by Rod Marsden
The Old Neptune’s Ghosts
rate or flag this pageTweet I’ve been in, Actually, it ain’t like a pub at all - and
that’s why I love the place.
It’s like an art gallery - several of the really-good lo-
cal artists hang their works on the timber walls and
people come in to view and buy art. And musicians
come here too - bloody good ones - to meet other
musicians and artists, listen to some toons, have a
beer or two and chill out, man. It was in the Neptune
that I met Mick Hill of Original Artists, and told him
about my whacky idea for a book. When I saw the
work this guy is capable of I knew I had found the
man to help me out. He does amazing sign boards,
they’re brand new but he ages them so they look
like they’ve been around for decades. The Guinness
sign in the photo is one of his jobs- in fact there are
examples of his work all over the Neptune, and all
over the town (and some other towns).
And then he painted the cover art for the book. It’s
totally brilliant and ... err, as soon as a few people
buy the book I’m going to pay him. I am. I think
a change of subject is called for..... um, about the
Neptune.... (there’s a link to his studios/workshop
Another artist, Ron Chadwick, also displays his
works on the Neptune’s walls. He’s known as Icon-
Artman, because he does amazing - photo realistic
- portraits of.... iconic figures, like Dali, Monroe,
Marley and Lennon. I’ve put a few examples of his
work in this article (he doesn’t need the advert). For
the best view of his work though, come to the Nep-
The Old Neptune, in Neptune Gap on Marine tune. The quality of the light that comes in through
Terrace, on the beach at Whitstable, is THE the windows has something to it that you cannot get
place to be. It attracts all kinds of weird and won- in any gallery. Sometimes you can see that people
derful examples of humanity. It’s like no-other pub are torn between watching the spectacular sunset
out of the window or looking at the pictures and
The Old Neptune’s Ghosts
other art on the walls and shelves. It’s like Aladdin’s various unexpected directions, usually downwards,
Cave.in there. Justin and Emily put their pieces in in the end.
the Neptune too. They make paper mache things....
things like fish, cats, dogs, people - all sorts. (linked Marine Terrace Whitstable, Kent England -
below). Justin also plays brass instruments, and he
often turns-up and joins-in with whoever’s playing. Marine Terrace, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1, UK [get
Well, what about the floor? If you’ve never been in-
side The Old Neptune before, that’s the first surprise Marine Terrace
that awaits you. Newcomers never fail to comment ,
usually humorously, like: I haven’t even had a drink Often, the crash or bang of some ornament or jug
yet, and I feel pis**d . They are generally pointing at diving off of the display-shelf behind the bar and
the floor and the bar as they say it. hitting the floor prompts one or other of the ‘re-
gulars’ to remark that ‘the ghost is at it again’. The
Y’see, the floor and the bar have quite marked uphill/ Neptune has a bit of a history of ghosts and unex-
downhill bends or slopes in them. One end of the pected weirdness going on, and the way the floor
old building has... er... settled down into the beach and bar are warped does nothing to discourage the
beneath it, while the other end stayed where it was, peculiar happenings and imaginative explanations.
and is still. They’ve done all sorts of engineering
underneath the floor and the sinking has, they say, Even the most pragmaticmember of staff, the ‘cel-
stopped. Back about 15 years ago the previous Lan- larman,’ takes it seriously. He’s witnessed a few odd
dlords pulled-out saying the building was going to occurences himself, and told me and the 5-0-Clock
fall down. That sent a shock ‘round the town. But crew about it one day after something heavy (a
no-one reckoned on the Irish. They know a good plaque) hanging on a hook unhooked itself and
thing when they see one, and, undaunted by the crashed to the floor. It had been a quiet afternoon
seemingly perilous condition of the place, took it until that crash, and it really made me (and a few
over. A certain amount of hammering, sawing, cur- others) jump. We went over to investigate and one-
sing, heaving and laughter emanated from beneath and-all agreed that it was impossible for that heavy
the floor, for several months - or was it years? I forget object to somehow get off of that hook. But it did.
now.. we ignored it anyway and the place didn’t fall
down. A few of us were quite pleased about that. So, sitting back at the bar that remark was made
again:: ‘the ghost’s at it again.’
So now the floor’s got a nice bend in it, and so has
the bar. People walk in through the door and stagger, I expected the cellarman to ‘poo poo’ that, but he
and have to lean on the bar before they fall over. It surprised me. He told the gathered 5-0-Clock Club
always takes them unawares. It’s quite weird. They’ll members a story - and he had a straight face on
put their pint pot on the bar and gawp in disbelief when he told.
as the glass starts to slide down the slope of the bar.
He related how he’d had to go and buy a new mop-
If there happens to be a band playing, the vibra- handle ‘cos the old one was rotten. He’d screwed
tions from the bass guitar or drums causes things to, the new handle on (good sturdy timber handle) to
seemingly of their own volition, propel themselves in his mop-head and then did his mopping thing with
The Old Neptune’s Ghosts
it. And then he’d put the nice-new mop in the tool Back in the old days, when Whitstable’s foreshore
cupboard over there in the corner, and gone home. was very much a shipbuilding, oyster-dredging, ma-
ritime community, a great storm blew-up one winter
At this point, Dixie (one of the Landlord team) ente- and a ship went to the bottom with all hands lost.
red the bar and was listening intently and basically A terrible tragedy. The unfortunates who drowned
nodding in agreement to the cellarman’s story, with were washed ashore along the beach where the
the odd ‘aye,’ thrown in for comment. Neptune still stands. It was a harsh winter and Kent
was under a deep blanket of ice and snow, so the
He went on with his tale, and we were all ears. Next decision was taken to use the cold cellar of the Old
morning our cellarman went to the cupboard for his Neptune as a temporary mortuary, for the twenty
new mop and What The!?! The new timber handle on or so bodies of the fishermen. So they were laid
his mop was bent! Like a boomerang! The cupboard there in the cellar.
had been under lock-and-key since last night, and
nobody had been near his new mop but him, and Transport and communications were pretty much
the last time he’d seen it it was as straight as a die. non-existent then,(1850 or thereabouts) and the win-
And it was bent so badly he had to get another new ter lasted longer than had been expected, so the
one. Dixie agreed that he’d thought the cellarman ‘temporary’ storage of the bodies stretched on for
was taking the p*?s, at the time, so the cellarman a few months until the thaw of spring came. And
reluctantly had to tell him what happened. the bodies had begun to decompose. A foul stench
filled the tavern.
Dixie looked over the bar at me and the 5-0-Clock
crew and nodding, says in his Irish lilt (is that the Well, that’s the story as I’ve heard it told.
right word - lilt ?) It’s true, lads. That handle was
like a banana. I had to pay for another one..... Now and then a bit of a whiff wafts fleetingly through
the pub, and dissapears almost as soon as your nose
catches it.. It’s become common-place to hear folks
saying..... It’s those bodies, rotting in the cellar.....
The more practically minded heads into the toilets
with bleach and a mop, but as far as I’m concerned
(and a few others), that stench has nothing to do
with the toilets at all.
I’ve actually forgotten many of the tales I have heard
being whispered at the bar. Something they put in
the cider, probably. But I do remember that there
was a young lass that worked in the kitchen, and
though she’d never heard of the Neptune ghosts she
developed an unaccountable dread of the upstairs
flat. Eventually, she refused to go up the stairs at all,
saying that an eerie presence made itself known to
And over the next few weeks, the ghost story’s star- her whenever she went up there.
ted to come out.
The Old Neptune’s Ghosts
And one of the previous landlords had a large al-
sation dog - fred I think he was called - that hated
the cellar door being opened. It went crazy whe-
never it was raised, it would stare down the steps
into the dark cellar and it was as though he could
see something there. It would bark, bark and bark
at the cellar. its hackles raised, and wouldn’t quit
going mad until the hatch was closed. If the dog
ever misbehaved in any way, the landlord would
point at the cellar door and tell the dog he’d open
it if he didn’t behave. It really didn’t like that and
would cower and slink away from the cellar door,
to a position where he couldn’t see it.
Poor old Fred....he’d be happier at the Neptune no-
wadays though - the cellar’s hardly ever opened up
as they use it for stowage space only. They’ve got When you look at The Neptune from outside you
a new ground-level cellar at the back of the buil- can see why musicians and bands sound so good
ding, that makes it a bit easier for the barmaids to in there. It’s a wooden-box and acts like a huge re-
change the barrels etc. On the subject of new bits sonator. The interior walls are timber too, and the
of the building.... building has a resonating, amplifying effect on the
music. I’m not saying that crap musicians sound
There are photo’s over the old fire-place that show good in there - they sound worse actually - but bands
the various states the place has been in in the past. and artists and of course the audience really benefit
There’s one picture that shows a large portion of from the way the place is built - it’s wooden and has
the pub missing - smashed in by the sea that was hollow spaces beneath, around and above.
breaking over the sea-wall with enormous waves.
My favourite time to be in The Old Neptune is on a
I met an old bloke in the Neptune last week who Sunday afternoon. The atmosphere is so mellow....
was saying he remembered the days when the floor yesterday is a case in point. It was a beautiful after-
had hundreds of holes drilled in it. He said that noon, and as the Sun lowered to the horizon, the
customers used to wear wellington boots in the bar whole place filled up with golden light - it beamed
because the sea used to come up through the floor in through the windows and through peoples beer,
boards! He wasn’t joking either! Can you imagine it? wine or cider glasses, giving the impression that
You’re standing having a beer and the sea is lapping everyone was quaffing back pure, self illuminating,
around your ankles! Surreal. liquid, alchemical gold. It was as though the bar and
everyone in it had been touched by a magic-wand.
And then the music started. Yesterday it was Steve
Bolton, performing as Boltz. I took a picture on my
mobile phone..... it didn’t come out too clear, but you
get the drift..... look at that light behind him. If Dar-
ren (Landlord) hadn’t pulled the blinds down behind
him, he’d have dissapeared in the natural light-show.
It was incredibly bright, dazzling. Anyway, Boltz
is doing his most-bodacious thing.and the place is
The Old Neptune’s Ghosts
buzzing. When I look around at the gathered faces, manoid Landscape. So, not only can you go there
i realised that most of the audience were musicians and purchase objects de art, of the types mentioned
and singers.... and those that weren’t involved in above, you can now buy a world changing book!
music-making were artists of other kinds, painters, Hurrah! The Neppy does it again!
sculptors, and yes, even a writer or two (me being
one of them).
So, as you can imagine, the quality of the Old Nep-
tune’s performers is -has to be- the dog’s wotsits,
for such a discerning audience. And they ARE. They
are. The brilliant musician Bill Clift was in the au-
dience, and he was joined by all the members of the
amazing band called We Ghosts - they performed
on the Sunday here two weeks ago. And they were
all there because Steve Bolton is one of those first-
rate performers.who you just have to see. This pub
is crazy..... I mean, what other pub puts on world-
class acts like these, on a regular basis? Friday and
Saturday too, it ain’t just Sunday. Boltz has played
with The Who. He’s performed on many, if not all
of Paul Young’s Albums and gigs. He is genuinely
World Class! And in my local boozer! I can hardly
believe it sometimes. It’s the only place I know of
that puts on a Mardi Gras night every year.
I was sitting there one rainy day a few years back,
looked to my left at the bloke on the stall next to me,
and it was Suggs (Madness). He was chatting with
Tony Cool behind the bar, about the poxy weather.
All very normal in The Old Neptune, nothing to write
home about (I was at home anyway). Chris Evans
strolled in one day with his wife and kids, sat at a
table and had a quiet family lunch. No one batted
an eye. There’s an autographed portrait of Peter O
Toole on the wall and a small brass plaque on one
of the benches where he sat. The Old Neptune was
used as one of the locations for the film Venus, Mick
Hill was an extra in the film, and is in a background
shot as a customer. They’ve put a p**s take plaque
on the bench where Mick sat in the film. Hee hee.
To keep up the pub’s well-deserved reputation for
off-the-wall-ness, and doing things other pubs can’t
imagine, I am proud to announce that The Old Nep-
tune now stocks a few copies of my book, The Hu-