No Last Orders for the Royal Oak19-12-2013
No Last Orders for the Royal Oak
Business is thriving, but no one is pulling pints. Instead of beers and ales, the new landlord has copiers, toner, managed print solutions and great customer service on tap!
Eastern Business Systems’ ownership of the premises is a new chapter in the history of the building, whose identity as a public house goes back to the late eighteenth century.
How does a premises undergo such a career change without losing its local identity?
The recorded history of the Royal Oak starts in 1789 during the height of the British Empire with licensee Edmund Hunting. Ipswich resident Thomas Cobbold purchased the building in 1826 along with two cottages. A year before in 1925, the first steam powered passenger service had been launched, ushering in the railway age.
While Queen Victoria was getting used to the throne, sometime between 1837 and 1851 the house was leased by Norwich brewers Steward, Patteson, Finch and co.
The company represented four local brewing families who played an active part in business and politics in the region and merged their brewing expertise into one organisation by 1937, around the time they leased the Royal Oak.
By 1854 the building had become an important part of local life;
`Benefit Societies are held at the Magpie and Royal Oak Inns, where there are also pleasure and tea gardens, laid out with great taste, and much resorted to by the inhabitants of Norwich, during the Summer months’
After a century in the hands of Steward and Pattison, the lease was bought by Edward Bush in 1956, and soon after wooden cart sheds on the front of the building by the road were pulled down.
The Royal Oak’s career as a public house ended in 2011 when the last licensee’s real ale project faltered during the recession and the premises was put up for sale. Initially, there were plans for the Oak to become a veterinary surgery, but EBS saw an opportunity to acquire the perfect space and jumped! Managing Director Kevin Francis tells the Eastern Daily Press
‘The most important thing is that there is finally room for us to expand. We have been bursting at the seams for years.’
Walking around the vibrant office space today, clues as to the building’s rich history from exposed brickwork to the occasional icon of pub life including the last orders bell, show that EBS are well aware of their place in the building’s history and are keen to preserve small links to the past.
The sympathetic conversion of the building to a business premises was masterminded by Stuart Jones and Dale Cooper from architects Feilden+Mawson, also known for their redevelopment work at Fellowes Plain, the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital site.
A combination of white washed walls interrupted with brickwork and an occasional burst of colour makes the environment light, airy, and full of character. But attention to detail is not confined to the interior of the building. The new warehouse behind the premises is limited in height to make sure it is obscured as much as possible by the original farmhouse and clad in Rockpanel Chameleon, a material that changes colour depending which direction you’re looking at it. The choice of warm autumnal colours green and brown means the Rockpanel has an immediate coolness factor without being obtrusive.
The lobby is home to a smart, modern, glass-fronted product showroom. Modernising the building without losing its authenticity goes hand in hand with EBS’s considerate business ethic, so when the chimneys were discovered to be beyond repair, they were replaced with identical fibreglass replicas to make sure the original appearance of the building was not altered!
This is a restoration that recognises the long term place of the building in the history of Sprowston, making Royal Oak House the perfect home for a local business. EBS look forward to many years of serving regulars and new punters alike with a quality range of products, solutions and excellent customer service.