This large former coaching inn is located at the town’s market place and was the last of the pubs that Julian and I were visiting in the day. It has been a hospitality venue since the middle of the seventeenth century and was historically a Bullards and then Watney Mann pub. I was pleased to note that the pub owners, Colchester Inns, have prepared a history of the venue for their web-site which is something that I always appreciate.
The pub’s name has given them some publicity recently, with the owners saying they would reflect on the matter if the local community and their customers felt that they should. That seems a sensible position to me, although I’m staying out of anything too controversial in that regard. With regards to the history of the venue’s name, the pub states:
“We believe the pub was named after King Charles II, who was nicknamed The Black Boy on account of his black hair and swarthy complexion”.
The heritage here is undeniable, with parts of the building dating back to the late fifteenth century. It’s said that visitors to the pub have included Princess Victoria, Horatio Nelson and Daniel Defoe, which seems an interesting collection of figures to be proud of. It was a popular coaching inn during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, providing accommodation and sustenance for those travelling between Norwich and Cromer.
One book that I recommend is “The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford and Cromer Road: Sport and history on an East Anglian Turnpike”. They note about the Black Boys:
“The Black Boys owes its existence on this scale to the near neighbourhood of Blickling Hall, perhaps the most famous mansion in Norfolk and certainly the most beautiful and stately. Blickling is scarce a mile distant, and is so small a village that it must have been to Aylsham in general, and to the Black Boys in particular, the custom fell in those old days when the Hobarts of Blickling Hall entertained so royally.”
There were four different real ales available, the most we saw in the town, with the offering including Wherry from Woodfordes, Doom Bar from Sharps, Adnams Bitter and ThreeOneSix from Grain.
Those just wanting a drink are welcome in the venue, but it is primarily a restaurant in terms of its set-up and the aroma on entry suggested quite a strong seafood offering. The prices are towards the higher end of the scale, priced at a level that we felt was too expensive for us and that’s why we were pleased to see Stamp next door offering something a little more affordable. However, the on-line reviews are very positive, so the quality of the food offering seems high, likely meaning that they must be doing an awful lot right.
Julian and I were unsure about the flooring in such an historic venue, I’m wondering what’s underneath that artificial looking wood effect flooring, perhaps some original wooden floorboards? The interior was clean though with the atmosphere feeling relaxed and comfortable, everything seemed polished and organised.
A few heritage touches were still visible.
I went for the ThreeOneSix from Grain Brewery, a well kept golden ale which tasted as I expected.
This felt like a very well run venue and the on-line reviews for food and accommodation are high. It seems to be aiming for a relatively wealthy demographic and it was busy when we visited, so they seem to be hitting that target effectively. The service was friendly and warm, with a team member coming to check at the table if we’d like to order food. There were no issues that we weren’t, but there didn’t seem to be an appropriate bar area to sit in.
It wasn’t quite what I expected from the venue, which I thought would still have more of a pub atmosphere to it, but it was still welcoming and I liked the choice of four different real ales. The accommodation offering seems reasonably priced and I can imagine that those staying do get more of a sense of the pub’s history and heritage.