The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, March 22, 2019
Around ten years ago the Bar Wife was involved in organising an art exhibition at Stradsett. It became apparent that this area is a hot bed of artistic talent and we even possess one or two local works, Morag the Cow by Connie Klepps, and a lovely watercolour by Frank Gibson.
They are perhaps not household names. If you are aware of a local artist it may well be either Henry Baines, whose Lynn scenes can be seen in the town museum, or his namesake Thomas, a King’s Lynn born artist who explored and painted Southern Africa.
Down on Nelson Street the former pub, the Valiant Sailor, boasts a plaque indicating that the building was once the home of Walter Dexter, possibly the most accomplished local painter.
In Norfolk the title of top artist might go to Alfred Munnings. I know that he was born at Mendham in Suffolk, but he attended the Norwich School of Art while apprenticed at a Norwich printer for six years after leaving school at the age of 14.
He is so revered in Norfolk that I have attended a couple of talks about him recently at the local museum and latterly at the Kings Lynn Society of Arts and Science, who persuaded Jenny Hand, the director of the Munnings Art Museum at Dedham, to come up to Lynn.
She showed some breathtaking work from his early years, including a drawing of a horse created when he was 12 years old, anticipating the subject for which he would become famous in later life.
However, while apprenticed in Norwich, his work mostly consisted of advertising posters, many for Caley’s chocolate which, to my eye, owe a debt to the posters of Toulouse Lautrec, and in one case the famous Millais picture of Bubbles, used for advertising Pears Soap.
These are easily found by a simple on-line search, but more difficult to uncover are the original sketches that he did for Bullard’s Brewery.
One of the famous names in Norfolk brewing, Bullard’s was founded in 1837 and by taking over and closing down smaller enterprises they became one of the dominant breweries in the county, with their Anchor brewery in the centre of Norwich.
In 1961 they did a deal with Steward and Patterson’s to take over Morgan’s tied estate, while selling the brewery to Watney’s. Part of the agreement was that Watney’s could sell their beer in Bullard’s pubs, and by 1963 the pubs also were owned by Watney’s, with the brewery closing three years later.
Despite this being over 50 years ago, many will still remember Bullard’s. The Maids Head on Tuesday Market place still displays the name.
Their advertising logo was a drawing of a cheerful chap in a red waistcoat with one hand on his hip and the other raising a glass of beer to his lips.
Known as the Fat Man, it was based on a doodle that Munnings sent on a postcard to a friend, who was a member of the Bullard’s family, from a holiday in 1909, an image that was used for 60 years.
While the Anchor Brewery is now a housing complex, the name lives on. Beer is brewed at the Redwell in Norwich and the phoenix company operated Norwich’s only distillery.
Plans have been submitted to build a new brewery near Dereham on land owned by a descendent of the original founder. This will include references to the original Anchor brewery, but I don’t know if the Fat Man will feature.
Meanwhile I am off to see if Morag will fetch as much as Munnings Red Mare, a cool $8 million.