What happened when law was passed to close city's 'superfluous' pubs

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. 

This week he looks at how watering holes faired under the compensation scheme before the outbreak of the First World War. 

In 1878 the License Register Statistics stated that Norwich had 593 pubs and 38 beer houses, giving a total of 631 licensed premises. For the same year Ratcliffe’s drink map listed 655.

This is much closer to two pubs a day than the famed one pub for every day, which is so frequently quoted.


You may also want to watch:


A report from May 1890 claimed that Norwich had almost the greatest number of fully licensed public houses per head of population than anywhere in the kingdom, beaten only by Liverpool.

Since 1869, magistrates had been empowered to close pubs in areas where they were considered superfluous but they had rarely exercised this power until the growth of the temperance movement which had started to be influential in Norwich by the end of the 19th century.

Most Read

What gave the movement its power was the 1904 Licensing Act.

This made it a statutory requirement to close pubs in areas where they were deemed redundant.

The big difference this time around is that owners of closed licensed houses could claim from a compensation fund.

The fund was financed by a compulsory levy on pubs relative to the value of the property.

It was not difficult in Norwich to make a case that practically any pub in Norwich was superfluous.

A riot of colour in the Adam and Eve pub garden, one of the Norwich gardens in the Britain in Bloom

The Adam and Eve pub in Norwich pictured in 2019 - Credit: Denise Bradley

In attempts to close the Adam and Eve in Bishopsgate in 1905, the police stated that it was not necessary as the nearest pub was only 90 yards away.

In 1908 there was another attempt to close the pub this time pointing out that there were three other licensed houses within 200 yards and that its position off the road made it difficult to supervise.

Gates which had been the cause of a previous police complaint were removed and there was a unanimous decision to renew its licence.

The Adam and Eve probably benefitted from the fact that its landlords were the Great Hospital who had significant influence with the magistrates.

The Man Loaded with Mischief at 44 Peacock Street was described as a house that had two other public houses within 100 yards, six houses within 150 yards and 11 licensed houses within 200 yards.

Although it was granted another licence in 1905 by pleading that there had never been a complaint against the house for 42 years, it did not get through in 1914 when the licence was refused and referred to the compensation scheme and when that was granted it was closed that December.

Many of Norwich’s Taverns were closed under the compensation scheme in the years approaching the First World War as the influence of the Temperance Movement grew.

Not far from the Man Loaded with Mischief were two pubs in Fishergate.

Only one of the buildings is still standing, although the remains of its neighbour can still be seen.

The remaining building is on the corner of Thoroughfare Yard and seems to advertise it was a pub by a large door that led to a pub backyard.

Older pictures show the central doorway was the old entrance.

It was closed in 1969 by Watney Mann, after previously being a Bullards pub and immediately to the right stood the Rampant Horse.

This was a victim of the lead up to the First World War and was closed under the compensation act in 1912.

They must have shared a wall and the brickwork remains showing all that is left of the Rampant Horse on the right wall of the Duke of Marlborough.

The site of the Duke of Marlborough pub on Fishergate, Norwich, which closed in the early 20th century.

The site of the Duke of Marlborough pub on Fishergate, Norwich, which closed in the early 20th century - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

There was a second Rampant Horse pub which stood under where Debenhams used to stand which was demolished in 1892.

The mosaic outside the now closed Debenhams store in Norwich depicting the spot of the former Rampant Horse pub

The mosaic outside the now closed Debenhams store in Norwich depicting the spot of the former Rampant Horse pub on Rampant Horse Street - Credit: Jonathan Hooton

It has still left its influence with the existing Rampant Horse Street and the mosaic illustration in front of the former Debenhams.

Some things never change – the junction with St Stephen’s/Westlegate/Rampant Horse Street in Nor

The junction with St Stephen's, Westlegate and Rampant Horse Street in the 1920s - Credit: Archant Library


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter