New book on old pubs in Wells
06:30 11 June 2012
Archant © 2012
The pub is at the heart of the community in villages, towns and cities, all over England.
For centuries pubs have been a place where friends meet, colleagues talk shop and business people negotiate deals.
And now a new book has been published on the history of pubs in Wells.
The History of the Inns and Public Houses of Wells describes how social changes in the country affected the town’s pub scene.
The book’s author, Michael Welland, 73, a former Wells resident who now lives in Fakenham, said: “Wells was often referred to by visitors as ‘the lovely seaside town with all the pubs.’
“In 1860 Wells had 32 inns, public houses or beer houses, the highest record at any one time. It had one pub for roughly every 110 residents of the town, a similar ratio to much bigger towns like King’s Lynn.
“It is amazing to think that now, when Wells has six pubs.”
The book reports how the number of pubs in Wells declined rapidly from 1890 and by the early 20th century there were 12, the same number that existed 300 years before.
This was due to a dramatic drop in the town’s population.
Occupations such as shipbuilding, which had kept so many people in Wells, had virtually ceased to exist.
Between 1851 and 1901 the population of Wells fell from 3,675 to 2,494 as people were moving to the industrial midlands and north and emigrating to countries such as America, Australia and Canada.
Mr Welland’s book says that Wells’s oldest pub is The Bowling Green, with licensing documentation going back to 1673. The Bowling Green is still open today.
Mr Welland is a former chairman of Wells Local History Group.
His research into Wells’s history spans over 20 years and he has previously written The Wells Murder of 1817, published in 2005, which tells the true story of the murder of Wells man Robert Baker.
Mr Welland’s book on pubs has been in development for five years.
Printing costs were funded by Wells Local History Group and some of the proceeds from the book’s sales will go towards a museum, which is planned as part of the major redevelopment of The Maltings complex in the town.
Several years ago the group arranged for plaques to placed on properties in Wells where pubs once stood.
Wells Local History Group member Bob Brownjohn said: “The history of Wells pubs is an integral part of the town’s history and I’m sure there will be lots of interest in this book.”
The book is £15 and can be bought from Ashley Studios, Staithe Street, Wells.