This is one of the oldest buildings in the village and was built in 1595, during the 37th year of Elizabeth I’s reign. Originally it was built as two separate farm dwellings, forming part of a considerable estate. This was the estate of a Thomas Gayle of Folkestone, who also possessed lands in Folkestone, Lyminge and Stamford. On his death in 1634 the estate passed to his son, William of Lyminge.
William Gayle sold this property in 1645, along with other properties, to Peter Rooke of Capel, near Dover. In 1640 Thomas White (farmer) and his family leased one of the cottages whilst Easau Miller and his family resided in the other. In 1654 Peter Rooke disposed of the lands to George Harmond of Stamford who possessed them until his death in 1686, when they passed to his son, Thomas, also living in Stamford.
In 1668 Thomas Hammond sold these two dwellings together with land adjoining the properties nearby to William Coates of Stamford, in whose hands they remained until his death in 1692. In 1686 Frederick White, son of Thomas White, occupied one cottage, whilst Samuel Beste, the other. The property then passed to Thomas Hammond’s nephew Richard Coates of Lyminge, who left the properties and land to his children, Richard and Florence, in his will in 1734.
In 1763 Richard and Florence Coates sold six acres of arable land and pasture and two acres of woodland adjoining the dwellings. In 1771, upon the death of his sister, Richard sold the two cottages to William Tapsnell, a tanner and hide dealer of Folkestone.
During this period the cottages were commonly known as Gayle (or Gale) cottages, possibly after Thomas Gayle. By the turn of the eighteenth century most of the land belonging to and adjoining the cottages had been sold off. In 1823 they were owned by Robert Tapsnell, son of William. At this date it was noted that at the eastern end of Etching Street, there was adjoining Gayle Cottages a slaughterhouse and beer house, licensed to Thomas Fox, now known as 1 & 2 Ark Cottages, to sell ales and ciders. Both of the buildings were recorded as being in a state of dilapidation and in 1849 were condemned. Thomas Fox had died and in 1847 his wife Mary, had taken over the license.
In 1851, she was granted a lease on one of the Gayle cottages and in that year moved her family and business here and with the consent of the owner the licence was transferred to these premises. In 1853 she was granted a full licence and she then called the premises “The New Inn”. She died in 1858, her son Robert, noted as a thatcher and victualler then took over the licence. In 1881 he sold the premises to Silas Rookes, a common beer seller of Etchinghill. In 1890 Silas sold it to George Butler, a carrier for the parish of Etchinghill. He remained here until his death in 1928, whereby his son, Ernest, took over the licence. On his death in 1944, his wife Emma Eliza Butler (possibly known as Rene) took over the licence until her death in 1965. Her son, William Marden (possibly known as Sammy), took over the tenancy, remaining here until 1975. The licence was not transferred to William (Bill) Marden until some years later when he sold to William E. Lipka.
The front elevation has been much altered from the original two dwellings, with an obvious addition to the right side of the building. In the 1970’s the tiles covering the north end front brick infill were removed to expose the timber frames and attractive herringbone brick pattern was refronted. The south end was rebuilt in the 18th century. Until recent years there was a hitching rail, with 6 rings for tying up horses, to the extreme left of the building. With age it had become decayed and ironically was kicked to bits by horses assembling for the local hunt, which used to meet in the village. It was never replaced.
The New Inn was part of a very active social life within the village, due to the fact that Etchinghill had its own church and village hall. This was directly opposite the pub, before it’s demolition in 2004/5, which meant that all relaxation and diversions were concentrated in the centre of the village.
The pub closed in 2013 remaining shut for 18 months and was eventually bought by the current owners, Eric & Helen Gaskell. After refurbishments it re-opened on May 1st 2015 with the tag line ‘May the first be quenched’. It was also renamed The Gatekeeper for several reasons, not least of which is because it is no longer a new inn! The surname Gaskell is derived from Anglo-Saxon meaning the keeper of a road or gate. Also, it is the first or last pub in England, depending on your direction of travel, if travelling on the channel tunnel, the gateway to Europe.