The "Crown Hotel" was built around 1760 and is characteristic of this period. In its heyday, 1850 to 1892 it became one of the best known hotels in the country, not only for the excellent quality of its beer and spirits, but also because the proprietor, George Jacobs, was not only a publican, but also a reputable horse breeder and dealer.
Providing stabling accommodation at the Crown for about 200 horses and another 150 at the west end of the town, made him one of the largest horse breeders and dealers in Britain. He was reputed to have started his dealing business by buying and selling a donkey. He had his own blacksmiths shop adjoining the stables at the Crown and employed some twenty hostlers, also his own horse doctor, or veterinary surgeon, as he would be known today.
Customers came from all over England as well as abroad and included the King's of Austria and Italy.
During the latter part of his life, when he was confined to bed, he decided to "run down" the number of horses and it is said that he disposed of most of them to visiting customers by having a hostler run a horse up and down the High Street a few times which enabled him to assess its value from the sound of its trotting which he could hear plainly through the open bedroom window. Hav ing reduced his numbers to sixty-six in this way, the finest of his famous stud of Carriage Horses and Norfolk Hackneys were sold by auction at the Crown Hotel on Wednesday 6th April 1892 as will be seen from a few extracts of the sale catalogue. It will be noted that 34 of them were bred by himself from selected mares and a few of the others were bred by another reputable horse breeder, William Welsher, who farmed at Carbrooke, Griston and Watton.
The Great Eastern Railway advertised a train service in the sale catalogue from Liverpool Street, Doncaster, Lincoln, Norwich, Cambridge and Newmarket.
George Jacobs, the well known Horse Breeder
and Landlord of the Crown Hotel with his wife and 1885.
After the First World War the Crown entered a new phase in it's long history when R. G. Holmes converted part of the stables into the first garage in the town for selling and repairing motor cars. This was opened in August 1919 and for the next decade it was the largest garage in the district. A new wing was added to the hotel about 1330, making it by far the largest in the town. Following the death of Richard Holmes Junior, the hotel was sold and on 1st July 1949 a disastrous fire gutted much of the building and despite the efforts of three fire brigades every window facing the street was shattered and the roof was open to the sky. Fortunately, no one was injured, but many escaped in the nick of time and lost all their personal belongings.
A few years later the car show room, facing the street, was converted into a cafe, but after a few more years this also was destroyed by fire. It then stood derelict for many years, creating an eyesore in the town centre until it was demolishe d completely. This site now forms part of the imposing approach to the new International Stores and King's Chemist Shop.