The Beaconsfield Arms stood to the north of St Peter Mancroft Church on Pudding Lane / St Peters Street. Named after Benjamin Disraeli (the Earl of Beaconsfield), it took over the site of The Church Stile in 1881, the year its namesake died. It only survived for 9 years which is in contrast to its rather colourful predecessor.
The Church Stile took its name from the old custom of drinking beer at the church gate at the church's expense on certain holy days in the ecclesiastical calendar.
The Inn was a favourite with travelling showmen and seemed to specialise in wild animals, particularly reptiles. In the Norfolk Chronicle of 25th April 1801, "Lovers of natural curiosities" were invited to view "the largest rattlesnake ever seen in England, 45 years old, near 9ft long, in full health and vigour." A footnote that "A quadruped is to be put in the Rattlesnake's cage at 12 o' clock on Thursday next," no doubt provided further excitement.
Walter Wicks speculates that the feeding of reptiles with a live "quadruped" was a big attraction especially as it was customary to admit persons free of charge who produced live cats and rabbits at the pay box ! Although the mind boggles at a visit from a ratllesnake, in August 1806 this feat was surpassed with a visit by "a most surprising crocodile from the Nile ever seen in the kingdom. He is so remarkably tame that any lady or gentleman may touch him with safety" It is rather interesting to speculate what public reaction would be if such a spectacle were advertised today!
The Church Stile is pictured here in an 1880 etching by Edwin Edwards, reproduced courtesy of Norwich Museum and Art Gallery