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Thetford author raises a glass to town's beerhouses- see our interactive map

A Thetford history writer has explored the town’s drinking past from an interesting angle with his new book.

David Osborne’s book, A History of the Beerhouses in Thetford, looks at a time in which townsfolk were given the chance to sell beer from their own homes.

He said: “The Beer Act of 1830 allowed householders to gain a licence to sell beer, effectively from their living rooms, with a payment of about two guineas (£2.20), which meant suddenly thousands of these beerhouses spring up all over the country and Thetford was no different.

“I have wanted to write about them in the town for a while now, but never had enough to focus on two or three, so I decided to do them all in one book.”

David Osborne with his book about Thetford’s beerhouses Picture by: Mark Bullimore Photography
David Osborne with his book about Thetford’s beerhouses Picture by: Mark Bullimore Photography

David believes the town had around 20 of these houses after the act – outnumbering pubs in the town at one point – and some were looked down upon as places of ill-repute and a haven for criminals.

Beerhouse keepers and customers regularly appeared before the magistrates at the weekly Petty Sessions in the town hall and this did nothing to help their reputations.

Few lasted very long or made the move in becoming fully licensed pubs. With the closure of The Ark, in Norwich Road, the only one that made the transition and is still serving pints is The Albion, in Castle Street.

David has been a historian of Thetford for around 40 years and started to write books in the mid-80s.

He has covered subjects such as how the town was affected by World War One and this is the fifth in a series looking at drinking establishments in the town.

The author said he still enjoys finding out more and more about Thetford after all these years and once he has gathered information for a subject it only takes him just a couple of weeks to write his next publication.

But even though he is an experienced writer, David feels sometimes his books do not always go in the direction he expects them to.

He said: “It is all in the research, but as you know when you start with a blank page you never know where it will take you or where you will end up and that is the part I enjoy most.”

David’s book, A History of the Beerhouses in Thetford, is available in The Leaping Hare Information Centre, in King Street, Thetford, priced at £7.

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