(Go west) sun in wintertime
(Go west) we will feel just fine
(Go west) where the skies are blue
(Go west) this is what we're gonna do...
So sang the Village People in 1979. Yes, I know the Pet Shop Boys had a more successful version in 1993, but that one didn't feature in the Oscar-winning The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. (Terence Stamp was well worth his Golden Globe nomination too.)
Whilst not heading into the outback as Priscilla did, if we were to have been embarking upon a pub crawl from the subject of this post we'd have had no option but, like the Queen of the Desert, to follow the Village People's instruction and go west. For this was once Britain's most easterly pub.
A year or so ago a picture appeared in a Facebook group with the description of 'Gorleston High Street'. I felt duty-bound to point out that it wasn't Gorleston but about eight miles further south, as Lowestoft's High Street used to be home to Ayers the butcher and had an Albion Stores. Dad used to have a shop-cum-showroom about a hundred yards away, at the top end of London Road North, so I used to travel along this stretch of highway quite often in the 1960s/70s. (Gorleston does have its own Albion, but just The Albion – no Stores – which is still serving on Lowestoft Road.) The same picture popped-up again somewhere last week – described as... Gorleston High Street. It just goes to show how once a falsehood gets onto t'interweb it can be tricky to dispel.
Comparing the above pair of images we can see that Ayers the butchers has gone, along with the dormer window in what is now the Merchant House Gallery. So too has that most easterly of pubs, the Albion Stores.
Now a Grade II listed building, just like its three neighbours, the Albion Stores stood at 101 High Street in Lowestoft, the UK's most easterly town. Whilst it was pretty straightforward to establish that the original picture was of Lowestoft's High Street, establishing a firm history of the Albion Stores I found to be a little tricky. OK, I confess – more than a little tricky. OK, it was really tricky. OK, OK, I failed! But here's some of what my directory delving and census crawling have come up with and explains why, to a degree at least, I've failed.
Not taking things in order, the first point is that the two images of the pub further down this post indicate that the Albion Stores was at 101 High Street, but this entry in White's 1874 directory informs us that number 101 was home of The Ship.
Now, a name change for a pub is not unusual today, and wasn't in earlier times either. The Oakwood, which featured in this post, started life as the Carpenters Arms before becoming the Great Eastern Hotel by at least 1892. Admittedly, changes of names have probably become more common of late with the Great Eastern, working through names including the Silver Herring (1969), Oakwood (when I used to frequent it), McCourt's, Ringside, Legends, Burnt Oak, Morgans, Casper Jacks and Harveys. This might be a rather extreme example, but renaming is certainly not a new occurrence.
If Mr. Harper was at The Ship at 101 High Street in 1874, what happens if we go back a bit in time. In 1830, Pigot's directory includes a reference to The Ship with Richard Mason as mine host.
Go back a little bit further still and it looks as if Richard Mason was at The Ship when Pigot strolled around the town with his clipboard and pencil in 1823. But, hold on a minute! 101 High Street was supposedly built in the mid-19th century according to Historic England's listing details. I don't know when their 'mid' starts, but I reckon it must be later than 1823, so is Mr. Mason's establishment and that of Mr. Harper really one and the same? Suffolk's Camra site also suggests that this early Ship was a different building, but still at the southern end of the High Street.
Things aren't helped by the Dutch Hoy, just a couple of doors along the High Street from where the Ship/Albion Stores operated, changing its name to the Ship and Railway sometime between 1844 and 1851 (Lowestoft station opened in 1847 and was reconstructed eight years later) and then possibly being split into two separate pubs, one of which was called the Ship. It also suggests that this Ship may have been replaced by a new development called the Albion Stores. It further states that this was originally the Anchor Stores, but the only Anchor Stores that I can track down is at 155 High Street according to the 1885 edition of Kelly. The 1891 census calls this the Anchor Brewery Stores but doesn't mention any pub at number 101.
So it was the Ship, but not that Ship but possibly a bit of the Dutch Hoy that became the Ship and Railway which was shipped off into another pub initially called the Anchor Stores which was not at number 101 but further up the street at 155 and was called the Anchor Brewery Stores but...
My brain's just gone west.
Amidst all this uncertainty one thing is clear and that's that the Albion Stores has also gone west.
After its closure in 1994 it continued to serve liquid refreshment of a sort as the No Place Like Home café.
But that option for imbibition has now, too, disappeared. At the end of 2019 the property was fitted out as a hair salon which opened on 11th March 2020. In hindsight the timing was a little unfortunate. I'm sure that the owners of the Residence hair salon are hoping that all their hard work and investment hasn't been in vain. It won't be just pubs that this pandemic will cause to go west.
Thanks to Tony Green for the use of his photo from the Suffolk CAMRA site which has info on the original Ship, the Ship and Railway, the Dutch Hoy and the Albion Stores if you want to work out its history for yourself.
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