Over two decades, the landlord and landlady of a popular Norfolk pub have seen many changes and faced a number of challenges.

But on May 27, Richard and Phillippa Bond complete 20 years as main hosts at Hethersett's Queen’s Head.

Richard and Phillippa, in partnership with David Gowing from nearby Park Farm Hotel, took over the lease of the historic building, which is now owned by the Stonegate Group, in 2002 and set about turning it into a family restaurant with a major re-building programme.

Looking back, Mr Bond, who was born in Hethersett, admits that it has been 20 years of low and high points with many challenges having to be faced.

Eastern Daily Press: The Queen's Head team in the pub gardenThe Queen's Head team in the pub garden (Image: Peter Steward)

“We saw the potential of the village to have a large pub and restaurant with plenty of choice and once we made the alterations, the business took off very quickly,” he said.

“We look after our customers and have good links with the community.”

These links have included hosting groups such as a golf society and winter board games, sponsoring Hethersett Cricket Club, holding New Year’s Eve discos, raising money for charity from breakfasts and donating prizes for raffles along with supporting village events. In addition, Phillippa Bond and manager Lorraine Miller supported customers and local people in need during lockdown.

The biggest challenges for the business was lockdown and the current high level of inflation, which is bringing increased costs at a time when customers are finding their own disposable income squeezed.

Eastern Daily Press: The Queen's Head in HethersettThe Queen's Head in Hethersett (Image: Peter Steward)

“Food costs are going through the roof. The cost of chicken has risen by 50pc and then there’s increased energy costs. We cannot cut down on quality but just have to buy better, but there is no doubt that the market is volatile,” Mr Bond said, adding that customers have changed their eating and drinking habits which means the pub is empty by 10pm on weekdays.

Other challenges came with the 2005 smoking ban, which affected trade for some time and a kitchen fire which broke out on Mothering Sunday in 2003 and forced the shutdown of the pub. Even the opening of a McDonalds restaurant at Thickthorn saw a drop in the number of families eating at the Queen’s Head for a while and then there has been a number of recessions which had to be worked through.

Mr Bond is quick to point out that the success of the venue is due to the loyalty and dedication of the staff. Donna Kiddell, Claire Quantrill and Marieanne Money have worked at the Queen’s since it re-opened and manager Lorraine Miller joined the staff just 18 months later.

Today the Queen’s has a staff of 22 working either full or part-time and that includes chef Nick Shingles (seven years) and assistant chef John Ransome (14 years).

Eastern Daily Press: The Queen's Head team has weathered a number of challenges over the years having taking over the pub in 2002The Queen's Head team has weathered a number of challenges over the years having taking over the pub in 2002 (Image: Peter Steward)

He also prides himself on “providing reasonably priced food that people want and not food that we think they should have”.

Pub regular Bill Beattie has been eating or drinking at the Queen’s at least three times a week for all of the 20 years. “It is a second home for me. When my wife died it really was a lifeline. I would be lost without the pub,” said Mr Beattie, who is 88 and a proud Scot, originally from Montrose.

Eastern Daily Press: Bill Beattie enjoying a pint at the Queen's Head, HethersettBill Beattie enjoying a pint at the Queen's Head, Hethersett (Image: Peter Steward)

As a thank you to loyal customers the venue is offering 20pc off bills from May 23 to May 27 inclusive.

As for the future, Mr Bond is determined to continue doing what the venue does well: “We are in for a very hard couple of years, but we will still be here as long as we keep doing what we do well. Hethersett is continuing to expand and that should bring us more custom,” he said.

The Queen’s Head started life in the early 17th century as two adjoining cottages. Fifty years later it became a charity building for poor families and was later extended and turned into an Inn by the end of the 18th century.