THE CRICKETERS ARMS, SAXLINGHAM NETHERGATE, CLOSED 09.08.1966
I remember my half pint of beer that I had at the Cricketers Arms in Saxlingham Nethergate, because it was the first time I had been in a pub with my Dad. It was shortly before the pub closed for good in August 1966, and I would not be 18 until February of 1967. Since it would be a shame to miss the last chance to drink in a delightful old pub my father decided it would be acceptable to break the law. Nobody discovered our crime. In fact I had been drinking in pubs for at least a year, with my friends from school, but my father did not know about that. We had for example spent the evening drinking at the Trowel and Hammer on a night out in Norwich, though how we were not missed when we were meant to be 20 miles away in Holt I don’t know. Closer to school was the Red Hart in Bodham where I can also remember going with friends. These are terrible admissions of under-aged drinking to make, and I apologize now. But they refer to a time nearly 50 years ago. I hope with the current propensity to arrest people for historic allegations of wrong-doing that the police will not come knocking on my door. When I was left to my own devices my favourite tipple was vodka and lime (I now think it revolting). With my father it had to be beer; his would be ‘two’s’ (half bitter and half mild), and mine would probably have been mild; bitter was too powerful a flavour for my young palette. Lager was not then on the horizon in this country, and this foreign drink was just not available.
Was the Cricketers Arms once called the Chequers? I think it quite likely. The pub stood in Chequers Lane which is obviously a pub name; there is no other record of any pub called the Chequers in Saxlingham. I don’t suppose the name Cricketers Arms would have been more than 200 years old at the time of closure, and the pub was probably older than that. Maybe we shall never know. My memories of the pub are very hazy, I can just recall sitting down and drinking my half pint. I do not remember any bar, and this may have been another pub without one, like the Feathers in Framingham Pigot. The last licensees at the Cricketers were Dot and Charlie Saunders and Dot must have served me. It was a Bullards house and closed only a couple of months before brewing ceased at their Anchor Brewery in Westwick Street in Norwich.
Saxlingham still has a cricket club; but its arms are rather basic, just the three letters of its initials, S.C.C. This, the last of the local pubs in Saxlingham Nethergate may have closed 50 years ago, but in 1906 the local paper noted that Saxlingham had 3 full public houses and 3 beer sellers; six drinking establishments for a population of just 520.
SMOCK MILL COMMON, SAXLINGHAM THORPE
Saxlingham Thorpe still has a pub, although the population of that village was only 125 at the beginning of the 20th century. It has obviously always drawn it customers from the A140, the main road to Ipswich, which is where you will find the Mill Inn. Until 2001 it was called the West End. This part of the world is redolent of a Viking past. The place-names of Newton Flotman to the west and Howe in the East are full of Danish elements. Between these two villages Saxlingham itself is divided in two, Saxlingham Thorpe and Saxlingham Nethergate, both with Norse parts to their names. There are also the minor place-names like Cargate Lane. I have stressed all the Norse parts of the names by italicizing the Danish elements. Over a thousand years ago this was clearly a part of Norfolk with a strong Danish influence, but the admixture of Anglo-Saxon elements in the place-names suggests that the two communities were integrating well.
Saxlingham Thorpe is the nearer village to the main Ipswich Road, in fact the Mill Inn (formerly the West End) and Saxlingham mill itself (formerly a watermill) are right on the road, across the river from Newton Flotman. Apart from the pub and the mill (still working) there is not much to Saxlingham Thorpe. In the middle ages it used to have a church, but this is now a ruin. Smockmill Common is in Saxlingham Thorpe, and was a favourite place for us to exercise our dogs. They could run free across the grass. In the 1960 it was a lot less overgrown than it is today, and a hundred years ago it would have been quite open countryside. The common extends from the hilly higher ground down to the river Tas. As the name suggests it was once the site of a windmill, but this was lost some years before WWII, and nobody I ever met remembered it.