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King's Lynn Lord Napier, Stuart House Hotel, Hockwold Red Lion, Lord Nelson at Burnham Thorpe, the Heron at Stow Bridge, King William IV at Sedgeford, Swan at Hilborough, George at Castle Acre and Good Beer Guide by Lynn News Bar Man





Bar Man by Jeff Hoyle

The new Good Beer Guide landed on the mat earlier in the month and it was time to leaf through, spotting old favourites, mourning those lost and spying out new pubs to visit.

Here in West Norfolk, we have lost a few entries that will be missed. The Stuart House Hotel has been a fixture for around 25 years but the news that it was up for sale when we submitted our entries back in March meant that by the time the guide was published, we could not guarantee that the excellent ale would still be available. As it turns out, it is still under the same ownership and the beer is as good as ever. Call in and try it while you still can.

19th King's Lynn Beer Festival at Stuart House Hotel, King's Lynn. David Armes (owner and organiser along with King's Lynn Vancouver Round Table) holding a glass of CWTCH Beer 4.6%
19th King's Lynn Beer Festival at Stuart House Hotel, King's Lynn. David Armes (owner and organiser along with King's Lynn Vancouver Round Table) holding a glass of CWTCH Beer 4.6%

The same applies to the Red Lion in Hockwold. Since our Whatpub system of allowing members to rate beers in local pubs was introduced about ten years ago, the Red Lion has attracted over 1,300 scores, more than any other pub in the area and stands fourth in the rankings of pubs which are still open with an average of 4.12/5.

Much as these places will be missed, we can celebrate the welcome return after a few years absence of some other fine pubs. These include The Lord Nelson at Burnham Thorpe, the Heron at Stow Bridge, the King William IV at Sedgeford, the Swan at Hilborough and the George at Newton by Castle Acre.

Have we picked the correct pubs? Go and try them and if you are a member, enter your beer scores to help us choose those that should make the next edition. Otherwise let me know where we have succeeded and where we have erred in our selections.

England v Sweden World Cup Quarter-Finals. Fans at The Lord Napier King's Lynn
England v Sweden World Cup Quarter-Finals. Fans at The Lord Napier King's Lynn

Leafing through the guide I was struck by the name of a pub I have never visited, the Magdala in Hampstead. Those of you have heard my talks for various groups in the area may recall me mentioning the Lord Napier in Lynn.

This was originally the Lord Napier of Magdala as indeed was the London pub. Ours dropped the ‘Magdala’ bit, while the London pub dropped the ‘Lord Napier’ element.

Both pubs recall the rescue and punitive expedition led by Robert Napier to free hostages held by Emperor Tewodros II in 1868, which ended with the death of the emperor, the destruction of the fortress of Magdala and the plunder of 200 mules and several elephants loads of booty, most of which can now be seen in British museums.

The Lord Nelson Public House, Burnham Thorpe, has been announced as the RICS UK 2022 regional winners for the East of England in the Community Benefit category.
The Lord Nelson Public House, Burnham Thorpe, has been announced as the RICS UK 2022 regional winners for the East of England in the Community Benefit category.

Without the names of these pubs, I would never have heard of this glorious/despicable event, yet the similar but unsuccessful expedition to rescue General Gordon of Khartoum is probably better known.

Incidentally, the leader of that failed mission was Sir Garnet Wolsey, the original name of the one remaining pub of the 20 or so which used to surround Norwich Market Place, now abbreviated to the Garnet.

There is another macabre reason to visit the Magdala in London. It was outside the premises that Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in England shot her lover on Easter Sunday in 1955. I am told that a close inspection of the façade will reveal bullet holes, though they are probably not original.

Jeff Hoyle
Jeff Hoyle

Other pubs with the whiff of empire about them include the General Scarlett in Burnley who led the rather more successful Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava and the Hero of Aliwal in Whittlesey, who was local born Sir Harry Smith who led the British to victory in a battle in the Punjab.

I’m only here for the history. Honest, dear.



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