The Pub Detective takes on the Prince of Denmark
- 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 bas reliefs that set certain pubs apart.
The Prince of Denmark is multiple buildings that were joined together in the middle of the 19th century. The pub only recently shut, following a spate of opening and closing.
It's easy to recognise as a pub because the building has a spectacular bas relief of a seated warrior on a horse with a scroll below announcing it to be the Prince of Denmark. However, large plaster bas reliefs were not a common way to advertise a pub, except in Morgan’s pubs in Norwich.
This was an initiative carried out by Morgan’s to distinguish their pubs. John Moray-Smith carried out work repairing decorative plaster ceilings at both Laxham Hall and Norwich Union soon after he moved to Norwich in the 1930s. Perhaps this is how Morgan’s got to know of his talent.
His first Morgan's pub was the Cock public house in Crown Road, where he produced a model of a cock over the doorway. The Prince of Denmark was then produced in 1939.
The link with Denmark appears to be because the land was part of Denmark farm in Sprowston, which was in the tenancy of Robert Denmark in the 18th century. His son William bought the farm in 1802.
Other examples of Morray-Smith’s work can be seen in Norwich; the Berstrete Gates on the pub of the same name at the end of Ber Street, and St Stephen’s Gates on the Coachmaker’s Arms on St Stephen’s Road.
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Some of his work was destined for the interiors of pubs, as seen in the series of panels depicting the wool trade inside the Woolpack on Golden Ball Street, and this street name commemorates another vanished pub.
Six panels were produced for the Woolpack, 5 of which are still there, the sixth was sold at auction in 2001 and its whereabouts is unknown. The panels feature sheep farming, sheep shearing, sheep at market, wool dyeing and packing, and the export of wool. They are well worth seeing.
Morray-Smith's work owes their protective covering to the Norwich Society, who also restored the St Stephen’s Gate and Panorama of Norwich, as well as publishing an informative booklet about Moray-Smith.
His work was spread across the county; The Jolly Farmers in King’s Lynn, The Ship at Brancaster, The Ship in Cromer, The Men of March in the Fens, The Viking in Sprowston, and the Flying Fish at Carbrooke. Several of these can still be seen at the Cromer Museum and the Workhouse Museum at Gressenhall.
There is also the Norwich panorama from Mousehold Heath, originally inside the Cock but now restored by the Norwich Society and on display inside the Maid’s Head Hotel in Norwich.
These are pub gems which Norwich should be proud of and hopefully, efforts will be made to preserve the Prince of Denmark now it is no longer a pub.