‘I think I’ve found three arguable points in town’s green plaques’

In his ‘The Bar Man’ column Jeff Hoyle discusses a guided pub tour…

I recently hosted another historic pub walk around Lynn and I would like to thank those who attended and made generous donations for the True’s Yard Museum, which was quite apt as that was the last stop on our walk.

While planning the walk I was very grateful for the green plaques that have been placed around town by the civic society and maybe other organisations. There is no need to listen to me running on when you can take your own tour and find out loads of information from these.

Jeff Hoyle
Jeff Hoyle

However, I think that I have found three arguable points in the plaques and my other main source, the brilliant Norfolk Pubs website. This is not to diminish the work of the creators of these wonderful resources, but to follow the scientific method of questioning things in order to improve our knowledge.

We started at the Pearl River restaurant, which many people will remember as the New Fisherman’s Arms. According to Norfolk Pubs, this was built on the same site as the original Fisherman’s Arms on Pilot Street, but on examination of photographs, it seems to me to be built on the opposite side of the new road that was pushed through the top of Pilot Street in the early ‘60s.

Even then, there was apparently a campaign to save the original pub, but it was demolished and a set of hand pumps was saved for the new build, long gone by the time I visited when it was in the hands of Watneys.

Close by is a plaque on the gates of the old dock railway line which states that the old Fisher Fleet crossed Pilot Street near what was the Tilden Smith pub, later the Retreat. You can spot the Pilot Street sign still on this building. However, when the docks were constructed the inland end of the Fleet was lost.

According to the plaque, this was in 1869 with the construction of the Alexandria Dock, but the photo of the Tilden Smith which I dug out shows the Fisher Fleet coming up to the pub and the railway running down the side of it on a wooden trestle. This line opened in 1870 to serve the newly constructed dock, so my guess is that the truncation of the Fleet happened when the Bentick Dock was being built, around ten years later.

My third question is about the famous incident in 1905 when Ralph Vaughn Williams came to Lynn to collect local folk songs. The received wisdom is that he picked up around 16 songs one January evening in the Tilden Smith when the weather was too bad to for the boats to venture out.

However, Norfolk Pubs states that the Tilden Smith had applied for a music licence in 1904 and it had been refused. The pub had been inspected by the police and the Chief Constable testified that there were about 14 people in the room and by 9pm only five or six.

Despite landlord Joseph Barker declaring that he had held a music licence since 1892 and that he had never had any trouble and had a nice music room and ladies were not permitted, his application was refused. It could be that Duggie Carter and his friends entertained Vaughn Williams in defiance of the law, but perhaps, as in other cases, introductions were made in the pub and then Vaughn Williams visited their houses to hear the songs.

Does any of this matter? Not really, but it entertained my group for an hour and set us up for a delicious Sunday lunch down Ferry Lane.