whitbread Fremlin’s, the brewers, that there was a local wish for the pub to be known officially by the name the local people, and even the bus drivers called it, namely the “High and Dry”. Whitbread Fremlin’s wrote to the East Kent licensing magistrates seeking permission for the change of name who offered no objection. A brewery surveyor was then asked to carry out research for a new pub sign. There was some discussion about how the new name would be spelt. Bob Wells preference was for `Hi and Dri” as, according to him, that was the way most people in the area spelt it. A compromise would be to have it spelled each way on either side of the sign.
At the time of the change, Mr Wells said the story of why the pub was called the “High and Dry”, as told to him by an 84-year-old customer, was that farm workers working a steam tractor ploughing a field on the Earl of Guilford’s land were caught in a thunderstorm with torrential rain and took shelter in the Royal George and were there so long that they drank the pub dry. There are other variations to this story, including that the trapped men were miners, that the weather event was a snow storm etc but all seem somewhat fanciful. If nothing else, it’s highly unlikely that the farmers or the miners would have the funds to drink a pub dry.
Another story suggests that the pub was named High and Dry because it was frequented by miners who spent there working lives “low and wet”. The fact that a colliery map is marked “High and Dry” in that location I think is simply a reference to the local name and has nothing to do with mining activities.
In all probability, I think the name is old (early 1900s or before) and refers simply to this being a high and dry location. In the past it was considered a big selling point (and advertised as such) if a building was high and dry, being safe from adverse weather and flooding. This would be especially the case when roads were generally just tracks and not made up as we know them know. In the summer the roads would be very dry and dusty and, in the winter, very wet and muddy and often impassable. There is a 1901 reference to Whitfield (itself meaning white or chalky field) which says “No doubt it was called Whitfield owing to its being high, dry, and chalky, which gives it a white appearance and the same colour clings to the modern cyclists who, the summer time, pedal over its powdery roads.” It is thus possible that it is the advent of popular cycling that popularised the pub location as being “high and dry” although it may also have been known as such by horse and cart travellers who may have rested the horses here are a long pull up the hills surrounding. It is also probably true that whilst the pub was “High and Dry” the surrounding lower land was also prone to flooding,
It should be noted that the term “High and Dry”, as well as referring to something “above water” (such as a stranded ship), is also used by High Church. High Church clergy and laity were often termed high and dry, in reference to their traditional high attitude with regard to political position of the Church in England, and dry faith, which was accompanied by an austere but decorous mode of worship. I can see no obvious reason why this is how the pub got its name though.

Vince Croud

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