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Norwich model and landlady Lauren Gregory talks about her plans for the Sir Garnet pub

PUBLISHED: 11:19 14 August 2012

Former model, PA and now landlady of the Birdcage and Sir Garnet pubs in Norwich, Lauren Gregory.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Former model, PA and now landlady of the Birdcage and Sir Garnet pubs in Norwich, Lauren Gregory. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Archant Norfolk

Sitting outside her newly revamped Grade II listed pub overlooking the market, Lauren Gregory nods to the local butcher as he drops off the pub's daily delivery of meat which only moments before was freshly prepared on his market stall a few metres away. It all seems very reminiscent of the past when local traders would work together and local produce was top of any menu - and it is very now.

“Of course you cannot please everyone,” says Lauren, as she takes a sip of her lemonade and gestures to the Sir Garnet sign above the door. “Some people have criticised that the pub is now called the Sir Garnet rather than the Sir Garnet Wolseley. I dropped the Wolseley as there are already two ‘Woolies’ in Norwich and I wanted the Sir Garnet to be one of a kind.”

The shortened name aside, history oozes from every aspect of the pub in a more palatable form. The Sir Garnet Wolseley started trading as a pub around 1861 and was originally called the Baron of Beef – a name Lauren has given to the pub chef who makes everything the traditional way from scratch using local ingredients. It wasn’t until 1874 that it changed its name to the Sir Garnet Wolseley, named after Field Marshal Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, who had received accolades in the same year for his African campaign. It is now the last of 13 pubs that used to dot around the market.

“When the pub closed last year I couldn’t bear to see such a beautiful pub all boarded up and unloved,” says Lauren. “I wanted to breathe new life into the building while keeping it as a traditional market pub.”

Lauren is not new to the publican industry, her first baby The Birdcage on Pottergate, transformed the old Pottergate Tavern six years ago into a place for creative, arty types and undiscovered talent – Ed Sheeran played there before he hit the big time.

“The Sir Garnet is totally different to the Birdcage,” explains Lauren. “It’s a back-to-basics kind of pub with locally brewed ales, locally sourced food with an emphasis on quality, not trendy brands. It was quite a lot of work to get the pub back on its feet and embracing a new age, but we’ve done it.”

Never one to shy away from new projects, Lauren has led an ambitious and colourful life. Born in Yarmouth, Lauren went to Saint Martins College in London to study theatrical design. While she was studying, she was spotted by a model scout in Topshop on Oxford Street and found herself modelling for the likes of international fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Fred Perry. At one time a picture of her modelling Fred Perry clothes hung up in Norwich menswear shop Philip Browne.

“He still has that picture somewhere amongst all his fashion paraphernalia,” says Lauren. “You could say that I lived the dream travelling to places like New York on modelling assignments – the work certainly paid for me to get through college,” laughs Lauren.

“Seriously though, modelling is hard work and is not as glamorous as people think. There is a lot of waiting around, being told what to do and that can get a little boring!”

Boredom is something that has become a rarity for Lauren. Becoming a PA for singer/songwriter Bryan Ferry, she toured with them on the last Roxy Music tour before deciding to put down some roots and invest in a rundown pub in Pottergate which became The Birdcage.

“Coming back to Norfolk was a no-brainer,” says Lauren. “I wanted to find a place where I could invest in my future and a pub seemed the ideal way forward. I’d seen many arty-type pubs in London and at the time Norwich didn’t have many independent pubs like this. Being within easy commuting distance to London I could still carry on with my freelance work, but at the same time I would be putting something into a project of my own.”

Now living off Unthank Road and working in the city, Lauren has become a positive advocate for Norwich.

A landlady of two pubs, she’s an active member of Norwich Lanes, organising the annual summer fair and Norwich Lanes’ events at Norwich Fashion Week; she does styling work in the studio above Philip Browne’s shop on Guildhall Hill and she has set up outside bar event business Lullaby Inc.

If that is not enough, she is also a mother to one-year-old Frankie and is planning to marry fiance Simon Sheldrake in August next year.

“I’m looking forward to getting married next year, but I have no desire to organise our wedding,” laughs Lauren. “It’s mad considering that this is what I do with my outside bar business.

“Lullaby Inc provides a bespoke bar for festivals, weddings and events,” explains Lauren. “We also cater for big parties. In fact, we can organise anything from a vintage-themed bar serving retro cocktails to more contemporary affairs.”

Already, Lauren has an impressive portfolio of clients, including handbag designer Lulu Guinness who she created a bespoke party for, serving elegant cocktails complete with drinking straws featuring red lips at the top. Fashion retailer Laura Ashley has also hired Lullaby Inc’s services and for this Lauren served cocktails out of little vintage cups with saucers.

Lauren says: “This is the beauty of living in Norwich, there are so many places to source vintage crockery and props, and so many locally made ales and produce. Taking these to London is a great way of shouting about what Norfolk has to offer.”

Her Norfolk roots firmly in her heart, Lauren is still coming up with creative ways to put our fine city on the map.

As she finishes her drink, collects both our glasses and walks into her new pub, Lauren turns to look across the city and says: “There is so much going on in Norwich. We produce a lot of food and drink and there is so much creative talent hidden here – we should all really shout about it more rather than being so reserved.

The Evening News is supporting local pubs through our Love Your Local campaign.

To see more stories from the campaign visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal

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