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Norwich A Port

& Associated Pubs


2. The Project :  3. The Failure :  4. The Hype   6. . . . and Keels :  7. Steam Packets & Barges

1. : The Port

Until the mid- to late- 20th Century,
the Port of Norwich
was a commercial reality; invigorated by the
building of the new  Lifting Bridge  at Carrow;
opened by the Prince of Wales in June 1923.
Vessels used the rivers Yare and Wensum to
bring goods from the harbour at Gt. Yarmouth.

Both the  Kingsway  and   Jolly Maltsters
profited greatly from the new bridge, being
on opposite sides of the new approach road.
The Kingsway was a complete 1930's re-build
of the  Cellar House,  and the Jolly Maltsters
was greatly modified pre-WWII.

But our primary purpose is to introduce the
concept of a  second  route to the Port,
which was a much earlier venture -
but one doomed to failure.

2. : The Project

Alderman Crisp Brown  introduced his plan in
1814, on the basis that ocean-going ships
could not get as far as Norwich, and goods were
having to be transferred to smaller  "wherries"
(see 5. below) before they left Yarmouth.
In addition to transfer costs, there were
harbour dues and pilfering problems.

He suggested an improved route,
navigable all the way from Yarmouth.
Predictable opposition from that quarter
led to a different scheme using Lowestoft -
where a new harbour was to be constructed.

However, it was not until 1827, after much costly
dispute, that Parliament approved the plans of
"Norwich & Lowestoft Navigation".

We might note that, long after the project failed,
measures to allow vessels (albeit moderately-
sized) to sail  direct  from Yarmouth Harbour
were shown to be practicable.
Presumably, the  eight-feet  draught demanded
by Crisp Brown was achieved by dredging.

3. : The Failure

The new Lowestoft harbour was eventually built,
presumably with the title of  "Clarence", as
commemorated by the  Clarence Harbour
pub - not far from the Port itself.
The Duke of Clarence had become
King William IV in 1830.

The waterway was opened, too;
but not until 30th September 1833.
Thereafter few ships ever made use of the
facility (including a ship-canal across Reedham
marshes) and the overall result was a sorry
commercial fiasco.

The opening of the Norwich - Yarmouth railway
in 1844 must surely have delivered the
coup de grace.
The first record of the said pub was in 1842.

4. : The Hype

During the 20 or so years involved, much
excitement and enthusiasm was aroused
regarding the bright future of the Port
(i.e. by-passing the vested interests
in the Port of Yarmouth ).

In addition to the  Clarence Harbour,
one other pub in the Carrow area was called
Norwich - A Port; and similar names
(e.g.  Port of Norwich ) appeared within
the more  central  area of the City, at
Bridewell Alley, Thorn Lane and Union Place.
See the  Index page   for these pubs.

 

5. : The Wherries

As has been noted above, the wherries
eventually lost out, even without the help of
Alderman Crisp Brown. They were able to
operate in only three or four feet of water.

Although such craft are now just part of sailing
history, several pub names have commemorated
their one-time vital importance to the City's trade.
The  Beaconsfield Arms   was demolished,
re-built and renamed  The Wherry
as recently as 1974.
A rather famous city-centre  establishment
had earlier re-opened in April 1964.

6. : . . . and Keels

The development of larger Wherries slowly
displaced the keels - the latter used as early as
1686, although some lasted until 1854 at least.
But they were slower, heavier and less handy,
and were well in decline by the 1830's.

A pub called the  Keel   existed in King Street,
in St. Peter (Parmentergate) parish, and was
listed between 1763 and 1811.
It does not seem to be connected to the
Three Keelmen  or  Keelmen  listed in
St. Etheldreda parish in 1760 and 1763.

A pub called the  Wherry,   listed by Arderon,
was lower down in King Street; and the name
was changed by 1839 to the  Keel and Wherry
- possibly from nostalgia ?

A school of thought says that the  Old Barge
(see below) was previously called
the  Three Merry Wherrymen.

7. : Steam Packets and Barges

Another type of vessel, used for leisure trips,
was the steamboat or "packet".
By 1813 these were taking passengers
to and from Great Yarmouth.

Sadly, a boiler explosion occurred in one case
in 1817 - which was not good for business !.

Their popularity can be gauged by the number
of pubs  so named  : three or four in the vicinity
of the river (King Street) and one - the
London Steam Packet  - on the top of the hill
at St. Catherine's Plain.

Prior to that, in 1802, two  barges  were making
regular trips to Gt. Yarmouth (either powered
by sail, or horse-drawn**) .
Both gave their names to pubs in King Street :-

  • the  Old Barge   departed from
        the aptly-named "Wherry Staithe", while
  • the  New Barge  - perversely -
        left from the "Old Staithe".

**
  The  Horse Packet,   by "upper" King Street -
  forerunner of one of the  Steam Packets -
  seems to have been a conscious Luddite
  response (1822) to the new (and dangerous?)
        Age of Steam.


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