Ferry Inn, Horning. Date: May 1956
Much has changed over the last two centuries, but pubs have always played a role in our communities.
After we put a special focus on the role of a pub landlord, and how it is evolving, we’ve delved into the Norfolk Pubs website, which aims to provide a record of all pubs in the county, past and present, to find stories from the county’s watering holes.
Here are some of the more interesting titbits from pubs in and around Norwich.
MORE: What is life like as a landlord in Norfolk and Suffolk?
– In December 1788, a tiger died after eating two monkeys – complete with metal collars – at a licensed house called The Bear. The pub, at 13 Gentleman’s Walk, in Norwich, had opened in 1761, and the tiger had escaped from a menagerie kept at the house. It closed in 1877.
– It came after, in 1751, the Norwich Mercury reported that, at the same pub, Mr Blaker “the modern living Colossus or wonderful giant” could be seen.
– The Causeway Tavern, at 101 Heigham Street, in Norwich, which closed in 1969, was once run by boxer Ginger Sadd. Known as one of the greatest boxers in history to never be a national champion, Sadd ran the pub during the 1940s, before it was demolished in the 1970s.
– A landlord at the Key and Castle, at 105 Oak Street, in Norwich, became the first person to be privately executed at Norwich City Gaol (today the Guildhall). William Sheward, who ran the pub in 1868, confessed to police that he had murdered his wife and left her remains around the city. He later retracted his confession, saying he was drunk at the time, but was found guilty.
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– In 1772, the annual “ass and pig” race was held at the Lamb in Eaton, on 18 Eaton Street. The winning donkey in the best of three heats would be entitled to a grand Morocco Saddle, while the second would win a Pelham bridle.
– The Cellar House, at 109 King Street, in Norwich, was destroyed during the Second World War, in 1942. But while it was still standing, it pub was once said to be home to the 18 Stone Club, a group whose membership was conditional on minimum weight.
– At the Victoria Gardens, on Queens Road, in Norwich, the landlords enjoyed some unusual fun. During a benefit for a hospital in 1779, records say a 15-year-old boy was asked to imitate birds with his throat, and play a violin without strings. And on Easter Tuesday 1786, a large hot air balloon was set to take a dog and cat into the air, with plans to get the cat back down in a parachute.
– At the Elephant Pub, on 60 Magdalen Street, in Norwich, landlord Nicholas Hubbard experienced a miracle. The father-of-26 – who had 13 children from each of his two marriages – had been blind for 14 years, but his sight reportedly returned in the last eight months of his life, before he died on Good Friday, 1792.
– It is claimed that Ralph Summers became the youngest licence holder in England when he took on the licence of the Queens Head in Hethersett in 1931 – but there is little information about what age he actually was. Ralph and his wife Edith left the pub for Australia 40 years later, in 1971.
– The then-thatched Ferry Inn in Horning, which is still open today, was destroyed during the Second World War in 1941. Reports after the incident said 22 of the 24 occupants were killed, and the licensee Albert Stringer was pulled alive from the wreckage by his wife Rita.
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