The Long Reach Tavern is one of the many ghosts of the Dartford Marshes, a fading memory of past lives and lost souls.
The Dartford Marshes feel remote and lonely, but over the years this empty landscape has hosted hospitals, an airfield, and even a pub. The Long Reach Tavern stood at the farthest tip of the Marshes, where the River Darent joins the Thames. It would have been the most northerly pub in Kent.
Records date the pub back to at least 1841, when the census lists the publican as Charles Down. The Tavern had its own jetty, serving local bargees and tugboat crews. The pub was also renowned for bare knuckle boxing matches, with boats heading down from London, laden with spectators. A ferry service also ran across the Thames to Purfleet.
Between 1883 and 1904, three hospital ships were moored nearby. Highly contagious smallpox patients were treated on these ships, until the construction of Joyce Green Hospital and its annexes, nearby on the Marshes.
The Long Reach Tavern and WW1
During the run-up to the WW1, one of the earliest Royal Flying Corps (RFC) airfields, Joyce Green Airfield, was also based close to the Tavern. In 1915 the RFC requisitioned the Long Reach Tavern for use as a canteen and sleeping quarters. The RFC departed in 1917 to a more suitable location at Biggin Hill, and with their departure the tavern returned to public use.
Flooding, closure, and demolition
The Long Reach Tavern was severely damaged in the North Sea Flood of 1953 and was demolished in the late 1950s, after closure and fire. Almost all trace of the pub has been lost to the new flood defences. However, two tall navigational posts once stood before the tavern, navigational mile markers for Thames shipping. These posts still stand, or at least their replacements do, marking the location of the lost tavern.
The Dartford Creek Barrier, which came into service in November 1982, stands close to the site of the Long Reach Tavern.
The Thames Path passes the location of the lost Long Reach Tavern, and it can also be reached by walking out along Joyce Green Lane, passing other ghosts of the Dartford Marshes, the Wells Fireworks Factory and The Orchard isolation hospital.
The Long Reach Tavern – useful links
dover-kent (dot) com/2014-project-a/Long-Reach-Tavern-Dartford.html – an insecure but informative website