Demolition of once-iconic seaside pub begins

PUBLISHED: 12:06 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:07 30 May 2020

The former Ark Royal pub in Freeman Street, Wells, is being demolished. Picture: Chris Thomson

The former Ark Royal pub in Freeman Street, Wells, is being demolished. Picture: Chris Thomson


A once-iconic pub on the north Norfolk coast is being demolished.

The Ark Royal pub in Wells, in 2009. Picture: Colin FinchThe Ark Royal pub in Wells, in 2009. Picture: Colin Finch

Crews have moved onto the site of the former Ark Royal public house in Freeman Street, Wells, and work levelling the site has started.

The land is now likely to become a temporary car park, but the town council has said it would eventually like to see two-storey cottages for Wells locals built there.

In the heart of Wells’ conservation area, the Ark was built to replace an earlier public house called The Ship, which closed in 1967.

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The Ark Royal opened in the same year, in the following decades it became a popular venue for live music, disco nights, pool and darts competitions. Car boot sales were also held in the car park from the 1990s.

One former regular who remembers the Ark Royal well was John Paige, of Fakenham, who said: “I played some fantastic people at darts in over the 70s, 80s and 90s.

“It used to have such a good, friendly dart team.”

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The pub’s walls carried two memorable mosaic panels in tribute to its namesakes - one showed the Royal Navy aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and the other depicted the Elizabethan sailing ship of the same name.

The venue closed in 2013, and the building then became the Captain’s Table pub for several years, and later traded as Harley’s American diner.

After that was closed the building was broken into more than once and fittings and equipment were stripped out.

The site was sold on March 14 last year for £1,350,000. North Norfolk District Council granted permission applicants Mount Street Capital Assets to demolish the building on December 3 last year.

Their application said: “The level site would offer opportunities for much needed temporary parking or other uses and in the long term can be redeveloped to addressed the scar in the townscape caused by the loss of historic street frontages and development pattern of Well-next-the-Sea.”

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The town council said last year it: “would be happy to see the building demolished and would like to see it replaced by two-storey cottages for people of Wells.”

A small number of the pipistrelle bats were found to be roosting there, and a condition of the demolition was that a replacement ‘resting place’, or roost, was found.

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