The present Georgian façade conceals the original timbered structure, for it was thought that this Inn was built in the 14th century, when the Weald was covered by oak forest. Shipbuilding took place at Smallhythe and it is said that when the man-of war-ships completed their service for the Crown, they became the property of the original shipbuilder and were used for the construction of houses and barns. It is possible, even likely, that oak from an old sailing ship that saw service in the Indies, was used in The Chequers.
Originally the building was a large hall with an open fire in the centre, there were no chimneys and just a few unglazed windows. The roof at the time was thatched. The smoke from the open hearth would drift carelessly upwards and hopefully disappear through the slat-ted windows. This however would only occur if the wind was in the right direction, one can imagine the unpleasant atmosphere if it were not. There was a ledge over the ends of the hall which provided sleeping quarters.
It was during the Tudor period that a floor was constructed right across the hall to provide further accommodation and a central chimney built. It was not until the 18th century that the end chimneys were added.
Apart from offering weary travellers refreshment and accommodation, The Chequers was very much a meeting place for villagers. It is known that a shoe club met at the Inn in the winter months, a subscription of sixpence 2½ p) was collected at each meeting and a raffle took place, the winner being entitled to a new pair of shoes. His feet were duly measured by the village bootmaker and by the following week he was wearing his prize.
Various clubs and societies held their annual dinners at the Inn, the High Halden Mutual Benefit Society chose May and we read in the Parish Magazine of the time that the Soci-ety ‘will hold their annual Dinner at the Chequers Inn on Mon-day 29th May 1876, divine Service at 10.30 o’clock. W.B. Stavely will preside. The 3rd Cinque Ports Volunteers Band with professional singers will be in attendance. Dinner on the table at 2 o’clock’.
Another fact worthy of note is that the Chequers once housed the only public clock in the village (before the church clock was installed) and it is said that parishioners came from all corners of the village to check the accuracy of their clocks and watches.”
The Chequers remains an important part of village life and is still a meeting place for villagers and long may it be so.
Address: Ashford Road, High Halden, Ashford, Kent. TN26 3LP Tel: 01233 850503 for reservations .
Official pub website with menus and further information.