The story behind Norwich pubs with animal names

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 inspired by the natural world.


Many of our disappearing pubs had animals as their names.

This usually came from their appearance in heraldry and if the ale house wished to curry favour with the local landlord by choosing an animal from his coat of arms.

This was often portrayed on the inn sign but of course could easily be depicted by a statue, or model of the animal in question.

The statues or depictions of that animal sometimes remain on the building long after it has ceased to be a public house and can provide interesting clues as to its former existence.

Norwich has several examples of this and one of those frequently overlooked is the Lion Inn which flourished on the edge of the Cattle Market from the mid-18th century until its closure in 1917.

Just as there were many pubs surrounding the Market Place in Norwich in the 19th century, the same applied to the roads around the Cattle Market.

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Most of those have now vanished leaving behind only the Steam Packet, which used to be called the Market Tavern from 1908 to 1993.

The cattle market has now been replaced with the Castle Mall but if you look at the roof line of the buildings facing Cattle Market Street, you will see two Lions, guarding the building at 31 Cattle Market Street and this was the old Lion Inn.

The lion statue on top of the former Lion Inn on Cattle Market Street in Norwich.

The lion statue on top of the former Lion Inn on Cattle Market Street in Norwich. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

It also has a large entrance to a yard, which originally would have had stables for the horses of the farmers who had travelled to the Cattle Market.

If you look carefully you will see a third lion on the building next door, which was not part of the Inn. The image was obviously popular.

The best place to view the lions on the old Lion in is across the road in front of the Anglia TV building by Crown Street.

If you then look to your left at the doorway to 34 Crown Road, you will see a fine moulded cockrell over the doorway to mark the back entrance to the Cock, another lost Norwich Pub.

A lion statue on the old Lion Inn pub on Cattle Market Street in Norwich.

A lion statue on the old Lion Inn pub on Cattle Market Street in Norwich. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

The front door to the Cock was in Upper King Street (no 32) which is still marked with a bracket from which the pub sign used to hang.

This was a Morgan’s pub for much of its existence and the model of the cock over the door was the first piece of work that John Moray Smith produced for Morgan’s.

The moulding which used to sit above the Cock pub on Crown Road, Norwich, which has closed.

The moulding which used to sit above the Cock pub on Crown Road, Norwich, which has closed. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

He is more famous for his plaster bas-reliefs which decorate the exteriors of the Coachmaker’s Arms in St Stephen’s Road, the Ber Street Gates in Ber Street and the Prince of Denmark in Sprowston Road.

Nearer to the Cock are the six panels depicting sheep farming which are now inside the Woolpack on Golden Ball Street.

Impressive as these panels are, they are dwarfed by the extensive bas-relief of a panoramic view of Norwich from St James’s Hill, produced for the Cock Inn probably around 1947.

This large panel was hung inside the inn until it was closed around 1975. It was rescued from a garage at the back of Caistor Hall Hotel, and restored by the Norwich Society.

The panel can still be seen and is on display inside the Maid’s Head Hotel just south of the courtyard.

Why it was commissioned for the Cock is unknown but it is an impressive piece of work which has been thankfully saved for Norwich and still hangs in an inn.

Let us hope that the same happens to the Prince of Denmark in Sprowston Road, now that that building is no longer a pub.

The back entrance to the Cock on Crown Road was frequented by many employees from Anglia TV and during the 1960s and 1970s.

It was known as studio four because there were only three studios in the television building.

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