Cheers! New book offers virtual pub crawl through time

The Royal Oak, King Street (now The Gainsborough)

The Royal Oak in the 1990s - Credit: Sudbury Photo Archive

A bar crawl may seem a distant memory - but a new book delves even further back in time into Sudbury’s pubs, inns and clubs. 

Retired publican Peter Thorogood’s ‘A Pub Crawl Through Time’ takes the reader to 77 drinking holes – only 20 are currently still here today – over the past few centuries. 

The book is a biographical history of 77 pubs, inns and clubs in Sudbury and Ballingdon

Peter Thorogood with his book 'A Pub Crawl Through Time' - Credit: David Higgleton

Existing pubs include The Wagon, The North Street Tavern, the Horse and Groom and the Brewery Tap, while many are now ‘extinct’, such as The Christopher and The Bear. 

The book is a biographical history of local pubs in Sudbury and Ballingdon, with nuggets of information, stories, photographs and newspaper excerpts.  

Lord Andrew Phillips, president of the Sudbury Society, says in his foreword to the book that pubs were “focal points for a vibrant sense of community, inseparable from fellowship, local loyalties and familiarity which embraced more or less everyone”. 

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Mr Thorogood, who moved to Long Melford in 1985 to run the George and Dragon, said during the coronavirus pandemic he finally had time to sift through the information to put together the book. 

He writes: “On my part I have loved my four decades as an innkeeper and licensee and hope, in a small way, that this account of our wonderful iconic inns and taverns will encourage the reader to both visit and enjoy their ‘local’ before they are lost to history and become but a memory of gentler times.” 

The Christopher, Gainsborough Street

The Christopher, Gainsborough Street - Credit: Sudbury Photo Archive

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The book says the Christopher, in Gainsborough Street, was advertised as ‘to let’ in 1788 three weeks after the death of its most famous customer, the artist Thomas Gainsborough. 

The pub was closed by Greene King in 1992, it reads, and now serves as a community centre. 

The pub is now closed and used by the Christopher Centre

An illustration by Robin Drury of The Christopher, Gainsborough Street (notorious as a bikers’ pub in the 70s/80s). It does not appear in the book - Credit: Robin Drury

In another story from the book, in 1835 three men, a surveyor of taxes, an attorney and a surgeon, were indicted for starting a riot at The Bear Inn in King Street, but were acquitted.  

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Robin Drury runs Radius Design

Designer Robin Drury - Credit: Robin Drury

Robin Drury, who designed the book, said: “We are losing pubs at a phenomenal rate. Covid could well see the collapse of yet more. 

“This book comes at a pivotal moment. It shows us what we are gradually losing as a community. Pubs used to be the bedrock of how we used to meet each other on a regular basis.” 

Popular folk club run there late 60s. Later became Easterns Night Club. Now closed and converted to flats).

The Great Eastern, Station Road - Credit: Sudbury Photo Archive

He said many of the pubs used to run inter-pub leagues for darts, pool, dominoes and even football, with landlords often sponsoring these. 

And the venues often paid host to the local music scene, firstly with folk clubs (Great Eastern and Kings Head) and then later with rock bands (The Prince, White Horse, The Horn, now the North Street Tavern, and The Bay Horse).  

Very popular pub, now closed. Converted to shops. Interior damaged by Sudbury’s recent ‘Great Fire

The Anchor, Friars Street - Credit: Sudbury Photo Archive

The Ship & Star was a brilliant venue for very regular live music, Mr Drury said, and attracted big audiences back in the 1990s. 

  • The 140-page book is priced at £14.95 and is available to buy online on the Facebook page ‘Old Sudbury Pubs’, with 10% discount if collected from the author who is based in Sudbury. Otherwise, it can be bought at the Tourist Information Centre in Sudbury Library, Thompson’s Café in Gainsborough Street and Duck-in-Boots in Gaol Lane at full cover price.