The Chequers

The Chequers

The Chequers was in Forncett St Mary, at the junction of High Road and Chequers Hill, and it was always known locally as "The Bunk". The name apparently derived from the fact that when the Forncett to Wymondham branch line (the "Swedes and Swimmers") was being built in 1880/1881, the navvies working on the job had a tented camp close to the Chequers where they "bunked", and the name persisted long after the branch line was completed.

The building was a licensed pub from 1789 until 1983 and is now a private house. It is a plastered clay lump Grade II listed building.

The Chequers, circa 2009
The Chequers, circa 2009

The known licensees of the Chequers were:

William Cook 1789-1801

Ann Cook 1801

Canham Harvey 1836-1850

John Barker 1851-1852

Elijah Harvey 1854-1858

George Harvey 1861-1892

Alfred Stone 1896

Thomas Baxter 1900

James Baxter 1901-1922

Arthur Ernest Mann 1925-1939

Tom & Rosa Cumberland

Charles and Kathleen Moss c1962

The above list shows that the Harvey family were publicans at the Chequers for a total of fifty years. Canham Harvey was born in Forncett St Mary around 1786 and in 1811 he married Elizabeth Austin, daughter of the local blacksmith, James Austin. Canham and Elizabeth had four sons and two daughters, all of whom were born in Forncett St Mary, before Canham moved to the Chequers. In 1839 the Chequers was supplied by Morgans brewery, Old King Street, Norwich.

When Canham Harvey retired from the pub in 1850 he stayed in the village where he farmed 12 acres. A few years later, his son Elijah took over as licensee and then around 1860 Elijah's brother, George Harvey, became the publican and Elijah moved to Tharston where he was a farmer. George ran the Chequers for 30 years, until his death in 1892, age 76.

Another of Canham's sons, James Harvey, left Forncett and moved to Shoreditch in London where he married Emma Thomas, a local girl, in 1841. They had three children in London but then in 1851 they moved back to Forncett where James became the first publican at the newly opened Railway Inn. James ran the pub until 1864 but then moved to Suffolk to become a farm bailiff. 

Morgans brewery was bought by Watney Mann in 1961 and they then continued to supply the pub until it was closed in 1983.

Below are a number of photos taken at the Chequers in the 1980s.

Back row left to right: Joe Moss, Peter King, Reggie Ludkin. Front row left to right: Charlie Moss, John Bassingthwaite, Maurice Moss, Alan Aldridge, Robert Sculfor.

Left to Right: Charlie Moss (landlord), Marjorie Nicholls (nee Drake), Tom Blake, Marion Hawkins (nee Moss), Derek Chaplin, Mary (Kathleen) Moss - landlady, Frank Nicholls.

Standing - Marjorie Nicholls, Seated - Doris Landsell (nee Moss), Brian Landsell, Frank Nicholls

Left to right: Billy Bunn, Charlie Moss, Daisy O'Sullivan (Charlie's sister), Mary Moss

With thanks to Robin Holmes for help in researching this article.