Gunton Arms owner buys long-closed north Norfolk pub
14:49 01 February 2016
Archant Norfolk 2016
Art dealer Ivor Braka is planning to re-open a rural north Norfolk pub, closed for five years.
Mr Braka has bought the former Suffield Arms in Thorpe Market, less than two miles from his successful Gunton Arms pub-restaurant.
He plans a major refurbishment of the building, which had been a pub since at least 1889, and hopes it will be ready to open sometime next year.
The former pub is opposite Gunton Station, on the Norwich to Sheringham Bittern Line.
“I’m not doing it for the money,” said Mr Braka, 60. “I’m doing it because I genuinely don’t want to see the life-blood sucked out of the countryside.
Re-opening is welcomed
Naomi Perowne, chairman of Thorpe Market Parish Council, said she was personally delighted that the Suffield Arms would be re-opening.
“I can’t imagine the village would do anything other than welcome this news,” said Ms Perowne.
It had been a very popular pub which villagers could walk to across country whereas the Gunton Arms was beside a dangerous road with no footpath.
Ted Gadsden, chairman of the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership, said the pub used to be a rendezvous for guided Bittern Line walks and he hoped its re-opening would encourage more walkers and cyclists to use both the train line and the pub.
Ian Stamp, pubs campaign co-ordinator for the Norwich and Norfolk branch of CAMRA, said it was unusual, but very welcome for a pub to re-open after so long.
In Norfolk last year, excluding the Mid-Anglia CAMRA branch area to the south of Loddon, 25 pubs closed and there were currently 821 open pubs, Mr Stamp said.
“Pubs and churches used to be the centre of communities. With the decline in church-going, pubs are somewhere where people can still get together and share a sense of community.
“One of the very sad things in England is that people are more and more engaged with their computers, sitting alone in their room.”
In December 2013 North Norfolk District Council granted permission for The Suffield Arms, which closed in March 2011, to be converted for residential use but the work was not carried out.
Mr Braka, who has homes in London and on the Gunton Estate, said he hoped the council would be sympathetic to his bid to get it re-licensed as a pub.
He regularly catches the train to Gunton Station when travelling from the capital to Norfolk and said he had been contemplating the purchase for some time because the run-down, former pub - once very popular - looked so sad from the train windows.
The nearby Gunton Arms, formerly the Elderton Lodge Hotel, opened under his ownership in October 2011.
Set in a 1,000-acre deer park, its style and panache reflect Mr Braka’s tastes. In 2013 the pub was chosen as Michelin Pub of the Year.
It is run by Stuart and Simone Tattersall, who used to work for the celebrated London chef Mark Hix.
They will be involved with the Suffield Arms but Mr Braka is keeping his plans for the new venture under wraps.
“I’m not trying to make a replica of the Gunton Arms - it will be a slightly-different offering,” he said.
“It has a marvellously-long bar and I shall certainly be making a feature of that.
“I’m hoping it will bring more people and jobs to the area.”
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