Galley Ghosts

I’ve talked briefly about the Galley Hills pub previously in my Pubs, Pubs, Pubs entry but this time I’m going to write a piece solely dedicated to this beautiful old pub, mainly because I grew up in the shadow of it, partly because my mother worked there for a while and also because I just love the look of the old place.


Standing in an imposing position on the side of the hill as you emerge from the Slough, this mock-Tudor structure commands a good view over its surroundings and is one of the first things of interest you’ll notice as you enter the estate from the North West along Drayton Road.

This once grand-looking pub was completed in 1929 and was blessed with an abundance of fantastic, Tudor-themed wooden detailing. Especially interesting are the wooden half-timber framing, tall chimneys and the ornate, carved gables; a couple of which have the brewery initials “S&P” and the construction date “1929” carved into them. As well as all that lovely wooden detailing. The pub also retained its beautiful, original lead and stained glass windows – until fairly recently that is – when they were mindlessly smashed in after the pub had finally closed. These fascinating stained-glass windows bore the original brewery signature of “S&P” (Steward and Patteson), “Lounge”, “Bar”, “Ales”, “Stout”, “Wines”, “Smoke Room” and “Spirits” and it seems a great shame that they were lost in such a pointless way. These old windows had survived many bar brawls over the years as well as the destructive bombs of WW2, that also claimed many lives, homes; and countless nearby chimneys, only to be knocked in by some pointless, tracksuited plum.

1929 carving, now covered by a light


S&P Ltd carving:


Half-timbering and detailed carving


Chain detailing and date (obscured):


The Galley Hills first opened its doors to the thirsty public on the 19th November, 1929 a couple of years after the first homes on the estate had been built and this pub would have served many of the people on western side of the estate from the late 1920’s all the way up until it closed its doors (as a pub) in 2005, some 76 years later.

As for the pub’s name? This part of the Norfolk Countryside had been owned by a farming family going by the name of “Galley” long before city (county) of Norwich began to spill out over its walls and into the surrounding fields, and this is inevitably how the area – and the pub – came about their names. The original pub sign had even depicted a Roman Galley but was later changed to an image of a highwayman holding up a stagecoach with a man hanged from a set of gallows in the background on a hill as the idea of gallows began to take a foothold in local lore – there have been rumours circulating over the years that the area was named as such because of gallows being erected on the hills, but try as I might I haven’t been able to find anything to substantiate these claims. What I did find, however, is that in the 1960’s and 1970’s when the foundations for the later-added bungalows of 3, 5 and 7 (on the Northern side of Galley Hill) were being cut, a number of shallow-cut graves were found and it appears the site had previously been a graveyard of sorts. At least 9 seperate skeletons were recovered from the chalk, one of which was identified by the dental department at the West Norwich Hospital as a young woman; all of which had been buried with their heads to the West, a traditional Christian method of burial. Why were they buried here, nowhere near a church and at the foot of a prominent hill? You can see why the idea of it being a place for gallows took hold. On a personal note, a friend of mine lived at number 5 whilst I was growing up and had I known then that his house was built on top of some of these disturbed graves I wouldn’t have dared enter his house, or gone anywhere near his big TV!

“They’re here…”

Maybe I shouldn’t have been allowed to watch the original “Poltergeist” movie as a kid…

Anyway, back to the Galley Hills public house, there’s a fantastic picture taken of it on Picture Norfolk and taken just after it was built. (Just type “Galley Hill” into the search field at the top). When (and if you can be bothered to find it) here’s a picture taken from the very same spot today:


The first landlord to take on this new pub was a Mr Alfred Bailey and he ran it for the best part of 11 years, right up until the 8th October, 1940 when it was taken over by the Coultas Family. The Coultas family then ran it right up until the 6th January, 1970, a good 30 years later which was quite an impressive stint. Thankfully for us, members of the Coultas family decided it would be a good idea to take a few pictures of life inside the pub along the way and they’ve been uploaded to Flickr by Peter Coultas. His fascinating album can be found here. For those of you who can’t get on to Flickr, I’ve attached a few of the images here:

Possibly the first Landlord, Alfred Ernest Bailey


From the garden (now a car park), note the later-added canopy and the “Steward and Patteson” lighting.


Florence and Frederick Coultas, who ran the pub through most of World War 2 from 1940 to 1950. A hand-written comment on the back of the picture said: “Please excuse the broken window”. Note the white paint on the wall to help guide you into the pub during the blackouts, as well as the stained-glass windows mentioned earlier. Also, check out Fred’s fantastically 1940’s era trousers!

Here we have a a fantastic wartime scene. The uniforms are a dead giveaway to when the photograph was taken. Florence and Frederick are behind the bar with friends. Also, note the “£2 Reward” and an picture of some people assembled outside the pub on the wall.


Here’s an image of Stan and Irene Coultas, who ran the pub from 1950 to 1970 stood behind the bar in the early 1960’s. Note Stan has blinked at the most innoportune moment, something I had to deal with all the time as a wedding photographer:


Another photograph of Stan and Irene Coultas, taken this time in the late 1960’s. Note the Watneys Red Barrel mounted o the bar:


In its final years the pub was run by the Ward family until it was finally closed in 2005. It then sat unused for a short period whilst plans were floating around to either have it demolished or to have it converted into a multi-occupancy home (flats). Thankfully, neither of those two plans came to fruition and it was finally snapped up by a couple who bought the the old pub to convert it into a beauty salon named: “Strands”. The licence was kept, so alcohol was still being sold, helping the place to retain a little bit of its spirit (see what I did there?). Recently, the scissors, curling tongs and hair-dryers were unplugged for good and the the owners have now converted it into an interesting and spacious Cafe named the “Galley Cafe”. The licence is still in place, so it is still possible to go in and have an alcoholic drink, although there is currently nothing on tap, which is a shame; however, If you’re in the area and fancy a nice cup of coffee, a bite to eat or even a bottle of something alcoholic, I fully recommend you pay this beautiful old pub a visit. I’ve been in here a few times now and the owners have welcomed me in armed with my camera and were more than willing for me to create the following ghost images, blending the modern internals of the cafe with some of Peter Coultas’s fantastic images from the pub’s past:

Alfred Bailey, suspiciously eyeing the strange, bald man from the future hanging around by the fireplace:


Florence and Frederick Coultas unwittingly posing for two photographers, one of which who wasn’t born for another 30+ years. Note that the white blackout paint is still on the wall today some 72 years later:


Thanks once again for reading my ramblings,


2 thoughts on “Galley Ghosts

  1. Thank you so much for yet another insight into some interesting Norwich history, the ghost pictures send a tingle up my spine, I have drank in the Galley Hills many times, it was such a great pub, so sad so many have been lost, so many memories.

    Liked by 1 person

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