Blame Boris.

Updated: Jun 17

It's not been the best of weeks for Boris Johnson. Losing his working parliamentary majority, losing a load of MPs from the parliamentary party, his brother resigning as a minister because he wants to spend less time with his family, losing parliamentary votes and now this. It's Boris's fault. He sowed the initial seeds of this post.

Back in early 2018 he referred to his successor in City Hall as a, and I quote, 'puffed up, pompous popinjay'. I have to admit that it sent me looking for my dictionary. Now whether he was insinuating that Sadiq Khan was vain and conceited or a parrot, or maybe a vain and conceited parrot, I don't know but I'd added a word to my lexicon.

That was the only time that I'd come across the word until a couple of days ago when I was perusing Palmer's Perlustrations (The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth with Gorleston and Southtown C.J.Palmer Pub 1872), not purely to prolong the p-mode alliteration, when on page 326 of the first volume I came across a reference to a tavern called The Popinjay. If I'd never met the word last January I certainly had never come across the pub. Time for a bit of digging into this bygone boozer or should that be 'past pub'?


Row 59 (on the left) and Row 61. The former National Provincial Bank is on the far right. Photo March 2019 © 2019 Google

According to Palmer, it appears that the Popinjay used to stand on the south-west corner of Row 61. Now this probably needs a line or two of explanation for those of you unfamiliar with the layout and history of Great Yarmouth. From medieval times until the nineteenth century building was only permitted within the town walls. This limit on available space led to the development of 145 extremely narrow streets called Rows which ran in an almost parallel pattern as can be seen in Huke's town plan from 1885.


This street pattern survived until the middle of the twentieth century when a bit of town remodelling, initiated by the Luftwaffe in 1940 and continued by town planners in the post-war years, removed many of them. However, a significant number of them remain today, including Row 61.

Returning to Palmer's Perlutrations. In it he writes:-

No. 61, from the Quay to Howard Street, called the Quay Austin Row, because it led to the above-mentioned cell of the Augustine Friars. At the south-west corner is a house now occupied by the National Provincial Bank. It stands upon ground which, as to the front part, was occupied by a house having a cut-flint front, like those which still adjoin the present building to the south. This house was early in the last century a tavern called The Popinjay, but was afterwards a private residence in the possession of John Onley, Esq., who died in 1740, aged 54. It was subsequently occupied by his widow, Judith, the daughter of Samuel Wakeman, Esq. (who died in 1737), by Judith his wife, a daughter of Thomas Godfrey (bailiff in 1683 and 1688, and many years town clerk, who died in 1704, aged 63), until her death in 1789, aged 84, when it was sold by her only son and heir, the Rev. Charles Onley to Mr. George Gooch, a highly-popular tradesman, who converted the ground floor into a boot and shoemaker's shop, and let the first floor as lodgings. The back part of the present premises occupy the site of another public house which, was called the Rope Dancers, and afterwards (in 1784) the Blue Anchor. In 1808 the houses both front and back were purchased by Edward Symons Ommanney, Esq., who took down all the old buildings and erected the present house on the site, with a handsome verandah and balcony in front, now removed.

The National Provincial Bank's building still stands there today, formerly housing the Yarmouth branch of NatWest, having been refronted in 1906.


The Crown & Anchor and, next door, the Steam Packet.

Opposite the south-west corner that he mentions as being the former home to the Popinjay, is home to a another bygone boozer. In actual fact more than one. Standing on the north-west corner of Popinjay Row – yes Row 61 also has a name – was the Steam Packet. Mentioned in Paget Brewery's list as early as 1824, the Steam Packet existed in a number of different guises - the Emperor Steam Packet, the Sovereign Steam Packet and the Steam Packet Hotel. It was in this latter guise when its licence was removed and transferred to the newly built Bure Hotel in 1939 by its then owners the Steward & Patteson brewery.

Immediately next door to the Steam Packet was the Crown & Anchor Hotel. It too appeared in Paget's 1824 list and was eventually bought by Steward & Patteson in 1927. This acquisition was probably part of a plan to build another new pub, for the licence was surrendered and the building demolished, along with the Steam Packet. On the site rose the form of the Yare Hotel which opened on the 13th December 1939.


The Yare Hotel in the 1970s. Note the NatWest bank in the former National Provincial building.

Like some of the rows it took a bit of damage in WW2 but survived until it was eventually closed by Watneys, who had bought Steward & Patteson, in 1974. It became a branch of HSBC. The bank has since moved on and the building is now home to a firm of solicitors.


The former Yare Hotel. June 2012 © 2019 Google

Well, having found bygone boozers on two of the corners of Row 61, what about the other two? Well there is a boozer on the north-east corner. Fortunately the Mariners, or Mariners Tavern as it used to be known, is still trading and by all accounts is still a great little pub.


It's not such good news next door. The Oakwood was a regular Saturday night spot for me and old schoolmate Dave back in the late 70's. Originally the Carpenters Arms, another Paget & Co's house as early as 1819, it became the Great Eastern by around 1870 and then a century later the Silver Herring which closed in 1975. Two years later it had reopened as the Oakwood.


Great Eastern Hotel.

Jim Crosby, licensee of the Links Hotel, took it on in 1980, about the time I stopped visiting. Through the 1990s, it changed names about as often as I do cycling shorts and finally shut up shop, once more as the Oakwood . There are plans for six town houses on the site.


Oakwood October 2018. © 2019 Google.

The Oakwood's gone, but at least I'm still able to visit other venues. Dave is now confined to a wheelchair in a care home having contracted meningitis B and being in a coma for 20 weeks. Appreciate your pubs whilst you can. I'm just off to the Duke.


Thanks to Debbie and Russell for the old pics and to the Norfolk Pubs website for saving me some time fingering through old directories.

If after reading this you feel that you've been robbed of several minutes of your life then you can blame Boris.

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