We know people have been quenching here for at least 750 years. A Saxon well still exists beneath the lower bar floor. But enough about water! As an alehouse, the pub is first recorded in 1249, when it was being used by workman building the cathedral. Labour seems to have been cheap. They were paid in bread and ale! The monk who owned the building also gave its ale to patients at the historic Great Hospital … for medicinal purposes. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Adam and Eve grew when living accommodation and the Flemish gables were added. It witnessed bitter battles during Kett’s Rebellion in 1549, when an army of insurgents briefly took the city.
The ghost of Lord Sheffield – hacked to death nearby on August 1 by rebels – is still reputed to haunt the building. So, too are spectres of some of the French-speaking medieval monks who lived and worked here. Somewhere below you, one monk is believed to be buried! And in 1578, Queen Elizabeth 1 passed in procession outside, to attend a firelit pageant on the river during her only visit to the city. The 19th Century saw a brutal murder just yards away in the grounds of the Great Hospital. The killer confessed and was executed in 1800, in one of the first private hangings at Norwich Castle.
Then there was the notorious murderer James Rush. He was actually a customer here – and is reputed to have plotted his lurid crime in this inn. Rush spent his last dry night in the dungeons of Norwich Castle before thousands watched him hanged, in 1849, for the foul murders of Isaac Jeremy, Recorder of Norwich, and his son. Not all our customers are so blood-thirsty. In the mid-19th Century, you could also have rubbed shoulders with the Norfolk author George Borrow – best known for his novels “Lavengro” and “Romany Rye”.
Those were also the times of one of the pub’s best-known landladies – a Mrs Howes, who kept the pub between 1845 and 1860. She had a wherry of the same name and, famously, transported sand from Yarmouth – selling it to local pubs for their floors and spittoons. The trade made her very popular. Why? Well, a sack of sand is a wonderful place for concealing other things. It was not unknown for a bit of contraband to find its way into the cargo.