|All Saints Church, Swanton Morley|
My interest in the village dates back to the early 90’s, when my parents moved there from Kent, following my father’s retirement from the Royal Mail. I obviously made regular visits to this Norfolk village, following their relocation there, but over the course of the past four months these visits intensified as my mother’s health deteriorated. Sadly she passed away at the end of February, but I have been back up to Norfolk several times since then to visit dad and check up on how he is coping with living on his own.
The most recent visit was last weekend, and I am pleased to report he is looking better than I have seen him for a long time; this I despite the Alzheimer’s which is starting to play havoc with his short term memory. What I want to write here though is a piece about Swanton Morley’s two pubs, particularly as I was able to visit them both on my most recent trip. This is something I have not done for a long time, so it was good to renew my acquaintance with them both.
Swanton Morley is a classic example of a liner village; that is it is long on drawn out. At one end is 14th-century All Saints Parish Church, a large “wool church”, typical of many in East Anglia, built as a statement to demonstrate the wealth of the area, which was derived from the wool trade. Just down the hill from the church is Darby’s, a pub which was originally a pair of 18th century farm cottages, before being converted into a pub in 1988. It is named after Ann Darby, the last person to farm from the site.. At the other end of the village is the close, where my parents’ bungalow is situated, and it is at this end that the 17th Century Angel Inn can be found.
|Darby's Freehouse, Swanton Morley|
Darby's is a typical Norfolk building, and the pub retains many features of the original farmhouse, such as exposed brick walls and an inglenook fireplace. There are tractor seats for barstools, farming memorabilia and plenty of stripped-pine tables and chairs which help create a real rustic feel. I arrived at around half twelve, before the pub started to get really busy. I grabbed a table close to the door, but not before I’d perused the range of beers on offer and ordered myself a pint.
Back in 2009, after being intrigued by the presence of Lacon’s emblems on a variety of buildings dotted around the Yarmouth area, Mick Carver, managing director of Lowestoft-based drinks distributor JV Trading, started work to secure the rights to the Lacon’s name and associated intellectual property. After negotiations with Whitbread’s successors, AB InBev, he succeeded in this aim, and was also able to obtain the brewery's original yeast strains which had been stored at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures in Norwich, for nearly half a century.
A modern brewery was set up, nestled within a historic courtyard. It was named the new Falcon Brewery, after Lacon’s iconic falcon emblem. Acclaimed head brewer Wil Wood was recruited and worked alongside William Lacon, son of the last Lacon family member to work at the brewery, in order to create an exciting range of handcrafted ales using the original Lacon’s yeast.
The brewery was relaunched at the Norwich City of Ale Festival and Great Yarmouth Beer and Cider Festival in May 2013. Three new permanent beers were launched: Encore, Legacy and Affinity, and the company plans to extend the beer range to include some original Lacon’s recipes. My pint of Legacy was excellent, and one of the best beers I have had for a long time.
|Lunch, but not a "Proper Pie"|
I decided on further beer before leaving. My eye had been drawn earlier to Old Codger, a 4.0% beer from Tom Wood. I asked for sample, but as it wasn’t the dark, old ale I was anticipating, I opted instead for a half of Afternoon Delight, from local Norfolk brewer, Beeston. It was enjoyable, but not as much as the Lacon’s. Like many pubs in the locality, Darby’s dispenses its cask ales by gravity, from a temperature-controlled room behind the bar. The pump-clips adorning the non-operational hand-pumps are merely there to inform the customer as to what beers are on offer.
|Angel Inn, Swanton Morley|
The present owners are long-standing CAMRA members, and as well as offering a range of well-kept cask ales, the pub hosts a beer festival each year at Easter. Inside, there is a large and spacious main bar, complete with real fire, a dining room serving food lunchtimes and evenings (not Sun eve), plus a small games room with pool and darts. The extensive garden includes a bowling green, and the pub is home to a thriving bowls club.
There was no roast available, but I did have a pretty reasonable burger and chips. Dad’s ham, egg and chips looked especially good, as did my sister’s tuna and salad baguette. To drink, I enjoyed a couple of well-kept pints of local Norfolk favourite; Woodforde’s Wherry. Hop Back Summer Lightning was also available, and I understand from the pub’s website, that this is a regular beer at the Angel. Much as I like it, Summer Lightning is not a lunchtime pint, so I purposely avoided it; especially in view of the drive back to Kent later that evening.
This visit to the Angel rounded off my mini-tour of Swanton Morley’s pubs, but before ending, it is worth recording that until quite recent times, the village boasted a third pub. The Papermakers was a quite small pub, over-looking the village green; almost in the shadow of the church. I did venture in once, not long after my parents moved to the village, but if the Angel could be described as a locals pub, then the Papermakers was doubly so.
|The now closed Papermakers Arms|
I don’t recall that much about it, but I did manage to find a photo of it, on the Norfolk Pubs website. I am not sure when exactly the Papermakers closed, but given the state of the pub trade today, I would imagine that this third pub was just one too many for a village, even of the size of Swanton Morley. If I lived in the village, I would be quite happy to drink in both the Angel and Darby’s; after all, not everywhere has such a choice!