The earliest reference I have found to the Dove dates from 1786 but I dare say its considerably older than that. On the 3 April in that year Parson Woodforde was on holiday with his nephew and they and a servant were riding from Norwich to the Suffolk coast. “We went on to a place called Porland…and there we breakfasted at 11 o’clock on some cold hard boiled Leg of Pork and some strong beer at the Sign of the Dove.” He then continued on the road that I have travelled hundreds of times. It runs through Brooke, Kirstead, Woodton, Hedenham and Ditchingham to Bungay.

In 1789, three years after Woodforde’s visit, the licencee was Matthew Goodwin. He may well have been the man who served Parson Woodforde. A few years later in 1797 it is marked as the Dove Ale House on William Faden’s 1 inch to the mile map of Norfolk.

Sir Roger Kerrison

Sir Roger Kerrison

The pub had belonged to the bankers Sir Roger Kerrison and his son Thomas, but they had to sell up when they got into business troubles; they were made bankrupt in 1808. The pub then passed into the hands of John Morse, the Norwich brewer, who specialised in the brewing of porter (the equivalent of Guinness).  In 1816 The Dove was passed on to a relative, George Morse, for the sum of £350. This included 28 perches (.175 of an acre) of land. It was when George Morse’s pubs were amalgamated with Steward and Patteson that the pub became an S & P tied house in 1831, although George Morse retained the freehold. It remained an S & P pub until they were taken over by Watney Mann in 1961.

The Dove was condemned in 1968 and recommended for immediate closure by the brewery. Fortunately the pub is still there, although the brewery has long since been swallowed up.

In the 1970s the Dove was kept by Fred, and he had a pet mynah bird called Scraggie. His most memorable phrase was “Where’s Fred?” This was only spoken when Fred was absent from the bar, and this proved (of course) that the bird knew exactly what the phrase meant. Fred also used to have a parrot, but it was deceased by the time I knew him. The parrot used to call him “Shortarse Fred”. Fred certainly wasn’t very tall, but in this case at least I think the bird had been taught this phrase by the pub regulars, and had not invented it for himself. Birds were kept indoors at Fred’s bar, but horses were his passion, and they were also stabled on the pub property. I do not now remember how many he had – if I ever knew. It could not have a large stable because he did not have that much land with the pub; maybe it was still just 28 perches. I never saw his horses, but I heard a lot about them.

Fred’s surname was Elby, and his life revolved around horses. He had been a jockey in his younger days (he was certainly short enough) and during his time in the army he would have gravitated to the stables of the Household Cavalry. He always wore a flat cap and brown stockman’s jacket, and had a cigarette permanently hanging out of the corner of his mouth. In the 1960s he lived at the Dove with his wife and young son. Jenny Buck was a ten-year-old who was horse mad and made frequently cycle rides from her home in Brooke to help Fred look after his horses. Sometimes she was allowed to ride them, or else she travelled in Fred’s cart. With all this talk of horses and carts these memories could be of the 18th century and Parson Woodforde, but I am indebted to Jenny for her reminiscences of these days.

I haven’t been to the Dove since I was married and moved to the other side of Norwich, but before then I had enjoyed many refreshing pints there. If you wish to know where I now drink let me refer you to my post on the Red Lion in Drayton; that is an even more ancient establishment.





3 responses

  1. My cousin Roger Roper has owned and run this pub for around thirty years. Fred may have had a mynah bird, Roger has Draft horses, sheep, ducks, chickens, pheasants, etc. I live in Singapore where mynah birds fly free but i always look forward to our visits back to the Dove.


    1. Rosalyn foster (nee Gilbert) | Reply

      I lived in the Dove from 1949 until Fred took the pub over from my Mum and Dad, Harry and Lucy Gilbert. I have happy memories of my childhood in the Dove and being part of a large family (The Gilberts) I remember the day trips “Outings” and Saturday nights when the Dove was full of locals including several members of the Gilbert family


  2. My elderly uncle Alan still visits the Dove regularly. I think I had the honour of being horse whipped a couple of times by Fred or Harry when he found me with rabbit snares on his meadow at the back many years ago – whoever was there in the early 60s.


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