The Lost Pubs of Bury St Edmunds

Here is a round-up of the pubs in Bury St Edmunds.

The ‘Three Kings’ joined in the sport and chased him round a ‘Wheatsheaf’ to the ‘Suffolk Hunt’ onto ‘Cupola House’ where the ‘Red Lion’ stopped their sport. Looking for more fun a ‘Swan’ was seen near the ‘Elephant and Castle’ looking for the ‘Market Tavern’ when the ‘Old Angel’  came along and led it astray to the ‘Rutland Arms’ and sent for the ‘Shepherd and Dog’ to convey it to the ‘Railway Tavern’ to be packed up with the ‘Saracen’s Head’ and sent as a present to the ‘Cricketers’ (who were having dinner at the ‘Dog and Partridge’).

On their way, the ‘Ram’ saw the ‘Half Moon’ in the ‘Nutshell’ and did a ‘Star’ performance amongst the old curiosities, knocking down ‘Three Horse Shoes’, exploding an old ‘Cannon’ and blowing off the ‘Kings Arms’ which were sent to the ‘Joiners Arms’ to be repaired; after which he went to the ‘New Inn’ for refreshments which made him a bit lively and getting all the ‘Taps’ to join him they went to the ‘Suffolk Shades’ to empty the ‘Gallon Can’ which they did to their sorrow for the police had to send them to ‘Ipswich (Arms)’ to get sober. They were last seen near the ‘Tollgate’ singing, we are all ‘Jolly Good Fellows’ and that’s that!

Well if you counted them all and arrived at 79 you are correct. In 2019, with the re-incarnation of some of these including those that are new and consequently not mentioned there are around 21 pubs and 9 bars left in Bury St Edmunds. Four have opened and closed: the Glad Abbot, Minden Rose, Merry Go Round and The Wolf. How many of those mentioned are still with us?

Suffolk Hotel, Buttermarket

It was owned by the Everard family in the 19thC and Trust House Forte in the 20thC, having 27 bedrooms then. A double bedroom could cost you 5/- excluding meals but visitors servants would cost 7/- a day all in! The Suffolk, with a tap at the rear known colloquially as “The Suffolk Shades” was extremely popular as was the garage in High Baxter Street. The hotel was a favourite watering hole of locals through the years closing in 1996.

The White Lion, Brentgovel Street

The White Lion PH was near to the corner with Short Brackland and dated from the middle of the 18thC. Its spacious yard was used at different times by dubious ladies of the night plying their trade, heavy carrier’s wagons and market stall-holders. Along with the Focus cinema, Ethelbert Taylor’s barber shop and the premises of auctioneer Chevell Lawrence the ‘Lion’, (green paint) suffered demolition (rear shown) for the sake of Cornhill Walk in 1983. 

Griffin Hotel, Cornhill

The Griffin was a carrier’s inn when the transportation of heavy goods was carried out by horse-power. Whist owned by the Tollemache Cobbold Brewery of Ipswich their architect, John Shewel Corder, designed carved griffins for the portico in 1898.

During 1915, the Griffin landlord Theodore Jacobus, a naturalised British subject, was terrorised by a mob who thought he was German, his windows broken. One of several town centre hotels now lost, the Griffin closed in 1982.

The Minden Rose, Newmarket Road

Named after the roses plucked by victorious soldiers of the 12th Regiment of Foot (later the Suffolk Regiment) after their heroic defeat of the French at the battle of Minden in 1759.  This once successful pub served the Western Way industrial estate and Westley housing estate but suffered competition from cheaper beer prices at the club there and closure of some of the nearby factories. The Minden closed May 2012 becoming a children’s nursery in 2016.

Risbygate Brewery, 83, Risbygate Street

In the 19thC, Clarke Brothers had their brewery offices here. Then Greene King approached Harry Clark in 1917 to take over his portfolio of 28 public houses, which included the profitable wine and spirits business of Cupola House. The deal included a payment of GK stock, a place on GK’s board and running GK’s malting operation. In one fell swoop, Edward Lake, GK’s managing director had got rid of his main competitor and acquired Clarke’s expertise!

Focus 12 at no 83

Founder, Chip Somers, had been instrumental in helping controversial comedian Russell Brand kick his heroin addiction and for over twenty years Focus 12 ran a rehabilitation centre here. Despite a hefty donation by the Amy Winehouse Foundation (the 27-year old singer died from alcohol abuse) the Focus Charity closed in August 2018 after a scathing report by the Care Quality Commission. How bizarre that this building once instrumental in producing alcohol, would later help people not to over-indulge.

King William Pub aka ‘King Billy’

This beer house in Long Brackland was demolished in the 1960’s ‘slum’ clearance. Close to the town’s industrial area where coal yards, mills and the rail station provided work, back then it was looked upon as the working man’s right to a pint! A story went that visiting darts teams did not eat the sandwiches offered to them here, not through quality but for some locals it was the first real square meal of the day!

Castle Hotel

Now Superdrug on Cornhill, this ancient inn had a flying freehold with the adjacent Moyses Hall. The Castle’s extensive yard at the rear backed onto Brentgovel Street and was used by carriers and market stall holders to store their stands. One of several Greene King closures during the 1980s, today the only evidence of its former life is where the ‘shadow’ of the GK Royal Doulton plaque is on the brickwork.

Elephant & Castle

Known to most as ‘The Trunk,’ Joe and Ellen Bruton were the publicans from 1901. After her husband died in 1940 Ellen (in photo) continued as landlady until 1963, her longevity making her Greene King’s and possibly the country’s oldest serving licensee as she was well into her nineties when she passed away. Some of its patrons were great characters such as Les Freeman, the town’s last Rag & Bone man, Jimmy Dodd and ‘Ebbler’ Green. A recollection told-to me was of its regulars gathered around the public bar’s open fire on a cold winter’s day, logs were put on the fire end on, occasionally getting a kick from a boot as they burnt down. These not-so-young regulars filled out betting slips for the Harold Beeson betting shop over the road (previously ‘Darkie Doubles’), on Hellfire Corner their wagers getting more obscure as they slowly but surely got well-oiled. Not that they were any trouble, if there was it was for their singing!

On one particular cold day visit ‘Ebbler,’ sent over to the shop to put the bets on, leaned against a one-bar electric fire that sat on a bench. His greasy overcoat caught alight and he had to be thrown bodily out of the door and stamped on to put the fire out. His return to the Trunk in his charred coat was met by hoots of derision!

As was common with many pubs in the town so-called modernisation took place here, the Jug & Bottle (off-sales) lost forever. Due to austerity cuts the Elephant & Castle closed in 2012. A complete re-configuration of its interior led to the opening of Meredith Greengrass Funeral Services here.

The Priors Inn, Priors Avenue

When the Horse & Groom PH in St Andrews St South closed in 1933 the licence was transferred to the newly built Priors Inn. Architect Bill Mitchell collaborating with notable local builder H G Frost was responsible for this large pub serving the Priors Estate which had been started in 1927. The first landlord was Fred Staveley and though-out the years it was well used with the obligatory pub outings, darts and football teams.

Nothing lasts forever and in January 2014 The Priors closed. The final night was well attended as you would expect. Demolition followed along with two adjacent ‘ransom’ bungalows which allowed more access to the site. Dove Jefferey Homes of Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex then built 33 properties for the Havebury Housing Association called Perry Barn Close and Britten Place here by 2016.

The Black Boy Pub Sign

The Black Boy Inn has its origins back to 1683. During part of the 20thC it had a non-PC sign of natives surrounding a large pot with its obvious connotation. It would be replaced by a chimney sweep as per the photo and this conveyed the pub name meaning. Not so now. The current somewhat obscure sign alludes to King Charles II who was rather swarthy and nicknamed the black boy(?).

The Great Eastern Bar

When the opportunity arose to take a lease on the former station masters house, local builder Derek Manning took it. His vision was to create a restaurant & bar and after a major re-furbishment the bar opened in 1991 including a dance floor. For whatever reasons the enterprise lasted until 1995only and the venue closed. Since closure this disused and abandoned building is desperately in need of restoration.

Falcon, Out Risbygate

The Falcon opened in 1869, once having a snooker room. Popular landlord, John McKenna was ‘mine host’ for much of the latter part of the 20thC. Despite offering extended opening hours and wide screen TVs that gave sports fans what they wanted, it closed in 2012 suffering the fate of many in recent years. A plaque to regular Charlie Gorham which includes, “took his beer tankard to pastures green, aged 87” was later fixed on this former pub.

Butchers Arms, Kings Road

A 1991 photograph of the retirement celebrations at Everards function room of well-liked Butchers Arms landlord Frank Laslett and his wife Rene. On several occasions, their regulars would go on coach trips to venues such as Royal Ascot whereby a huge array of food was available on trestle tables. The Butchers once a 19thC beer house was very popular with the workers of the nearby Boby’s engineering factory but closed in 1991.