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Queen's Head - Old Norwich Road

The Queen's Head probably started life early in the seventeenth century. First as one or two adjoining cottages which were later extended round the corner by adding two more dwellings. The L-shaped building was timber-framed on its Queen's Road side which has since been rendered. Alongside the turnpike, it was built of brick or brick replacing an earlier timber frame. The high-pitched roof would have been thatched. It is one storey and attic in height and is now pantiled.

Brickwork at the front facing Norwich Road has been heavily colourwashed thus hiding its true age. The roof is hipped to the right and has a recent gable with an external stack to the left to which a leanto adjoins. There is a Victorian sawtooth cornice with dentils under at the eaves. A tripartite sash window is to the left, then a door, a sash and another door followed by a three-light transom window extending to the right corner. The attic is lit by a gabled dormer. On the Queen's Road face the transom opening is repeated at the left to give a corner window. The wall is rendered and colourwashed with a door to the right. Two raking dormers have casements. Various extensions have been made at the rear with two outshuts and a leanto.

Inside, opposite the right front, is an inglenook which is probably early although much rebuilt. There are few other features of early interest. Upstairs, wall studs and a wind brace in the right corner are visible on the Queens Road end. Butt purlins are present in the roof at the front and principal rafters are encased, probably when the dormers were installed.

In 1658 John Roope left a tenement called Jecks for charitable uses in Hethersett. This was what is now the Queen's Head. It was initially used as a building in which poor families could be housed. Three trustees were appointed to handle the financial affairs of the charity and their accounts were kept in a specific parish record called The Town House Book and from this some idea of what the trustees had to do in order to keep the building in good repair is derived.

In 1673 a great deal of work was being carried out to repair the building and these repairs suggest that quite a lot of timber needed replacing and also that some additions were being made. The mason who came from Wymondham was paid one shilling for his trouble because the trustees could not accept his estimate for the work to be done. A lot of roofing spars were bought and a ground sill seven feet long, presumably to replace a rotten one, cost one shilling and ten pence.

The yard was to be "enlarged towards the street" and the old backhouse was to have a new chimney and roof. This was quite expensive, costing five pounds fourteen shillings. The Hethersett smith was paid two shillings and tenpence for making heavy hooks for the gates into the yard. Mr. Long had a lime kiln somewhere nearby, perhaps at Eaton, where there were deep chalk workings. Lime was brought from his kiln and three bushels of hair were bought for two shillings and sixpence. Plaster was being made perhaps to re-cover the outside of the building, after repairs to the timberwork had been completed.

Even this brief excerpt shows that a lot had to be done to the building. This remained the case afterwards, so that finally the trustees decided to let the building and use the rent to help the poor of the parish. It then became a public house instead of being a poor house. Parishioners could at least feel that the profits from their drinking would help to support the poor of the village.

The rent from the Queen's Head was seventeen pounds a year when it was let to Robert Miller in the early eighteen thirties. He agreed to pay eighty pounds towards the repair of the building and the trustees agreed to pay twenty pounds. Twelve pounds of the annual rent was being used to buy eighteen coats to be allocated to selected poor persons by the trustees. In 1832 the trustees had 24.11s in their keeping. In 1854, they returned their accounts to the Clerk of the Peace for Norfolk, the equivalent of the modern chief executive. They had provided twenty greatcoats at sixteen pounds and various other pieces of clothing, but they still had a surplus of 155. The rector, Jeremy Day, kept these accounts.

Charities such as that founded by John Roope were only helping a few of the poor. A return of 1788 listed 219 poor people in the village. The population was then perhaps 650 so one person in three was categorised as poor. This large number of the poor was looked after by the overseers of the poor for Hethersett.

The Queen's Head shut for renovation in the year 2002 and re-opened as a family restaurant in May 2002 with a large extension to the back of the building.