The pub past of Norwich's Body Shop
- 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 back at a former venue which used to host plays in the 19th century.
In 1883 there were twelve pubs or inns in Norwich named the King’s Head.
The building we are concentrating on today stands at the corner of Castle Street and Davey Place and it has many of the clues found in 19th century public houses.
This one was built soon after 1813 when its predecessor, the King’s Head was pulled down by alderman Jonathan Davey.
This was a well-established and well known coaching Inn that faced the Market Place on Gentleman’s Walk and was a favoured haunt of Parson Woodforde of diary fame, who much later gave his name to a Norfolk brewery now operating out of Woodbastwick.
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The old King’s Head Inn was known for entertainments such as plays performed by the Norwich Company of Comedians, prize fights and a visit in 1797 by O’Brien the Irish Giant who was 8 feet four inches tall.
In 1813 alderman Davey announced in council “Gentlemen I mean to put a hole in the King’s Head”.
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Since he was known to be a French revolutionary sympathiser, this was a rash thing to do and he was put under house arrest for a fortnight before it became clear what he meant.
That involved buying the King’s Head Inn and demolishing it to construct a new street to link the Market Place with Castle Meadow.
This new road was probably Norwich’s first pedestrianised street (beating London Street by over 150 years) and was named Davey Place after Jonathan Davey.
By way of compensation the licence of the old King’s Head was transferred to a newly purpose built pub at 10 Davey Place on the corner with Castle Street.
Fancy decoration was to mark this building, now the Body shop, with a highly decorative cornice moulding below the roof, and decorative tiles around the doorway.
Added to this are tell-tale clues of iron doors to a cellar in Davey Place and strange decorative corbels at first floor level, that do not support anything. Possibly these were designed to support a sign.
This house, a successor to the coaching Inn, became part of the Bullards portfolio.
The pub was taken over by Watney Mann in the 1960s and, like many of the pubs they inherited, was later closed in 1981 and converted to retail.
The use of such corbels for supporting a pub sign can also be found in Queen’s Road where there is a convex building, now housing, that curves round towards the entrance to Ber Street.
There at first floor level between the two windows on the eastern side of the building are two such redundant corbels and this was a pub, the Pheasant Cock.
It had gone through a series of name changes in the 19th century from the Jolly Farmers (1822), to Pheasant and Farmer (1830), to Pheasant Cock and Farmer (1842), before finally settling on the Pheasant Cock.
Pictorial evidence shows that these corbels did indeed support a fine pub sign.
It also became a victim of Watney Mann, this time inherited by the take-over of Steward & Patterson’s in the 1960s and it was closed in 1976.
Norwich had a second Pheasant Cock, at No 3 Oak Street, opposite St Mile’s Church and this too had a large name board at first floor level between two windows.
This public house shut down a lot longer ago in 1922, without the help of Watney Mann, when its licence was transferred to a new house, the Crawshay Arms in Philadelphia Lane.
Unfortunately the practice of replacing an old Inn or pub with a new one in the suburbs was not operating in the second half of the 20th century.