Explore King’s Lynn’s past with historic ‘pub crawl’ tour

PUBLISHED: 15:53 14 January 2013 | UPDATED: 15:53 14 January 2013

Dr Paul Richards outside The Tudor Rose Hotel in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Dr Paul Richards outside The Tudor Rose Hotel in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

A pub crawl with a difference is giving drinkers a fascinating insight into the rich and varied history of King’s Lynn.

Author and historian Dr Paul Richards has been developing his tour of the town’s historic watering holes for several years and believes the importance of the humble pub cannot be underestimated.

“Pubs in all English towns were centres of life, politics and commerce,” he said. “They were once true community centres. For example, pubs were used for post-mortem examinations, as auction houses and as mini theatres. Labour was also hired in pubs.”

The pub crawl lasts about two hours and usually stops at The White Hart – the town’s oldest pub – the Lord Napier, The Duke’s Head Hotel and The Retreat to name but a few.

Drinks are enjoyed during the course of the evening, but the focus is on knowledge rather than knocking back the beer.

“It is not about drinking, it is about history and enjoying our heritage,” Dr Richards said. “Some of the pubs we visit have been either torn down or turned into private homes, so it’s more a case of looking.

“So many of the great pubs have gone. There are still some I like, but there are so few now.”

The tour is filled with exciting tales such as smugglers meeting at the Mayden’s Head, Sir Robert Walpole’s lavish parties at The Duke’s Head Hotel and of fire eaters from The Mart quenching their thirst in the former Victory pub.

It also charts the rise and fall of the pub in King’s Lynn, a port which went from having around 90 pubs in the 1900s to just a handful today.

“The reason we had so many pubs was because of all the sailors and dock workers,” Dr Richards said. “The decline started just before the first world war with the change from sailing ships to steam ships. They had smaller crews and there weren’t hundreds of sailors any more.

“Between 1900 and 1920, 80 pubs in the town closed. More people also began travelling into town by rail, so they didn’t need to stable their horses at pubs and the quality of our water improved in the early 20th century.”

Money raised from the pub crawls goes to charity and Dr Richards hopes to hold another of the events in early March.

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