Mile Cross and it’s surroundings is – or was – home to a number of pubs, 10 in total; most of which existed before the creation of the estate.
Two of these pubs however, were created along with the estate and in my eyes that makes them the ‘proper’ Mile Cross pubs.
Seeing as it’s closer to home, I’ll start with the Galley Hills:
Originally opened by the Steward and Patteson brewery in 1929 the Galley Hills Public House stands proud in the fork of the road between Drayton Road and Galley Hill. Built in a neo-Tudor style and with mock timber framework it looks quite striking from it’s elevated hillside position.
There are quite a few theories floating around about the origin of the pub name, the most famous of which refers to Gallows being placed somewhere on the old hills. This story is most likely folklore based on upon varied stories about remains of Gallows being found somewhere on the hills in the 1950’s. I’ve been unable to find anything in writing to back up these tales and – for now – take them with a pinch of salt. Please get in touch with me if you know any more. The pub’s original sign is said to have depicted a Roman Galley and the name most likely came from the Galley family who owned parts of the land here long before the estate was built.
Like a lot of other pubs in the city, it’s no longer a pub; however, it does still have an alcohol license and it is temporarily running as a posh Café. It’s currently up for sale for the best part of £700,000 so there’s still the possibility that – with a good business plan – it could come back to life as a pub or restaurant in the near future. I’ll be keeping an eye on it to see how it all pans out. I would love to see this become a successful pub again, but times have changed for this type of business and you have to do something unique to stand out. Maybe I should go and have a word with my bank manager…
The pub was finally closed in 2003 and put up for sale. A company called “Strands” bought it before converting the premises into a Beauty Salon. As a result lot of the pubs internal and external features were modified significantly. Downstairs in the Bar and Lounge most of the internal walls were knocked through and the bar disappeared. The lovely old flint walls were made taller in the name of security with a rather unsympathetic course of bricks slapped on top, the original metal fencing was disposed of and various extensions were added or modified. The large Beer garden was gravelled over to form a car park. Up until it closed the pub had some fantastic Steward & Patteson lead and stained-glass windows which somehow managed to survive the blitz and many bar brawls over the years, but unfortunately these were senselessly destroyed during some pointless dispute shortly after the pub had ceased trading, which is a shame.
I spent a lot of time in or around this pub as a child and could probably talk for hours about it but I’ll stick to a couple of memories:
My mother had a part time job as a barmaid in the pub for a while and on one particular evening I remember a nasty set of events unfolding. A rather drunk man had been causing trouble in the pub and was asked to leave, he was refusing to do so and continued being rather nasty to my mother. Unbeknown to the man my dad was also drinking at the bar quietly watching the whole thing unfold. He tells me he was trying his best to rise above it as this man continued to push and push, saying some nasty and inappropriate things. Something in my dad snapped. He quietly got up from his seat with his pint of beer and smashed it down upon this man’s head. The man was unfazed by this and my dad picked up this mans pint glass and crashed that one onto his head too. Luckily the rest of the pub quickly intervened and they were both separated before being taken to hospital with nasty cuts. I’ll never forget that. I often bring it up with dad and I’m glad to say he’s still not proud about it. It just goes to prove that drink and emotions can make people do some very stupid things.
Another memory I have is of an old Labrador cross-type mongrel I had chosen from the RSPCA dogs home a bit further down Drayton Road when I was in Dowson first school. She was called Sally and after a while she would sit by the door until we let her out. She would take herself for a walk around the block before scratching on the door to be let back in. Occasionally, if the Pub door was open she would also take herself into the pub and eat all the ash out of the ashtrays. I don’t know why.
Sometimes – if she was lucky enough – one of the locals would buy her a packet of ready salted crisps, open up the packet for her to eat off the floor and then she’d be off out the door again to finish off her walk. How times have changed since the early 1980’s.
A few years back I was contacted by a nice chap who’s parents had run the pub from 1940 up until 1970 and he kindly shared some of the family’s fantastic images of life in the pub on his Flickr page. There are some great shots in there and they’re well worth a look.
The other pub born with the estate was the Boundary Inn.Built in 1928, again in the usual neo-Tudor style of the time, this pub sits at the Northern end of the Aylsham and Boundary Roads. Presumably the Pub name came from it’s location or because it was built by one of the City’s remaining Stone boundary cross. The Marker, also known as “The Whyte-Crosse” and “St Faiths Cross” was knocked over and smashed by a truck in the 1950’s, so it was decided to relocate it away from the busy junction and closer to the pub for it’s own safety. Considering all they had left of the shattered Boundary marker to move was the base, this was a case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted! The base now sits to the left of the main entrance to the bar (see above).
The Boundary Inn was built on, or very close, to the site of a former Toll-House that had since been decommissioned after the Fakenham and Aylsham Roads were dis-turnpiked in 1876.
A picture of the Toll house can be found by clicking the link.
Interestingly (or not) the Reepham and Cromer Roads split before they crossed what is now the ring road and that is why Aylsham Road is now so wide here and some of you might remember the site being a large roundabout before the overly-complicated boundary junction was introduced.
Both this Pub and its younger sibling, the former Galley Hills are on the local conservation list for their historical and architectural importance, so both should be with us in one form or another for some time yet. The Boundary has remained open to public since the day it opened almost 90 years ago.
There were another 8 pubs in the area and if you take a walk back down Aylsham Road you would have come to another pub of interest: the Mile Cross Inn.
This attractive-looking pub would no doubt have been saved had it still been around today. Unfortunately we weren’t as sympathetic to heritage back in the 1960’s as we are now and it was demolished to make way for housing in 1969. Part of its boundary wall randomly avoided the destruction and it can still be seen today, below (note the ivy-covered ball sat on top of the pillar):It was said that the inquest to the death of a local Pastor named Thomas Wigg Hancock has held here in 1824.
If we carry on a bit further down the road we stumble upon another pub sitting just outside the estate’s boundary: The Windmill. This site has been home to various Ale-houses dating all the way back to 1830, but the current building was built in 1927, again in a mock-Tudor style that was popular at the time. It’s obvious that this pub has been named after the two nearby windmills that no longer exist and I will be talking about those later.
If we carry on our imaginary pub crawl through the area we might as well make a stop in at the nearby Lacon Arms (1922-2006, now a house) situated on the corner of Junction Road and Shorncliffe Avenue.
We leave here and head back out onto Aylsham road to head further south until we get to the King Edward VII (1902 -2014, currently sat derelict).From here we can cross the road and take a little shortcut down Ropemakers Row to get to the Ropemakers Arms/James I (1854-2008, now housing – the front and rear walls are all that survive of the original building).
If we stagger out of here and hang a right back up the Drayton Road we will (hopefully) reach the Manor House/Maxwells (1927-1993, Now a Lidl).
After emerging – bleary eyed – from Maxwells/Lidl (ironically, I now buy quite a bit of Ale from here) we now have the choice of heading either North or South along Mile Cross Road to our next pub.
Seeing as I’ve had a few imaginary beers I’m going to let gravity take me South down Mile Cross Road and over the river to the nearby (and fascinating) old pub: The Gibraltar Gardens:
This pub can be dated as back as far as the early 1700’s, but the building goes back even further; all the way to the 1500’s when it was the home of a Flemish Weaver. It was later said to be used as a wine store for the Nearby Bishops Palace (Later The Dolphin Public House). This old building is steeped with history and definitely worth a visit. Seeing as we’ve strayed over into Heigham , I’m going to stagger back over the water into the relative safety of the Mile Cross and up the hill to finish my digital pub-crawl at the Kings Arms.
I covered this pub in more detail in this earlier post but it was open from 1938 -1999, before being demolished in 2016. I did get in there before the demolition crew and will now end this long and winding blog post with these two images from inside:
The first is an image of the bar before and after closure ghosted in to one image:
And the second is of this amazing live projection of the street onto the wall in an upstairs room:
Thanks once again for reading,