A week or so ago, whilst pretty aimlessly surfing t'interweb, I came across an advert for a five night stay in self-catering accommodation, commencing two days later, at a very attractive rate. A quick check of the diary confirmed the absence of the usual myriad of medical appointments and a similarly short check with the Met Office promised the absence of March's usual wet weather. Within twenty minutes the break had been booked and paid for.
I hadn't been to Norfolk since Dad died over seven years ago and it would be good to be back on semi-familiar territory. Whilst my mental map of the area we were visiting isn't great – it is the country's sixth largest county by area after all – many of the village names were familiar from my days of visiting farms two-thirds of a lifetime ago, even if their layouts and masses of new homes weren't.
We'd planned to do four days of pedalling through lanes which would be flatter than those of the Peak District and I'd find one bygone boozer a day to mourn. That, as it turned out, was an extremely easy task but I'll limit it to one a day for this post and the others will appear every now and then in the future.
After three and a bit hours along the M1 and the A14 – yes, I know it's shorter via Newark and Sleaford but I just couldn't face Tractor Alley, aka the A17 – we arrived at our abode for the next five nights. Kitchen/diner and bathroom on the ground floor with living/sleeping accommodation, which was half the size of Rutland, upstairs. It wasn't long before we were devouring the chocolate cookies from the welcome pack and planning the next day's activity.
Mrs. Bygone Boozer had come up with a forty-five mile clockwise loop to take in a bit of Broadland at Wroxham.
My bike was loaded with a saddle bag commodious enough to carry a plethora of pharmaceuticals and a collapsible RPG launcher, just in case Vlad the Invader had established a bridgehead at Coltishall, having travelled down the River Bure following an amphibious landing at Blakeney the previous night, and we set off.
Eight miles later we entered Weston Longville and came across the first bygone boozer of the day.
The Grade II listed building dates from the late seventeenth century and was operating as a public house from at least 1836, sometimes as the Spread Eagle and at others simply as the Eagle. A Morgan's house in the twentieth century, it was recommended for closure at the first joint meeting of Bullard's and Steward & Patteson in 1962 after the two Norwich brewers had between them acquired Morgan's estate. It finally shut its doors in 1964.
Norfolk villages mean fine flint churches. They're everywhere. So much so that when I was very young I thought that all churches were made of flint, as if by some sort of divine decree. This one was in Attlebridge...
...and this one in Tuttington.
Whilst stepping back into a gateway to snap it I noticed this sign.
Yes, sure enough it used to be a pub. We'll meet it again in a future post.
From Tuttington it was back to Costessey, via Coltishall, Hoveton and Wroxham, for a shower, a chicken Madras and a beer. A great day out. Bring on Day 2!
The second day was to be a shorter ride. Mrs. Bygone Boozer had come up with this route, rather sperm-shaped, complete with acrosome.
The lost local I was looking for was originally the King of Prussia in Ringland. It had been a pub since John Lane was there in 1836 and it may very well have been going from at least 1814 when his father was recorded as being a publican in the village.
Once WWI started Prussians were probably not top of the popularity list and in 1915, in a fit of patriotic fervour, the pub was renamed the Union Jack.
Returning back along the sperm's tail gave me the opportunity to recreate this image of the former hostelry...
...with Mrs. BB in the starring role.
Like the Spread Eagle above, the Union Jack was a victim of that first joint meeting of Bullard's and Steward & Patteson, closing in 1962.
With the weather forecasters promising sunshine and blue sky it was deemed that a sixty mile trip to the seaside and back was in order.
With the route planned the previous evening we went to bed and upon awaking noticed that there was a couple of things missing – the promised sunshine and blue sky. Still, it wasn't raining so off we set, riding continuously until we entered Itteringham where its delightful community-run shop/deli/off licence/gallery/Post Office/café strongly suggested a sustentative stop.
Stomachs sated and caffeine levels topped-up it was time to move on before we stiffened up too much. But we had to wait a little longer before we could continue on our onward journey. Upon mounting her steed, Mrs. BB soon discovered that she'd had a visitation from the P-fairy who'd been carrying one of those spiky things which gives hawthorn its name.
After a good forty-five minutes of wrestling with tyre, levers, pump and new-fangled tubeless-ready rims (Can somebody tell me just what is wrong with tubes?) we were ready to go once more. We hit the coast on the outskirts of West Runton, turned east and entered...
This old postcard of the village shows a delivery boy with his bike next to a sign for the White Horse.
Mrs. BB kindly stood in a similar spot whilst I took this shot.
The pub sign's gone but the building's still standing.
The White Horse had been in existence since at least 1836, when it was in the care of one Robert Brownsell, and had survived the cull of pubs brought on by firstly the Licensing Acts of the early twentieth century and secondly by the acquisition of Bullard's pubs by Watney's half a century later.
More recent times have been a bit bumpy though for this bygone boozer. It was closed for a couple of years around the turn of the millennium, reopened and then closed once more. It then had a short existence as the Dozy Dormouse but in 2016 it was up for sale, becoming Sammy's Bar and Grill.
Seemingly Covid-19 was the final straw for Sammy. The place was closed when we passed it...
...and at the time of writing is up for sale with estate agents Minors & Brady for £600,000. Just to cover all bases, a planning application has been submitted for its demolition followed by the construction of three dwellings on the site. So whilst I said above that the building's still standing, who knows for how much longer or quite what the future has in store for the White Horse?
Onward again, only briefly though, before stopping for further caffeine and sustenance – this time in the form of cheese toasties – at the only blue sky we saw all day.
Suitably refreshed once more, it was along to the pier in Cromer...
...before turning inland and heading back to Costessey. The gift bestowed upon us in Itteringham by the P-fairy and the general overcast nature of the day left little time for hanging about before darkness would swallow us up, and with no lights to see with that thought wasn't too appealing.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! First the alarm, followed by the disbelief and then the confirming sensation. For some reason, whilst simply riding along steadily past Cawston Park, my heart decided to spontaneously increase its beating rate by fifty percent. I slowed my pedalling, then I stopped my pedalling, then success. The beeping stopped and my heart rate returned to where it ought to have been. No need for vagal manoeuvers so the 10ml syringe could stay where it was, next to the RPG launcher in the saddlebag. Disappointing rather than anything else as, whilst the cardiologist has said that I can race again, I really question whether I want to continue to invest the time and effort into proper training if at some random moment in an event the old ticker decides it fancies going a bit up tempo, forcing me to have to stop. Time will tell, but I can't help feeling that the day for hanging up the racing wheels is a little nearer than I hoped it would be.
Potential cardiac concern over, and with the increasing gloom, we deviated slightly from our original plan and once we arrived in Cawston we just retraced our steps (do bikes make steps?) back to Costessey. All in all a good ride, despite the Crataegus and cardiac events. A ride that was definitely worth celebrating with a beer and a curry. Chicken Jalfrezi this time.
Just as the sunshine and blue sky promised for yesterday failed to appear today's dry weather didn't arrive either. Not fancying getting thoroughly soaked we decided to stay local, so here's a local bygone boozer in Costessey.
The Falcon Inn, now Falcon House, like the Spread Eagle in Weston Longville is a Grade II listed building. Dating from the seventeenth century it was a pub by at least 1791 for it gets a mention in James Woodforde's The Diary of a Country Parson "...after being detained at Cossey Falcon by some rain which made the women quite wet..."
Parson Woodforde was there the following year too when he records paying 4d for "a tankard of porter to wash down the dust." I don't know how big the tankard was or how strong the porter, but 4d back in 1792 seems a tad pricey to me. I mean, you could get a pint of Guinness in 1914 for that.
Parson Woodforde hasn't been the Falcon's only customer of note for artist Alfred Munnings was also a frequent visitor, as advised by this plaque.
Don't worry, I had to look him up as well. It seems he painted the odd picture or two. One was even entitled The Falcon Inn, Costessey and you can see it on Sotherby's site by clicking here. I'll warn you, it doesn't show much of the pub. It's not inexpensive either!
A former Morgan's house, just like the Spread Eagle and the Union Jack, it suffered the exact same fate as that pair at that first joint meeting of Bullard's and Steward & Patteson in 1962. Recommended for closure, it finally shut up shop in 1966.
So there we have it, or rather them. Four days and four bygone boozers. Also four days and no pints. With no local within walking distance – OK, the Harte was about three-quarters of a mile away but I've been spoilt by the hundred and twenty paces from my front door to that of the Duke of York – the beers were of the 500ml bottled variety. Pooh was always willing to share a local brew with me and what could be more local than a Woodforde's Wherry?
Mark Hobbs' and N. Chadwick's photographs of the White Horse/Sammy's are copyright and are reused under this licence.
Much of the information above and even more details about the bygone boozers featured can be found on the Norfolk Pubs website.
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