Mary Slater: Former landlady of old Norwich pub

A long-serving landlady of one of the oldest pubs in Norwich, Mary Slater, has died peacefully at her Suffolk home aged 72.

When the husband and wife team took the licence of the Coach & Horses in Bethel Street in December 1987, the building had been closed for more than a year for major renovations.

With her husband, Geoff, they were determined to run a community pub with a country atmosphere in the heart of the city. And they remained behind the bar for more than 15 years until they took early retirement in March 2003 because of her declining health.

The Coach & Horses, which dates from about 1600 and has had a licence to sell drink since at least 1760, was one of the first pubs in Norwich to be offered to Suffolk brewers Greene King as part of the industry-wide 'pub' swap by Watney's.

During the restoration, workmen discovered a toddler's leather ankle boot thought to be about 200 years old, which was placed in a display case over the marble fireplace in one of the bars. The brewery spent about �50,000 in improvements, which involved retaining four distinct areas each with its own character in the open plan pub.

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And it also became the only licensed premises in Norwich to have gas lighting until over-zealous safety inspectors ruled that the burners had to be switched off and the lamps connected to the electricity supply.

The pub survived an explosion in 1642 during the civil war and the second world bombing of 1942 when some fine Georgian houses were destroyed on the far side of the Coach & Horses yard.

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Born in Fulham, Mary Slater and her husband gained considerable experience in the licensed trade, initially as tenants before acquiring the freehold of the Bell, Kersey, near Ipswich.

She leaves husband Geoff, three children, Jeremy, Suzanne and Julian and grandchildren.

A funeral service is to be held on Wednesday, August 24 at Seven Hills Crematorium, Ipswich, at 3.45pm.

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