Ancient Briton's Arms needs 'new life' as building stands empty

oldest thatched property

An Elm Hill landmark; the Briton's Arms is empty and needs new people to take it over. - Credit: Supplied by Arnolds Keys

A 14th century building in Norwich, one of the oldest thatched properties in the country, needs new people to run it as a business.

inside Tudor framed property

Inside the remarkable timber framed Briton's Arms. - Credit: Arnolds Keys

The Elm Hill property, a renowned coffee house until it closed at Christmas, was thought to have been built in 1420. In fact the building, used in many films and television shows, dates as far back as 1347.

A search is now on to find new tenants for the building after the retirement of two sisters, Sue Skipper and Gilly Mixer, who ran the coffee shop for 44 years.

Picture shows Elm Hill 9 Briton's Arms PH COLOUR [0961] 1936-05-16George Plunkett's photographs of

The Briton's Arms in 1936. - Credit: Archant library/George Plunkett/Jonathan Plunkett

The Grade II star listed building has been used in films such as Stardust starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes and Sienna Miller. The building was most recently seen on screen at Christmas in the Netflix festive film Jingle Jangle.


Thatching the roof in Elm Hill. - Credit: Archant library

Owned by Norwich City Council, the building is managed by the Norwich Preservation Trust. The building needs someone to run a hospitality-based business from it, say agents Arnolds Keys, describing it as a "fantastic lifestyle business opportunity."

The rental on the lease available for 10 years or more is £22,500 a year.

Filming of the Mathew Vaughn movie 'Stardust' on Elm Hill, Norwich.Photo:Antony KellyCopy:Lorna

Filming Stardust the movie, with the Briton's Arms in the background. - Credit: Archant

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Arnolds Keys managing partner Guy Gowing, said: “The Briton’s Arms is not just one of Norwich’s most iconic historic buildings, it is nationally significant. Having been essentially saved by the Norwich Preservation Trust when they took on the building in 2011 and undertook and comprehensive renovation project, including completely rethatching the roof, this is now a fantastic lifestyle business opportunity for someone looking to run a hospitality operation. 

“The Trust wants the right person to take over the building, so rather than holding a more conventional bidding process, we are seeking ideas as to how the Briton’s Arms can be taken into the future.

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“We are looking for an individual or small group of individuals who can demonstrate a real passion for breathing new life into this wonderful old building."

Sue Skipper, right, and Gilly Mixer at the Britons Arms in Elm Hill, where restoration work has begu

Sue Skipper, right, and Gilly Mixer at the Britons Arms in Elm Hill. The picture was taken in 2012 when restoration work had begun on the building. - Credit: Archant © 2012


Built in 1347, the Briton’s Arms, originally called ‘Ye Goddes House’, was connected to the nearby St Peter Hungate church (built 1254), and is believed to have housed religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world.

In 1507 it survived the destruction by fire of much of the historic centre of Norwich.

It was first recorded as an ale house in 1760 and remained a public house until 1941.  It reopened in 1960 as a coffee shop and restaurant, being taken over by sisters Sue Skipper and Gilly Mixer in 1976. They closed it in 2020.

In 2011, the Briton’s Arms was put up for auction by Norwich City Council, which had owned it since 1951. After a public outcry, the council withdrew it from auction, and offered a lease to the Norwich Preservation Trust.


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