What can plaques tell us about city's pub heritage?

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. 

In his new series the Norwich Society member will shine a light on pubs which have closed their doors. 

This week he looks at how plaques can help people navigate the city's rich heritage.

Several former pubs can be identified by informative plaques.

I have already mentioned those on the Barking Dickey in Westlegate and the Rosemary Tavern at the junction of St Mary’s Plain and Rosemary Lane.


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However, they can sometimes be misleading.

A stroll down King Street to number 168, opposite the Music House - itself an old pub known as the Old Music House which shut in 1932 - you can see a fine old lintel which declares it as the Princes In.

Princes In plaque on King Street, Norwich

Princes In plaque on King Street, Norwich - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

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Why then is there a street name on the wall of the yard proclaiming it to be Ship Yard?

Ship Yard on King Street

Ship Yard on King Street - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

That is because it was the Ship in King Street from the 18th century until it closed in 1969.

Nobody seems to know why the finely carved lintel came to be placed here, but it has been suggested that it once adorned the Princes Inn that was off Tombland in Princes Street from medieval times until the early 19th century.

The louvered area under the window to the left of the doorway originally housed the gates to the beer cellar before the building was converted into two flats.

Caution must also be applied to the helpful green plaques set in between the paving stones by HEART (the Heritage and Regeneration Trust) that did so much work to promote Norwich’s heritage before falling victim to the austerity cuts.

These plaques are not always in the correct place.

One in St Benedict’s Street, with a spray of ostrich feathers, announces the Prince of Wales public house.

Decorative feathers Cookes Band Music Shop on St Benedict's Street in Norwich

Decorative feathers Cookes Band Music Shop on St Benedict's Street in Norwich - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

But it is outside of Atelier at number 32 completely ignoring the wonderful shopfront of Cookes Band Music Shop where the ostrich feathers are part of the wooden columns either side of the door of the real Prince of Wales.

There are in fact four sets of Prince of Wales feathers along the frieze above the pub, which closed in 1965.

Helpful though these pavement plaques are as part of the branding for Norwich Lanes, there is a misplaced plaque along Upper St Giles.

The misplaced Prince of Wales plaque in Norwich Lanes

The misplaced Prince of Wales plaque in Norwich Lanes - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Here the plaque for the Queens Head is placed under the building to the left.

Upper St Giles led to the gate out of the city and was lined with pubs in the past, ignoring the building next door with its typical pub archway leading to the pub yard.

Opposite the old Queens Head, which closed in 1982, was the King’s Head, which closed in 1914, and at the east end of the street on the south side you can see the Cock Yard street name.

On the opposite side, at the corner with Cow Hill, the end building used to be the Vine.

The Cock closed in 1929 and its licence was transferred to the Galley Hill in Drayton Road, which closed in 2005.

We have seen how at times plaques may be deceptive but I will end with a strange case of a sign which marks the site of a disappeared Norwich pub.

If you cross Duke Street bridge you come across the Premier Inn.

On the southern wall there is a large sign with their logo of a moon and stars.

The Premier Inn on Duke Street, Norwich

The Premier Inn on Duke Street, Norwich - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

This hotel is built on the site of the Moon and Stars public house which was closed in 1958 and demolished as part of the widening of Duke Street, which stopped at Colegate.

This was largely due to the work of the Norwich Society which objected to the demolishing of the Golden Star.

However, the ghost of the Moon and Stars lives on at the Premier Inn.

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