Heritage open day seems to get better every year. Despite the odd pang of guilt for not stewarding at a venue this year I enthusiastically visited as many attractions as I could. It was my first visit to the cellars below the Bank House, some of which are still being used to store wine, though probably not in the quantities of years past.
The Sea Cadets headquarters on the quayside is a former pub and it was interesting to see there there is still a bar upstairs in the wardroom, and it was good to be able to see the exciting plans for the development of the Wenn’s Hotel, though the one question that they seem to be unable to answer is when the work will start. I intended heading off to the cemetery where the bar wife was dispensing tea and cakes, but the historic bus was full, so I ended up foot weary and in need of refreshment at the Live and Let Live, who had entered into the spirit of the day with a display of old pubs in town and a pianist for added entertainment. Overall I thought the days was a triumphant celebration of the rich heritage of West Norfolk and a massive thank you should go to all the volunteers and building owners who made it possible.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in West Norfolk a very different scenario was playing out. Our first inkling that something was up was when the local CAMRA branch received a phone call to say that our planned branch meeting on the Tuesday evening at the Lord Nelson in Burnham Thorpe could not go ahead as the pub was closing. Fortunately the Flitcham Social Club stepped in at short notice, for which we express our grateful thanks, and by the time we assembled, things had progressed rapidly. As has been reported elsewhere, the bailiffs turned up at the Lord Nelson to oversee the departure of the tenants and stood and watched as the historic interior was removed. For those who don’t know, the pub is close to the birthplace of Nelson and was renamed in his honour in 1798, seven years before the battle of Trafalgar and therefore the first pub in the country to bear his name. I first visited in 1980 when it was run by a local character called Les Winter, and it had become almost a shrine to the great man. There was no bar and beer was brought up directly from the cellar and served at the tables whilst the customers sat on the settles which were reputed to have been there since Nelson’s time. The other room was known as the Ward Room and, as with the rest of the pub was decorated with Nelson memorabilia, especially paintings. When I visited over the summer, the place had been much expanded but the core of the old building remained, perhaps a bit tidier, but I reckon that if Nelson had walked in he would still have recognised it. Not now. My understanding is that under the terms of the lease, anything not fastened down was the property of the tenants, which apparently included the settles, so it has all gone. So whilst we sit at home and condemn the destruction of historic sites such as Palmyra, this act of cultural vandalism takes place on our own doorstep. I believe the council and Greene King Brewery are not over happy with the situation and are trying to rectify the matter, and hopefully by the time you read this, some progress will have been made on the matter. Let’s hope so.