Pub detective: City's sign reminders of pubs past

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 to the clues signs give us about former pubs. 

Many a pub had its sign on a substantial post, not all of which have been removed once the building had ceased being a pub.

Sometimes they were repurposed and used to advertise the building’s new status, but in some cases they just remain as forlorn reminders of a long vanished pub, possibly because removing them was an extra expense and it was easier and cheaper to just leave them where they stood.

A couple of examples of the latter can be found on West Pottergate.

The signpost in West Pottergate still has a metal sign hanging. On the southern side it is too rusted to identify but on the northern side it is just about possible to make out the name, the Lion and Castle.

The early 19th century building nearby, now converted to apartments, is easily identifiable as the only old building amidst a variety of 1970s buildings that were erected after the slum clearance scheme of the 60s and 70s.

The Lion and Castle was a new name for the building, which started life as the Brassfounders Arms before becoming the Saracen’s Head in the middle of the 19th century.

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It stayed as this until its first closure in 1969 before getting a facelift and a new name to serve the newly developed housing, opening again in 1973 as the Lion and Castle – a reference to the city’s coat of arms. At one time Norwich had four Lion and Castle pubs.

The sign post of a former pub on Golding Street remains, but with no pub nor sign.

The sign post of a former pub on Golding Street remains, but with no pub nor sign. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Not far from this is another abandoned pub sign which stood outside the Britannia pub in Golding Street.

This pub was purpose-built in 1975 to replace the demolished Sandringham Arms. It only lasted 25 years before being closed in 2000 and converted to housing.

However, the signpost remains without a sign, but conveniently for the pub detective the name Britannia remains on the northern side of the building.

A redundant post stands forlornly outside the medical centre on Old Palace Road, because the centre was created in the old Alexandra closed in 1997.

The Kings Arms pub once stood on Mile Cross Road, but its former sign post has not been demolished.

The Kings Arms pub once stood on Mile Cross Road, but its former sign post has not been demolished. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

There is a similar post left guarding the waste ground on at 100 Mile Cross Road, where the King’s Arms was demolished (but not the signpost) in 2016.

This had only been built in 1938 to replace the King’s Arms in Bethel Street, which was being demolished to make way for the new City Hall.

A former pub sign on Trafalgar Street, which has been repurposed.

A former pub sign on Trafalgar Street, which has been repurposed. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Number 2 Trafalgar Street illustrates where an old pub sign has been kept and reused, in this case to advertise Trafalgar Fireworks. The old Lord Nelson used to stand halfway down Trafalgar Street on the opposite side until it was obliterated during the Second World War air raids.

We then read that it was replaced by another building opposite and further along the street.

Kelly’s Directory for 1958 then confirms that this was at No 2 which is now occupied by the fireworks shop. The pub was closed in 1962.

A sign which would have once signalled the White Cottage pub was repurposed when it became White Cottage Apartments.

A sign which would have once signalled the White Cottage pub was repurposed when it became White Cottage Apartments. - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Just off the Aylsham Road is another example of a sign being reused. This time it was refurbished and moved to advertise the White Cottage Apartments, so called because they stood on the area once occupied by the White Cottage Pub, shut and demolished in 2007.

At 78 Hall Road there is a chemist shop that used to have a pub sign outside of it which had been used to advertise the chemist. This used to belong to the Cherry Tree.

This post has now disappeared and the only clues remaining are a street sign – Cherry Close – on the side of the chemist and a square patch of concrete on the pavement, which marks where the signpost of both pub and chemist used to stand.

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