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Intro Village History Pub History


This section of the website has been produced almost exclusively using content provided by the Alpington and Yelverton History Society, a local group of historians dedicated to exploring the history of both villages.


History of the Villages

Origins of Alpington and Yelverton

Yelverton Origins

The first reference to the village of Yelverton is in the Domesday Book, where it is called ‘Ailverton‘.  Among the inhabitants were three freemen owning one church; it is this church, dedicated to St. Mary, which serves the joint parishes today, and some Saxon work can be seen in its outer walls. 

The presence there of Roman tile, and Roman finds in nearby gardens, suggests that there might have been a Romano-British settlement on the same site. 

Finds from as early as the Bronze Age have been found around the two villages, suggesting it has always attracted settlers.

Alpington Origins

Alpington’s history is more mysterious, as it does not appear in Domesday.  The 18th century historian Blomefield claimed it was ‘Appleton‘, an unidentified place in Loddon Hundred, the administrative district to which Alpington belonged until the end of the 19th century (Yelverton was in Henstead Hundred, a different administrative district).

More recently, the historian Geoffrey Kelly has suggested that it might have been a detached part of the neighbouring parish of Apton, both surrounding a large former common.

No church was referred to in Domesday, but it is generally thought that there was one, and a tentative dedication to St. Margaret has been mooted.  However, by the 16th century, wills make it clear that Alpington residents were attending Yelverton church.

Manors and Landowners

The villages were both held by the earls, later Dukes, of Norfolk, and therefore had no resident ‘great lord’. Each had a manor house or hall, and Yelverton was owned from the 14th to the mid-16th century by the Yelverton family, who took their name from the village.  However, they were not always resident there – they were important lawyers and were often in London or at one of their other estates such as Rackheath.

The major residents were therefore prosperous yeoman farmers owning moderately-sized mixed farms; a row of farmhouses which are 16th or 17th century in origin survive along Church Meadow Lane, fronting onto the former common on the south, while a cluster of farms round the pond, plus a thatched farmhouse and the former Rectory, seem to outline the central area of Yelverton.

Development Between Alpington and Yelverton

The Pub

There were few buildings between the two villages until the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ pub building appeared in the early 19th century.  This may have begun as a small farmhouse before become a ‘beerhouse’, where the farmer’s wife sold beer in the farmhouse kitchen. There is a full account of the pub’s origins further down the page.

The School

The next major building to appear was the school, first on a site near the present Fortune Green, and then in the late 19th century a new school was built by the crossroads. 

Orchards and Smallholdings

Open land persisted, originally arable, but from the mid-19th century there were increasing numbers of orchards, particularly cherry orchards, and smallholdings growing vegetable and salad crops, to serve the growing city of Norwich.

Recent Village History – 20th Century

In the 20th century building began along Church Road which started to join up different parts of the settlement. The ‘Institute’, now the Village Hall, appeared in 1924, and from the 1920s Council Houses were built along the road.

From the 1970s housing developments have been built in the northern part of Alpington parish, and roadside housing between the pond and the church in Yelverton, along part of Framingham Earl Road, and along Mill Road. This has begun to merge the two original settlements. 

There is still, though, open land between the two old centres of Yelverton and Alpington, and it remains one village with two hearts.

History of the Wheel of Fortune Pub

the Wheel of Fortune pub, Alpington, covered in snow

Origins as an “alehouse kitchen”

The ‘Wheel of Fortune’ is a typical ‘alehouse kitchen’ dating from the late 18th or early 19th century. The building does not appear on a pre-enclosure map, and it is not clear whether it was built as a farmhouse or as a purpose-built alehouse. The earliest written information we have comes from White’s Directory of 1836, which shows John Bacon as a beerseller. The beerhouse is not named, but it is likely that it was already called the ‘Wheel of Fortune.’

map from 1821 of the land opposite the Wheel of Fortune pub

A map of 1821 above, relating to the title to land opposite the Wheel, shows a small piece of land – a ‘pightle’ – called Wheel of Fortune Pightle. There is no reason why this land should have such an unusual name other than that it could be identified by being opposite the ‘Wheel of Fortune’. This suggests that it was a beerhouse from the time it was built.

The original thatched building has been little altered. Extensions have been made, but the survival of the original building historically this makes the Wheel of Fortune an exciting and rare survivor of these small ‘alehouse kitchens’ like those described in an article in the Norwich Mercury in 1902, reprinted from the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’:

East Anglian Alehouse Kitchens

… In their internal arrangements and adornments these kitchens are much alike. They usually have a large open fireplace… On each side of this fireplace is a high-backed settle, worn smooth by constant contact with rustic corduroy.

… Almost invariably the floor is a brick one strewn with sand… the walls are usually painted drab and unadorned save for two or three grocer’s almanacs or crudely printed portraits of famous racehorses or pugilists.

… it is a popular proceeding to resort to certain games of skill and chance in order to decide which member of a small party of rustics shall supply them with a jug of ale…

The favourite among these consists of a wooden target and several sharply-pointed feather-winged darts. The target is fixed to the wall, and each competitor attempts, from the distance of a few feet, to throw one of the darts so that it sticks in the “bulls-eye.” The least successful thrower has to pay for the jug of ale.

Similar contests are carried on by means of a number of iron or rubber rings and a square board covered with hooks, each competitor doing his best to throw the rings so that they catch on the hooks instead of falling to the floor.

A third contrivance invented for the purpose of “twizzling” for drink is usually fastened to a ceiling beam and closely resembles, except for its being inverted, a kind of roulette table once popular at country fairs. almost the only inn-kitchen game played solely for amusement is dominoes.

Norwich Mercury, Monday May 24th 1902

The Pub Today

A welcoming traditional pub

Of course, the Wheel of Fortune now is very different from that description on the Norwich Mercury: it is neither drab nor smoke-blackened; the floor is carpeted rather than sand-strewn; settles and benches have been replaced by upholstered seats and stools; the large open fireplace has been filled in with a smaller one, although the outline of the original can still be seen; the pictures are interesting photos and paintings of the pub at different times.

Origin of the pub’s name

But there are still darts boards on the wall, and – most interesting of all (and the reason for the pub’s name) is the survival of what is referred to in the article as a contrivance for twizzling, a ‘wheel of fortune’ attached to one of the beams, its pointer clearly a local, blacksmith-made product.

A “Wheel of Fortune” from the pub

Lets keep it here for another 200 years!

The most concerning difference, is that changes in work and society are putting the survival of this special place at risk. We need to be more proactive in supporting the Wheel of Fortune, which is a welcoming place and serves good real ales, which are at least as good as those the writer of the article would have come across.

Come on, folks, support the Wheel of Fortune!

Wheel of Fortune Landlords

This is the information we have at the moment about previous landlords of the ‘Wheel of Fortune’. We are trying to extend our knowledge, so would welcome any additional information.

John Bacon

  • White’s 1836: Beerseller
  • White’s 1845 – Beerhouse
  • 1851 Census: Butcher and Victualler, Wheel of Fortune – Age 63 Born Rumburgh, Suffolk; wife Sarah 58, born Kirby Bedon; children Lucy 23, Louisa 20 both born Alpington; butcher’s servant Robert Roper 17 born Thetford; Lodger William Barber, boot & shoe maker, born Thurning
  • Craven’s 1856 – Wheel of Fortune & butcher
  • Kelly’s 1858 ditto
  • Harrod’s 1863 ditto

Sarah Bacon

  • 1861 Census: widow, Publican and Butcher; grand-daughter Lucy Johnson 13 scholar in Brooke born Bergh Apton
  • Directory 1864 Victualler Wheel of Fortune

Tuttle Mann Curtis

  • Kelly’s 1879 Wheel of Fortune and oil merchant
  • 1881 Census: Innkeeper aged 39 born Saxthorpe; wife Maria 41 born Hevingham; children – Alice Maud 13 born Blofield, Kate Maria 8 born Shotesham, Gertrude 6 born Shotesham, Florence 4 born Shotesham, Charles 1 born Alpington

John Baldock

  • Kelly’s 1883 Wheel of Fortune

Samuel Whitwood

  • Kelly’s 1888 Wheel of Fortune PH
  • Kelly’s 1890 vict. Wheel of Fortune

Sarah Whitwood

  • 1891 Census: aged 63 widow, Innkeeper born Gloucestershire; daughter Lydia 22 born Chedgrave
  • Kelly’s 1892 Wheel of Fortune PH

Samuel George Whitwood

  • Kelly’s 1896 Wheel of Fortune PH

Walter Bilham

  • Kelly’s 1900 Wheel of Fortune PH (also 1904, 1908, 1912,1916,1922,1925)
  • 1901 Census: aged 39, Licensed Victualler, born Swainsthorpe; wife Martha 34 born Poringland; Albert E. A. 1 born Alpington

Albert Ernest Anthony Bilham

  • Kelly’s 1929 Wheel of Fortune PH (also 1933, 1937)

Abigail Bilham (nee Aldis)

  • Cousin Stanley Aldis
  • Abigail had cattle which were grazed on the Church Meadow, and she operated a milk round. She organised a number of village outings to the north Norfolk coast. She left the land, now Alberta Piece, to provide housing for local residents. She died c. 1978-9

Trevor Burrows

  • from c. 1964

David and Enid Evans

Stephen and Sharon ?

Trevor Howard

Martin Sanderson

  • c.1995

Ron ?

John Bradley (Roger Roper) ran it for Robbie

Steve and Julia ?

Carl and Angela

Tom and Jan

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