Norwich is blessed with a wealth of hostelries to quench the thirst and chew the cud, but few are as famous as the Gardener’s Arms on Timberhill, one of the last family-owned pubs in the city. Partly dating back to the Seventeenth Century, the traditional ale house is stuffed with oldee worldee nooks and crannies, knotty oak beams and exposed brickwork. Its fame derives from an infamous past. The Gardener’s Arms might be the pub’s licensed name but, for years, it’s been known locally as the Murderers. Why? Because after closing time one late night in 1895, Frank Miles battered his estranged wife with a hammer and left poor Mildred for dead. Handy Frankie should have swung for his dastardly deed but the case attracted huge public sympathy and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. What had the luckless Millie done to deserve such a sticky end? Apparently, she was seen with another man. Oh, that’s alright then.
If you’re passing Timberhill, be sure to pop in for a pint of real ale and admire the murder theme posted on every wall (Dr Crippin, Lizzie Borden, Bonnie and Clyde, Ruth Ellis to name but a few). I’d avoid the big screen soccer nights, though. The beautiful game murders civilised conversation.
St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’ Halls (known collectively as ‘The Halls’) is a 13th century medieval complex at the end of our street and the best preserved friary in England. The riot of sturdy buttresses, hammer beams and Gothic arches is one of the ‘Norwich 12‘ – a list of the most iconic buildings in the city. When Henry VIII decided to strip the Catholic Church of all its power and wealth, the friary was dissolved, the friars were cast out into the cold and the buildings were put up for sale. They were saved by the intervention of the Mayor of Norwich who took them off fat Harry’s hands for £81, pledging to use the halls “…for the good of the citizens, for fairs and feasting.” The Halls have been used for secular knees-ups ever since. Carrying on the 450 year old party tradition, St Andrew’s Hall has just played grand host to the Norwich Beer Festival, a six day piss-up sponsored by the Norwich and Norfolk branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Real ales are for real males judging by the herd of nerds in knitwear corralled outside a side door having a quick fag before resuming their drunken orgy and sucking the kegs dry. I was so fascinated by the species that I walked straight into a lamp post and nearly knocked myself out. And I was the sober one. Cheers!