The city of Norwich was once abundant with pubs and breweries, formerly having as many as 600 public houses and seven breweries. Today however, those numbers have diminished to around half the number of pubs and no breweries. It was not until the 20th century that the fine city’s number of pubs began to dwindle.
The Birdcage’s new look
In 1904, a licensing act was put in place which meant that compensation was granted for pubs whose licenses were granted before 1904 and repudiated replenishment. This new legislation meant that 9,801 pubs were closed in the whole of the United Kingdom.
The impact of the second world war offered a major contribution to the impairment of Norwich’s pub culture, as air raids caused the loss of 100 pubs and damaged many more. To give an idea of how extreme the changes were in Norwich, King Street for example once had 58 pubs and today there is only one, whilst Ber Street had 39 and now only has two.
Despite these losses, Norwich is still renowned for its pub crawl culture. The Walnut Tree Shades, a cosy and novel pub, can be traced back to 1841 and used to be an outlet for experimental brews such as Starlight. Once an American diner, today it is the place to be for live bands, flavoursome food and a medley of ales, complete with a jukebox and a littering of old American road signs and comical quotes.
The Wildman can be traced back even further into the 18th century, and bears a very interesting story behind its name. The pub is named after Peter the Wild Boy, a child who King George I encountered on a hunting trip in a German forest and brought back to England to Thomas Fenn, whom he then escaped from. As the child could not speak and was wearing rags, it was assumed that he was a vagrant and was imprisoned. It was not until he was transferred to Cork City Gaol after a fire that he was recognised and returned to Fenn. The Wildman was the first pub to be featured in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide and has been described as the “last Tolly house in Norwich serving beer by traditional methods.”
The Glasshouse was opened in 2001 and is the third Wetherspoons pub in the city. The building was previously owned by a glass merchant and today is home to a lively and buoyant atmosphere. It has a beautiful outside seating area and is renowned for long opening hours and low prices. Perfect for the student budget!
The Birdcage, a cultured and erudite pub built in 1859 and redesigned in 1938, offers an alternative twist to the historical pub tradition, offering cupcakes, wi-fi and board games.
Finally there is The Fat Cat, opened in 2005. It has been voted the Most Successful Pub in the CAMRA National Pub of the Year competition and named the CAMRA Beer Pub of the Year four times. With its humble décor of old pub signs and huge variety of real ales from 12 different pumps, it is little wonder that The Fat Cat has established a large following of both locals and students.