THE HARTE of Costessey near Norwich

This centrally positioned public house in Old Costessey stands where the three main streets of the village meet, West End, Townhouse Road and the Street. How long it has been the site of a house of refreshment nobody knows, but it is obviously a long time. It has certainly been there since before 1698 when Peter Hunt bought it from James Rippon and Sarah Roper.


You may have noticed that pubs crop up quite frequently in this blog; the Dove, Poringland, the Red Lion Drayton and the Globe Shotesham to name but three. This is partly because they tend to be by far the most historic houses in their areas. Shops come and go, manor houses become hotels, care homes or simply fall down; only the village church has a longer unbroken tradition behind it. As is apparent from the history of the Hart(e). The position and the name of the pub remain, even when the actual building is replaced (twice in just over a hundred years in this case).

In the 1820s the principal paper maker at Taverham mill was making money hand over fist.  His name was John Burgess and he was one of the few men in the country who knew how to use the new Fourdrinier paper making machine. Taverham mill was supplying not only the local Norwich printers but also customers as far afield as Cambridge  University Press. The paper mill was doing well and so was Burgess. He was busy buying property, cottages in Norwich and Costessey. He not only bought the White Hart in 1819, but by 1830 he had rebuilt it. This new building is the White Hart as it appears in the first postcard dated about 1913. Although Burgess moved to Bungay in the 1830s he retained the property until his death at end of the decade. The publican he employed was named J. Miller.

The next thirty years of the pub’s history are obscure but in 1869 the pub was taken over by James Yallop who is described as an ornithologist. In fact his interest in birds concerned the breeding of Norwich canaries. This was the period when Norwich secured its reputation for canaries. The local breeders had discovered how to enhance the colour of the plumage from yellow to brilliant orange by feeding the birds with spices.  Nowadays of course everybody thinks of the Norwich City football team when speaking the Canaries, but this name is a relatively recent phenomenon. Back in  the early years of the 20th century the team was known not as the Canaries but as the Norwich Citizens.

It was also during this period that the Agricultural Labourers Union established a branch in Costessey which met in the White Hart. This union was itself founded not many miles at North Walsham.

THE PUB  soon after it was rebuilt in 1931.

THE PUB soon after it was rebuilt in 1931.

The second postcard shows the White Hart shortly after being rebuilt again a hundred years later in 1931. You can see by comparing the two postcards that the new pub building is much nearer the road. The reading room (Parish Room) is now largely obscured by the pub, whereas you used to have a full view of the gable end. In the years before the reading room was built however (about 1900) there was a cottage standing on the land in front of the pub, largely obscuring it from Townhouse Road.  This was the original Post Office in Costessey from the middle of the 19th century until 1898, when a new post office was built by Lord Stafford on the other side of the road. This was the P.O. where I worked from 1988 until it closed. The old Post Office building was demolished a short while after the new one was built. Until then the White Hart  faced onto the Street. It now faces Townhouse Road. The pub still appears basically the same today  as it did in the 1930s. It has changed its name which has been abbreviated to the Harte. It reopened after refurbishment in 2011.




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