Category Archives: Norfolk

Sheringham Pubs

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.

Crown Inn

Lifeboat Plain | @CrownSheringham
Crown Inn
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”

Crown Inn Sheringham
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.

Dunstable Arms

27 Cromer Road.
Dunstable Arms
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.

Dunstable Arms Sheringham

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.

Lobster

13 High Street | @thelobsterpub
Lobster
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.

Robin Hood

13-15 Station Road
Robin Hood
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.

Robin Hood Sheringham

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)

Two Lifeboats

2 High Street
Two Lifeboats
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).

Two Lifeboats

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.

Windham Arms

Wyndham Street

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.

Windham Arms

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.

Whitehall Yard

Wyndham Arms, looking to Whitehall Yard, where in 1915 a bomb was dropped on the cottage in the top right hand corner

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.

Burlington Hotel

The Esplanade.
The Burlington
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.

Burlington

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.

Closed Pubs

Beaumaris Hotel

Closed 2016.
Beaumaris Hotel
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.

Dormy/Highwayman

Closed c.1996.
Highwayman
Cromer Road.
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.

Grand Hotel

Demolished 1974.
Grand Hotel Sheringham
The Esplanade.
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
Sea View Hotel
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.

ShannocksAs 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.

Sheringham Hotel

Sheringham Hotel
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:
Sheringham Hotel

Sherry n Ham

Closed c.2009
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.

Sherry n Ham

Advert for the Sherry n Ham, 2007

Station Hotel/Dolphin

Closed 1975
Station Hotel / Dolphin
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.

Sources:

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)
www.heritagepubs.org.uk
www.mustrad.org
www.norfolkpubs.co.uk
www.norwichcamra.org.uk

Sea Palling Pubs

Sea Palling is a small village on the east coast of Norfolk. We were sad to find that the Old Hall Inn had closed since our last visit earlier this year, although we enjoyed good food and drink in Reefs Bar, the one remaining pub in the village.

Old Hall Inn

Old Hall Inn

The building is described as both “originally three separate dwellings, dating from the 16th century” and “dating back to the middle of the 17th century… formerly a farmhouse”. It only became a pub relatively recently, in the late 1960s, although the wood beamed interior still gave it the feel of an old drinking haunt, and it apparently had the requisite ghosts – the “figure of a woman in grey clothing”, “the sweet, sickly smell of strong tobacco”, and a resident poltergeist.

Old Hall

It closed in March this year and in May the large eight bedroom establishment was sold at auction for a mere £160,000 and is currently being converted back into a residential dwelling – the low price probably reflects the scale of work needed, with replacing the roof already in progress.

There is still a pub in Sea Palling, Reefs Bar, next to the slipway, the dunes standing in the way of sea views, but very close to the encroaching North Sea.

Reefs Bar

Reefs

Reefs is a 1950s built pub that sits just this side of the dunes as you approach the beach. It’s been busy each time we’ve visted, and the Wolf Ale, presumably the regular real ale, has always been in top nick. On this occasion we also had a decent vegetarian lasagne and chips to accompany it, before taking our beers to the outdoor benches to soak up the sea air.

There have been at least three pubs in this area of the village. Faden’s Map of 1797 shows the Ship, a pub situated very close to the shore – it’s possible it was claimed by the sand and sea, much like the former Church of St Mary’s at nearby Eccles-on-Sea.

ReefsThe Lifeboat Inn, situated further inland down beach road, was recorded by at least 1858 but was destroyed by the 1953 floods. It was rebuilt as a single storey building where it stands today, then a Lacons pub named the lifeboat Tavern, becoming ‘Reefs’ in 2004 when the current landlord took over – it is named after the reefs that have been placed just offshore as part of the coast defenses. According to Norfolk Pubs, it gained a full licence when the license was removed from the nearby Cock Inn in 1959.

Cock Inn

The Cock Inn was a large building that stood further inland on the corner of Beach Road and The Street from at least 1794 (Norfolk Pubs). It closed in the late 1950s and was demolished. The last publican there may have been Walter George Austrin, a boat builder who in 1963 is recorded as “formerly at the Old Cock Inn”, he also operated a Tea Stall on the beach at Sea Palling.

You can still get beer and hot drinks in Sea Palling, though the tides seem perilously close to calling time.

Sources:
Green, Andrew – Ghosts of today (1980)
Pearse, Bowen – The Ghost-Hunter’s Casebook: The Investigations of Andrew Green Revisited (2011)
Norfolk Pubs
Reefs Bar
www.seapalling.com

Hickling pubs

Hickling is a village situated on the edge of Hickling Broad, the largest of the Norfolk Broads. The village has two pubs, the Pleasure Boat at the staithe, and the Greyhound Inn less than a mile away in the village centre. In 1735 there were apparently five beer outlets. Two of those – the Bull and the White Horse – survived into the 20th century and the buildings exist as private houses.

Pleasure Boat:

Pleasure Boat Inn

The Pleasure Boat has apparently been here since at least the mid 1700s. Situated at Hickling Staithe, with views across Hickling Broad, this waterside pub recently became a freehouse and has a new lease of life under new management. Ten beers were on tap, impressive for a village pub, and the ones we tried were in good nick. An extension to the pub has a dining room overlooking the broad, and even a small shop. There are great views across the broad from the beer garden which also has a marquee for the regular live music.

Birds, Beasts and Fishes of the Norfolk Broadland (1895) describes a scene on Christmas Eve morning as crowds gathered for ‘coot-shooting’ on Hickling Broad:

“Long before the old church clock has struck eleven, crowds begin to collect at the ‘Pleasure Boat’ all crushing into the tap-room, and calling for jugs of mild whilst carts keep arriving; finally, the little green staithe is gay with laughing men and youths. Soon all the party has collected, some ninety persons, of strange dress and stranger accoutrements.There is much talk, and joking, and cheering as they crowd into the open boats – pleasure-boats, old cobles, marsh boats – some propelled by oars, others by quants (poles).

So the chaffing flotilla of forty boats, for many have brought their boats over-night from mill-outlets and distant broads and meres, goes shoving and rowing off on to the broad, whose hundreds of acres of water gleam and ripple in the cold morning sun.”

Later, after the shoot…

“You see the scattered flotilla of forty boats making for the inn… and soon the short winter day is over, and the noisy crowd at the inn disperses, making their way through the dark lanes and muddy roads for home”

Another account from the late 19th century, the Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk & Suffolk (1891) records:

“Then we went to Hickling staithe, at the north end, where there is an inn, the ‘Pleasure Boat’… Boats of a rough kind can be obtained here for fishing purposes. They are long, narrow, and flat-bottomed, and the usual method of propulsion is by ‘setting’. The setter sits in the extreme stern, and pushes the boat along with a light pole, at a great rate. There are often setting races at local regattas, and great fun they are.

The number of broken-up lateeners on the shores of the Broad attest the decay of large pleasure-boat sailing on these remote waters, but the smaller class of centre-board boats are coming into favour, and are, perhaps, more suitable.”

Whereas propelling a ‘long, narrow and flat bottomed boat with a light pole’ is nowadays a familiar leisure pursuit in Cambridge, in Norfolk the former trading wherry Albion, all sixty feet and twenty odd tons of it, is still sometimes punted along a river when there’s not enough wind for the sails.

A photo published in 1897 (Sun Pictures of the Norfolk Broads – Payne Jennings) and a postcard from 1904 show the inn with a lean-to on the west side of the building:

Pleasure Boat Inn, Hickling C19th

A painting from 1905 shows a two-storey extension has replaced it:

Hickling Pleasure Boat

By 1913 a single storey extension was added to the east side, overlooking the staithe. It’s been rebuilt and enlarged several times to create the present dining area with views across Hickling Broad.

Greyhound:

Greyhound

A wonderful village pub, friendly to visitors and with plenty of local characters inside. We’ve eaten here several times and always enjoy it – there are usually a couple of veggie choices. Beers on when visited recently were Marstons EPA straight from the cask, JW Lees Bitter, Greene King Golden Hen and the ubiquitous Woodfordes Wherry.

According to the Greyhound Inn, “It is believed that the Inn dates back to the 1600s though may well be earlier than that. There are records that only go back as far as 1735, when at that time the village boasted five pubs”. For over 300 years this brick and flint building would have had views across fields until the Green was developed in the late 20th century. There is a lovely beer garden that has the feel of sitting in a private cottage garden.

Greyhound beer garden

The Parish Magazine records some curious sounding dinners held at the Greyhound in the 1890s – the ‘Annual Coal Meeting’, the ‘Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Hickling Commissioners of Drainage’ and in 1898 “The Rational Sick and Burial Club Dinner, which was held in the Club Room at the ‘Greyhound Inn’ on February 4th, was a great success… a large number of members sat down to an excellent dinner. After dinner there were toasts and speeches and songs”

Closed pubs:

White Horse:

White Horse

A few doors north of the Greyhound, now a private house called White Lodge. In 1819 an auction for Hickling towermill took place at the pub. William Lambert, who was born in the village in 1916, said the pub was closed before he was born. However, the ‘White Horse P.H.’ was still shown on a 1957 Ordanance Survey map. The building recently sold for £275,000 and was described as having solid oak flooring and a beamed ceiling.

Bull:

Bull

Situated on the outskirts of the village, on Town Street near St Mary’s Church, the Bull is listed in White’s Directory of Norfolk 1836 but Norfolk Pubs dates it back further to at least the late 1700s. It was closed around 1970 and is now Hickling House, a residential care home.

The pub name ‘the Bull’ is apparently “an ancient and widespread sign, which may well have begun by referring to a papal bull, the leaden seal attached to the pope’s edicts” (Wordsworth Dictionary of Pub Names, 2006). This might be the meaning here, since the pub stands on land that borders the remains of Hickling Priory, founded in 1185 and dissolved in 1536. A History of the County of Norfolk (W. Page, 1906) refers to Hickling Priory and the papal bull:

In September, 1343, Martin de Hapesburgh, canon of the priory of Hickling, petitioned the pope to order the abbot and convent of St. Benedict, Holme, to receive him as a monk according to the mandate of Benedict III from which the abbot, at the suggestion of the prior of Hickling, did remove the bull. The petition was granted, provided it was found that Pope Benedict did make a special mandate. The following December Clement VI issued his mandate to the bishop of Norwich, the dean of Lincoln, and the chancellor of Hereford to cause Martin de Hapesburgh to be received into the monastery of Holme.

Hickling can be reached by the River Thurne and Hickling Broad, just over an hour by boat or 4 miles by road from Potter Heigham.

Pubs of Potter Heigham

Potter Heigham is a village on the River Thurne in Norfolk with two pubs – The Falgate Inn and the Broadshaven Tavern. Several pubs have closed, including the much missed Bridge Inn which burned down in 1990.

Falgate Inn

Falgate Inn

By far the oldest of the two remaining pubs, apparently shown in a painting from the 1770s, in 1781 the Norfolk Chronicle records an auction was held at the pub. Faden’s map of 1797 shows the area as ‘Heigham Furlgate’. The building was originally a farmhouse, the name of the inn refers to its use as a toll house.

The pub’s sign was highlighted as early as 1879 (Tourist’s Guide to the County of Norfolk – Walter Rye) when mention was also made of “a splendid hawthorn hedge nearly 25 feet high” which stood ‘nearly opposite’ the pub.

Its signboard is sure to attract the visitor’s attention. It consists of a small gate hanging over the door, upon which is inscribed the following verse:

This gate hang high,
But hinder none;
Refresh and pay,
And travel on.

(Broadland Sport – Everitt, 1902)

Successive refurbishments have removed that sign and any trace of the verse.

Bygone Norfolk (Andrews, 1898) contains the following curious note:

Toshe fromshe

The saying applied to a certain spot near the village inn at Potter Heigham. Now a falgate is a small cross- way green where several roads part, and where there is generally a gate or gates terminating private roads some say the swinging or falling-gate gives the derivation.”

The folk signer Harry Cox lived in the area and was known to frequent the Falgate and the closed Railway Tavern and to have held singing sessions here.

Falgate Potter Heigham

The roof of the pub was thatched until 1993 when it caught fire. Patricia Munday, a former resident whose father Vernon Le Neve Painter was landlord from 1934 to 1954 recalls:

It had a beautiful thatched roof which was renewed once during our time (1934-1954) but which was destroyed in the dreadful fire in 1993. When the housed was rebuilt, the roof was tiled. The wooden frame surrounding the front door was added about 1938 and has a Latin inscription meaning ‘Welcome or rest, traveller’.
(Melton Constable to Yarmouth Beach – Adderson and Kenworthy, 1987)

Mrs Munday has written a history of the pub, which we were kindly shown by current landlady Annette, which records some of her memories during that time.

“One of the regular customers came in on his way home to lunch, leaving his horse standing outside. He met an old friend and his usual one pint went to two or three, at which point the horse decided he had been long enough and came right into the bar to fetch his master! Other customers remarked that it was bad enough having a nagging wife but when a nag starts nagging too that really is bad!”

Annette told us the pub is thought to have been used as a mortuary when it was taken over by wheelwright and carpenter William Shepherd George in 1888 who may have laid coffins out in the pub. It is also supposedly haunted by the ghosts of two former landlords. Charles Downing fell down the stairs and broke his neck when chasing one of the servant girls. The other is said to be Mary Anne Frost who lived here first with her husband John Frost, licensee of the pub in the 1820s and 30s. When he died in 1834, she took over and the following year married Edward Rust who is later listed as the landlord until the mid 1840s. Nothing much else is known about her, but apparently she makes her presence known.

No ghosts were encountered when we visited, it’s a very friendly, welcoming place with beamed walls and a fireplace, well worth a visit. Woodfordes Wherry and Greene King IPA are the choice of ales, the Wherry perhaps the nicest pint of it we had from any pub during a recent visit to Norfolk.

Broadshaven Tavern

Broadshaven Tavern

The buildings appear to be shown on a map of 1938 but may have been a cafe and restaurant until the 1950s when Herbert Woods bought them as the Broadshaven Hotel. It is named after ‘Broads Haven’, the home of Herbert Woods fleet of hire craft that stands opposite the tavern.

Broadshaven interior

It’s a large pub with a main bar, a dining room and a function room. Not much appears to have changed since the early 1990s when I would occasionally and somewhat reluctantly find myself here at ‘Tigers’ disco, except that there doesn’t seem to be much activity here these days, and without the large number of visitors that Potter Heigham used to attract, it can feel empty and in need of life. It had been neglected for a number of years but in 2011 came under new management; when we visited it was friendly and clean, the only real ale, Woodfordes Wherry in good nick. The outside seating area is the real draw here, overlooking the River Thurne and the narrow medieval bridge. On the opposite bank used to stand the Bridge Inn.

Closed Pubs

Bridge Inn

Bridge Inn 1920s

Originally the Waterman’s Arms, it had been pulled down and rebuilt as the Bridge Hotel by 1896 (Fishing in Norfolk Waters – Arthur Rudd, 1896). It stood on the banks of the River Thurne opposite where the Broadshaven pub stands. The Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk and Suffolk (G. Christopher Davies) published in 1882 mentions:

At the bridge is the ‘Waterman’s Arms’ where one or two bedrooms, and a small parlour, all scrupulously clean, are obtainable.

In the mid 20th century, each year when the Regatta was held:

Rhubarb Underwood’s fun fair set up its colourful collection of rides, dodg’ems, cakewalk, coconut shies, boxing booth and other stalls in front of the Bridge hotel… the pubs were open all day, until midnight, and well patronised… wherries berthed in front of the Bridge Hotel.
(Potter Heigham, The Heart of Broadland – Olga Sinclair, 1989)

In the late 80s and early 90s this was my first local, the first pub I felt I was a part of, drank regularly in, bought my first round of drinks in – lager, lager tops, lager and lime – danced in, cycled home drunk from. In the summer, on Friday and Saturday evenings it was busy and lively, groups of people spilling outside next to the river, boats moored here, sometimes a DJ would play in the small extension room. It was a landmark in the Norfolk Broads, captured on many old photographs, postcards and paintings, then it burnt down.

Bridge Inn fire

It was destroyed by a fire in September 1990 and eventually the remains were cleared away. In 1997 the Broads Local Plan stated “The Broads Authority has granted planning permission for a suitable scheme for the reconstruction of the hotel.” but nothing came of it. Apparently problems with insurance, building regulations and investments prevented rebuilding the inn. Twenty years later, this prime site in the heart of the broads remains inaccessible, overgrown, unloved and used as a private car park by the River Thurne Tenants Association who lease the site and were given planning permission by the Broads Authority.

Railway Tavern

Railway Tavern

It existed since at least 1881 when the census lists Charles Chase as ‘innkeeper & grocer’. The railway line through Potter Heigham to Catfield opened in 1880 and closed in 1959.

Old, thatched, originally just a simple beerhouse, the Tavern stood at the corner of Church Road and Station road and despite its name was probably there before the advent of the railway. Beer was kept in a cool flagged room, down several steps, and drawn straight from the barrel. In front of it was a small shop where groceries were sold. It was a popular meeting place for the men, and had a bowling green, surrounded by a hedge of sweetly scented syringa.

One regular customer always gave his horse a pint of beer when he stopped to partake of refreshment for himself. It would seem that they were a well-matched pair, equally addicted to the god Bacchus, for the horse would stop and refuse to move on until he had had his tipple.
(Sinclair, 1989)

It was still a shop and pub in the early 20th century:

In 1935 Alfred Amis’ parents owned a combined shop and pub, the Railway Tavern, at nearby Potter Heigham, where they had a six day licence, being closed on Sundays. They bought all their beer from Bullards and that must have helped Alfred to be accepted as one of that brewery’s landlords.
(Tales of the Old Countrywomen – Brian Martin, 1997)

It was still shown as a public house on a 1982 map but must have closed soon after. It has been since been demolished and replaced by modern housing.

Cringles Country Club

Cringles was built by Herbert Woods for his family in 1936 and later became Cringles Country Club, a 10 bedroom hotel. I visited once or twice in the early 90s and played pool in a room overlooking the gardens, but it was more of a hotel and restaurant than a pub. It closed later in the 1990s and is now a private house, with new houses built on what were the gardens and pond.

Potter Heigham Pubs Map

Once a thriving spot on the broads, the village seems to have suffered as a result of losing the Bridge Inn, followed by a decline in the hire boat industry over the past couple of decades, the loss of several shops and the closure of the school. Still, it’s well worth visiting for the Falgate Inn, one of the most welcoming pubs we’ve visited in Norfolk. Lathams village store, just behind the Broadshaven Tavern, is a good place to pick up a range of bottled beers from Humpty Dumpty brewery.

Poppyland Brewery – Ales Gas n Lager

Poppyland Brewery reached its first anniversary a few days ago, a year of “extraordinary ales using local ingredients”. These have included beers made with hops smoked in an old Cromer Smokehouse, “wild landrace hops gathered from nearby ruins of medieval monasteries”, locally picked flowers and fruit, and barley from nearby Branthill Farm. And they do taste extraordinary.

Poppyland Brewery

The brewery is located in the Norfolk seaside town of Cromer, a short walk from the beach, on the corner of West Street and Cabbell Road opposite the fine red brick and flint Methodist Church. Part of the brewery building was previously Allen’s Garages, the letters on the sign rearranged as ‘Ales, Gas ‘N Lager’.

Poppyland Brewery

When I visited the brewery, Martin was bottling Dr Rudi’s New Zealand Saison, described as either a “massively hopped Belgian saison” or an “IPA brewed with an ascertive Belgian saison yeast”. Neither description would have prepared me for the intense burst of lemony citrus, refreshingly sharp with a growing sourness and bitter, dry finish. It’s a beer that seizes the senses.

On The Edge

It follows the farmhouse-in-a-hop-field theme of the earlier ‘On the Edge’ saisons, one hopped with Bobek, another with Cascade & Hersbrucker Hallertau – the Poppyland saison I’ve enjoyed most, well hopped, citrus and floral, the slight tartness balanced with caramel sweetness, perfect on a sunny day. The Crab Apple Saison offers another twist. It’s been a long time since I bit into a crab apple, but the beer is as mouth puckeringly sour, tart and acidic as I remember them tasting.

Poppyland Brewery

Smoking hops
The first Poppyland beer I tried remains my favourite. It uses not only smoked malts, but hops smoked in a Cromer smokehouse that’s over 150 years old. Each bottle of Smoked Porter has revealed experiments with different smoked hops and variations in the strength of the beer. I found the 5.7% the richest experience, but most recently opened a bottle of 5.4% and was unexpectedly greeted with lively fresh hop aromas in a cloud of oak smoke, piney hop flavours, smoky sap and coal tar, a wonderful beer. The smoke and tar thickens in the stronger Ten Thousand Geese, a beer which seems to have absorbed the salty sea air. The whole range of beers are free of finings, so vegetarian friendly – no crabs were harmed for the Crab Saisons – although in the same way vegan rauchbiers can impart smoked meat flavours, the smoked beers do carry homeopathic proportions of cured fish in flavour and aroma only.

Smokehouse Porter 10k Geese

The Sour Plum Porter also uses smoked hops, though the aroma of smoke, toast and hops again doesn’t quite prepare the senses for the depths of flavour – vinous, stewed dark fruits laced with smoky resin, a creeping sourness, acetic and dry. I savoured each mouthful until I was short of breath.

Sour Plum Porter

Only 36 bottles of Sour Plum Porter were made, so I’m unlikely to try it again, and it’s unlikely any casks of Poppyland beer will turn up at pubs or beer festivals. As I understand it, there are no plans to grow or to make the beers more widely available. These are small batches of beers, each a search for new sensations. They are however available direct from the brewery and a small number of local outlets, and online from Beautiful Beers.

The latest brews include big IPAs, an Imperial Austrian Porter and a Dandelion Saison. Here’s to another year of Poppyland’s extraordinary ales…

Eel’s Foot, Ormesby St Michael

Update: Since writing the article below, the Boathouse (formerly Eeels Foot) reopened on 28th April 2014. As you can see from the owner’s comments, “the old pub as it was will be brought back to its original glory and run as a country family pub with real ales” and “the old pub part of the bar is to be renamed the Eel’s Foot Bar with a repainting of the original pub sign as a feature and a huge feature wall providing photo images of the old pub over the years”. We look forward to visiting soon…

The Eels Foot was a well known waterside pub in the Norfolk Broads but closed in March 2012. An application was then approved “for the renovation of the public house to improve the existing facility”. It is due to reopen in 2014 as The Boathouse, described as a “romantic wedding venue”, it’s unclear if the public house will survive the extensive redevelopment.

The Boathouse

History

The inn dates back to at least 1854 when John Groom is listed at the ‘beerhouse and pleasure gardens’, but is likely to be older; he is listed in the 1841 Register of Electors’ as having ‘Freehold house and land, near the broad’. His wife Martha became the publican from 1865 when she is listed in the Post Office Directory as ‘beerhouse and gardener.’

Eels Foot inn sign

Sign for the Eels Foot Inn, Ormesby St Michael

© Miss Steel

This photo of the Eels Foot sign is from 2008. I seem to remember an earlier sign showed an Eel wearing a boot, similar to the present inn sign at the Eels Foot in Eastbridge, Suffolk which suggests the name may have come from “Eel’s Boot, a type of woven reed basket used in Eel Fishing”. However, Scandinavian Names in Norfolk (Rye, 1920) says “there is an Eelsfoot on the south side of Nordfjord in Norway”, suggesting the origin of the name may date back to pre-Roman Scandinavian settlement in Norfolk. A beerhouse at Barton Turf, about 15 miles away, was also known as Eels Foot. Hidden Inns of East Anglia (Peter Long, 2005) suggests “the very unusual name comes from the fact that eels used to swim up to here from the sea, and a map of Trinity Broad shows that it resembles the shape of a foot!” – presumably that refers to Ormesby Little Broad, although I can’t see the shape of a foot in any of the Trinity Broads.

Eels Foot, Ormesby

I spent my teenage years living in a nearby village, and for want of something better to do, would find myself here some weekend evenings for the disco held in the function room. It was one of the first pubs I drank in, along with the Bridge Inn at Potter Heigham which is no longer there. I’d no doubt have been drinking whatever lager was served back then, but Hidden Inns mentions “Greene King IPA, Adnams Broadside and Bitter and Bombardier on tap”. When I was last at the disco in the mid 90s, I saw a man with a mullet haircut dance passionately to Rod Stewart’s ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ The whole place felt similarly out of date.

The Eels Foot was looking run down and in need of refurbishment. Fingers crossed that when it reopens, at least part of it will still be a public house, and visitors can continue to enjoy the beer garden overlooking the broad. Brewery History says that it had a ‘Lacon’s falcon wall tile set inside the building’. Hopefully this too will survive the refurbishment.

The pub overlooks Ormesby Little Broad, part of the Trinity Broads that also includes Rollesby and Filby. The nearby Sportman’s Arms also served visitors to these broads that were popular for rowing and fishing.

“The Eel’s Foot (Ormesby), divides with ‘The Sportsman’s Arms’ the honour of entertaining large parties of visitors from Yarmouth, who come for a day’s fishing on Ormesby Broad. The accommodation at both places is homely, but sufficient for ordinary ‘day-trippers’ who require light refreshment rather than a substantial meal.” (Jennings, 1897)

“Boats may be obtained at the Eel’s Foot, and the Sportsman’s Arms, the former having fair staying accommodation” (Davies, 1882)

Sportsman’s Arms

A beeerhouse listed in the 1864 White’s Directory. It closed in the mid-twentieth century and by 1977 the building is shown on a map as Sportsman’s Cottages. It appears to be one large private house now.

Sportsmans Arms

Sources:
Sun Pictures of the Norfolk Boards – Jennings, Payne (1897)
The Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk and Suffolk – G. Christopher Davies (1882)
Hidden Inns of East Anglia – Peter Long (2005)

White Horse, Neatishead

…and the closed pubs of Neatishead and Barton Turf.

White Horse

White Horse, Neatishead

The White Horse, Barton

An 18th century pub, perhaps earlier than 1744, with two bars, “the public bar on a lower level is virtually unaltered for 80+ years with its red quarry tiled floor… and impressive black-leaded range. The upper room has a hatch-style bar counter and bench seating” (CAMRA Regional Inventory).

White Horse, Neatishead

We enjoyed a Woodfordes Wherry while talking to Ted, a regular who moved here from London when he retired, who raised whisky to his white beard.

Closed pubs:

Eagle Tavern

The Old Eagle, Neatishead

According to Ted, the Eagle Tavern on Irstead Road had closed by 1987. It is now a private house called The Old Eagle.

Barton Angler

Barton Angler, Neatishead

We were sad to find that the Barton Angler Hotel closed in 2005. When we visited several years ago, there were bench seats next to a small hatch-style bar and mounted on the walls were specimens of large fish caught locally. It seems that this popular pub then changed hands and was turned into a fine dining pub – lack of success was enough grounds to change the use back to a private dwelling. Originally Irstead Rectory, only becoming a pub in the late 20th century, it is now called The Old Rectory.

Trowel and Hammer

A pub called the Trowel and Hammer existed nearby, at least as early as 1841 when an area was listed in the census as ‘Trowel and Hammer Common’. By the 1851 census it was known by its present name of ‘Three Hammer Common’.

Barton Turf

Hole in the Wall

Hole in the Wall, Barton Turf

The church at Barton Turf had a display which mentioned the former brewery and beerhouse at the Staithe. It had a license from at least 1846 and was one of the last beerhouses in the area when it closed in 1966.

Sometimes called the ‘Eel’s Foot’ but best known as the ‘Hole in the wall’… as an off-license, beer was obtained through a wicket (opening window) at the rear, and not to be consumed on the premises, which means that many gallons of beer have been drunk on a seat placed along the flint wall, and in the nearby area

Now called Staithe House, originally the building had been three cottages.

John Yaxley’s A Jam Round Barton Turf mentions a ‘hard old country character’ called Dank who lived locally:

Dank of Pennygate had been known to bang on a down pipe at 4:30 in the morning to waken the landlord to get him a gallon of beer. It is said Dank used to wear a clean shirt for a week, then turn it inside out for a second week. He walked the footpaths almost daily, past the Church to Neatishead Street and the White Horse and Eagle Tavern.

Update: The White Horse reopened in May 2014 after closing a couple of times – first at the end of September 2012, then earlier this year for the refurbishment.