I went along to the opening of the new exhibition at True’s Yard, about Crime and Punishment which runs until July 15.
It seems that little changes, and that drink has played its part in bad behaviour for many years. Some of the offences took place in the pubs themselves, and a section on the North End pubs documents the poor behaviour of some of the landlords.
In 1907, Phillip Barnard of the Fisherman’s Return was fined 10/- with a further 6/- costs for selling alcohol out of hours. Did this act as a deterrent? It seems not, as in 1927 Thomas Barnard forked out 40/- for the same offence.
They weren’t the only ones. John Simpson of the Tilden Smith was fined 18/- for ‘having persons in the house and beer on the table at 9.30 on a Sunday morning’. Ten years later in 1869, John Witt also of the Tilden Smith ‘given until 4pm to pay 33/6d for selling beer at illegal hours on a Sunday’ with 14-days’ imprisonment if he could not raise the money.
Was it only in 1988 that licencing hours were extended to make honest men of those of us who like a pint on Sunday afternoon?
Supplying the drink could also bring you into conflict with the law. There was a time when most of the governments revenue came from custom and excise duties, and wherever there is a tax, someone will be trying to evade it.
Norfolk with its beaches and creeks has always been a favourable place for smugglers, and the exhibition tells of William Kemble and Thomas Franklyn.
Kemble would bring goods from France and Netherlands aboard his boat, the Lively and land them on the Norfolk coast. Franklyn would collect them and sell them on.
Their activities attracted the attention of Robert Bliss, the excise superintendent at Wells, who was good at his job, and seized a large amount of goods, including 500 gallons of brandy, rum and gin at Ringstead, 1,200 gallons at Thornham and also managed to empty the church tower at St Mary’s in Hunstanton of smuggled goods during a service. Franklyn must have been a bit upset as he set a trap for Bliss, who was ambushed with his men, Bliss being lucky to escape death. In retaliation, an attempt was made to arrest Franklyn when he attended a wedding in North Lynn, but this was frustrated by a large crowd who came to his aid. When he was captured and sent for trial, the prosecution witnesses seemed to find more urgent business than appearing in court and Franklyn was acquitted, as was Kemble when he was tried for the murder of two soldiers attempting to arrest him later on.
There are other stories. Find out what happened to Mary Ann Sampher at the inquest held at the Eagle Tavern and the fate of Mary Taylor and George Smith of the Queens Head.
I came out of the exhibition thinking that I was glad that we live in more enlightened times and that the harsh punishments of the past are behind us. Then, as I walked through the park, I saw a student finish his lunch and ignore the bin next to him, hurling his waste over the hedge on to the green at the Globe Bowls Club. His mate was so impressed he gave him a ‘high five’. Just for a moment I longed for the return of the gallows that used to stand by the Seven Sisters ...