Town Pier, Gravesend, Kent DA11 0BJ   01474 566869

About the Three Daws

1412291_10153345798870357_1685905204_oAn historic riverside inn dating back to the 1400’s steeped with tales of smugglers, Press Gangs, hauntings and much more, and yet today it remains a focus of activity. From Wedding Receptions, Disco’s, Parties, live bands through to Barbeques, Cocktail evenings, Quiz nights and the simple meeting of people gathering for a quiet meal or drink.

Why not have a look at more pictures in our galleries before visiting us and tasting our real ales whilst soaking up the atmosphere of this wonderful old Inn.

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Click the headings below to find out more about us and the Three Daws.

The Three Daws Building

89472172Standing at the river edge at the foot of the old High Street, it has for centuries served as a home from home for the river men, been the haunt of smugglers and was regularly raided by the old naval press gangs.

It is older than Shakespeare’s house, older than many well known ancient buildings, and is a place to reflect on past and very hard times.

One of the oldest taverns in the country – this ancient inn (now named) the Three Daws is almost four hundred and fifty years old and first gained its licence in 1565.

The Three Daws began its life by being converted from five traditional styled wood fronted cottages. The general structure is therefore some years older that the length of its history as a Thames tavern, and probably goes further back to at least 1501.

A rambling building typical of its period, the wooden structure of its construction is reputed to be the work of shipwrights who were seeking work at that time, owing to a depression in their waterside trade.

During the days of the big sailing merchant ships of two centuries ago, it was also used as an accommodation and it had eleven bedrooms, connected by five complete staircases.

The outer structure has evidence of fire damage in its history, particularly where the wood front has been replaced by plaster facing and brickwork. However, during the great fire of 1727, the main structure was undamaged by the disaster which did manage to reach the surrounding properties.

A small extension at the North of the main building has its own independent record, for it was once separated from the tavern and used as steam packet offices… Later it became a reading room for the local watermen until brought in to use as steam tug offices.

At one time large sailing merchant ships used to anchor off the Three Daws while awaiting supplies and a fair wind or, on returning from long overseas voyages. Back in those days, the waterside tavern was a very popular place for seamen of all nationalities, echoing to the sound of the sea shanties whilst liquid refreshments were consumed by the gallon.

A century or more ago, the Three Daws was just one of a large number of taverns catering for waterside people along the front. Other nearby houses included the Falcon, King of Prussia, and the very famous Amsterdam, which was immortalised in a well-known sea shanty.

In 1984, the Three Daws was closed for the first time in almost five centuries. During all of the fires in Gravesend, including the great fire of 1850, the Three Daws remained virtually unscathed. Today it is owned by Mr. Lester Banks and has been sympathetically restored to its original charm and character.

So stay and enjoy the fayre and reflect on those bygone times.

A little of Gravesend’s history

In the hundred of Toltingtrow lies the ancient town of Gravesend, and there within its boundaries situated and lying at a place called Town Pier can be found the Inn known by the name and sign of the ‘Three Daws’.

Gravesend history is varied, long and very interesting. With evidence of Stone Age settlers, Saxon footpaths, Roman remains and a military past that has known great leaders such as General Gordon (of Khartoum).

It has one of the oldest surviving markets in the country, the oldest cast iron pier in the world and has very strong links with famous people such as Pocahontas, Charles Dickens, Rimsky-Korsakov and Samuel Pepys.

It is mentioned in Mary Shelly’s book Frankenstein and in the mid 1800’s Rosherville Gardens was one of the largest Victorian attractions in the country and millions of visitors from all across the country came each year to see these fantastic gardens.

The 1086 Domesday Book records the name of the town as Gravesham and the name probably came from ‘graaf-ham’ – the home of the Reeve, or Bailiff, of the Lord of the Manor. Another claim is that the name Gravesham may have been an altered form of the words ‘grafs-ham’ (a place at the end of the grove). Others believe that Gravesend received its name because, during the outbreak of bubonic Plague in the 1600s, the town was the place where victims were no longer buried on land but, were in fact buried at sea further towards the estuary – This was clearly not the case as the plague was in 1665 – a full 500 years after the name Gravesend / Gravesende was referred (also in the Domesday Book).

Strange goings on

There are many inexplicable and strange stories that can be heard whisperings about, here at this old mystifying place. So, what secrets does this old building hold? On many occasions we have had visits from ghost hunters, many of whom have spent all night vigils with their equipment and visits from spiritualist and psychics and all who have claimed the same results. Certain areas within the building (and these are known by the staff that work here) appear to have the presence of unknown phenomena.

We leave it to your imagination to figure out what is happening, why it happens and, where it happens.

Charles Dickens

5The riverside in the 1700’s was a very busy and interesting place to be. Serving not only to take the folk on their outward sea journeys, or by ferry (which still runs today) across the Thames to the county of Essex but, even simply as a ‘stop off point’ on their journeys to London town.

Charles Dickens – probably the most respected storyteller that ever lived – resided just a short journey on trotting pony from here and, being a travelling man, he would have almost certainly used these services on a regular basis.

Everywhere around the immediate and surrounding area, you are constantly reminded of this great man. From the marshes just a few miles down the road, and those immortal characters of Mr Pip, Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch to the unforgettable characters from so many more of his great literary classics


pocahontasIn March 1617, John Rolfe and Pocahontas boarded a ship to return to her homeland in Virginia, however, the ship had only reached as far as Gravesend on the Thames when Pocahontas became gravely ill. She was taken ashore at this point and died here.

It is unknown what caused her death, but theories range from smallpox, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, to her having been poisoned.

According to Rolfe, she died saying, “all must die, but tis enough that my child liveth.” Her funeral took place on March 21, 1617 in the parish of Saint George’s, Gravesend (across the road from the Three Daws) and the many of the people at St Georges believe her to be buried actually in the church itself.

Her memory is honoured with a life-size bronze statue in the church grounds.

Press Gangs.

press-gangas-boostThe pub was opened in 1565 during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Originally named the ‘Three Cornish Chough’s and renamed the ‘Three Daws’ in 1745

In 1798 the Admiralty issued the following order;

“The Three Daws is never to be raided by a press gang except if there are two, as so many seamen escape through its tortuous passages”.

These press gangs used to raid the pub to force men into the Navy and the two-group operation was necessary because of the two entrances to the pub. However, behind the chimney breast there were three separate passages leading to the ‘Old Prince of Orange’, the ‘New Inn’ and the ‘Fisherman’s Arms’ for the customers to escape to.

After the raids, the landlords of the four pubs met together to sort out the glasses.

The fire place has since been removed and the tunnels bricked up – perhaps to save glasses?


During the 1700’s the Inn became notorious for smugglers and there were three secret tunnels that ran from behind a chimney breast leading to the Fisherman’s Arms, out to the wharf and to St George’s church. These tunnels were known to have been used by the smugglers and during the Napoleonic wars by the local men escaping capture from the Press Gangs.

In March 1780 and, after a running battle in West Street between the smugglers and Customs Officers, 80 gallons of Geneva Gin were found in one of the tunnels beneath the inn.

The smugglers

smugglersThe pub was opened in 1565 during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Originally named the ‘Three Cornish Chough’s and renamed the ‘Three Daws’ in 1745

In 1798 the Admiralty issued the following order; “The Three Daws is never to be raided by a press gang except if there are two, as so many seamen escape through its tortuous passages”.

Thank you for taking the time to find out just a little more about this intriguing old inn and its associated past. Why not come and visit us and see for yourself just how it feels to be sitting in a place that has more history associated with it than most other buildings added together.