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Year After Year Their Numbers Get Fewer.

Updated: Jan 6

Half a century ago seven of my primary school classmates went up to 'big school' with me. Ian, Lee, Paul, Dave, Frank, a second Ian and Eamonn. Thirty years ago they started to desert me.

Firstly Ian number one spread himself in a monomolecular film in a mountaineering accident on Creag Meagaidh. I was devastated. He owed me a pint, after all. Later that year Lee was hit head-on whilst blue-lighting to a fire - on bonfire night. Then it was Paul who was hit - by a type of sarcoma that he'd never come across in forty years as a GP. A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Dave's brother who informed me that Dave had succumbed in hospital to a non-Covid chest infection. The fact that it wasn't related to Covid doesn't really make any great difference to the outcome. Whilst I can't recall ever having had a pint with Lee, the other three were frequent companions in the pubs of Great Yarmouth and to a lesser degree some of those in Glasgow and Sheffield as well.

In the late 1970s Dave would be my regular Saturday night companion. We'd meet on the bus. I'd get on at School Lane and he'd board one stop later, at the White Horse. (Gone!) We tended to follow the same set routine. First port of call was Divers in King Street. (Gone!) Then we'd move on to Backs. (Gone!) Next it would be the Oakwood. (Gone! It gets a mention here.) And finally we'd head back towards the bus stop opposite the Star on Hall Quay, popping into the Talbot in Howard Street North on the way.

Guess what. The Talbot's gone too.

Talbot great yarmouth
The former Talbot in March 2019. © 2020 Google

The Talbot when it wasn't the former Talbot.

In our day it used to have a sign between the top pair of windows depicting a spotted dog with a raised paw resting on a beer barrel. It also used to have a door.

Entering through that door took us to a different world. At the time there was very little choice of beer in Great Yarmouth. Most pubs would be tied to the big two of the area, Watney and Whitbread, offering their staple fare of Norwich Bitter or Titbread Wankard. The Talbot was a free house and offered a bit of variety in the form of Worthington E and Newcastle Exhibition. While I'd consider all of these brews abominations these days, Yarmouth was a bit of a decent beer desert back then and a pint of something different made for a change at least. And then there was the jukebox. Not full of the usual current chart numbers, just a few of those, with the bulk of options coming from the royalty of the rock world and some lesser-known artists. That said, one of my abiding memories is the pair of us singing along with Sir Bob, “...It's a rat trap Judy; and we've been caught.” Well, it would've been our fourth pub of the evening and it was a sentiment that the pair of us shared at the time.

A pub stood on the south-west corner of Row 44 at least as far back as the eighteenth century but the current occupant of the site looks to be a construction of the following one.

If the building's changed, so has its name. The earliest reference to it by name I've come across is in Pigot's 1830 directory which gives Henry Bullent at the Green Man & Boot. We'll see a little later that it went by that name until at least 1843 but by 1850 it had become the City of London Tavern, with White's edition of that year giving one William Duck in residence. It's still going by this name in 1881 but by the time that White publish their 1890 gazetteer we have Alfred Kent at the Talbot. And it remained as the Talbot, with the addition of 'Vaults', 'Wine Vaults' or 'Free House' from time to time, until its demise, which had occurred by at least 2008. Along with the adjoining Brett's furniture warehouse it's now in residential use.

I've really tried to find a photo of the Talbot whilst it was still trading but this shot with the pub on the extreme left (thanks Debbie Larke) is the best that I've managed. It's likely to have been taken between 1965 and 1971 (Road signs date it to 1965 at the very earliest and Pedro's Café disappears from the telephone directory after 1971.) It's certainly pre-my era. No Whitbread there in my day.

Probably late 1960s, with the Talbot on the far left.

And for comparison, the best that Mr. Google could manage from a similar angle, in June 2017.

June 2017 ©2020 Google

This post started with the odd bit of death, and death was no stranger to the Talbot. Back in 1843, William Moore, landlord of the Green Man & Boot was charged that he had 'killed and slain' one William Burman. Whilst attempting to eject Burman from the pub, Burman suffered a head injury. One witness said that the pair fell and Burman hit his head on the bar on the way down whilst another told of him being thrown down and having his head beaten against the floor. Whatever the truth, Moore was found guilty of manslaughter and imprisoned for one month.

That wasn't the premises' only unlawful killing. In 1862, when it was the City of London, the crew of a Dutch vessel that was moored in the harbour were enjoying the hostelry's offerings. When the captain gave orders to return to the ship one crewman, Hendicus Erenshuisen, objected and a fight broke out between him and his captain. The brawl was broken up by another crew member. Erenshuisen then turned on the ship's cook and, when the landlord Edward Routledge intervened, Erenshuisen stabbed the cook through the heart. At his trial he too was found guilty of manslaughter, but his sentence was quite a bit longer. Twenty years.

William Burman died. The ship's cook, Alfred Huesman, died. The Talbot's died. That jukebox, did it contain anything by Eric Bogle? I don't think so, but one of the lines from what is probably his most famous song (courtesy of both the Dubliners and the Pogues) sadly seems to sum up the situation with both pubs and old schoolmates; “...year after year their numbers gets fewer...”.

Thanks to Chris Caton for the image of the operating pub.

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