Can you solve riddle of historic Norfolk pub with a sculpture as mysterious as its maker?

The Ship Hotel in Brancaster. Picture: Ian Burt

The Ship Hotel in Brancaster. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Set in the heart of a Norfolk coastal village, the Ship Hotel in Brancaster is steeped in history.

The sculpture at the Ship Hotel is in need of repair and restoration. Photo: Matthew Jones

The sculpture at the Ship Hotel is in need of repair and restoration. Photo: Matthew Jones - Credit: Matthew Jones

But little is known about the imposing ship which decorates its entrance off the main coast road.

Matthew Jones, the hotel's general manager, wants to keep the building's heritage alive. He is appealing for information about its familiar emblem.

'We think it is around 120 years old,' he said. 'We are having it taken down to be restored and repainted because we want it around for another 120 years.

'According to the Norfolk Pubs website it is 6ft long and called Black Diamond but that's all we really know.'

Mr Jones, 33, is appealing for people to come forward with any information or stories they may have about the ship or the hotel.

'Since coming under new ownership in June last year, we are at the start of a revamp, and that includes preserving the heritage.'

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The work is attributed to Scottish sculptor John Moray-Smith (1889 - 1958), who produced a number of sculptures and murals around Norfolk when he moved to Norwich in the 1930s.

MORE - the lives and work of mysterious Norfolk artist John Moray Smith Cromer Museum houses a number of Mr Moray-Smith's works. They include a mural of a beach scene, which once adorned a local hotel also named The Ship, a rescue by the oar-powered Cromer Lifeboat and a sculpture of its legendary coxswain Henry Blogg.

Alan Tutt, the museum's visitor services assistant, said the artist's life was shrouded in as much mystery as the sculptures themselves.

'The thing with Moray-Smith is his life is shrouded in so much mystery that only now historical things we thought we knew about him are being debunked,' he said.

'We do know that he used to work for Morgan's Brewery making sculptures for inside and outside pubs as an early form of branding, Morgans' pub's trademark. I assume The Ship Hotel was a Morgan's owned pub around the time Moray-Smith worked for them, but I know very little about that specific sculpture itself.'

If you have any information or stories about the sclupture or the Ship Hotel, e-mail Matthew Jones at