Last pub standing on Norwich's King Street opens to punters
PUBLISHED: 13:12 18 November 2017 | UPDATED: 19:37 18 November 2017
Copyright: Archant 2017
A new Norwich publican - the only one remaining in what was one of the city's busiest pub districts - hopes to entice a new generation of drinkers to the area with a combination of historical interest and chic trimmings.
The Last Pub Standing on King Street is due to open to the public on Monday following a four-month, £200,000 renovation.
Owner and general manager Darren Fennah said the 17th century building – formerly the Kings pub – was derelict when he first viewed it in April.
“We have tried to bring the building back to its original glory,” he said.
“We found historical features that stopped us doing certain things, but I found solutions and we got through it.”
WATCH: ‘Last Pub Standing’ to reopen on King Street
Artefacts and original features of the grade II-listed building – from floorboards to 100-year-old newspaper pages which were found beneath them – have been woven into the fabric of the refurbished building.
Renovations also revealed a 19th century cellar under the bar, which Mr Fennah and his team of builders excavated.
Now on display in the main bar through a glass pane in the floor, it is decorated with Victorian grain sacks and barrels, harking back to the pub’s origins in the 1870s.
There are believed to be several ghostly presences in the building – spotted by visitors and paranormal investigators – such as Mr Harris, who is seen sitting in a corner of the pub with a pint and a pipe.
These spirits, and other features of the pub’s past, have been commemorated on its beer mats.
Styled as a gastropub, Last Pub Standing will serve a mix of global street food in its bar and private dining area.
Mr Fennah has spent his career thus far in catering, on the country’s railways and most recently at the University of East Anglia.
But he said it was time for a new challenge, with his ultimate aim to provide a retreat for “more mature” drinkers.
“I’m new to this but fortunately I have got a professional bar manager, a top-quality chef and a trained barista. We have all the bases covered, and they are a top team.”
He added: “People are moving away from the big pub chains. There is a bit of history here, which gives the place interest. It’s not your usual plastic Irish pub.”
A launch party is scheduled to take place later in the month.
The pub also plans to operate a VIP card scheme. A limited run of 250 cards – which will give a 10% discount on food and drink – will be available.
Norwich’s public house history
The 19th century marked the hey-day of the Norwich pub and brewing industry.
By the mid-1800s it hosted more than 20 breweries and more than 600 pubs.
King Street, following the bustling River Wensum, was at the centre of this industry, once home to almost 60 pubs – including one in Dragon Hall – and breweries including Morgans and the Crown Brewery.
The introduction of the 1904 Licensing Act spelled the end for many of the city’s pubs. Those which have disappeared from King Street in the last few decades include the Builders Arms on the corner of with Rose Lane, which closed in 1968, the Ferry Boat Inn, which closed in 2006 and still stands at the street’s junction with Rouen Road, the Keel and Wherry, the Compasses and the Old Barge.
The Last Pub Standing building first opened as a pub in 1877 under the name the Nag’s Head and went on to become one of the most popular pubs on King Street.
Marketing agency’s stake
Despite being in its infancy the Last Pub Standing has already secured an investor – its marketing partner.
Creative Sponge took an early interest in the pub, offering its digital marketing services – including branding, website design and social media services – in exchange for a stake in the business.
Director Alex Tosh said it was a new business model for the Norwich-based agency, but one which he was keen to replicate.
“Sometimes it is not feasible for a small business to spend tens of thousands of pounds on marketing and branding,” he said.
“We love the pub and it is not something we have done before, but we are open to new ways of partnering with clients. It’s a bit of a risk, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
He said Creative Sponge could invest in further properties with the pub’s owner Darren Fennah in the future, adding: “It is nice to build that long term relationship with a client.”