To Cut a Long Story Short.


With lockdown continuing, restricting rides and other outside activity, I'm probably not alone in seemingly spending more time than usual staring at a screen. In one of the online groups of which I'm a member this picture popped up. It depicts the Queen's Head at Haddiscoe in Norfolk in 1910 and triggered a memory or two. Not that I was about in 1910, of course.


The Queen's Head, Haddiscoe. 1910.

Around half a century after the picture was taken, probably in 1963, I was standing where the eastern leaf of the bridge used to meet the bank. I was armed with an inch wide, six feet long, strip of plywood complete with a length of line to which had been tied a hook. There may have been a simple float but certainly no reel or any other equipment. It was my first ever angling expedition and there I was, dangling a maggot into the New Cut in the shadow of the New Bridge, having been driven there by Dad in his Victor FB estate. Now, when I call it the New Cut I have to let you know that it was officially opened back in1833. Time moves slowly in Norfolk. Let's take a little step back in that dimension.


In the first part of the nineteenth century Norwich was supplied from the North Sea by ships entering Great Yarmouth and then unloading their cargoes onto smaller vessels which could navigate the shallow waters that existed upstream. A plan was developed to link the Rivers Yare and Waveney which would enable larger vessels to reach Norwich through Lowestoft instead. In 1827 an Act of Parliament created the Norwich and Lowestoft Navigation Company which set about constructing the canal which was duly completed in 1832. It didn't prove to be a commercial success and was subsequently sold to a railway development company who wished to lay track alongside it. The New Cut remained in the ownership of a railway company until rail nationalisation in 1948 and the Norwich to Lowestoft line still runs along its west bank.


A view of the former Queen's Head from a similar viewpoint. ©2010 Glen Denny

So by 1963 New Cut was a bit of a misnomer but New Bridge wasn't. The A143 between Great Yarmouth and Beccles crossed the cut by the double-lift bascule bridge seen in the 1910 photograph until 1961 when a new high level bridge was opened. Its opening no doubt had a role to play in the demise of this bygone boozer.


The lifting mechanism of the original bridge was hand-operated, carried out on the east bank, and in the1841 census Herny Hobrough is a 'keeper of draw bridge' at Bridge House. A decade later he's still at Bridge House, still a bridge keeper but also keeping an inn. By 1854 the pub's become the Queen's Arms and it undergoes yet another change to become the Queen's Head. The arms and head seemed to interchange quite regularly until finally settling upon the latter.


My elder brother and I were fishing just a handful of yards from the recently closed Queen's Head - where the brown gate is in the photograph below. Rerouting the road meant that it bypassed the pub and any passing trade was lost. The pub continued to operate for eighteen months after the opening of the new crossing but eventually gave up the fight on the 3rd November 1962. It lay empty for years before it reopened as a restaurant, Spinnakers if my memory doen't fail me, in 1999.


The former Queen's Head from the New Bridge. ©2006 Bob Crook

That venture didn't last too long, and when the restaurant ceased trading the building once more stood empty for a number of years.


Jumping forward another half century from that first fishing expedition and I found myself parking in the shadow of the New Bridge. Not for me a Vauxhall, but a Citroën. Trips back to Gorleston to visit Dad were becoming more frequent and to offer me the opportunity for short escapes I'd throw a bike into the back of the car. Setting off from Derbyshire at about 5.30 a.m. to avoid the worst of the mobile chicanes on tractor alley, otherwise known as the A17, gave me time for an hour or so of pedalling around the lanes through St. Olaves, Somerleyton and Fritton before arrivng in time for lunch. The Queen's Head was still empty and looking rather forlorn.


I haven't been back since 2014 but Mr. Google has paid a visit and the former hostelry now looks much happier in its new role as a residential property.

The former Queen's Head now in residential use. ©2019 Google

Now, I'm finishing exactly as I started. With lockdown continuing, restricting rides and other outside activity, I'm probably not alone in seemingly spending more time than usual staring at a screen. Therefore it looks like you can expect even more of this drivel than usual! Hopefully the lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks as this isn't the only new cut that concerns me. Just how quickly does hair grow?


Oh! Before I go I must just add a footnote. To cut a long story short, I caught exactly the same number of fish as my brother, despite the fact that his rod had rings, a reel, a nice cork handle...


The non-Google coloured images are licensed for reuse under license cc-by-sa/2.0. Thanks to Russell Walker for the Edwardian shot.


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