Residents sad at closure of last pub

RESIDENTS in Eye have said the closure of its last trading pub is a “very sad” development for the town, which at one point in time boasted more than 20 drinking establishments.

Elliot Furniss

RESIDENTS in Eye have said the closure of its last trading pub is a “very sad” development for the town, which at one point in time boasted more than 20 drinking establishments.

The Queen's Head in Cross Street has served its last pint until a new landlord can be found, leaving the town's population of about 2,000 people with nowhere to drink.

Over the years more than two dozen pubs have graced the town's streets and even in the mid-nineteenth century it had 14 public and five beer houses.


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But by the outbreak of the Second World War that figure had dropped to just 11 and at the turn of the century there were only two pubs - the Queen's Head and the Red Lion.

The Red Lion closed about 10 years ago and now the latest landlady of the Queen's Head, Juliet Johnson, has said that despite her best efforts to meet the needs of the different elements of the Eye community, she has had enough.

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In days gone by, the town's pubs would have been packed in the evenings, weekends and at lunchtimes on market days.

Local historians paint a picture of a thriving farming community, with the Queen's Head, thought to be the oldest pub in the town, one of the most popular places to socialise.

Jan Perry has contributed to a book charting the social history of the town and is currently working on a new project.

She said: “We once had certainly 22 pubs. Some were beer houses and some made their own beer and The Queen's Head was the only one left.

“If you look into the history of any small town or large village like Eye there would have been lots of pubs and beer houses because that's how people entertained themselves.

“It was very much a male preserve and very different from now. The decline of pubs was because people started doing different things - they started making their own entertainment.

“Business used to be done in pubs and the local agricultural community would have met there to play games, but the need for it has gone - there are other things to do.”

Town mayor Nancy Ford said it was “a shame” that the pub was no longer open and hoped it would be back in business sooner rather than later.

She said: “It's been the only pub for quite a number of years really and I can't say how it's reached that point.

“It's very much sad news. Eye is a relatively large town and there are a number of people in Eye that don't drive. There are a couple of restaurants but it (the closure) will leave a hole in the heart of the community.”

Lifelong Eye resident Janet Chambers said the Queen's Head needed to reopen quickly and the town would benefit from having another one or two pubs.

She said: “It was bad enough when we got down to one (pub in the town). There was a lot of controversy when the White Lion closed (in 1986) but there was not much we could do about it because it was a freehold and they wanted to close. It's a sad thing to happen.”

Town and district councillor Charles Flatman said he felt sorry for the residents who frequented the pub regularly, especially those who had lunch there.

He said: “I remember 10 pubs being here and now we haven't got one at all. The people I feel really sorry for are the people who frequented the pub every lunchtime.

“I hope there will be a change of heart. It's a crying shame that a town at this time should have no pub at all. Places like Stradbroke have two and their population is nothing like what we have here.

“It does reflect on the town in that only certain sections of the community were using that pub. It's like everything - if you don't use it, it goes.”

Some of the Eye pubs to have closed down over the years include the Cherry Tree, the Star, the Malt and Hops and the King's Arms, all in Castle Street, as well as the once-popular Railway Tavern and the Crown in Magdalen Street.

Others that called last orders long ago include the Beddingfield Arms, on the corner of Wellington Road and Lambseth Street, the Eight Bells, in Church Street, and the Black Swan, which was located next to the Queen's Head in Cross Street but has now been demolished.

Church Street was also formerly home to the King's Head and the Grapes. Like many of the former pub properties, the Horseshoes, in Castle Street, is now a house while the Buck's Horn, in Buckshorn Lane, has been closed for decades.

Eye was also once home to the Bull, formerly in Lambseth Street, the Bottles, located on The Cross, and the Duke of Wellington, which was opposite the Paddock House entrance.

The last pub to close before the Queen's Head was the Red Lion, located in Church Street.

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