The Murderers Pub, Sports Bar in Norwich

The History of TimberHill

One of the oldest recorded city streets, TimberHill pre dates Elm Hill Norwich. However, unlike, Elm Hill, TimberHill, and the surrounding area, was severly damaged in the Norwich Blitz, known as the Baedeker Raids of 27th & 29th April 1942, leaving many of the buildings destroyed or damaged.

As the city walls were completed, (around 1340), it was made illegal to build outside them. This kept the wealth of Norwich, and expansion of it even greater. The city was was both densely populated, (30,000 inhabitants c1450) and the most prosperous counties in England. This helped establish an urban society, with features such as leisure time, religious debate & alehouses! Norwich benefited from the wool and fabric trades, with the construction of Medieval Churches financed by it. Consequently Norwich still has more Medieval Churches today, than any other European city North of the Alps. Norwich's proximity to mainland Europe brought in the many 'Strangers' (many of these 'Strangers' had been Religously persecuted during the Reformation), into the city, including Walloons and the Flemish, from Holland/Belgium, as well as strong trading links with the Hanseatic League, Spain and Scandinavia. Indeed the Flemish, bought to Norwich there expert knowledge of weaving, and the breeding of their pet Canaries....which gave Norwich City Football Club there nick-name The Canaries.

TimberHill was originally called Durnedale, in the early 14th Century, (which Sandred & Lingstróm suggest may have meant 'hidden or secret dale'), the street has always laid within the Norwich Castle Dyke, (pictured above) and would have been a busy area for trading. In the Middle Ages, Timberhill was a location for selling goods brought in from the countryside – first swine and then timber – and it was called Swinemarket Hill, Hog Hill, and then Timbermarket Hill, which developed into Timberhill. The street later became residential and is now largely a shopping area with a variety of individual fashion and lifestyle shops, set against a background of beautiful historic buildings.

1589-1663 Adrian Parmenter

Until the industrial revolution, Norwich was widely regarded as Englands second city, with much wealth, and political power being influenced here. Parmenter, was a leading Parliamentarian and Alderman, responsible for collecting the excise tax, introduced in November 1643 and seizing estates of Royalist sympathisers in the 16th century. Parmenter, and his wife lived in a large townhouse on 'Hog Hill', which on 24 April 1648, was attacked by a violent mob, who broke in and ransacked it. Attempts by his wife Hannah to placate the feral mob, by offering them food, proved futile. The excise tax was widely resented, especially by the poor after it was extended to meat and beer!! Indeed, Parmenter announced that there was so much opposition to this tax, that his officers were 'too frightened' to collect the tax in Norwich. One was threatened by a cleaver from a butchers wife! Disorder continued across the city that day, and the homes of other Parliamentarians were looted and damaged. A store of guns and gunpowder was discovered, then much of it was distributed between the rioters. The remains of the gunpowder store was then ignited, killing over 40 occupants of the building on Ber Street. The disorder was eventually surpressed, and 8 rioters were subsequently hung for their deeds, outside Norwich Castle. It is beleived that Parmenter died in 1663, of rabies, from the bite of a mad fox!


1696 - Lord Mayor of Norwich Nicholas Bickerdyke

Nicholas Bickerdyke was a wealthy Norwich landowner, who purchased many buildings, known as messuage, mainly tenaments, which were rented out, during a period in when very few had the resources to own there own property. Dean Prideaux said that 'Bickerdike hath approved himself the wisest man in ye city' During his tenure as Lord Mayor in 1696, one of these premises, No. 2 TimberHill, was bequeathed to the church of St. Johns the Baptists, TimberHill, with the rent being distributed to the Anguishes Educational Foundation for Girls. This remains the case to the present day.

1730-1791 George Walpole

Grandson of the First British Prime Minister Robert Walpole, George Walpole was The Third Earl of Orford,and was famous for his extravagant spending of the estates fortune, which eventuallty led to the ruin of the famaily estate of Houghton Hall in West Norfolk. George inherited the estate following the death of his father, and soon began to accumulate debts, and behaving irresponsibly, which charachterised his life. He was personally very charming, and the people of Norwich, took to George, and his 'excentric'/personable ways. Because of this 'Hog Hill' (The Swine market) was renamed to Orford Hill. In later life, Houghton Hall was in a very poor state of repair, leading to George selling the families extensive portrait collection for £40,000 to The Empress Catherine of Russia. Some 234 years later, these were returned to the Halls, for a temporary exhibition, which Prince Charles, described as a 'Once in a life-time experience'


1725(?) -1785 Peter 'The Wild Boy'

Peter The Wild Boy, was the first ever recorded 'feral child', found in the woods around Hamelin, Germany, and returned to England by the command of King George I, (also King of Hanover), who had heard about this novelty in his homeland in 1725. After the initial curiousity in Peter had subsided, interest in him waned, and The Princess of Wales, Caroline of Ansbach, took an interest in his welfare. However, attempts to educate him, or get him to speak failed, and Peter was eventually placed into the care of Mrs Titchbourne, with a healthy pension for his care. In the late summer of 1751 Peter went missing from Broadway Farm and could not be traced. Advertisements were placed in newspapers offering a reward for his safe return. It appears that Peter reached Norwich, and unable to speak, or communicate, was imprisoned as a Spanish spy. On 22 October 1751 a fire broke out in the parish of St Andrew's. As the fire spread, the Bridewell gaol became engulfed in smoke and flames. The frightened inmates were hastily released and one aroused considerable curiosity on account of his remarkable appearance, excessively hirsute and strong, and the nature of the sounds he made, which led some to describe him as an orang-utan. This prisoner was eventually re-captured, at St Johns The Baptist, TimberHill. Some days later he was identified as Peter the Wild Boy. (Possibly through a description of him in the London Evening Post.) He was returned to Thomas Fenn's farm, having a special leather collar with his name and address made for him to wear in future should he ever stray again. Peter died on 22 February 1785. The Norwich Pub, 'The Wild Man', celebrates Peter's time in Norwich!


10th May 1783

Fire broke out at the premises of plate glass grinding and carpenter Mr Godman at 28, TimberHill. The premises burned to the ground, however, papers point out that the fire did not spread, and that the surrounding premises were not damaged.


1810-1871 Pablo Fanque (William Darby)


Born in the Norwich Union workhouse, to John & Mary (nee Stamp) Darby, and lived in the Parish of St Johns, TimberHill where he was baptised. Pablo Fanque was Britains first black circus proprietor, and is commemorated in the song by The Beatles, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, taken off the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band Album, released in June 1967. It isn't clear where he took the name Pablo fanque, but appeared in 1828, as 'Young Pablo' at the Norwich Pantheon as part of the William Batty Travelling Show. By 1841, and aged 31 he set up his own travelling circus. He married a fellow performer, called Susannah, but tragedy struck in the circus ring when the pit collapsed and she was hit on the head by several planks, killing her. His second wife was also a circus performer and he had two children with her, plus a son from his first marriage, who all followed their parents into the circus. It was a poster for Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal which inspired the Beatles’ song. The poster advertised a St Valentine’s Day performance of the circus in Rochdale, Lancashire. Mr Kite was one of Pablo’s performers and Mr Henderson was an acrobat, wire-dancer, vaulter and horse-rider. The final performance of Pablo Fanque’s circus was in Nottingham in December 1870. Britain’s first black circus owner died in 1871 and is buried in Leeds.


1832 Baptist Particular Chapel

The Hellfire Club descibed themselves in 1725, as , 'Gentlemen of principles inimacal to government, and with a determinantion to crush the Methodists', meeting regularly  in the  Bell Hotel. Described in Leonard P. Thompson's - Norwich Inns - (1947) 'as bright a gang of ruffians as ever coloured the more lurid pages of Norwich history' However, in 1754,  the congregation leaving the Chapel on TimberHill, following a sermon from the visiting, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, many parishoners were violently attacked, culminating in a massive brawl, stabbings, and the death of two Metodists. One a preacher, known as Wheatley, was the victim of particularly brutal treatment, directly outside the Bell Hotel, at the bottom of TimberHill.

Known locally as "The Foundry" , by the mid 18th century, Norwich saw Baptist Church's appear, to cater for the dissenting Christians, Unitarians, Congregationalists and others. In 1832, this building was purchased by the Particular Baptists for £1,500, providing seats for 550 people


1847-1923 Catherine Maude Nichols

Catherine (Kate) Maude Nichols, born on 6th October 1847, in Norwich. She dated her love of drawing from the age of six, when she was drawing natural objects. Later she taught herself to draw, with a skeleton her father owned. Nichols was the President, (and Founder) of the Woodpecker Sketch Club, formed in 1887, and held at 6a, TimberHill. She was the first woman fellow of the Royal Society of Painter - Etchers (RSPE) in London, writing novels too, including A Novel of Old Norwich - 1886. Her father was a much respected surgeon,and had been Lord Mayor of Norwich. However, having been born 'In the City of Crome' Nichols never acheived the fame, or credit that she beleived she deserved. In fact, she seemed to critisise the people of Norwich when she wrote in the Eastern Daily Press, on November 10th 1913, 'I have never received much encouragement in Norwich. It seems to me strange that ...I should have been allowed to starve as far as artistic appreciation goes'. Catherine Maude Nichols died on Tuesday 30th January, 1923, aged 76. Upon her death Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, succeeded Kate as President of The Woodpeckers (Frederick was son of the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Sir Duleep Singh, a favourite of Queen Victoria who lived in exile at Elveden Hall, near Thetford).


1872-1942 Sir Arthur Michael Samuel

Author of literary classic 'The Herring: It's effect Upon the History of Britain' - a detailed account of the importance of fish to Britain (!), Sir Arthur Samuel was born at 5, TimberHill, (opposite The Gardeners Arms), to an established Jewish family. His father Benjamin had run a porn-brokers since the 1850's, whilst his mother Rosetta, was the daughter of Philip Haldenstein a wealthy shoe manufacturer. A noted philanthropist, Arthur paid off half of the debt of The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and paid for 30 destitute families to emigrate to Canada following the great floods of 1912 and was nominated as Norwich's Lord Mayor in 1912.

On the day of his wedding , six weeks after becoming Lord Mayor, to Phoebe Fletcher, Arthur donated 1200 packets of tea and sugar to the poor people at a ceremony at St. Andrews Hall. His personal wealth allowed him to retire at the age of 40, and pursue a career in politics.

In 1913, the house of 19th Century travel writer, George Borrow, in Willow lane was purchased freehold for £375 by Arthur, who generously gave it to the City of Norwich in order to establish a Borrow Museum. The house has been restored but the museum no longer exists.

During WW1, he became a Conservative Government Minister, in the Govermnet of Stanley Balwin. Samuel was showered with honours in later years, made an Honorary Freeman of the City in 1928, Baronet in 1932, and elevated to the House of Lords in 1937, taking the title, as The First Baronet, Lord Mancroft.

Pubs on TimberHill

TimberHill has, and remains a busy City Centre thoroughfare. With the great wealth of brewing heritage, and the close proximity to King Street, which housed the brewery's of Youngs, Crawshay & Youngs and  Morgans & Sons,with Norwich Brewery on Rouen Road. By, at least, 1841 TimberHill boasted 6 pubs on this short street alone, with many more in the surrounding area.

  4, TimberHill - The Gardeners Arms (The Murderers)

20, TimberHill - The Star & Crown

27, TimberHill - Lion & Castle

33, TimberHill - The Red House

45, TimberHill - The Lord Nelson

...... with The Bell Hotel, listed as 'Hog Hill' initally, and later as Orford Hill.
....... also White Horse, listed as the Bottom of Hog Hill, from 1760 - 1782

Also at 16 Orford Hill during the 1890s was, Peter Hoydahl’s Livingstone Temperance Hotel!

Norwich's brewing heritage dates back as far as the building of the Anglican cathedral, with Monks brewing beer for those men working on it's construction. Indeed the Adam and Eve pub, dates to 1249. It cannot be proven, but it can safely be assumed, that beer was also consumed in, and around, premises surrounding the castle from the same period. Beer was, (and some might say remains) good for you. Water, and wells, were regularly contaminated, leading frequently to death by cholera, however, fermentation of beer, proved a way to make drinking beer safer than water! With the rich fertile soil of North Norfolk, growing malt and barley suitable for brewing beer, for over 2,000 years, it may have been that The Gardeners Arms, traded as a beer house well before our records show!


1869-1905 Frank Miles

Frank Miles was born in Southampton in September 1869, the son of a dairy hand, and maid servant. It appears that Frank spent much of his life working with horses, and at a young age was a stable hand at a dairy in Southampton. Tales tell, that at the age of 12, whilst guiding a milk wagon, Frank slipped and was run over by the run away cart. Quite seriously injured, Frank spent some time in hospital. Having receieved, an education, Frank Miles Joined the 8th Hussars, (a Cavalry unit), initially based in India after the Second Afghan War, Franks early military carrer was blighted by illness. His medical record shows that he suffered from regular boughts of Syphilis, and at his trial, a commanding officer testified that he had suffered from severe heatstroke, whilst in India, to which it was claimed by the Regimental Medical officer, that Frank should not be 'excited or provoked'. His unit returned to England, to be based in Norwich by 1899. The Regiment were 'popular' in Norwich, and by May 1893, Frank Miles had married Millie, the 19 year old daughter of The Gardeners Arms licensee's, Henry and Maria Wilby. Less than 2 years later, the couple were seperated, wth Millie living with her mother, helping run the pub after the death of her father earlier in 1895. Frank was working as a labourer, at the Norwich brewer Morgans & Sons, but it seems clear that he still held strong feelings for his wife. (The BBC made a reconstruction of events. CLICK HERE)

On Whit Monday (May) of 1895, Frank had paid for a new dress, and invited Millie to Great Yarmouth, but she had not gone. On the evening of Friday 31st May 1895, Frank saw Millie walking in to the Gardeners Arms with another man, and sent Frank into a rage,where it was claimed that Millie 'mocked' him. Following her inside the pub, Frank threw a match-stand at her and exclaiming 'I will do for you my lady'. Unfortunately, he was true to his word. Leaving the brewery at around 8.00 am, Frank returned to the pub, as Millie was cleaning inside, the following morning. Called to the alley, seperating 2 & 4 TimberHill by Frank, he attacked her with a vicious premeditated attack, with a bung picker, (pictured below), which he had taken from the brewery.

Read the original Crown court trial notes, and witness statements from Frank Miles, 1895 trial.

Frank was trialed, and convicted to death. However, public sympathy was for Frank. Millie was, (unfairly) made out to be a prostitute, and the attack justified on those grounds. (Following the recent murderers in 1888, of Jack The Ripper, this was a frequent accusation made about murdererd spouses!) A petition of over  8,000 in Norwich, and almost 22,000 from Southampton, were presented to the Home secretary, H. H. Asquith. Such strong public opinion led to his death sentance being commuted to life in prison. Prisoner V/207 Frank Miles was transfered from Norwich Gaol in 1898, to Parkhurst Prison, on the Isle of Wight, in order to be closer to his mother/family. Frank applied for parole in April 1905, following bad health. His solicitor petitioned the Home secretary asking if, 'Miles has suffered in their humble opinion a sufficient term of imprisonment to mark the sense of the slight offence that he committed and which at the present day are being treated by His Majesty's Judges with very light sentances'. However, Frank died on 31st July 1905 of a heart attack, aged just 37. Some contemporary newspaper articles from June 1895, can be found on our 'In the News' page.


9 January 1928 - Disaster at Sweet Factory

Disaster struck on TimberHill, at around 4pm, in the premises Leveridge Bros., 25, TimberHill, sweet makers and warehousemen. Three girls were trapped in a rear room, and were overcome by the fumes generated by the burning sugar, used to make sweets, in a room which was also storing matches, at the back of the building.The window for this room overlooked Star & Crown Yard, and the terrified faces of the trapped women could be seen by local residents, who were helpless to assist them. Sadly, Mary Ann Elisabeth Trowse, aged 24,  Blanche Emma Jeffries, 43,  and Violet Maud Granados, 45,  were killed in the fire.


27 & 29 April 1942 - Baedeker Raids

As a reprisal from the Nazi leadership, for the bombing raids on historic German Cities of Lubeck, and Rostock, in March 1942, it was decided to use the German Baedeker Tourist Guide, to target the historic English Cities within it. These raids became known as the Baedeker Raids.

29th April, 1942 (at night).George Plunkett wrote ..........'Norwich was still in the first stage of its efforts towards restoring some sort of order after the sharp attack made by the enemy during the night of the 27th (April) when on the Wednesday it was again the target for a reprisal raid.

This time the people were ready for it, and practically every family went under cover. Anderson, Morrison and street shelters must have saved the lives of hundreds of the inhabitants of working and middle-class houses during the re-enactment of Monday night's scenes in different parts of the city. Incendiaries caused much of the damage - one of the largest areas affected in this manner incorporating Curls' department store at Orford Place, and both sides of Rampant Horse Street  as far as but not including St Stephen's Church.......During this, the second heavy attack on Norwich, it was estimated that 45 tons of bombs were dropped, including 112 high explosives and numerous incendiaries. The death-roll amounted to 69 and there were 89 seriously injured.'

TimberHill, and the surrounding areas were severely damaged during the raids described by George Plunkett. The Gardeners Arms, was slightly damaged, however, some areas further up the street, including The Star and Crown, at number 20, TimberHill, was severly damaged, and number 39, TimberHill being completely destroyed. Vast areas around TimberHill remained un-developed until the construction of the Castle Mall in the early 1990's.

ALSO.....Look out for the stag sculpture mounted high above number 8 Orford Hill – put up in the 1890s to advertise the gun maker George Jefferies who occupied the shop below – and information such as Bonds (now John Lewis) had the largest millinery department outside London and used to sell more than 1,000 hats each Saturday by the 1930s!

Behind the pub remains Osborne Square, which housed Cooks Brush works in the 1920, when brush's and brooms were manufactured by hand.

TimberHill has 3, of just 5 thatched buildings in the entire city - Two 17th Century weavers cottages in Lion & Castle Yard, and the Barking Dicky, at 20, Westlegate Street

Download the HEART guide to TimberHill