There are six pubs in Sheringham, and a bar at the Burlington Hotel (the last Sheringham hotel with a public bar, following the recent closure of the Beaumaris Hotel). We visited them all over a recent long-weekend stay – it’s a small town and easy to reach them all within a short walk.
In general the pubs serve some of the same familiar beers – Adnams Ghost Ship, Greene King Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen, and Woodfordes Wherry each appeared in three of the six pubs.
Then again, perhaps there’s never been a wide choice of beer here – the now defunct Steward and Patteson brewery once ran and supplied many of Sheringham’s pubs:
- Dunstable Arms – from 1870s, rebuilding the pub in 1931
- Lobster Inn – leased from 1897, purchased 1929
- Robin Hood (when Railway Tavern) – from early 1880s
- Windham Arms – until at least the middle of last century
The best beer tried was a wonderfully rich Humpty Dumpty Jubilee Mild in the Windham Arms; also noteworthy were Tipples Lady Evelyn in the Dunstable Arms, and Wolf Lifeboat Ale in the Two Lifeboats – all from Norfolk breweries. That said, pints of the ubiquitous Adnams Ghost Ship in the Crown and the Robin Hood were excellent too. The best sea views are from the Two Lifeboats and the Crown Inn, both of which also served decent veggie food.
Lifeboat Plain | @CrownSheringham
If it was licensed pre 1781 but was rebuilt further inland several times, most recently c.1935, it is one of the oldest licensed sites yet the newest building of the remaining Sheringham pubs. According to www.norfolkpubs.co.uk, the first known inn was taken by the sea on 22nd October 1800. The second inn “was built in 1805, when it was 70 yards from the sea. Between 1824-29 17 yards of cliff were swept away, and the distance before the sea-wall was reduced to 12 yards” (Sea Coast, Wheeler, William Henry, 1902). In front of the inn there used to be a considerable amount of land, stretching west past the Two Lifeboats, which for many years was the site of an annual fair, and later a bowling green – even after the sea had taken it, the narrow strip of shingle in front of the pub was still called The Green. There used to be a coal yard by the side of the inn, with coal ships coming up onto the beach.
Musical Traditions says that Ralph Vaughan Williams, as part of his excursions in the county collecting traditional songs and music, visited Sheringham on 12th January 1905 and noted down the music to “Near Scarborough Town from Mr Emery, in The Crown Inn (the second Crown inn which lasted until 1935)”.
Memoirs of a Shannock records “one spectacular occassion” of fate during WWII involving the Crown:
“The landlord, Mr Charlie Holsey, was in his bar serving his usual customers. This pub was used by several of the lifeboat crew who often met here for a game of darts or dominoes. As the landlord was washing some glasses, he held one up as he wiped it clean and spotted what he thought could be a boat or plane at sea, quite a way out… and the lifeboat was launched. Half an hour later, they were able to rescue five Polish airmen, who had been in a dinghy for a couple of days, drifting along the coast. Their plane had crashed in the Wash and the poor fellows had suffered a great deal. At one time they were nearly ashore, as they could hear the surf, but the wind changed direction and they were blown further from land. It was by sheer good fortune that they had been spotted”
Landlord Bob Brewster has been running the Crown Inn since 1978 – he also ran the Windham Arms from 1974 – 1980. There is regular live music – we were lucky enough to see the excellent Cambridgeshire blues band Split Whiskers play there on the Saturday night. Beers when visited were Adnams Ghost Ship, Fullers London Pride, Greene King Abbot Ale, Shepherd Neame Spitfire, Woodfordes Wherry.
27 Cromer Road.
Licensed by 1861, a building is shown here on the Tithe Map from c.1840. The present building dates from 1931 (just a few years before the Crown Inn was rebuilt) and at that time cost owners Steward & Patteson £3,795 to rebuild it.
The pub has a regionally important historic interior:
Re-built in 1931 in Tudor-style this attractive pub with a veranda was designed by Buckingham and Berry of Norwich for Steward & Patteson. It has three rooms and still retains many original features. On the left is an extension added in 1945/6 in a similar style to the original (the pub is reported as having been damaged by enemy action in 1940). The only recent change is the cutting of a doorway between the public bar on the left and the saloon bar on the right – until then you could only access each bar via its own front door.
On the right is the saloon bar with its original counter, fireplace and parquet floor. When built a wooden partition separated the saloon bar from the rear ‘club room’ (wording from the original plans which are in a frame on the wall) – when it was removed in mid 1980s the timber was re-used for the present bar back fitting in the public bar. The former club room, now a dining area, is in “Tudor hall” style with a high ceiling and exposed timber beams. It has a magnificent full height chimney breast in brick and tile.
The public bar retains its original bar counter, unusually of brick with a wooden top, a brick fireplace, timber frieze, parquet floor and some original fixed seating. A brick arch from 1945/6 links the public bar with the left hand pool room, which was converted in the mid 1980s from the off sales / snug and a previously private room and has no old fittings. The small counter here replaced a hatch in the mid 1980s.
It’s not clear why the pub is named the Dunstable Arms, although it’s located close to the ruins of the Augustinian Priory at Beeston Regis, and as Dunstable Priory was also Augustinian, there may be some link – the arms of Dunstable Priory became “corrupted into the later device of a conical ale-warmer“, a tin or copper cone for mulled ale that could be put directly in a fire.
The pub was closed for a while but reopened in 2011 and was recently “given a stylish refurbishment and warm feel with new furniture and layout, in-keeping with the charm of the building”. Beers when visited were Tipples Lady Evelyn and Sea Lantern, and Sharp’s Doom Bar, enjoyed in the beer garden at the rear of the pub. Although it’s away from the centre of the town and the other pubs, it’s worth the walk of less than 10 minutes and the chance of a different choice of beer.
13 High Street | @thelobsterpub
Open by 1832, the Lobster is a fitting name for a pub in Sheringham, a town enriched by the fishing industry, particularly lobster and crab fishing – a lobster in a golden ring features on the town crest. A 1970s pub guide describes the lounge as “festooned with lobster-pots, nets and ships’ lamps” adding that “it was once an early-nineteenth century coaching inn and the stables are still here to prove it” – the stables have been converted into a dining area.
The pub has a beer garden and an historic interior:
The Lobster was refitted by Steward & Patteson in the early 1930s and is worth a visit to see the little altered lounge on the left. It would appear two small rooms were combined in the 1930s and fielded panelling to 2/3rds height added throughout. The bar counter and most of the mirrored bar back with a set of drawers dates from the 30s as does the Tudor arch shaped wood surround of the fireplace (but the copper hood is possibly a 60s addition?). The public bar has been refitted in recent years but does retains a ‘Bar’ etched panel in the door and a parquet floor possibly of the 1930s. A third ‘Garden Room’ may well have been a pub room for some time but looks like it has been extended back. Service to it is from a hatch in the corridor. At the rear is a separate pebble fronted building now a function room/restaurant called the Stables which has its own modern bar.
It’s been run by the Dean family for the past 14 years. Beers when visited were Greene King Abbot Ale, Timothy Taylor Landlord, and Woodfordes Wherry and Nelson’s Revenge which were both served from casks on top of the bar counter.
13-15 Station Road
Originally named the First & Last by 1846, then by 1881 the Railway Tavern, and by 1892 the Railway Hotel, on the 1st January 1904 its name was changed to the Robin Hood. Despite the popularity of Robin Hood in folklore and as a pub name, it’s not obvious why a pub located over 100 miles away from Nottingham and Sherwood Forest would change to that name, especially when the railway at that time had such importance to Sheringham tourism. It may be named after “Robin Friend”, a chalk and flint platform on the foreshore just to the west of the town, which may have been associated with the Robin Hood legend. Any other links with Robin Hood seem tenuous; the Robin Hoods 7th battalion held their annual training camp near Sheringham (West Runton?) in August 1912 – perhaps it was named in honour of the Robin Hood Rifles service in the Boer War from 1900-1902?
The central gable of the roof has a terracotta tiled panel with “SPF & Co” – Steward, Patteson, Finch & Co, a Norfolk brewery. This was the name of the company from 1837 to 1895, in which year the company became Steward & Patteson. In 1940 the roof of the pub was damaged by enemy action, but presumably the panel survived that.
The inside has lots of breweriana and items of interest dotted about, including old slot machines and a beer bottle from Steward & Patteson. In retrospect, I probably enjoyed this pub more than any of the others, mostly because it felt like a traditional drinking pub, rather than one aspiring to be a restaurant. There is an outdoor seating area, some of it covered.
Beers when visited were Adnams Ghost Ship, Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen, and amongst the keg offerings a pleasant enough M&B Mild (apparently brewed at Thwaites)
2 High Street
According to the blue plaque on the wall of the pub, “this building was originally a coffee shop circa 1720 and also the site of the fishermen’s mission hut”. That seems to be an inaccurate history, as the Sheringham Heritage Trail says the inn began life as a farmhouse, and deeds going back to 1720 describe it as the New Inn. “It then degenerated somewhat and became known as a house of ill repute, so much so that its license was not renewed. In 1878 it was bought, and following improvements and enlargement, it opened in 1879 as the Two Lifeboats Coffee House”. A street directory of 1881 confirms the Two Lifeboats Coffee House was established in 1879 (Sheringham had two lifeboats for many years – in 1879 they were the Duncan and the Augusta, the latter built in 1838 by Robert Sunman who was landlord of the Windham Arms).
Musical Traditions quotes from an article in the Eastern Daily Press (A Smugglers’ Inn is Renamed, 21.05.65)
There is a considerable history attached to The Two Lifeboats Hotel. Once upon a time – some say as long ago as 1720 – there stood near the edge of the cliffs at Lower Sheringham a small tavern known as The New Inn, a tavern which was the focal point of the village life of that era. The fishermen used to meet there each week and after the serious business of the evening was over, a jolly time was had by one and all, with the fiddler and accordionist playing a lively step dance or jig or accompanying anyone who wanted to sing a song.”
Norfolk Pubs says the 1871 census lists the New Inn as a beer house at Cliff Street, but that the entry for Robert Hammond, licensee from 1863, is crossed out after 1877.
Whatever its origins, it became a hotel, the Bijou Hotel from 1925-1964, a temperance hotel for a time, and eventually a licensed pub, the Two Lifeboats, in 1964. If the deeds to the original inn date back to at least 1720, then it could be the site of the oldest pub and the oldest building now in use as a pub.
The emphasis is on food here (the veggie burger I had was nice enough), but in good weather the outdoor seating has the best sea views so is well worth a visit. Beers when visited were Greene King Old Speckled Hen, Wolf Brewery Lifeboat Ale (possibly Golden Jackal in disguise) and Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, and Woodfordes Wherry.
Licensed from at least 1808, the pub owes its name to generations of the Windham/Wyndham families, owners of nearby Felbrigg Hall from the 15th century – the last Wyndham at Felbrigg died in 1810, just two years after the earliest known license for the pub.
In 1838 licensee Robert Sunman built Sheringham’s first lifeboat, the Augusta. Opposite the pub, “Whitehall Yard” was the site of the first bomb dropped on Britain in WWI, at 8:30pm on Tuesday 19th January 1915 – part of the unexploded bomb casing is on display in Sheringham Museum.
Last year it was taken over by a member of the family that also runs the Robin Hood and was refurbished. Part of the lounge bar is given over to restaurant seating and didn’t feel very comfortable for just drinking, but the separate public bar facing Windham Street was much more comfortable (although seating is limited owing to most of the space being taken up by a pool table). Beers when visited were Adnams Ghost Ship, Greene King Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen, Humpty Dumpty Jubilee Mild (a highlight), and Woodfordes Bure Gold.
Built in 1899 as apartments, only later becoming a hotel, not gaining a full license until 1967. The bar is located to the west of the main building – originally symmetrical in design, only the lower and upper ground floors to the west of the hotel entrance were built, and the four further floors above were never completed, owing to the construction company’s financial problems.
A six-storey, somber, red brick building that stands above the west promenade and seems to loom over the town. The interior is tired and dated, its heyday well behind it. The one real ale, Courage Best, was well past its best too, and after a taster, and several minutes waiting for the girl who served it to return from a phone call, we left the empty bar.
In 2014 plans to demolish the bar block, and relocate it at the back of a new development of apartments, were rejected partly because they were out of keeping with the only remaining in-use Victorian hotel in Sheringham. However, it’s hard to argue with the grim assessment from the architect of the proposed redevelopment:
The current premises, as a hotel, are only used at a maximum of 60% potential for specific time-slot periods of the year. The main clientele of the business are an ageing population of coach party type holiday accommodation and occasional wedding type functions. With the ongoing demands of clientele requirements for updated facilities and expected standards of comfort, plus the ever increasing demands of regular updates regarding health and safety, environmental health and fire standards, the large premises have an ever-increasing annual drain on financial resources set against a declining market. The external fabric of the buildings detailing mixture of red brick and stonework is suffering from the harsh climate of salt laden air and strong northerly winds. Serious finances are required to meet the cost of repair of the decay and erosion of areas of external walls, roof and original timber windows.
15 South Street, Sheringham.
The most recent closure, earlier this year Hilary and Alan Stevens retired and closed The Beaumaris after 25 years since taking over in 1991, with 3 generations of the family business over the past 68 years. The Beaumaris was not always a hotel, in the 1880s it was a guesthouse and at the opposite side of the street to its current location.
Formerly called Dormy House Hotel from about 1930 (although the building has the date 1894 on it), a license was granted in 1938, although there was no public bar until the full licence in 1960. It became the Highwayman from the 1980’s but had closed by 1996 when permission was given to convert it to eight two-bedroom flats.
Apparently the “Dormy at Sheringham, (now renamed Highwayman) referred to the golfing expression. ‘Playing dormy six’, for example, would mean that the player was six holes ahead with six left to play”. The nearby golf course was opened in 1891 as a nine hole course, extended in 1898 to eighteen holes.
Built in 1898, the year before the Burlington Hotel, on the Esplanade as part of new development following the arrival of the railway. An impressive building by the architect Herbert John Green, with domes on the corners, and 120 bedrooms inside, it was demolished in 1974 and replaced by flats.
Sea View Hotel
1 High Street
This shabby, empty Victorian building overlooking the promenade, between the Two Lifeboats and the Crown, was once the Sea View Hotel, more recently Shannocks, finally closing under the name No.1 Bistro Bar.
As Shannocks Hotel in the early 2000s, it advertised “a spacious bar open to everybody all year round”, serving “a full range of beers, lagers, wines, spirits and soft drinks”, with “all tables having a panoramic view of the sea”. In April this year, the owners, under pressure to do something with the dilapidated building, submitted plans to demolish the former hotel and develop the site.
Built in 1889 at a cost of £10,000, and designed by Norwich architect George Skipper (who also designed Norwich’s Royal Arcade), it overlooked the Weybourne to Cromer Road and the golf links. By 1958 the licence had not been renewed and in 1984 it was converted into apartments, Sheringham Court, although apparently the grand double staircase and entrance hall have been retained:
Sherry n Ham
18 Beech Avenue. A former shop, it was a pub since at least the mid-80s. In 2007 it was “under new ownership”, but the license was surrendered in November 2009. The former pub has been converted into a house and appears to be substantially altered.
The building of the former Station Hotel still stands opposite the Railway Station, on the Corner of Station Approach and St Peter’s Road. Licensed in 1896 but with no public bar until 1904, in the 1960s it became the Dolphin Hotel,around the time parts of the station and some of the lines were closing. The Dolphin pub sign from c.1963 shows a painting of a Dolphin and the name of then owners Bullards brewery – as well as its obvious maritime connections, ‘Dolphin’ might also refer to the nautical term for a structure consisting of a number of piles driven into the seabed as a mooring point. It has since been converted into residential and office accommodation, now St Peter’s House.
Credit to www.norfolkpubs.co.uk , the basis for much of this research, which I’ve tried to validate with street directories, various articles, and the following:
A Sheringham Album (Peter Brooks, 1985)
Sea Coast (Wheeler, William Henry, 1902)
Memoirs of a Shannock (May Ayers, 1995)
Cromer & Sheringham History Tour (Michael Rouse, 2016)