The Justice Rooms
The chequers inn is one of Tonbridge’s oldest buildings it was built around the 15th century but records say there has been a pub here since 1265. The first pub had burned down but was rebuilt 1334 then changed to what we see know. A hang mans rope hangs on the post outside but was anyone hanged here? You can see that even one hundred years later the pub still looks the same but all the other buildings were pulled down in the 1960s now the castle bus stops.
Stories of secrets tunnels are said to be hidden in this pub but are they still there? I went with my dad to the chequers to ask the land lord if we could have a look around. The land lord was very helpful but we found out so much more than we expected. We went down into the cellar and were told there use to be a well in the middle that was filling from the river’ but this was filled in about 15 years ago.
Looking around the cellar we were shown a small archway that had been blocked off. was this the secret tunnel to the Castle or Parish church, used to escape if you were in trouble
After this we were taken up stairs to the justice rooms this was where they decided what punishment was going to happen to you, either you were going to be in the stocks or you would be hung. There was a hatch on the door where you would lift it up and the chief would say you would be burnt, put in the stocks for people to throw rocks and food and vegetables at them, or you would be hung.
A hangman’s noose dangled from the stout oak sign post. The rumour has it that Wat Tyler’s brother was hanged here during the peasant’s revolt in 1381.
We found a record in the library of two burning’s of people outside the pub, One was in 1555, a lady called Margery Polley from Pembury was burned here for her religious beliefs, possibly she could have been a witch and a lot of people thought she was a witch.
The other in July 1576 a lady called Katherine Brystowe was burned for poisoning her husband
We drove out to Pembury and found the trough that showed Margery Polley and it said about her religious beliefs but on the trough it said she suffered from martrydon ( for having a different belief ). You can see this trough if you drive through Pembury. It is opposite the pub Camden Arms.
Margery Polley was burned on the site of the old fire station behind the castle
The author Jeffrey Farnol 1878 – 1952 used the inn in a number of his novels. The words below come from his novel “the broad highway” written in 1910.
In due seat I came into Tonbridge town and following the high street, presently observed a fine inn upon the right hand side of the way, which as I remember is called the chequers. Here were diver’s loiterers, lounging round the door, or seated upon the benches.
Next time you walk past the Chequers stop and have a good think about the strange going on’s about the people that were hung, put on the stocks or burnt.