Picture Norfolk

The Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs exhibition features some wonderful photographs sourced from Picture Norfolk.

Picture Norfolk is a wonderful online database created and run by Norfolk Library & Information Service. Picture Norfolk is features over 20,000 local photographs and includes images from Local Studies Libraries, Norfolk Museums Service, Norfolk Record Office and many private collections.

Bullard’s Anchor Brewery on Westwick Street in Norwich. Photograph from an album held by the Museum of Norwich and image supplied by Picture Norfolk.

Search www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk and see what you can find!


Steward and Patteson

Norfolk was home to hundreds of brewers. Many of them are featured in the ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs exhibition.’ One of the biggest brewers in Norfolk was Steward and Patteson. Items from the brewery are on display in the exhibition.

In 1793 John Patteson bought the Pockthorpe brewery. In just 40 years the company had bought three more breweries and owned 120 pubs. The company had many name changes and expanded rapidly. In 1895 they owned 498 pubs. In 1961 Steward and Patteson bought half of Morgan’s Brewery adding 200 pubs to their already 1250.

The brewery had their own Cooper’s shop making casks and barrels. These tools are on loan to us from The Museum of Norwich and are on display in the exhibition.

The fantastic book ‘Norwich Pubs and Breweries Past and Present’ by Frances and Michael Holmes (which was invaluable when researching for this exhibition) features memories of working for Steward and Patteson at the Pockthorpe Brewery.

Barry Berwick was a cooper:

“In 1958 I was taken on at Steward and Patteson as an apprentice cooper. I was 15 when I started… My job mainly consisted of repairing barrels. I used to take out broken staves, which are the narrow strips of wood forming part of the sides of a barrel, and put in new ones. It was all done by eye, there were no measurements… When the barrels were returned to the brewery for refilling they were washed. A bloke used to smell them to make sure they were clean. He often found bits of wood inside that he’d take out. He put a big cross on the side of damaged barrels which came over to us in the coopers’ shop.”

After a century of rapid expansion and dominating the Norwich brewery and pub scene, a takeover by Watney Mann meant that the brewery closed in 1970.

“When I joined there were four coopers but it was only about three years later we got the ‘Coopers Journal and saw an article about the London breweries using kegs. We all knew then that the writing was on the wall, although I worked as a cooper until 1970 when the last brew was made at Pockthorpe.”

Matchbox collection

All of these beermats were collected by Richard Brownlow. During the 1950s to 70s his parents ran the Papermakers Arms in Swanton Morley.

They were used to advertise pubs. It’s interesting to look at them now and see all the different pub names! Many of them include the names of the landlord and landlady.

They were also used to advertise other businesses.

And breweries!



Beermat collection

All of these beermats were collected by Richard Brownlow. During the 1950s to 70s his parents ran the Papermakers Arms in Swanton Morley.

Beermats weren’t just for putting your glass on! They were an important way of advertising different breweries, drinks, local businesses, snacks and cigarettes.

Have you ever seen a mat shaped like a packet of crisps? Or a lightbulb or bottle cap?

There is even a set of mats shaped as puzzle pieces.

There are lots more beermats on display in the Beers and Brewing : Norfolk’s Rural Pubs exhibition.



The perfect combination of sandy soil and salty air means that North Norfolk has the perfect conditions for growing barley. This barley is made into malt for brewing beer, through a process called malting. Norfolk was home to hundreds of maltings and brewers.

These two items are on display in the exhibition Beers and Brewing, on loan from the Museum of Norwich.

Malt barrow. It is missing the front wheel. From the former Stag Maltings, St. Benedict’s Street, Norwich, which were demolished in March 1971. NWHCM : 1971.185.4


Watering can used for dampening the malt during fermentation. From the former Stag Maltings, St. Benedict’s Street, Norwich, which were demolished in March 1971. NWHCM : 1971.185.6

The process of malting took place in maltings or malthouses across the county. Traditionally, malt is germinated on the floor. This involves different cycles of wet, dry and heat to produce malt from the barley. Here are some photos from the museum collection which show this work.

Photograph of workers with malt ploughs at Great Ryburgh Maltings. GRSRM : CP.CP3079


Photograph of Edgar Hoggett with a malt plough at maltings in Narborough. GRSRM : 2012.32


Photograph of workers with malt shovels and forks at Wainford Maltings. GRSRM : CP.CP1471

Bidwell’s Brewery

Norfolk has the ideal conditions for growing barley which led to hundreds of breweries in the county. The small market town of Thetford was home to one of the most important breweries in the East of England – Bidwell’s!

This family run business was based in a flint building on Old Market Street, now a Grade II listed building. The family were wealthy and held important positions within the town.

The Bidwell’s Brewery was founded in Thetford in 1710. The brewery grew rapidly throughout the Victorian period. In 1868 Bidwell’s ran, not only the brewery but also several pubs in Thetford and more across Norfolk. They also owned pubs in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The estate was valued at £30,000 and continued to grow. By 1889 Bidwell’s was worth £68,000 and consisted of 55 pubs and malthouses plus other buildings and land in the town. In 1905 the business was sold outside of the Bidwell family to Eustace Quilter for £104,000. By now the brewery owned 105 hotels and pubs! The brewery was still known as Bidwell’s until 1924. It was sold to Bullard’s and brewing stopped.


This beer bottle (THEHM : 1979.71b) is on loan to the ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs’ exhibition from the Ancient House Museum in Thetford.

Thankyou to the Norfolk Pubs and Thetfords Great websites which were invaluable when researching the Bidwell’s Brewery.

The Kings Head pub

One of the pubs featured in the ‘Beers and Brewing : Norfolk’s Rural pubs’ exhibition is the Kings Head in Shipdham.

The museum holds a collection of items from this pub. There had been a pub in the village since 1858. It was run by Frederick Chilvers from the 1960s to 1990s. His son donated some items from the pub to the museum. The pub is now closed and the building is now run as the Kings Café, which opened in 2012.

The items above all feature in the exhibition. Do you remember Smith’s crisps or beer sold in shillings? Beer was served in hand painted glass jars with a handle. Stoneware jars carried beer supplied by local breweries.

This book of tokens and bottle caps are also on display in the exhibition. The bottle caps were used while Emma Baker was landlady. Were these used when you bought a bottle of beer? With the 1 penny charge refunded when the bottle was returned? Do you know what the tokens were used for? – Let us know in the comments!

This till drawer is also from the pub, but does not feature in the exhibition.

For more information about the history of The Kings Head pub take a look at the Norfolk Pubs website.


Twister, twizzler, Norfolk Wheel. In this blog post we explore this mysterious, traditional pub game.

A circular wooden board with an arrow would be placed on the ceiling of a pub. They were usually put in this location so that people cannot cheat. Everyone can see the game. It is a simpler version of the game of roulette. Roulette was played in rich people’s homes, clubs and casinos and twister was played in pubs. The rules of the game are a bit fuzzy. Essentially bets were placed on where the arrow would land once it was spun. Bets could have been placed on a round of drinks or a sack of potatoes, winning points or downing a pint as a forfeit.

These two twister boards are both in the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse museum collection and are currently on display as part of the ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs’ exhibition. The one on the left is smaller, and less decorated but still has its’ arrow. It came from The Kings Head pub in Shipdham. The one on the right is much brighter, with the design painted in yellow and white. It came from the Red Lion Pub in Banham. Both of these boards are only marked with numbers 1 – 12. The Alby Horseshoes Inn in Erpingham still has a wheel on their ceiling which is also marked with club, spade, heart and diamond as well as a wine glass, barrel of beer and a matchbox.


Many twister boards were removed from pubs in the 1970s due to a change in gambling laws. It is rare to find a twister in a pub today but we believe that there are wheels remaining in these Norfolk pubs (tell us if we’re wrong or if there are more!)

Wheel of Fortune, Alpington
The Feathers, Aylsham
Alby Horseshoes Inn, Erpingham
The Three Horseshoes, Warham


For more information about twister and other traditional pub games take a look at the ‘Played at the Pub’ book by Arthur Taylor, this article and blog post.

Interesting, cool, amazing and awesome!

Word cloud of visitor surveys for new workhouse galleries at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

This is a word cloud of how our visitors described our new workhouse galleries when they visited last year. We love that they thought the displays were interesting, cool, amazing and awesome!

The survey results  also told us that:

Visitors learnt ‘How recently it was used for elderly care, as tend to think workhouses were Victorian’

‘We have learnt a lot about the life and times in the workhouse – well done’

‘All of the displays combine to bring the building and its history to life in a most imaginative and informative way.’

‘There’s such a vast improvement all round. It’s much nicer for children and families alike.’

‘[I was surprised by the] number of people who left the workhouse with a trade and a future.’

‘[It gave me] reflection space – [and made me consider that the] problem of how to look after the poor is still a very modern issue.’

‘Imagining what it would have been like and the people and how our lives have changes. What they were thinking and feeling.’

We love to know what you think about our new galleries. We are open Mon- Fri next week for February half term and then everyday from the 5th March to 29th October 2017.