Whitehawk Inn

We may well have seen a proliferation of new bars on Western Road in recent years but this is not reflective of a much wider trend. Pubs have been closing for a number of years for a variety of reasons.

Just as the demise of the high street bank provided an opportunity for bars to move in, the fall in fortune of the suburban pub has presented hundreds of equally interesting conversion opportunities. With stone facades and high ceilings, the banks lent themselves well to most conversion opportunities but the pubs, often built on prominent sites overlooking busy road junctions, are a little trickier.

Take the Whitehawk Inn for example. It was built in 1934 and is a perfect example, on the outside anyway, of a typical 1930s community pub. The style is instantly recognisable and other examples locally include the Grenadier in Hangleton and Ladies Mile in Patcham, both dating from 1935.

In its dominant position on the corner of Whitehawk Road, the Whitehawk Inn stands out immediately, once serving as a beacon for the many travelling salesmen who once stayed in the rooms upstairs. Whereas the Grenadier and Ladies Mile continue as community pubs, the Whitehawk Inn has a different use entirely; still as a community hub fortunately.

The Whitehawk Inn today could be described in many ways. It has certainly evolved since it opened – reopened in fact – in 1999 as a community centre specialising in IT training. I was shown around by its Director, Frances Duncan, who explained to me that the focus now is much more on helping people to find work, though all sorts of exciting activities take place there.

Most interior features have been removed such as the long sweeping bar and built-in window seating. Ceiling height and room layout count as features and these still remain of course. The exterior has hardly been touched and all of the classic 1930s detailing remains such as the semi-circular holes through which water drains from the balcony into iron hoppers, and chimneys with a Modernist touch. The pub sign, which actually features a white hawk, has been removed but it is stored away safely in the adjoining garage.

Social trends evolve and it is inevitable that buildings are modified as a reaction to such changes. The Whitehawk Inn functions amazingly well in its current guise. I doubt that the pub sign will ever be needed again.