The Murderers Pub, Sports Bar in Norwich

Landlord History

Arthur and Margaret Bird - October 9th 1962 - May 27th 1970

 

The Gardeners Arms c1970

Both Arthur and Margaret Bird were members of large and well established showmans families when they took on the management of The Gardeners Arms from Walter Clifford George on 9th October 1962.
Arthur Bird, (nick-named Birdie) and Margaret Bird (nee Waddington) had  2 daughters Margaret Rose born 1937 (married name Wilby) and Marion born c 1935.

  

Margaret Bird (nee Waddington) (nee Shufflebottom) The Gardeners Arms c1962
 Arthur Bird's name appears above the door (Right) and with customers (Left)

Margaret had previously been married to the ride proprietor John Willie Waddington Jnr. The Shufflebottom's were an extended family were part of the showmans guild, and they lived on Gurney Road, New Costessey, when they were not touring around the country with there shows.

Margaret Bird (nee Shufflebottom), was the youngest daughter of William (Benjamin) & Rosina (Jane) Shufflebottom, (nee Bishop) and had been a parader on her father's Wild West, and 'gun slinging' show, later performing as an 'Indian Girl' because, as Margaret later recalled, ' I had had very dark hair!'.

Her father  William Shufflebottom, was originally a publican, however, was later known as 'Texas Bill', the founder of The Shufflebottom Wild West Show, and was a Buffalo Bill impersonator, from Bradford, Yorkshire. The origins of his first adventures into the fairground are unknown, but according to his family, William had gone to America with a circus act and saw Buffalo Bill's show. At this point the stories differ, with one branch of the family maintaining that he worked for William Cody and others stating that he came back to England with the idea to perform a similar type of performance in this country. We have archeive evidence that 'Texas Billl' worked with Annie Oakley in the late 1890's, and Annie Oakley in turn also worked with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, during the same period, from 1885-1901. Indeed, 'Texas Bill's' grand-daughter, joined the family profession,  (Florence Shufflebottom) acquiring the mantle of the 'British Annie Oakley'.

William Shufflebottom's wife, Rosina, (died 13th September 1937), (descibed in her death entry, as a 'Show - Woman') was also from a showland family and performed a knife-throwing and snake-charming act.

Margaret Bird's Parents - Dressed for their Wild West Show

Whatever the origins from the 1890s onwards, 'Texas Bill' his growing family, (which eventually included five sons and five daughters), and wife, would alternate between parading and managing other shows and travelling their own booth. 'Texas Bill's' children also started to parade on the front of the shows with his sons John, Richard and Billie using the names 'Rifle Bill', 'Ricardo Colarado' and 'Dingle Jack'. This famous knife thrower and sharpshooter died following a fall from his horse, whilst performing in the circus ring at Milford in 1915, after sixty years travelling with his show. 

Margaret, (nee Shufflebottom) married John Willie Waddington Jnr from Yorkshire, owner of a number of fairground rides, and after his death in Edmonton, on 15th August 1932, aged just 31. (He had developed consumption during his time in the trenches in the First Great War). As well established ride operators, the Waddingtons, worked closely with the Wild West shows and travelling circus'. Following John Willie Waddington Jnr's death, Margaret took on the family business, eventually marrying her foreman Arthur Bird.

 

Arthur & Margaret Bird c1935

Arthur Bird had been something of a fairground promoter, when he married Margaret, which meant that the newly married couple enjoyed a very nomadic existance. Arthurs letter heading describes himself as 'Arthur Bird.  High Class amusement contractor', and posters proclaimed ‘Arthur Bird presents Dartford’s Bright Christmas and New Year Fun Fair' and 'Arthur Bird’s Mammoth Fun Fair near Jolly Farmers, Crayford'. Arthur Bird appears to have been successful over a number of years, running his own ride, again described as 'Birds Famous Racing Yachts'

When 'Texas Bill' died, some of the children formed there own 'Wild West Show's', such as The Texas Jacks, The Dakota's, The Colarado's, (Run by "Ricardo Colorado" aka Richard Shufflebottom, the second son of 'Texas Bill') & The Texans, (which was run by the youngest of the Shufflebottom children, Wally). The Family divided England into quarters, touring specific regions during each season, in order to avoid each other, and not compete their seperate shows against each other.

Arthur & Margarets daughter, Margaret said "the war went on too long and the doodlebugs came so he (Arthur Bird) sent my mum and my sister and me to live with his sisters in Leeds.......we went up there for a few years till the war was over but in the meantime of course with the bombing father lost all his rides" By the 1950's & 1960's, these rides, and shows were being replaced, with other forms of entertainment, and may have been a contributing factor for Arhur & Margaret to change proffessions. The Gardeners/Murderers would have been an ideal watering-hole ,being just a quick hop and skip away from the Old Cattle Market site (now Castle Mall), which hosted the the annual 'May Fair', as well as an Easter Fair, and another at Christmas, the pub is likely to have been a meeting place for the fairground fraternity, when they were performing in Norwich.

 

The 1960's saw devestation, and changing face of pubs in Norwich

Before 1961, the three Norwich based breweries were each responsible for their own closures policy. As brewers, they did close pubs before 1961; but the pace of change quickened as soon as Morgan's were closed.

Similarly, once Watney Mann (East Anglia) had full day-to-day control, pub closures from 1966/7 onwards were their sole reponsibility.

In between those times the situation was very mixed - Bullard's and S&P. had their own pubs, plus (a share of) Morgan's, to manage  - for some 5 or 6 years altogether; while the Parent company was looking over their shoulders for the final 3 or 4 years

A Committee was set up to look at the trading situation in the last recorded year (1963), adopting a clear yardstick for 'viable pubs' :- 100 barrels per annum per pub.

This revealed that 363 S&P, and 186 Bullards pubs, were missing the committee's target. The figures were considered far too drastic, so this target was lowered to 70 barrels; giving a total of 256 potential closures, rather than 549.

Despite the hit-list having halved, more back-tracking reduced the list to 172 pubs, and finally to 85 pubs.  The brewery shares of the 85 'hard cases' were 52 (S&P) & 33 (Bullard's). The Gardeners Arms, became a statistic of these cases, when in May 1970 the pub was closed, and became a charity shop.

By 1976, the pub lease was purchased as a Free House by, Duoro Potter and extended into #2 TimberHill

By 1983, all brewing in Norwich had stopped, with the final brewery closing on King Street.