Norwich pub detective: How 1890s house building boosted 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 back at the history of a former pub established amid turn of the century housebuilding.

In the 1890s there was a lot of housebuilding in the northern suburbs, including the area between Sprowston Road and Silver Road.

This included the provision of pubs and shops as the infrastructure for the new residents.

A bakery had been set up in Brandford Road and in 1895 Jonas Lake applied for a licence to turn part of the buildings into a public house to be named the Brandford Stores.

The former Brandford Stores pub in Norwich. 

The former Brandford Stores pub in Norwich. - Credit: Derek McDonald

He was granted that licence on condition that there was to be no access from the bakery to the licenced premises.

The licence was granted in exchange for three others, including the Victoria Gardens, which stood at St Stephen’s Gate.

Originally this had been called Quantrells Pleasure Gardens and was meant to serve the pleasure gardens that used to be sited south east of the gate, approximately where Marsh’s office buildings now stand.

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The second licence given up was the Villa Gardens in Martineau Lane, Old Lakenham, and the third licence was that of the Farrier’s Arms.

This building still stands today and is known as the Belgian Monk on Pottergate where it is still possible to get excellent beer.

However, in the 1890s it had a poor reputation and there were many complaints about the way the pub was run.

In 1891 the chief constable had to write to the commanding officer of the military barracks to ask for the assistance of the military to protect the public from violence arising from rows outside the Farrier’s Arms.

Therefore the authorities were only too pleased to refuse the licence and transfer it to the northern suburbs.

The Belgian Monk building was restored and largely reconstructed by George Skipper in 1916.

It appears that Jonas Lake ran both the bakery and the public house as he later applied for permission for access to be granted to the bakery as long as he did not use it for any of the pub’s business, but this was not granted after the chief constable objected.

This building had a bevelled corner entrance with a large space above the door where the pub’s name used to be.

It was originally a Steward and Patteson house before having a variety of owners after Watney Mann had sold it.

It had a brief time being renamed as the Brandford Arms before reverting to the original Brandford Stores.

The pub closed in 2009 and was converted to housing.

Originally it only started as a beer house, before being granted a full licence in 1925.

Another of the pubs built to serve the new housing between Sprowston and Silver Road which has gone was the Cygnet, originally on the corner of Churchill Road and Silver Road. Here even the building no longer remains.

The former Cygnet pub which used to stand between Sprowston Road and Silver Road in Norwich.

The former Cygnet pub which used to stand between Sprowston Road and Silver Road in Norwich. - Credit: Derek McDonald

This got its licence three years after the Brandford Stores in 1898.

It also benefitted by a licence being transferred from a pub, the Two Necked Swan, which used to stand in Norwich Market Place.

One wonders whether this had any bearing on the choice of Cygnet as the name for the new pub.

A nod to the former Cygnet pub in Norwich which no longer exists.

A nod to the former Cygnet pub in Norwich which no longer exists. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

This pub had some striking tile work on its exterior, most of which disappeared when it was demolished in 2006, two years after it shut, and was replaced by eight houses.

However the old pub name engraved on the exterior was incorporated into the exterior of one of the houses and is now the only indication on the site of the Victorian back street local.

It is a pity the building did not survive like the Brandford Stores.


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