Victoria Inn, Repps Road

Victoria Inn, Repps Road. Horace Bracy’s invalid chair in its usual place outside the pub

Known locally as the Queen Vic the Victoria Inn has been in business from the mid 1840’s and may have opened as the Trowel & Hammer which it was recorded as in 1851.

When the Inn opened it was a beer house before gaining a full licence. Beer houses were created by the 1830 Beer Act, when the government tried to create a free market in beer. Before that fully licenced pubs were regulated by local magistrates, who had wide-ranging powers to grant and revoke licenses. Beer houses, on the other hand, were controlled by the Excise Department. As long as a few basic conditions were met, beer house licences were granted automatically. Unsurprisingly, the number of pubs rocketed after 1830. Many beer houses literally consisted of just a room or two in a house and could start up in business without being subject to local control by magistrates.

In 1869, control of beer house licensing was given back to local magistrates, who set about closing as many as they could. This aggressive policy of reducing the number of licences spurred the growth of the tied public house. The Victoria Inn was tied to the brewers Steward and Patteson*. Many beer houses were closed because of their poor facilities-some even lacked toilets. The lucky ones, like the Victoria, had their licences upgraded which was a real bonanza for the owner since a fully licenced pub was worth four or five times as much as a beer house.

The earliest record of a licensee is James Wright in 1846. He was born in about 1789 in Ringland, Norwich and was married to Mary Boulton in 1810. Interestingly James was listed in White’s business directory as early as 1836 as a bricklayer in Martham. James & Mary were then listed as living in Repps Road in the 1841 census when James was still a bricklayer but their home was not named as a pub and nor were any others so it seems the Victoria Inn as such did not exist at that time.  At the time of the 1842 Martham Tithe Award we get further insight as James was listed as the owner of plot No47 which was in Repps Road and consisted of a house and garden measuring one rod. Below is a copy of the 1842 Tithe Award map from which you can see plot42 with its rather irregular outline.

1942 Tithe Award map showing plot 47

On plot No47 there is a dwelling facing Repps Road which would have been where James & Mary lived but there is another building at the back of the plot in exactly the same position that Bottle Hall Cottages are today. The Inn itself may have been purpose built by the brewers Stewart & Patteson* or an extension built on James Wright’s house which he had already started to use as a beer house before the brewery came along. It is quite clear from photos that the Inn was built in two halves at different times. What is known is that James became the first official licensee and in 1846 he was also listed in Kelly’s Directory as being both a bricklayer and beer house keeper; and similarly in Hunt’s Directory of 1850.  James and his wife were still there in 1851 when the census actually named it the Trowel & Hammer. Again, James was listed as a beer house keeper & bricklayer in the 1854 Kelly’s Directory.

1851 census return showing the Trowel & Hammer at entry No6.

Mary Wright died in October 1861 and James died in 1863, aged 74. They are buried together at St Mary the Virgin.

The next landlord, from 1863 was Martin Hindrey who was also listed in White’s business directory in 1864 as being a beer house keeper. He was a former farmer from Ingham and stayed at the Inn until 1865.

Edward & Martha Youngs held the licence from 1868 to 1875. Edward was listed in the Post Office Directory of 1869 as a beer retailer and builder. He was also listed in the 1871 census as a bricklayer and publican. It was probably him that built Bottle Hall Cottages in 1871 that you can read more about by clicking HERE. He came from Moulton and Martha was born in Repps. They retired to Rollesby Road where Edward had a smallholding. They are buried together at St Mary the Virgin.

The next landlords occupied the Inn for about 56 years as a family business. They were Robert & Sofia Pitchers and one of their son’s William. Robert came from Saxlingham, Norfolk and Sofia was from Somerton. Their son, William, was born in Martham in 1870.

Robert Pitchers was recorded as a beer retailer of Repps Lane (Road) in 1877 & 1879 & 1883 according to Kelly’s Directory. Robert died in 1890 and his wife, Sofia, took over the pub licence. She was listed in Kelly’s Directories of 1890 & 1892 & 1896 as a beer retailer. Robert, Sofia and their children were listed in the 1881 census with Robert as a licensed victualler but the Inn was not named. Sofia died in 1900. Both Robert & Sofia are buried together at St Mary’s.

Sofia’s son William took over from his mother when he was about 30 years of age so had probably worked at the Inn for several years. He had married Alice Smart in 1894 in Norwich.

Victoria Inn c1903 showing landlord William Pitchers

William & Alice were recorded in the 1901 & 1911 census returns in which the Victoria Inn is actually named and William was the licenced victualler. William also appears in the 1904 & 1912 versions of Kelly’s Directories as a beer retailer. William remained there until 1933 when he retired.

Percy Allan Smith took over the Inn in 1933. He lived there with his wife, Ellen, and son Oliver. They were only there a few years before Percy became the licensee of The Ship Inn, Pier Walk, Gorleston on 5th February 1937.

Victoria Inn c1950

Benjamin Fitt followed Percy Smith as the licensee from January 1937 and he was listed in Kelly’s Directory of that year as being there as well as being recorded in the licensees list. Benjamin married Mildred Hodds at St Mary the Virgin on 1st January 1923. It seems that he stayed as the landlord for a long time until he died at the Inn in 1980.

Darren Howlett was recorded at being the licensee in 2011.

Victoria Inn c2018

It is advisable to read the pages on the Star Inn and Bottle Hall Cottages in association with this page.

*The Victoria Inn was a pub tied to Stewart & Patteson brewers that was founded in Norwich. The brewery was founded in 1793 when Charles Greeves sold his brewery to John Patteson. In 1794, John purchased the Great Yarmouth Brewery from William & James Fisher, which included 17 public houses. That same year, he purchased another brewery from James Beevor, and the following year, another from Jehosophat Postle. The public houses owned by John Day also came into his possession.
In 1820, a new partnership of Steward, Patteson & Stewards was formed, consisting of five partners: John Staniforth Patteson, the son of John;  William Steward; Ambros Harboard Steward; Timothy Steward Sr. and Timothy Steward Jr.
John Patteson died in 1832, and his son John Staniforth Patteson followed in 1833.
In 1837 the business was merged with the brewery of Peter Finch, the company then became Steward, Patteson, Finch & Co.
In 1840 John Staniforth Pattesons son Henry Staniforth Patteson went into business with George Morse and the Stewards and a new company Steward, Patteson & Stewards and George Morse was formed with an agreement to run for ten years.
By 1901, John Patteson’s great grandson Henry Tywhitt Staniforth Patteson was director.
The company survived well into the 20th Century and by 1961, was described as being one of the largest non-metropolitan breweries in the country.
By the early 1970s, the company had been facing financial difficulties and by 1974 most of the breweries belonging to the company had been demolished.


My thanks and appreciation to the website owners of www.norfolkpubs.co.uk for some of the above information.

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