Lion Inn/Garage (The)Building Status: Unknown
Some earlier history of this old inn can be found in our booklet, pages 36-7.
This was a popular inn for at least 300 years. Our Public Houses page shows that it was the Swan Inn in 1722 and perhaps even as early as 1619; then the Red Lion or just The Lion from about 1770 to 1932. See Publican List. In 1848 the pub was involved in a substantial property sale (Lot 23).
By 1908, and in the 1911 census, Walter Hawes was here (actually his wife Kate was the publican) – he set up a printing works in an outbuilding: click here to read about his company W W Hawes.
The last landlord was William George Balls (1925 directory). According to the Football Club records for August 1932 the Lion ceased to be a pub soon after that. For about 50 years it was a garage/service station, first as Balls’ garage, then Jacob’s and finally Catton’s. It was closed in the 80s(?) and the Catton family continued to live there until 2003.
Most of the garage pictures are from the period 1963-70. The Jacobs inserted an extra door in the left-hand section of the front, and this was later removed again after the building ceased to be a garage.
Bill Jacob took over the garage from Balls sometime in the later 1930s, adding to it his bicycle business, while his son George continued to occupy Station Garage. Then when Bill died in 1957 George and his family moved to the Lion, transferring also the Station Garage name there, and undertaking a number of improvements, including an electric hoist. They moved away in 1963.
A short article in the Elmswell Newsletter, January 2009:
Mike and Pat Catton took over the garage in 1963 and ran it for 23 years. When they started, Shellmex petrol was 4/4d a gallon – four shillings and four pence, 22p, which works out at just under 5p per litre. In those gentler times they dug a hole for a new fuel storage tank, and when it filled with water the dog from over the road would come and swim in it. The front of the old house was seriously damaged by a fire in the late 1960’s…a fire which started just as a 6,000 gallon (big) tanker was delivering fuel.
Catton’s offered a wide range of services as well as fuel: repairs, MoT and bodywork repairs, and their breakdown truck often had to turn out in the middle of the night to rescue cars and drivers. Colin Gould and David Royal both began their careers there and continue to this day offering the same excellent service from the Station Road Industrial Estate, just 2 minute’s walk away.
Pat explains that they closed because they had worked long enough and hard enough, and no-one who remembers their service would argue. Although the repair work was plentiful, supermarket prices, impossible for the independent trader to match, were attracting the fuel trade away from the villages.