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History of Adam and Eve

History of one of the oldest pubs in Norwich

Photo © Adrian S Pye (cc-by-sa/2.0)


The Adam and Eve Pub in the 1930s, with posters advertising a local cinema.
The Adam and Eve Pub in the 1930s, with posters advertising a local cinema.
Photo taken by George Plunkett in 1939.

Description of the Pub

The Adam and Eve is a historic public house, located to the north of Norwich City Centre.

The building has gone through a lot of changes throughout its history. With the current 16th-century design being a bit of a mish-mash of brick and flint.

The pub was the last one in Norwich to serve ale straight from the barrel. It did so until 1971 when a bar was finally installed.

The history the Adam and Eve goes back to 1249 as a brewhouse. Unfortunately, in the past, the pub had a bit of a bad reputation, with its customers and staff often being linked with a variety of crimes.

With the Adam and Eve now being a major tourist attraction. It has attracted people from all social classes. This has given it an almost romanticized reputation, which has probably helped the pub stay open for so long.

The origins of the Adam and Eve (1249 to mid-1500s)

Many people will tell you that the Adam and Eve was established all the way back in 1249. This was back when the location was home to a brewhouse that served ale to the workers of Norwich Cathedral, who were paid in ale and bread for their work.

Though, it could be seen as being misleading to say that the pub itself was established in 1249. Due to their appearing to be very little of the original structure left (part of the cellar wall and an old brewing well).

It would be more truthful to say that the site itself has evolved to meet local demand. Whether it is the older more informal brew houses of the middle ages or the more formal establishments that replaced them.

There is very little information on when the modern-day Adam and Eve opened. 

The building itself went through many changes over its’ first three hundred years. The iconic building that we know nowadays as the Adam and Eve was completed in the fifth-teenth century.

Due to the hive of activity happening at the Adam and Eve in the mid to late sixteenth century. It points to the pub itself opening earlier in the sixteenth century.

The Murder of Edmund Sheffield (1549)

In 1549, angry at the enclosure of land and the poverty it caused for peasants, Robert Kett and his recruit of rebels would start a revolt. 

Kett’s Rebellion would go on to capture the city of Norwich. In response to this, an army was sent into Norwich to quell the rebellion.

Edmund Sheffield commanded a cavalry of men to charge and attack the rebels at Cathedral Close. unfortunately for him, he would fall from his horse. After removing his helmet in surrender, one of the rebels attacked him with a cleaver.

Edmund Sheffield was then taken to the Adam and Eve, where he later died from his wounds.

To this day, his ghost is said to haunt the Adam and Eve

Elizabeth Howes/Thurling. The Alcohol Smuggler (mid-1800s)

The Adam and Eve has a history going back several hundred years. As such, it should not surprise anyone that some criminal activity did take place there.

in the mid-1800 as the landlady, Elizabeth Howes was reported to have run a large alcohol smuggling operation. This involved the use of a wherry to transport sacks of “sand” from Great Yarmouth to Norwich. It is thought the sand sacks where hiding smuggled alcohol, that was then sold to pubs around the city.

Near-loss of Pub Licence (1905)

In 1905, the Chief Constable opposed the renewal of the Beerhouse licence that the Adam and Eve held. The reasons given by the Chief Constable were that the gates near the pub would be locked in the early hours of the morning. The locked gates prevented the police from properly supervising the pub.

It was agreed that the Adam and Eve would have its licence renewed, in return for agreeing to not lock the gates.

More Complaining by the police (1908)

In 1908, the police once again opposed the beerhouse licence renewal. The reasons that were given were that there were three other public houses nearby and that the Adam and Eve was far back from the road. Which they claimed made the pub difficult to supervise.

The licence would be renewed by a unanimous decision.

The install of a bar (1971)

Until 1971, the Adam and Eve served ale from wooden barrels, located in the pubs’ cellar. The ale would be poured into jugs and carried on trays upstairs to customers.

After a bar was installed in 1971, excavations where carried out at the cellar, in which the remains of a medieval monk was discovered. 

Some time after that, the cellar would be converted into a second bar area.

The Censored Pub Sign (1972)

In 1972, the Adam and Eve would have a new Risqué pub sign designed and produced. The sight of the sign would generate a slew of complaints from members of the public who were offended by the sight of genitalia. 

The complaints led to the pub sign being returned to the painters. The painter would paint fig leaves over the offending genitals.

Adam and Eve in the Modern Day

Nowadays, the Adam and Eve has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. With many coming to see what they think is the oldest pub in Norwich. This likely helps keep the Adam and Eve a pub, rather than some museum that you have to pay to get into.

The pub is also the starting point of the famous Norwich Ghost Walks. These weekly ghost walks take place between April and December.