Sitting here in pre-op purdah, not wanting to catch even a sniffle let alone Covid, I find myself flicking through some old postcards and up pops this one. The King's Arms in Bacton, Norfolk.
As these things tend to do, its appearance stirred a memory or two. Bacton? That's where North Sea gas first came ashore, isn't it? And didn't Bill move to Bacton?
Bill was a wing-forward. A stocky, hard-tackling individual who, with fingers wrapped around a dimpled pint mug of Toby Light, (Yes, that was the best that the rugby club served back in the day) would let his trained voice lead the post-match singing. "If I were the marrying kind, which thank the Lord I'm not sir..." His other occasional Saturday afternoon duties prevented him from rising to the position in the club which his skill level really merited but the marrying kind was just what he was, being the curate at a local church. He moved away to take charge of a parish of his own somewhere in north Norfolk. It's etched into my memory that it was Bacton, but I could very well be mistaken.
It was certainly where I thought he'd moved to as I sat with a pint of Norwich Bitter in front of me in the King's Arms, some time in the autumn of 1977. I'd been visiting farms in the area to the north-east of North Walsham and, as was often the case, had popped into a local pub for a beer. No point in calling-in at the vicarage though as I'd heard that Bill had moved on again, if he'd ever been there in the first place, and had joined the forces as a chaplain.
So, this old postcard stirred some memories, but is the King's Arms still serving? Surely the fact that I'm writing about it is the answer to that question. Well, is it still serving? It's not even still standing.
The picture below shows the original 18th century building in 1898. At the time it would've been a Morgan's house before passing into the ownership of Steward & Patteson in 1961 and hence into Watney Mann's in 1963. Horace Thurston, the then proprietor, is in the horse and cart whilst wife Sarah and servant Mary stand in the doorway.
Although in operation from at least the final few years of the previous century, when it was in the hands of the Wall (Whall?) family, the earliest reference to it by name that I've so far found is in Hunt's 1850 directory which gives a Bartholomew Pestell at the King's Arms in Bacton. The building which Steward & Patteson received in 1961, in the division of the Morgan estate between themselves and Bullard's, was very much different. Around the turn of the century a new three-storey structure had been built as seen in the first postcard and in this other one.
The acquisition of both S&P and Bullard's by Watney Mann in 1963 meant that it was inevitable that Red Barrel would make an appearance on the bar at some point, no matter which brewer had taken control of the place two years earlier.
Bernard Streten was the landlord between 1957 and 1970. Prior to this he played in goal for Luton and England and had a 100% winning record in internationals. Admittedly that's a bit like me reminding folk that I scored a goal a game in the 1979-80 season. Yes, you're right. I only played one match that season (I had a booking a game too, but we won't go into that here. Ref was blind!) and Bernard only made a single appearance for England. It was a 9-2 victory over Ireland in 1949.
Having finished both my farm visits and my pint it was time to get back on my bike, which I'd left against one of the pillars at the front door, and head off back to Yarmouth.
Only joking! That's my company car in the picture.
That was my one and only visit to the place. The King's Arms closed in 1985 and stood empty for over a decade before being demolished in 1998. A four-bedroomed 'cottage' now stands on the site.
Apologies to any subscribers who received early notification of the publication of this post. I had an attack of Fat Finger Syndrome. And thanks to Kurt, chairman of the Bacton and District History Group, for the use of images of King's Arms from their Facebook page. The group also has a website if anyone wishes to look at other aspects of the village's past.
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