Hostelry

Norwich Pub Detective: History of Norwich St Benedict’s pubs

He is known as the Norwich Pub Detective. 

And that’s because Jonathan Hooton is determined to uncover some of the secrets of the city’s pub industry. 

In his new series the Norwich Society member will shine a light on pubs which have closed their doors. 

This week he looks at the former drinking establishments of a bustling street in the Norwich Lanes district.

There are few pubs left in St Benedicts street today, but it is full of evidence of many former pubs which gave a plentiful choice of hostelries in the 19th century.

At the start of St Benedicts on the corner of St Gregory’s Alley there is a building with many aspects of a pub; a corner entrance fit; decorative tile work between the second and third floors and a detailed cornice at roof level; also projecting metal brackets where formerly the pub sign would have hung.


The building which used to be the Vine Pub on St Benedicts Street in Norwich until 1970.


The building which used to be the Vine Pub on St Benedicts Street in Norwich until 1970.

– Credit: Jonathan Hooton

This was the Vine which finally closed in 1970.

What is really special about this former pub is that the interior bar has been saved and can be seen in the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.


The bar from the former Vine pub, which was open on St Benedicts Street in Norwich until 1970.


The bar from the former Vine pub, which was open on St Benedicts Street in Norwich until 1970.

– Credit: Jonathan Hooton

As an indication of the number of pubs in St Benedicts Street, the building next door with a fine entrance way to the former pub yard was the Alexandra – a beer shop that closed in 1934.

Dark alleys next to a pub were often used as what the Victorians would call ‘a urination corner’ in the days before public conveniences and if you look carefully you can make out the lettering warning passers-by to Committ no Nuisance.

A little further on there is another entrance which still has one of the many yard names – this one being called Lord Howe Yard.


The entrance to Lord Howe Yard on St Benedicts Street, Norwich, which provides evidence of a former pub.


The entrance to Lord Howe Yard on St Benedicts Street, Norwich, which provides evidence of a former pub.

– Credit: Jonathan Hooton

This referred to the adjoining building which was the Lord Howe public house.

It was named after Admiral of the Fleet, Richard Howe, the first Earl Howe who commanded the British Fleet during the French Revolutionary wars.

The pub did not have a good reputation and was closed in 1868.

The numbers of premises with entrances to pub backyards provide the evidence of many more former pubs.

On the southern side there is the Adam & Eve Yard, and the Adam & Eve closed by 1864.


The historic Adam & Eve Yard on St Benedicts Street in Norwich.


The historic Adam & Eve Yard on St Benedicts Street in Norwich.

– Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Next to it was the Cardinal’s Cap, without a named yard, which ceased trading in 1960. Both of these buildings had been damaged in the air raids.

Further east, there is no yard name evidence but a street name.

Three King Lane on the bottom of which the corner building with a side entrance used to be the Three Kings which closed in 1968.

On the other side of the street, we find the yard name Queen of Hungary Yard on a half-timbered and jettied building.


Queen of Hungary Yard off St Benedicts Street in Norwich.


Queen of Hungary Yard off St Benedicts Street in Norwich.

– Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Sometimes called Queen Caroline of Hungary the pub was closed under the compensation scheme in 1913.

Further up the southern side of the street, the wooden exterior with its carved Ostrich feathers is a reminder of the Prince of Wales pub.


Decor from the former Prince of Wales pub on St Benedicts Street in Norwich.


Decor from the former Prince of Wales pub on St Benedicts Street in Norwich.

– Credit: Jonathan Hooton

Further down the street towards Grapes Hill the evidence becomes scarce due to the heavy bombing that this end of the street suffered in the Second World War.

The Fountain was completely destroyed and the White Lion too severely damaged to keep on trading.

The Crown has also been demolished but the Beehive had already become closed in 1935 before suffering heavy damage in the war.

The Stag survived the bombing and continued on until 1971.

It is now part of A. C. Leigh, not looking much like a pub at all and only marked by a HEART plaque in the pavement which is not quite in the correct place.

There are two more yard names – Plough Yard and Little Plough Yard – and a street name – Ten Bell Lane – but thankfully the pubs they refer to are still trading today.