I spent a fruitless afternoon in Norwich at the weekend, trawling around camera shops and other likely haunts in search of a 16mm cine viewer to aid another future film project. I don’t really “do” the crowded city centre at this time of the year, so much of the time was spent wandering between Magdalen Street and Pottergate through some of the oldest parts of the city. It really is a fascinating area and was absolutely deserted on Saturday afternoon.
The search may not have uncovered a cine viewer, but no visit to Norwich for me is complete without a quick look in Jarrold’s at the local book section to see if there is anything new I should add to my collection. I was delighted to find the recently published “Norwich Pubs and Breweries; Past and Present“, written by Frances and Michael Holmes and published by the Norwich Heritage Projects group. I’ve had little more than a couple of quick scans through the book so far, but it looks as though it’s packed full of interesting information, personal memories and old photographs. Priced at £9.95, ISBN 978-0-9566272-2-3, the book is available from the usual online sources or can be purchased direct from the Norwich Pubs & Breweries website which is currently being developed by the Norwich Heritage Projects group. The website gives a nice taster of what to expect from the book and will be a very useful online resource once completed.
My main interest, of course, are the pubs and breweries which stood alongside the River Wensum in Norwich. We called in to the Ribs of Beef, which stands next to Fye Bridge, on Saturday but it soon became clear that it wasn’t going to be the quiet lunchtime pint we had envisaged as they were showing the Norwich v Arsenal game live! Further downstream is the Ferry Boat Inn on King Street which is currently closed, although planning permission has been granted to turn it into a backpackers hostel. The pub became known as the Ferry Boat Inn during the 1920s but was previously called The Steam Packet, as can be seen in the photograph on the right which dates from the late 1800s. The name “Ferry Boat” derives from the foot ferry which was operated by William Thompson who owned the boatyard next door, which can also be seen in the photograph. The pub was owned by Youngs, Crawshay & Youngs, whose Crown Brewery stood just a little further upstream. The brewery was established on King Street in the early years of the 18th century and by the outbreak of the Second World War, they owned around 250 tied pubs. Bought out by Bullard’s, whose Anchor Brewery stood further upstream in the city, the Crown Brewery was closed in 1958. Most of the buildings were demolished in the mid 1960s but the old brewery site is now occupied by the Wensum Lodge Adult Education Centre.
Coincidentally, a recent charity shop find was the book “Hard Up Street” in which Mary Agnes Davey recalls life growing up in King Street between 1919 and 1947. Published by Larks Press in 1997, ISBN 0-948400-57-9, I suspect that it is now long out of print but may be found seconhand. As the title suggests, it paints a vivid picture of the poverty which existed in that area at the time. Her grandfather had worked as a dray-man for the Crown Brewery, delivering beer all round Norfolk. Previously a non-drinker, it was customary for the dray-men to have a pint in each of the pubs they delivered to during the day and Mary Agnes Davey mentions that her grandfather would have had around ten or twelve pints before breakfast, so by the end of the day was very well oiled indeed. Travelling his rounds alone, the horses apparently knew their own way back to the brewery, sometimes travelling from Diss in South Norfolk to Norwich with grandfather sound asleep on board!
I’ll also make a quick mention of norfolkpubs.co.uk which is another excellent online resource for those seeking information about the countys’ public houses past and present. There are dedicated sections for Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn which include details of all the old breweries and is well worth a browse.