RECESSIONS, the smoking ban and the coronavirus pandemic, this family has seen it all running a pub over two decades.

Mother and daughter Janet Hills, 65, and Jolene Hills, have co-owned The Castle Hotel along Southend seafront for 21 years.

The duo have faced many trials and tribulations over the years, but nothing came close to the angst and worry caused by Covid-19 as pubs were forced to close for months, pushing many close to the edge.

“The pandemic was a very difficult period and we were very worried for our future,” Jolene, 40, said.

“It’s a massive pub and there are a lot of overheads and a lot of people reliant on us to keep going so they don’t lose their livelihoods. A lot of that pressure came down on our heads because we were trying our best to help everybody through what was an awful time for pubs.”


The Castle Hotel, Eastern Esplanade. 

Despite the financial pressures placed on themselves, Jolene and Janet made sure to stay active within the community during those difficult lockdown months giving back where they could.

The Castle staff delivered dinners to those who were stuck inside their homes, either because they were shielding or isolating.

The team also delivered pies to NHS staff in Southend hospital working in the frontlines.

Jolene’s journey as a publican began as a 19-year-old, joining her mum in the family business.

“My mum has run pubs in Southend her whole life,” she explained. “At the time, my mum had the Castle in Wakering when The Castle came up for sale.

“I came and did a viewing and as soon as I saw the seafront pub I knew we wanted it. It’s just a beautiful pub, the location is just amazing. I walked in and just fell in love with it. It’s a lovely old fashioned proper pub.”

The pub is celebrated its 21st anniversary under their ownership on Friday.

“We are still going strong through recessions, the smoking ban and even Covid-19. 21 years! It makes me feel old,” she quipped.

“We appreciate everyone who has stuck with us through the years and as ling as things continue as they are, the future is looking quite bright."