During the summer of 1970 I heard of an old public house on the river Waveney just a few miles out of Beccles in Suffolk .So my wife and I decided to seek it out. After going through the village of Gillingham we came to the village of Geldeston. Leaving our car we crossed a field and were amazed to find a pathway made from bottle tops. Following this pathway we came to Geldeston Lock, beside the lock stood a small two storey redbrick building. My wife, small son and myself decided to sit on the side of the lock and have a picnic. On closer inspection, this building turned out to be the public house we were looking for, although there was nothing to indicate it was so, as the place was locked up. On closer inspection I found a small note pinned to the front entrance which stated that the pub was closed for the lunchtime opening as the landlady had gone shopping in Beccles. It appears she went by boat down the river, to moor just below the old church, which was built around Doomsday.
A couple of weeks later we made our way once more to the old pub across the field. This time it was open and we spent a very pleasant, if unusual evening with this very interesting, well educated, if somewhat eccentric landlady. The interior of the bar was fitted with very old furnishings. This included black high backed settles, tables and wooden straight back chairs. Although the place was spotlessly clean, it possessed neither electricity nor running water. The bar counter itself were quite small, as was the landlady, who told me during the course of the evening, that many years before she had spent a holiday on the river, and discovering the pub, fell in love with it and its lovely situation. And after finishing her years at university, decided that when it became possible she would spend the rest of her years, here assisting the incumbent landlord. After he died, she was allowed to continue the license. She actually showed my wife and I her bedroom above the bar, from the window of which, she could look down to the lock, telling us at the time. On moonlit nights after closing time she would sit by her bedroom window and watch her own swan lake ballet, as the swans glided across the moonlight lock.
Now comes the interesting bit. There were only a half dozen patrons apart from us in the house that evening. One rather loud fellow, who we were told, was an M.P.on holiday from London, had imbibed at least four glasses of whisky. He sauntered up to the bar whist we were talking for his fifth glass. No more for you tonight my lad said the landlady, and knowing her rules, he accepted the fact. He was then given the bill for his drinks and left quietly. Nobody paid for their drinks until the end of the evening, she had written down everything we imbibed on scraps of paper!
How she managed on busy evenings when the house would be filled with university students, holidaymakers moored in their boats etc. I do not know. Although we were told, locals always helped when she had a full house. Nobody would dream of trying to leave without paying. We were told by the regulars that when she had had enough, she would make it clear she was about to close as she was tired, even if it were before ten p.m.! The entire beer, wines etc. was delivered by boat. It turned out she was a mine of information when it came to wines, and advised us in a choice from her excellent cellar. The walls of the bar were covered with postcards from past customers from all over the world. It was obvious that the many visitors held her in great esteem, both past and present, who were lucky enough to discover this unique Suffolk pub on the river, which I can only assume would have disappeared on her demise, the like of which will never be seen again.
Arthur. E. Bensley