5.45. At least I think that's what the clock says. Wind howling, rain hammering against the window. Great mid-summer weather. As I'm awake I might as well get it over with, I suppose.
Months ago, at the start of the pandemic, I signed-up for a UCL study and as a result have received a Covid-19 antigen test kit that spent the night sitting on the bathroom window cill, (I'm ignoring that squiggly red line, it's spelt C I L L. No, I don't mean spelled C I L L either!) waiting to invade an orifice or two. As the sample could be collected at any time within the narrow timeslot of between 8am and 6pm I didn't want to miss the inevitable 8.01 arrival of the courier should I delay delving into my mucus-coated cavities.
Having tormented the tonsils and annoyed the nares, the snapped-off sampling stick now awaits collection, sitting atop the beers in the fridge. This leaves me with a little bit of time on my hands, potentially nine hours of incarceration, until said courier arrives. The instructions that accompanied the test usefully inform me that the courier MAY text me to give a narrower time window. I'd like to see him try. In spite of my having survived well into the 21st century those that are so intent on rolling out 5G services are still unable to give me a phone signal indoors. 2G, 3G, 4G, or any number of G that you like fails to get through a couple of feet of gritstone. My mobile phone is precisely that, a phone that works when I am out and about and mobile.
So how to usefully entertain myself whist awaiting the arrival of said courier. Having already cleaned out the water trap in the shower cubicle there followed forty minutes of removing any trace of the extracted bacterial mat from my hands, employing numerous repeats of the now very familiar happy birthday x2 technique. Now what? My thoughts turned to Benjamin from yesterday's post. Sad, I know, but they did. Was he a publican when in London? And what about the other two bygone boozers that he ran in Great Yarmouth? I sat down and started delving into something other than my domestic drainage system or my pharynx.
So what of Benjamin? We've seen that Benjamin Howard first came to my attention as the landlord of the Trinity Arms in Great Yarmouth in around 1840, but what about his other bygone boozers? After his wife Sarah dies in 1863 White's directory of the following year still gives him as a beerhouse keeper on South Denes Road, so it's probably safe to assume that here's still at the Trinity, but he's not there for much longer as by 1865 a James Horridge is in residence. So where's Benjamin gone?
Well, Whites 1869 directory has him as a beer retailer at an unnamed establishment in Clarence Road. Now, there weren't too many boozers on Clarence Road, so it puts him in the Clarence Tavern. The Clarence was built in 1855 and part of its structure formed the Albert Gate into the Victoria Gardens behind. Originally built for Norwich brewers Steward and Patteson, who'd have been Benjamin's masters, it passed into the hands of Lacons in 1903.
However, Benjamin's name crops up in another document from 1869, a marriage certificate. On October 12th he weds Hannah Harvey down in the smoke. In Hackney to be precise. The certificate gives his occupation as a licensed victualler but shows his place of residence as De Beauvoir Town, or in other words, Hackney. Whether he was running a pub down there at the time or just used the address as a convenience I don't know, but I do know that he and Hannah were back in Great Yarmouth in time for the 1871 census when they were running the First and Last on South Quay.
But before we leave the Clarence Tavern, what became of it? It closed in 1968 and the area was totally redeveloped. Where the pub once stood there is a patch of grass.
Back to Benjamin. In 1871 he was running the First and Last. Unlike the Clarence, this was an old-established boozer operating as the Dolphin as early as 1772. Becoming the Ship on Stocks at some point the name finally morphed into the First and Last, appropriately enough as it stood up against the mediaeval town wall. At one time the sign showed a crib and a coffin as the landlord doubled up as an undertaker with his spouse being a midwife.
Its final landlords were probably the Bensleys, Cyril and Elsie, who took it on in 1959. Cyril Bensley died 1967 whereupon Elsie took over the license. The pub remained in the phone book under Cyril's name until at least the 1983 edition by which time Elsie would've been 71. In all probability it closed when she decided she'd had enough.
Norfolk County Council have this image of a sad-looking First and Last, taken by the Great Yarmouth naturalist Percy Trett, in their Picture Norfolk collection. The end of the mediaeval town wall is visible on the right.
I've seen an old photograph taken at some point in the 19th century where the frontage is different. The two first floor windows were on different levels and the ground floor extension didn't exist, so at some point it must've had some work done on it. The final time that any work was done on the place was in 1989 when it was flattened. A used car establishment now operates on the plot.
That's what happened to the bygone boozers, but what about Benjamin? By 1881 he's given up the pub business and the census has him and Hannah living, not a million miles away, on Newcastle Road and he is earning a crust as a boat builder. He dies in 1888. Hannah hangs on for quite a bit longer, finally being laid to rest in St. Nicholas's Churchyard on March 7th 1902 having attained the grand old age of 93.
That's the end of the tale and of my waiting. The courier has just been so I'm now off out for some shielded sunshine.
Thanks to Debbie Larke for the black and white image of the Clarence Tavern.
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