THE FUTURE of The Ferry Boat, a much-loved Norwich riverside pub, is again in the balance.
That's a riverside pub, not a Riverside pub by the way. It's an important distinction. The Ferry Boat was the last remaining pub on King Street, a road that used to be full of them. On the other side of the river the "chain store" pubs of the 1990s Riverside development continue to pull in the punters.
We'll come to why this matters in a minute, but first some recent history. Greene King closed The Ferry Boat in 2006. Real ale campaigners CAMRA grew concerned and launched their own website the following year. Greene King responded and promised a £1m refurbishment which won planning approval in 2008. Then last month they announced that they had changed their mind and would instead put the building up for sale. The deadline for sealed bids is a week tomorrow.
OK, you say, why should we care? In a word - History. The city of Norwich grew up from the river ..with King Street arguably its first street. And not only is the Ferry Boat the last pub building left, it is also typical of the kind of pub that existed along the whole of "The Norwich River" during its heyday. Take a look at this photo from Picture Norfolk. It dates back to the nineteenth century when the pub was called the Steam Packet. It shows the building as a boatbuilder's, a ferry and a pub - the classic Broads holy trinity. Coldham Hall used to do all three too, so did a couple of pubs in Reedham. But in Norwich, it's the only one left.
To be fair, the whole redevelopment of King Street has been done sensitively and respect to the past. We just need a reopened pub ...with all those new flat-dwellers as its regulars - to do the same.