A publican couple will pull their last pints tonight, Friday, after 26 years running an old village coaching inn.

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Carl and Sue Hunter moved to the Smallburgh Crown near Stalham in October 1987 - in the same week as the gales which swept across the nation.

Since then they have weathered a range of changes in the pub industry, but have enjoyed being at the heart of their community, becoming a destination eatery and picking up a wall full of awards for their beer and food.

The couple met when Sue was running the Prince of Wales pub in Norwich and Carl was a tax inspector just down the road.

Their first joint venture was the Horse and Groom at Tunstead - now the Olive Branch - for two years, before taking on the Crown.

They added a dining room in a former bar area, with Sue overseeing the kitchen, where chef Tracey Spanton is also leaving after 25 years service. It has been in the Pub Food Guide every years since 1992.

And Carl’s cellarmanship earned the pub a slot in the Camra Good Beer Guide every year since 1990.

Mr Hunter, 66, who also played in one of the pub’s three darts teams, said: “I shall miss the being the host behind the bar, but won’t miss the paperwork.

“Recent years have been tough because of some of the changes such as smoking bans and health and safety.”

His wife said they would also miss the local families, who had also become friends over the years.

A farewell event is being held at the pub tonight. The new publican is George Wortley, who is also general manager of the Norfolk Club in Upper King Street, Norwich.

Mr and Mrs Hunter will live in North Walsham and are looking forward to travelling.

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