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Home > Norfolk > Great Yarmouth > Iron Duke

Iron Duke

Date of photo: 1981

Picture source: Claire Pendrous


 
The Iron Duke was situated on Jellicoe Road.
 
The Iron Duke in Great Yarmouth is a rare and unusually grand example of an art deco public house, built in the late 1930s as the flagship of the town’s Lacons Brewery. In 1935, it decided to create a statement pub on Jellicoe Road, just by the seafront of this thriving Norfolk resort. It was designed by Arthur William Ecclestone (1901–1984), who served as both chief surveyor and a director of the brewery, and later became the town’s mayor and a vigorous local historian. Ecclestone produced pubs in a wide range of styles for Lacons in Great Yarmouth and beyond, however, the Iron Duke is usually hailed as his finest building, and was awarded Grade II listing in 2017.
With its distinctive curved frontages and flat roofs, its protruding loggia and fluted columns, the Iron Duke is in many ways a classic art deco design, although embroidered by the distinctive use of knapped flint flushwork finely inlaid into its red brickwork – a feature drawn from the Norfolk vernacular, and employed on many of Lacons public houses. Everything was bespoke, employing highly skilled master builders and artisans – even the rain hoppers bear the crest of HMS Iron Duke, the flagship of the fleet under the command of Admiral John Jellicoe at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The interior of the pub survives in its original configuration, although it is uncertain if the original hand-painted murals of the Battle of Jutland survive behind boards. The pub retains many of its original fittings, including mirrors and tiles, while the bars, made from teak taken from HMS Iron Duke, still survive. The tiled floors are laid in a basket-weave design, and the cellars are vast, with plank-and-batten doors and a small lift shaft. There are few surviving pubs from the interwar period retaining so many original features, and even fewer of this calibre.
Construction started on the Iron Duke in the 1930s, and although work was halted by the start of the Second World War, the pub was still able to play its part in the war effort, and a special licence was granted so that it could serve the troops stationed locally. The Iron Duke officially opened its doors in 1948, and traded successfully for many years. In 1968, Lacons decided to sell out to Whitbread, but the Iron Duke was always a popular public house among both holiday makers and locals, described by the Whitbread area manager as the busiest pub in their portfolio in East Anglia.
The pub's current owners, Bourne Leisure, a parent company of Haven, Butlin’s and Warner Leisure Hotels, seem to have no interest in retaining the Iron Duke, boarding up the pub in 2007 with the intention of demolishing it. The condition of the building has since deteriorated due to the neglect. The Friends of the Iron Duke applied to list the pub in August 2017, which was granted in the November of that year – Bourne Leisure immediately appealed unsuccessfully against the listing. The Friends of the Iron Duke have tried to engage with Bourne Leisure to discuss the future of the pub, but have had no response. Bourne Leisure have repeatedly refused offers to sell, stating that they will not open the pub or sell it, and will oppose compulsory purchase, essentially blocking this historic pub’s future.
Caroline Jones (July 2020)
 

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Name Dates Comments
David Leggett 1960 I worked there.