The County be­comes part of chain gang

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Remember When? -

For decades Ash­ford was never re­ally one for the trendy eaterie or gas­tropub. It was a town of tra­di­tional public houses selling al­co­hol and bar snacks. The hostel­ries that ex­isted in the town were the main­stay of so­cial gath­er­ings and the haunts of reg­u­lars, with many of them owned by brew­ers Courage, Whit­bread or Frem­lins.

There was, how­ever, also a time when the small num­ber of ho­tels in the town ei­ther stepped up a gear to keep up with the times, or even changed their iden­tity com­pletely.

It was in 1998 that the for­mer County Ho­tel in the High Street opened as a JD Wether­spoon house, as part of the chain founded in 1979 by en­tre­pre­neur Tim Martin.

The ‘ho­tel’ name re­mained, but Wether­poon chose not to con­tinue the site as an ac­tual ho­tel.

The County, once a Courage es­tab­lish­ment, had pre­vi­ously been known as the Fern­ley Com­mer­cial and Tem­per­ance Ho­tel and, un­til its con­ver­sion by new own­ers, had a ball­room with one of the best sprung dance­floors in the area.

The County still in­cludes a sec­tion of ceil­ing re­puted to have been sal­vaged from the Crys­tal Palace af­ter its de­struc­tion by fire in 1936.

Wether­spoon orig­i­nally made one of the for­mer bars a seat­ing area, but this was re­moved a few years back.

Many of the old rooms have been left in their gut­ted state with fix­tures and fit­tings re­moved and floor­boards ex­posed. Some were con­verted into toi­lets and staff ac­com­mo­da­tion.

It is sad that the other rooms and the space above The County is go­ing to waste and many would say the chain should maybe con­sider con­vert­ing these back to ho­tel rooms due to a need for ac­com­mo­da­tion in the town cen­tre.

This week, Re­mem­ber When looks back to 1998, to the start of Wether­spoons reign at the for­mer ho­tel. The pic­tures show The County be­fore it was opened to cus­tomers fol­low­ing a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment.

Do you have any pho­to­graphs or slides that you would be will­ing to loan me, to en­able them to be scanned and fea­tured in the Ken­tish Ex­press?

If so please write to me: Steve Sal­ter, Ken­tish Ex­press Re­mem­ber When, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford, TN24 8JR, email me at re­mem­ber­when_ kmash@hot­ or fol­low me on Twit­ter @ SteveKMAsh­ford.

Or you can also leave a tele­phone mes­sage for me with brief de­tails by call­ing 01233 623232.

An ex­te­rior pic­ture of The County Ho­tel in the Lower High Street in 1998, show­ing the premises fol­low­ing an ex­ten­sive re­fur­bish­ment by new own­ers JD Wether­spoon, be­fore open­ing its doors to the town

In­side The County, the for­mer ball­room is seen here mi­nus its sprung dance­floor af­ter be­ing con­verted for eat­ing and drink­ing by Wether­spoon’s. This view shows one of the for­mer bars used to cre­ate a booth for pri­vacy

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