The day the music died at former Norwich Ferry Boat pub

The Ferry Boat Inn on King Street.

The Ferry Boat Inn on King Street. - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHI

It is a glorious opportunity to give the oldest and longest street in Norwich the boost it so richly deserves... King Street has been kicked in the teeth once too often.

Thompson Ferry next to the Ferry Boat Inn.

Thompson Ferry next to the Ferry Boat Inn. - Credit: Archant

'Progress' has not been kind to this once bold and boisterous thoroughfare where the Romans walked, and one of the landmarks is the dear old Ferry Boat public house which sits, rotting and decaying, beside the Novi Sad Friendship Bridge.

Motty Warminger and bar staff behind the bar at the Ferry Boat pub in the 1950s.

Motty Warminger and bar staff behind the bar at the Ferry Boat pub in the 1950s. - Credit: Archant

For too long it was been boarded up and abandoned while many people walk by... and remember the good times.

There have been many of them in this once wonderful old watering hole which could now to be given the chance to play a role in 21st-century Norwich life.

It used to be called the Steam Packet and back in 1884 there were three of them open in the city centre, two in King Street which runs from Tombland to Bracondale.

A steam packet was a ship that sailed a regular route between two routes and in the late 1800s one travelled from Norwich to Bramerton Woods End and on to other resorts.

This Steam Packet can be traced back to the 1820s. The name changed to the Ferry Boat Inn a century later because the landlord, William Thompson, operated a ferry service across the Wensum. He was also a renowned boat builder.

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In those days the river was at the heart of Norwich manufacturing life. It was a busy waterway and King Street was one of the most densely populated parts of the city.

A famous landlady who ran the house from the Second World War for around three decades was Mottie Warminger. She was one of the great characters of busy King Street which was packed with courts and yards in those days.

'Fag Ash Lil' played the piano in the long room at the back on a Sunday lunch-time when the place would be packed.

Mottie was said to have presided over the bar with 'queenly grace' until the ripe old age of 84.

It closed for a while after her death and when it re-opened a stuffed cat was found. The story goes it was to guard the chimney breast.

People enjoyed all kinds of music at the Ferry Boat over the years – from jazz to heavy metal. And it was a important venue for new, young bands.

Re-development of the Riverside area resulted in some of the newcomers complaining about the noise.

In 2006 the Grade II listed building was closed for refurbishment. Giving a 'boat community' the opportunity to take over the grounds for a time.

It never re-opened and plans to turn it into a hostel for backpackers have now been abandoned and the Ferry Boat is back on the market – at around £575,000.

As for the future... only time will tell.

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