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The derelict site with a rich history in brewing and a future as flats

PUBLISHED: 11:59 25 January 2019

Brick maltings at Oak Street, pictured in 1931. Picture: George Plunkett

Brick maltings at Oak Street, pictured in 1931. Picture: George Plunkett

George Plunkett

In the coming months, this derelict city site will be cleared to make way for a new development of 40 homes.

The former St Martin's Brewery site at 161 Oak Street in Norwich, as it looks now Picture by SIMON FINLAY.The former St Martin's Brewery site at 161 Oak Street in Norwich, as it looks now Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

But in years gone by it was a bubbling centre of brewing, home to one of the many breweries that once supplied refreshment to the city.

An historic building recording conducted ahead of the site’s demolition has lifted the lid on its brewing heritage, while also revealing how it was ravaged by war during the Baedeker raids in 1942.

The report, carried out by One Planning Ltd, delves deep into the history of the 0.4 hectare site off Oak Street in Norwich, reflecting on its time as a brewery and a maltings.

It says the earliest known use of the site was as the base of St Martin’s Brewery, along with a residential yard link to the Buck pub, which dates back to at least 1783.

The entrance to Little Buck Yard, off Oak Street where maltings were, pictured in 1936. Picture: George PlunkettThe entrance to Little Buck Yard, off Oak Street where maltings were, pictured in 1936. Picture: George Plunkett

It says: “The first evidence of St Martin’s Brewery or Maltings on the site is in 1783 when John Day was brewery. John Day was mayor of the city in 1768.”

Citing brewing historian Eric Doré, the report says Mr Day brewed porter at the brewery, while also holding a number of other sites in the city including one in Bethel Street, and that he was the largest brewer in Norwich at the time.

The report adds: “The transformation of St Martin’s Brewery to a maltings appears to have occurred some time between 1873 and 1883. Mechanisation and streamlining of the malting industry occurred in the mid-late 19th century, using gravity feed where possible.

“One can assume using the known historic models that the barley entered the building adjacent to the road to the north access as grain and left the building via the arched vehicular gates as malt.”

A former brew yard off Oak Street in Norwich, photographed in 1937. Picture: George PlunkettA former brew yard off Oak Street in Norwich, photographed in 1937. Picture: George Plunkett

The report goes on to explain that large parts of the site were damaged during the Second World War, on April 27, 1942, when it was struck during air raids, with several of the buildings subsequently demolished.

The site will be demolished in due course, with Norwich City Council having granted permission for 40 homes to be built back in July.

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