A combined history of the North Sussex branch of CAMRA and the Red Lion Public House where the branch was formed in 1974.
Standing at the bar in the Red Lion, surrounded by the chatter of modern day conversation, you could be forgiven for not knowing that the building has a history which stretches back almost 200 years, to shortly after the Battle of Waterloo. The first reference to the Red Lion, at Turners Hill, comes in a ‘Schedule of Title Deeds and Documents’ dated March 1818 when the property was owned by one, William Gardner.
The house was to change hands more than a dozen times in the next hundred years. Interestingly, what was actually being purchased at that time was the ‘half an acre of land more or less’ on which the pub stood, although you often had to look long and hard to find any reference in those early records to the public house ‘known by the sign of the red lion,’ as it was quaintly phrased. Around the time of the first World War the pub had passed into the ownership of Alice Smith in whose family it remained until Harveys purchased it in 1929 for the princely sum of £1500.
The Red Lion was under the tenancy of Les Shrimpton, a keen supporter of ‘working beer’, when in 1974 another era in the pub’s history began. John Roberts, Jack Locker-Lampson and Andrew Judge formed what was the first CAMRA branch in Sussex.
North Sussex CAMRA
The present day North Sussex CAMRA branch was formed at the Red Lion, Turners Hill, on Friday 29th March 1974. At the time of its foundation, North Sussex was the first and only CAMRA branch in the county so that ‘inaugural meeting’ held at the Red Lion was the birth place of CAMRA activity in Sussex.
Just three months later, and in a bid to more accurately reflect the large area covered by the branch at the time, the name was changed to Sussex / Surrey Borders. This was achieved, amidst the downing of copious pints of Youngs Special, at the Home Cottage, Redhill.
Around this time CAMRA was growing furiously and, in January 1975, a Horsham branch was formed at The Anchor in East Street. However, a later need to rationalise the number of CAMRA branches formed resulted in an agreed merger, which took place at The Cherry Tree, Faygate in the spring of 1977, when Horsham branch joined with Sussex / Surrey Borders to form, once again, the present day North Sussex branch.
In a postscript it should be added that around 1976 Les Shrimpton died and his attractive daughter, Denise, married Pete Bouldry. The popular young couple remained behind the bar until 2001, when they retired from the trade.