'Use it or lose it': Warning from Norwich Pub Detective for city drinkers

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. 

And that’s because Jonathan Hooton is determined to uncover some of the secrets of the city’s pub industry. 

After a series of insights into former pubs and what clues they left behind across the city, the Norwich Society member focuses on the future of the centuries-old trade in his final piece.

In 1985/6 the Norwich Society undertook a survey of the pubs of Norwich.

They were assessed for their internal and external quality by being given marks out of 10.

The top seven exteriors, along with their marks, were:

-Sir Garnet Wolseley, Market Place: ten

-The Brow Derby, 23 Pottergate: nine

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-The Coachmakers Arms, 9 St Stephens Street: nine

-The Dolphin, 158 Heigham Street: nine

-The Eagle, 33 Newmarket Road: nine

-The Earl of Leicester, Dereham Road: nine

-The Golden Star, Duke Street: nine

The top seven interiors, along with their marks were:

-The Eagle, 33 Newmarket Road: nine

-Sir Garnet Wolseley, Market Place: nine

-The York Tavern, 1 Leicester Street: nine

-The Golden Star, Duke Street: nine

-The Plough, 58 St Benedict's Street: eight

-The Ironmongers Arms,, 1 St John Maddermarket: eight

-The Plasterer's Arms, Cowgate: eight.

It is a relief that seven of the top exteriors are still trading.

The Brown Derby, now the Birdcage is still there but is up for sale.

Graffiti on the empty former Birdcage pub in Pottergate. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The former Birdcage pub on Pottergate which is for sale - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

We still have the building of the Dolphin, but it was a tragedy that the Edwardian gem of the Earl of Leicester was demolished.

The overgrown site of the demolished Earl of Leicester pub, at the junction of Bowthorpe Road and De

The empty plot on Dereham Road where the Earl of Leicester pub used to stand - Credit: Denise Bradley

And of the interiors only the Ironmongers has gone and the interior changed a lot.

Taking the survey as a whole, 192 were included and that had dwindled from 360 in 1968, according to the Norwich society.

Of those, 95 are no longer with us which is a loss of 49.5pc of our pubs in 36 years.

The worst decade was 2000 to 2010 when 44 Norwich pubs ceased trading.

Of those 95 lost pubs, 28 have been demolished which is around 29.5pc of them.

The loss in the last 36 years has been on average 2.6 pubs a year.

If that continued and no new pubs were created, that means that Norwich would be publess by around 2058 or 2059. In other words, no pubs for every day of the year.

This of course is not set in stone.

There are occasionally new pubs appearing, such as the Shoe Maker just off Hall Road.

Also the Perseverance in Adelaide Street, which closed in 2015, was bought by the Fat Cat, and though not opening as a regular pub, has been turned into a private function bar which is available for hire with Fat Cat beers available.

This is difficult to categorise and so has been left out of the calculations above. It is also too soon to assess the affect that Covid has had.

The pandemic might have seen the end of some pubs that have not been able to survive several lockdowns, but also it might have given others a boost when we realise what we have been missing and start to patronise the local more frequently.

Several of the buildings are safe from being demolished even if they cease to be pubs as the survey noted that 32 of them are listed buildings.

That has now increased to 33 as the Gatehouse in Dereham Road gained listed status in 2015.

Norwich -- PubsThe Gatehouse, Dereham RoadDated --28 June 1958Photograph C1891 Colton

An archive picture of The Gatehouse pub on Dereham Road - Credit: Archant Library

The reasons for this is that the Gatehouse is “a well-preserved and carefully detailed example of an ‘improved’ public house of the inter-war period.

However, the overall trend leads to the conclusion that the Norwich pub which has been such an important part of the social fabric of the city is doomed for extinction.

If this conclusion shocks you the answer is simple - use it or lose it.

Go and visit the gems that the city still has and encourage others to as well.