'Tis better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.' So said Tennyson in 1850.
'That's bollocks!' So said I in 1977.
It was late afternoon on a sunny summer's day and I was sitting on the bank of Langley Dyke, staring blankly at half an inch of fluorescent yellow poking out from the murky water. Beneath its surface the fish weren't interested and in reality neither was I. Somehow I'd convinced myself that a quiet hour or so of reflection by the waterside would enable my brain to sort out where my relationship with the inamorata of the time was going. A bit more reality – that was also bollocks! I knew that the relationship was going nowhere. There wasn't a relationship. It had gone and so had she. She was not the inamorata of the time, more the inamorata of the past. What I was actually attempting to do was to come to terms with the fact that I'd been dumped for a Ministry of Defence policeman. I was confused. How could that have happened? How could she do that? I mean, seriously, how?
With little interest, neither personal nor piscine, in what I was doing I reeled in, packed my rod away and traipsed back to Dad's white HA Viva van, which I'd parked by the Wherry Inn. As I loaded my gear and closed the van's back door the pub's front one was just opening, so I popped in for a pint.
The Wherry had probably seen its share of lovelorn locals passing across its threshold having been serving since at least 1789 when it appears in a local register with Susanna Halls in residence. The 1841 census has John Hall as a publican at unnamed premises in Langley. Could he have been Susanna's son having lost an 's' at some point – which was not too unusual in those times? Possibly, but I can't be sure. John's still there at the following census a decade later, by which time the pub has gained a name which surprises me. It's not the gaining of a name which surprises but the name itself – the Staithe Inn. I'd no idea that it had ever been renamed.
In the spring of 1858 John finds himself being lowered into the ground outside St. Michael and All Saints church in the village leaving the pub in need of a new landlord. The 1861 census tells us that his successor went by the wonderful name of Moore Cumby. And speaking of names, the Staithe has become the Wherry.
Although the name of the landlord had changed the Hall family's interest in the pub remained...
Moore Cumby appears as either a beer retailer or beerhouse keeper in numerous trade directories, from White's 1864 edition to the one published by Kelly in 1888, the year before his death. With Mary Ann having died five years earlier, there ended the Hall family's connection with the Wherry.
Langley Dyke had been a regular fishing spot of mine from an early age. Driven there by older brother, cycling the thirty mile round trip with a classmate in my teenage years, riding pillion with David or Nippy and then finally being able to convey myself there by petrol-powered means. But that turned out to be my last maggot-dangling trip to Langley Dyke and so my one and only experience of the Wherry. My memories of it are few and dim. The Norwich Bitter tasted like, err, Norwich Bitter. It always did. I do have a vague recollection of there being a piano but that could very well have been in any number of my once-visited pubs in East Anglia – and their number are legion. I do however recall hearing of there having been a fire there sometime in the mid '80s
The Hall family disappeared from the scene in 1889, the inamorata of the time in 1977 but even with experiencing a blaze the Wherry seems to have held on until around the turn of the millennium. I think it closed in 2003. It was certainly boarded-up and for sale in that year. Plans to turn it into a house were turned down by South Norfolk Council in 2006 and it seems to have been available for lease in 2009 when Mr. Google drove by and captured the above image. A subsequent application must've been approved for it was under conversion in 2011 and is now in residential use as Wherry House.
Since I stole my title and opening line from Tennyson's In Memoriam and, as the Wherry will no more be turning its lights on to welcome drinkers, I'll finish with another misapplied one.
Dark house, by which once more I stand , here in the long unlovely street...
Evelyn Simak's image is copyright and reused under this license.
The 1998 image and some of the historical information has come via the Norfolk Pubs site.
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