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How would St Stephen’s look if this historic pub hadn’t been blown up in 1942?

PUBLISHED: 15:45 15 February 2018

The changing face of St Stephens at the busy corner with Surrey Street in Norwich. Photo: Archant Library

The changing face of St Stephens at the busy corner with Surrey Street in Norwich. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

How would St Stephen’s in 21st century Norwich look if the historic thatched Boar’s Head hadn’t been blown up during the 1942 blitz?

The changing face of St Stephens at the busy corner with Surrey Street in Norwich. Photos: Archant Library. The changing face of St Stephens at the busy corner with Surrey Street in Norwich. Photos: Archant Library.

This proud gateway to the Fine City has been knocked for six over the years with many medieval gems demolished to make way for what we have today.

But would they have actually pulled down the historic and unique Boar’s Head which stood at the corner of St Stephen’s 
and Surrey Street which had played a leading role in city life since 1456?

The building was bombed and the site was cleared and re-developed but even then it continued to be a good-time meeting place for the people of Norwich and Norfolk.

It was the first music hall in Norwich and who remembers dear old Barbarella’s, the space-age night club, which was opened by Roy Castle in 1971 and attracted some pretty big names?

Roy Castle in Norwich  to open Barbarellas on the site of the Boars Head, December 1971. With him, left to right, are: Rosemary Allison, Maureen Gordge, Rosemary Bearstow and Sue Baugham. Photo: Archant Library Roy Castle in Norwich to open Barbarellas on the site of the Boars Head, December 1971. With him, left to right, are: Rosemary Allison, Maureen Gordge, Rosemary Bearstow and Sue Baugham. Photo: Archant Library

Back in the 70s, the likes of Bob Monkhouse, Kathy Kirby, Michael Bentine and other household names were strutting their stuff at St Stephen’s.

“I remember Barbarella’s well,” Bob told me during a visit to Norwich much later. “They never did pay me,” he added. I think he was joking!

Mind you, I think real stars of this club were showman, agent, singer and Norwich landlord Roy Reymo and the one and only Tony “Mr Showbiz” Weston.

What a pair of great characters on the Norfolk night scene they were. Once seen – never forgotten.

The original building was a home for Alderman Richard Browne in 1456. It was saved from the ban on thatched buildings because of the fire risk and went on to became the Greyhound run by the Norgate family.

This was at the heart of city life, with the stagecoaches from too and from London stopping at the place. It was not for the faint-hearted.

Eventually it became the Boar’s Head and the first music hall in Norwich run by Fred Phillips, a chap who had lost a leg through a fall at the Theatre Royal.

It was called the Wine Shades with a Chop Room where you could purchase a chop with potatoes and a pint of ale for less than a bob.

The Norwich branch of the Licensed Victuallers Association was formed there in 1854 and the place was packed on market days.

The old and much-loved Boar’s Head served its last pint in April 1942 when it was bombed.

The site was derelict for about ten years when a new public house opened.

As time moved on it became the Windmill, the Continental, the Surrey Lounge and then, in the early 1970s Gloria and Mike Patch opened up Barbarella’s which was the trendy night spot back in the day.

The good times lasted for just a few years. Time was called in 1974 but the memories remain.

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