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King's Head Public House - Old Norwich Road

The King's Head began life at the beginning of the seventeenth century as a manorial messuage or cottage belonging to Hethersett Cromwells. It was built in three stages fronting the turnpike and as far as can be traced carried its present name from about 1650. All brickwork is in Flemish bond which is now colourwashed and the roof is pantiled. By the nature of its trade a number of door and window openings have been blocked and remade over the centuries.

The original building to the left is early seventeenth century. It was a single cell property having a cellar, two storeys and attic with its end gable supporting a stack and parapet. Dwellings of this build and period are sometimes referred to as tower houses suggesting a property confined to a small plot. A tripartite sash window under a segmental arch is in the centre with a modern casement above. The large inglenook inside has to its right, on the original rear wall, a window opening protected with diamond iron bars. Identical ovolo moulded beams with nicked lamb's-tongue stops bridge the floors at both levels. A similar beam bridges the cellar. Early stairs left of the stack on the first floor lead to the attic where staggered butt purlins, wind braces and high collars are exposed.

Build two, to the right c. 1700, is of two bays and one storey and attic. There is a centre door, a sash opening to the left and a three light casement with pintle hinges to the right. Both dormers have modern casements. Three beams with chamfers bridge the ground floor.

The third single storey build to the right, dating a little later, has a door and tripartite sash and a coped end gable with platband. Extensive building at the rear and left is modern.

Legend has it that the King's Head was an alehouse in 1650. In an abstract of title to this property, the name Thomas Chickering appears, suggesting that he was the occupier of the pub prior to 1689. The earliest recorded copyhold ownership of the "Publick House called the King's Head in Hethersett" was in 1689, when Thomas Weeting and Judith his wife surrendered (sold) it to Ambrose Money. The property then passed in turn to Roger Gallard, and in 1704 to Thomas Randall, a rich Wymondham brewer. In 1739, one of his grandsons, the Rev. Randall Burroughes, became the copyholder, the pub being occupied by Sayer Ninn. In 1780, John Stephenson Cann, who had established a brewery at Wymondham became the owner. A faded, folded, and fragile piece of paper, dated 1796-1803, lists sales of beef, mutton, veal, suet and capons "to Mr. Hewitt, late of the King's Head, Hethersett," from Matthew Coggle, a Wymondham butcher. The Wymondham Brewery continued as owners.

William Robert Cann, the owner in 1824 set out to seek partners in the business. The pub is described in an indenture as having "outhouses, garden and orchard .... in the occupation of - BLAKE." A pencil sketch of the pub, by B. S. Norgate, is held in an album at the Castle Museum, Norwich, dated 1825.

In 1845, Thomas Scrivenor is named as "Victualler King's Head". A victualler was a person who supplied provisions, and a licensed victualler was "an innkeeper who is allowed to sell spirits, wines, etc."

In the 1840's, the inns were the social centres of the villages. Local benefit societies held their monthly meetings and annual dinners there. Under the landlordship of William Ford, a benefit society and a Lodge of the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows, met at the King's Head in 1854, but there is no mention of either at a later date at this location.

A decade on, Cann's Brewery had become Cann & Clarke, with landlord Thomas Grounds in charge at the King's Head. Thirty years later, Morgan's of Norwich were the owners, with William Charles Willimott, recorded as the landlord in 1845 Waggoners, sometimes their passengers, people on horseback, pedlars and pedestrians would all use the pub on their way to and fro between local villages and towns. Contrary to popular assumption, there is no evidence that the pub was a coaching inn. A covered outhouse at the back was known as the stables, complete with hitching rail, but it is unlikely that change horses would have been stabled there, so open to the elements.

Some shelter would have been provided by this canopy for the occasional horse, and drivers carried nose-bags of feed for their horses. An early twentieth-century photograph, shows a fishmonger in his cart, with his horse drinking from the wooden trough outside the pub. Horse troughs could still be seen around the country until the 1950's.

Another feature of village life was the bowls club. Many country pubs had a green where bowls were played regularly. At the King's Head there was such a club and, in 1930, Lt. Col. F. R. Boileau donated a sterling silver cup, assayed in Birmingham in 1928, to be played for as a men only, singles competition. It was first presented in 1930, but it is 1973 before the next name follows, by which time the Second World War had intervened. The club had then moved to the Memorial Playing Field and taken a new name. J.H. Curson, the blacksmith at the smithy just along the turnpike from the pub was the proud first winner of this cup. It continues to be played for to this day.

Breweries and their tied public houses have always had a chequered history, and so it was that in 1961 the King's Head was acquired by Bullard & Sons. More change lay ahead, and by 1985 the pub belonged to Watney Mann.

The King's Head is now owned by the Unique Pub Company. The pub sign shows Henry VIII. Once every summer, Morris dancers, known as Kemp's Men, entertain the customers. The occasional barbecue is also held, usually at weekends. A ladies' darts team, a mixed cribbage team and three car clubs meet regularly at the pub. It continues to provide food, drink, comfort and amiable company all year round. Today the licensees are Trevor and Cath Seaman.