The Spaniard/Ravens nightclub,
on the A3 just outside Guildford...
During our south of England soirée the other week TJ and I had a spectacular fail at Graylingwell asylum where we walked straight into the site manager! On the way down the A3 we had spotted a potentially interesting explore literally at the side of the road just past where they have built some new road tunnels around Guildford. So we cut our losses and headed back up to see if it was worth the bother.
It's been a little bit difficult to find any absolutely 100% concrete information on the place although with all the bits and pieces we have seen it appears very strongly that this sad building was originally a hotel called the Seven Thorns - here's a period picture from it's early days (right). The A3 was little more than a single track road back then but it's certainly not any longer!
We mooched the net and came up with some interesting bits and pieces about the place... apparently from 1818 to 1841 a family by the name of Butler ran the inn and Mrs. Oliphant, a Victorian novelist, wrote a book called 'Cuckoo in the Nest' in which much of the action was set in a mythical inn using the Seven Thorns as the inspiration. There was mention made on one forum of there having been a highwayman who operated in the area called "Captain Jack" who had some form of link with the inn, and of body snatchers secreting bodies in the cellar of the inn before moving them on to their prospective buyers! A further intriguing story concerns the band Fleetwood Mac (right) who apparently used to practise in an outbuilding behind the inn, probably the barn, before they received due recognition in the late sixties. Little remains now of any of the outbuildings, but we did find the remains of an air tight car painting booth in one. Perhaps the fans of the band should campaign for a blue plaque while there is still a wall left standing to hang it on!
In the 1950s a Mr. & Mrs. Dennis owned the inn and the bar was run by a Polish chap called Helmith. During that period one member of staff recalls working in the buffet selling sandwiches, tea and coffee, to coach parties en route to Portsmouth or to London, so it would appear that the inn had diversified into providing the services more normally associated with a traditional road side cafe by this time - indeed another person tells of a large cafeteria being built on to the side of the inn. Army, navy and RAF personnel frequented the bar regularly, particularly at weekends, and inevitably there were messy drunken brawls associated with same, many resulting in the protagonists spilling out and fighting in the middle of the A3! At some point a sunken dance floor was built in the large hall attached to the side of the inn, possibly what had originally been the cafeteria, and it began to operate as a nightclub called "The Spaniard". There appears to have been a name change at a later date though because the remains of the name "Ravens" is still clear on the side of the building at this time.
It is not clear when the club closed though even that has an interesting and rather tragic story attached to it - someone else had this to say,
Late in the 1980s, or possibly early in the 1990s, a serious fire devastated the building and it's generally thought that this was down to arson for insurance purposes if comments on numerous forums are to be taken as red. What the owners used the insurance money for is anybody's guess but one thing is for sure, they've not spent a bean on resurrecting "The Spaniard"!
Here is a panoramic photograph taken of the buildings in September 2011 - CLICK THE PICTURE TO VIEW A PROPER INTERACTIVE PANORAMA....
Below is a selection of the photographs we took in and around "The Spaniard".
If you wish to view any in a larger size then click the picture of your choice...