Clues to help you spot former city pubs

Jonathan Hooton, the Norwich Pub Detective, outside his favourite Norwich pub, the White Lion in Oak Street.

Jonathan Hooton, the Norwich Pub Detective, outside his favourite Norwich pub, the White Lion in Oak Street. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

He is known as the Norwich Pub Detective due to his fascination with all things to do with the city's famous pub legacy. And this week Jonathan Hooton looks at how former ale houses can be identified thanks to distinctive building features.

In the 19th century it was common for breweries to install stained glass windows advertising their ales and stouts, and frequently these attractive windows were retained when the building ceased to be a pub, so this is often a reliable clue that the building was once one.

So when a window appears, like the one under the archway of 47 St Martin’s Lane announcing Wines and Spirits, then we can be sure we have found an old pub.

The former glass pub display on 47 St Martins Lane, Norwich.

The former glass pub display on 47 St Martins Lane, Norwich. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Other clues such as the wooden emblem resembling a pineapple over the door and the plaque on the side wall announcing Pineapple House mean it is a safe bet that this was the Pineapple, which was open from the start of the 19th century until 1938.

The pineapple emblem on top of the door of the former Pineapple pub on St Martins Lane, Norwich.

The pineapple emblem on top of the door of the former Pineapple pub on St Martins Lane, Norwich. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

St Martin’s Lane, once an important connection between Oak Street and Pitt Street, has now been rendered a backwater by the construction of the inner ring road.

Pineapple House in St Martins Lane, Norwich, which used to be a pub.

Pineapple House in St Martins Lane, Norwich, which used to be a pub. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton


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Other buildings sporting brewery stained glass include the Bread and Cheese in Adelaide Street. This has some fine stained glass advertising Bullards Brewery.

This pub was originally the Queen Victoria and changed its name in 1978.

A glass feature from the former Bread and Cheese pub in Adelaide Street, Norwich.

A glass feature from the former Bread and Cheese pub in Adelaide Street, Norwich. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

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According to John Riddington Young (in the book Inns and Taverns of Old Norwich) this came from a former landlord who supplied bread and cheese with his beer on Sundays.

Also according to him in 1973, whist players in the pub were each dealt a complete suit of cards and he quoted the odds against this happening being 2,235,197,406,895,366,368,301,599,999 to 1.

William Hartson commented on another similar incident in The Independent in 1998 and said: “There are about six billion people in the world. If they all played one hand of cards every five minutes, 12 hours a day, such a coincidence would happen about once every 10 trillion years. On the other hand, there are a good few practical jokers around who would love to sneak a doctored pack of cards to four unsuspecting players to create the perfect whist hands when dealt. I know which possibility my money is on.”

It has also been pointed out that whist is a game of collecting like cards together so a coincidental ordering of cards in a whist pack must be made more likely.

Whatever the truth of the matter the Bread and Cheese made national headlines that year, and although we can no longer enjoy a pint in the pub, the conversion to housing has at least preserved the excellent stained glass windows.

No.8 Ber Street also has decorative stained glass, including the fleur-de-lis which might lead the observer to think that this pub may have had a connection with royalty.

Indeed that would be correct as it was the Kings Arms, a pub popular with farmers attending the cattle market which was where Castle Mall now is.

It shut in 1968 but the tell-tale stained glass has been retained.

Although this was largely a Victorian custom, a more modern pub, built in 1934, the Mitre on Earlham Road has some wonderful stained glass Mitres in the windows, commemorating the former name of the pub.

Stained glass in the Mitre on Earlham Road, Norwich.

Stained glass in the Mitre on Earlham Road, Norwich. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Although it is now a café run by St Thomas’ Church, craft bottled ales are still available so strictly perhaps it is not a former pub.

The granting of the original licence was objected to by locals who feared the hearse drivers from Earlham Cemetery would have a public house even nearer for them to adjourn to while the funeral services were taking place.


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