The Black Lion vs. The Cricketers: The Battle of Brighton’s Oldest Pubs

Brighton’s pub scene is one steeped in history, but two neighbouring pubs appear to have a little competition over who has the most history. The Black Lion and The Cricketers Pub, both on Black Lion Street, have both been reported as being the oldest pub in Brighton – but who takes the top spot?

There is a little discrepancy over when the two pubs opened; The Cricketers website states that it was first established in 1547, whereas a few people have claimed that The Black Lion has had a pub on the site since 1455 which would it give it the top spot as oldest pub – however this isn’t an official claim made by the pub itself.

Now from the outside, at a first glance you would put your money on The Black Lion dating back the furthest. The pub has all the features of an olde English establishment, nestled into an ever expanding modern city; Black Lion Street is also home to modern council buildings and restaurants, creating an interesting juxtaposition between old and new. However, inside the two pubs the appearances switch again. The Black Lion is stripped back, painted white and features large sharing benches, with a cosy outside area with heated booths.

The Black Lion’s modern bar

On the other hand, the decor of The Cricketers harks back to a more traditional Victorian Era. The current bar has actually been in place since 1904, as have many of the pub’s furnishings. Dark wood panelling lines the walls and bar, red velvet covers most of the benches and stools, and gold gilding covers the the light fixtures, all coming together to give a feel of traditional dark Victorian splendour – all it’s missing is a stout drinking, pipe smoking, suited and booted old man.

The Cricketers has a traditional Victorian feel

The Cricketers was often visited by Robert Donston Stephenson, who many claim was the true identity of the infamous Jack the Ripper.

The rumours of a longer history also seem to sway in favour of The Cricketers, the most exciting of which being the whispers that the pub was often visited by Robert Donston Stephenson, who many claim was the true identity of the infamous Jack the Ripper. According to a poster on the killer in the pub, he actually planned the Whitechapel Murders whilst lodging there, which was then known as the Cricketers Inn.

Another famous regular is Brighton Rock author, Graham Greene, who reportedly named the pub as his favourite. His connection with the establishment has been repeatedly reinforced by the pub themselves: their private function room, ‘The Greene Room’, which was named after the author, features framed letters between Greene himself and the pub’s landlord at the time.

The Cricketers walls are lined with original photos and drawings of the pub

The history of the The Cricketers goes even further if we have a little look at the pubs long list of previous landlords. Obviously one of them was pretty cosy with Graham Greene, but another tale of note is the story of a martyred landlord, who was famously burnt at the stake in Lewes for his religious beliefs.

So it seems as though all the historic evidence would point towards The Cricketers taking the crown as the oldest pub – and they certainly look the part!

If anyone else has any stories on the many histories and stories of Brighton’s fabulous pub scene we’d love to hear them at the Brighton Journal.


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