The Black Swan was the third pub that Julian and I visited on our little day trip to North Walsham. It’s a Stonegate pub where they’re currently looking to recruit a new landlord who wants to pay £30,000 per year to rent this venue. It has been a pub since 1794 (although oddly, it doesn’t seem to be a listed building) and is a former coaching inn, but it has gone through several different landlords over recent years and some periods of closure. As Julian would say, it’s sub-optimal for the venue and its sustainability.
That tenancy only rental figure seemed ridiculously high to me for a back street pub in North Walsham, but they also own a separate function room area which is this building on the left. Having thought about it since, that rental figure does present an opportunity for a landlord because of the revenue that they could generate from the function room facility, it’s an interesting proposition but still a hugely challenging one. The problem here is that Stonegate are ripping too much money out of this building for it to have a truly sustainable future, I suspect it’s in danger of being lost as a pub in the medium to long term.
This was the worst selection of the day, no attempt at either draft real ale or craft beer in any shape or form. The service was polite and the prices were towards the lower end of the scale, which seemed to be its main selling point. This is also the only venue of the day that we visited that I wouldn’t personally have felt comfortable taking a child, the environment was more focused on drinking.
I liked the heritage of the bar itself, advertising wines, spirits, mineral water, tobacco and cigars, it’s the only heritage element that was still visible.
There was a little wildlife corner.
He was generally quiet but made some interesting gaming machine noises which he’s picked up.
This is John Smiths, slightly under-poured and in an incorrectly branded glass, but it tasted as it was meant to. Uninspiring though.
As a bit of history, a visit to Norfolk Pubs History is always recommended and they tell this story:
“On the night of 12th August 1858, an itinerant accordion player, named Scales drank threepenny-worth of gin and retired to his lodgings in the Black Swan. Unfortunately he got the wrong room and upon being woken by the rightful occupier, the ostler of the Inn, he grabbed the hair of the ostler, bit him and cried out `Murder! Murder!’ This attracted the landlord, Mr. Palmer, who along with others in the house, separated the two. Once the mistake had been explained, all appeared to be settled, but after a few minutes another disturbance was heard. Scales had broken through the roof and fled, with nothing on but his shirt. A search ensued and at five o’clock in the morning he was detained by Superintendent Scott. Ascertaining that Scales had come from Lowestoft, he was taken there, but nobody `owned’ him so he was returned to North Walsham and on Monday 16th August taken to Thorpe Asylum.”
Sounds an interesting night out. But, back to today, and this doesn’t feel like the pub is at its full trading capacity. However, the welcome was friendly, but I suspect it’s going to need to develop a stronger offering if it’s going to pay that massive rent from Stonegate.