The Never Turn Back public house


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Manor Road, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, NR30 5HG


Ordnance survey map of The Never Turn Back public house
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Statutory Address:
Manor Road, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, NR30 5HG

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Great Yarmouth (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A public house in Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, completed in 1956 and opened in 1957, designed by A W Ecclestone for Lacon's Brewery.

Reasons for Designation

The Never Turn Back public house, opened in 1957 and designed by A W Ecclestone, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as an interesting example of a pub built to a flexible plan, whose interior decorative scheme is largely complete. * for its near-unaltered exterior composition that has a sense of place and appropriateness to its context and location; * for the distinctive and effective use of form, materials and detailing; * as a building by a well-known architect of public houses and related buildings, who developed a distinctive style and whose work is already represented on the List.

Historic interest: * for the close historic association as a memorial to the Caister lifeboat tragedy, which gained national attention and interest and is still remembered both locally and by the RNLI; * as a comparatively early post-war pub, designed the year after building restrictions were lifted in 1954.


The post-war period saw the English public house become a fully accepted social amenity, for the first time, and pubs were constructed in their thousands in new estates and developments and areas damaged by wartime bombing. Until building restrictions were lifted in late 1954, most of these pubs were temporary in form or built so as to be capable of future extension; exceptions were occasionally made, but the number of permanent pubs built between 1945 and 1954 was low.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the principles of pub design remained largely the same as in the inter-war period, although further refined and advanced. Buildings were still broken down into separate bars (the most common being public bar and saloon bar, with off-sales shop or off-licence). Central serveries remained the norm, ensuring ready supervision of all bar areas. Manager’s accommodation (almost always on an upper floor) was clearly segregated, and emphasis was placed on the social role of pubs, which often included club or assembly rooms for wider community use and children’s/family rooms. A conscious effort was made to ensure post-war pubs harmonised with their environment, so their exteriors were often comparatively plain and/or of a form imitating nearby buildings; only occasionally were post-war pubs designed as bold architectural statements, this being especially the case in town and city centres. Almost all pubs were given large car parks (reflecting the rising popularity of the motor car), but gardens became far less common and were less elaborate than in the inter-war years. Despite this, the interplay between interior and exterior space was often emphasised by large windows, loggias, and outdoor terraces. Internally, pubs often retained a sense of traditional atmosphere (e.g. fireplaces were often included in bars, despite the installation of full central heating), but buildings were usually brightly decorated and given modern facilities, ensuring they matched or bettered the quality of contemporary housing. Reflecting the breakdown of the class system, the social and decorative distinctions between the pub’s various bars became blurred and interiors became more uniform.  Post-war pubs were frequently planned as part of the larger whole, and located within neighbourhood centres, or adjacent to shopping parades, churches or community centres.

From the mid-1960s, pubs were increasingly rivalled by other forms of entertainment, such as discos, wine bars, restaurants and working men’s clubs. In order to survive, breweries approached design in a less traditional manner. Themed interiors became common, dance floors and function suites were introduced, and pub catering took on a new importance, while interesting risks were taken with pub architecture, both internally and externally. Single-bar pubs became increasingly widespread – capable of being used by both sexes and people of all classes, and usually broken down into smaller zones – although pubs of traditional post-war design continued to be built right into the 1970s. A change came in the 1980s when attention shifted to the conversion of existing buildings as pubs and the creation of pub chains, with near identical design.

In more recent times, pubs of the post-war years have become the most threatened and under-appreciated of their building type. The majority have been either greatly altered or demolished, with far fewer intact examples surviving than for the inter-war period.

The Never Turn Back public house was built in 1956-1957 by the important local brewery, Lacon's, to replace the Manor House Hotel, a large building which was situated to the north-east and which was washed away by the sea in 1940, prior to the construction of Caister’s new sea-wall.

In initial plans, the new pub was named the Manor House, but an alternative option was quickly decided upon. The Never Turn Back was named in memory of the Caister lifeboat tragedy of 13 November 1901. During a night of severe weather conditions, the Caister lifeboat Beauchamp attempted to save a vessel in distress. However, the sea was so rough that the lifeboat was capsized: nine men were killed and only three survived. For his brave efforts during the disaster, King George V awarded the gold medal of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to the Caister assistant coxswain, James Henry Haylett (1825-1907). One of the most famous lifeboatmen of his generation, Haylett lost two sons, a son-in-law and a grandson in the disaster. At the ensuring inquest, when asked why the crew did not abandon the rescue, Haylett explained that ‘They would never give up the ship … Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that’. This was quickly converted by the press and public – at regional and national level – into the famous phrase ‘Caister men never turn back’. The phrase Never Turn Back has endured, becoming the motto of the Caister lifeboat crew and also having been taken as a motto throughout the RNLI.

The pub was officially opened by Patrick Howarth, Publicity Secretary of the RNLI, in July 1957, coinciding with the centenary of the establishment of the lifeboat crew at Caister. The ceremony was attended by the grandson of James Henry Haylett, James Haylett Jr, who had lost his father, uncle and brother in the disaster, along with the other serving Caister lifeboatmen. On the pub’s opening, a local newspaper stated that no other lifeboat station in Britain had saved as many lives as that at Caister.

An existing 1930s building to the immediate west of the new pub site, previously in use as the gardener’s cottage of the Manor House Hotel and named ‘The Lodge’, was reworked so as to provide living accommodation for the pub’s manager/landlord. This meant that the Never Turn Back could be designed without the need to incorporate living accommodation, an unusual approach and one presumably taken to keep the costs of construction low – an important consideration for a brewery whose building stock had been greatly damaged during the Second World War. The building occupies a site directly adjacent to the beach and sand dunes, and is now set amidst mainly post-war housing and holiday caravan parks, on the Manor House Estate at the southern end of Caister. The pub was clearly intended to serve both the local inhabitants and holiday trade, from the influx of holiday makers after the war. When the pub was constructed the Great Yarmouth and North Walsham Railway ran along the immediate western edge of Manor Road. However, the railway closed in 1959 and was subsequently dismantled, its site now being occupied by a row of bungalows.

The national brewery Whitbread’s acquired a partial stake in Lacon’s in the same year as the pub opened, 1957, and then took over complete control of the brewery in 1965. The brewery buildings in Great Yarmouth were closed in 1968; the last of them was demolished in 1997. The Never Turn Back was run by Whitbread’s until it was sold about 2000, at the time the Whitbread tied estate was acquired by the Laurel pub company. It is now a freehold and run as both a pub and food venue.

The architect of the Never Turn Back was Arthur William (Billy) Ecclestone, 1901-1984. He was born in Great Yarmouth, the son of architect, Arthur James Ecclestone, who was Chief Surveyor to Lacon’s Brewery. Having been articled to J. W. Cockrill, Borough Surveyor and Architect of Great Yarmouth, Ecclestone junior joined his father at Lacon’s as assistant surveyor in 1920. In 1938, upon Ecclestone senior’s retirement, his son took over the position of Principal Surveyor and Architect, which he seems to have held into the 1960s. Some Lacon’s pubs of that decade, including the University Arms in Norwich (1961) and the Alderman in Lowestoft (1965), resemble earlier pubs known to have been designed by Ecclestone, not least in their use of varied materials. He probably retired around the time that Lacon’s was fully acquired by Whitbread’s in 1965.

Ecclestone was for some years a member of Great Yarmouth Town Council, and was Vice-President of the Norfolk Association of Architects. He took a special interest in local history and archaeology, and this seems to be reflected in the choice of vernacular building materials which he used in his pub designs. Ecclestone was known in particular for his use of decorative ceramics in the design of pub signs; it is perhaps notable in this regard that his early mentor, J. W. Cockrill, was inventor of the Cockrill-Doulton patent tile.

Ecclestone designed a number of pubs in Norfolk and Suffolk, generally in the neo-vernacular, Moderne and Art Deco styles, developing a form of architecture which was peculiarly his own. These date from both the inter-war period and the post-war years. Ecclestone’s pubs include: the Clipper Schooner, Great Yarmouth (1938); the Links Hotel, Gorlestone (1939); the Norman, Lowestoft (late 1930s); the South Star Inn, Great Yarmouth (about 1953), the Lifeboat Tavern, Sea Palling (1954), and the Gallon Pot, Great Yarmouth (1959). Another work by Ecclestone is the Moderne/Art Deco-style Iron Duke pub in Great Yarmouth (late 1930s, completed 1948) and recently listed at Grade II, while he must also have designed the extensions to the Ship Inn, Caister (about 1957), which are similar in style to the Never Turn Back. In addition, Ecclestone was responsible for designing the conversion of Shadingfield Lodge, Great Yarmouth (listed Grade II) as a pub in 1953, and designed extensions and alterations at Sewell House, Great Yarmouth (Grade II), the childhood home of Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty.


A post-war public house with Art Deco and Moderne design features, completed in 1956 and opened formally in 1957, designed by A W Ecclestone, architect for Lacon’s Brewery.

MATERIALS: the building is constructed of red brick with cobblestone detailing. The brickwork is laid in English bond with soldier courses at the cornice and above decorative panels. The roof is flat and overhangs, with asphalt-sheet covering and narrow painted fascias. Low walls around the building are composed of brick and flint cobble stones, set into a chequer-board pattern. Ceramic tiles are used in the columns and other decorative elements, and there are concrete-framed panels containing randomly arranged brick, stone, flint and cobble, as well as pantiles and glass bottle bases.

PLAN: a rectangular footprint with a two-storey block projecting at the centre of the south side. The pub was built to a simple yet flexible plan with two main bar areas with a central servery, and is somewhat unusual for the period in that there was no requirement for landlord’s accommodation. The pub stands 330 metres north of Caister lifeboat station and 120 metres north of the coastguard cottages and lookout.

EXTERIOR: the Never Turn Back is single storey with a flat roof and verandahs on three sides (east, south and west), which are supported by square, brick columns with corbels forming the capitals and ceramic tile detailing. The pub has a projecting two-storey block at the centre of its main (south) elevation. The single-storey section of the pub has large expanses of windows and glazed doors, which make up the majority of the face of the building on three sides, although the upper window panels to the public bar have been painted over. There are separate entrances to public bar and lounge bar (the original glazed doors retain the lettering setting out these bar names) – the Public Bar is to the west and the Lounge to the east. Each of these sets of double doors is reached by a set of steps with curved edges, though that on the west has now been partly covered with a sloped ramp. The doors are flanked with fluted planters. An additional set of double doors on the pub’s east elevation – likewise reached by a set of curved steps – provides access from the lounge to the terrace/gardens. A further set of double doors on the pub’s west elevation, now blocked up, previously faced The Lodge. Part-glazed, single-leaf doors provide access from each of the main verandahs to the entrance hall and toilets. The pub’s north elevation is without any windows and is plain and utilitarian. The structures adjoined to the north elevation are not of special interest and are excluded from the listing.

Each of the two-storey block or ‘tower’s’ three elevations features two large concrete-framed panels, one above the other, containing an assortment of pebbles, brick and glass designed to mimic beach-combed materials. Between these, at the centre of each elevation are rows of small, square windows – three on the west, two on the east and two on the south, all lighting the toilets. Those on the south and west sides have now been blocked and painted over, but those on the east remain in use. The window openings are divided by columns of plain tiles, while the place of the central window on the south side is taken by a glazed ceramic tile depicting the Lacon’s falcon and the central square on the east is formed by a ceramic tile depicting a lifeboat. On the upper part of the south side of the ‘tower’, the pub’s name is set out: NEVER TURN BACK. The pub’s name was formerly illuminated by blue neon bulbs. These have now been removed (though their fixings onto the lettering remain) and the patchwork of materials which forms the background to the sign has been painted black.

The chimneystack at the south-east corner of the ‘tower’ – serving the basement boiler room – is a particular feature of the pub’s external design. It is narrow and deep and decorated with regularly spaced horizontal concrete bands. The chimneystack was originally topped by a statue of the Lacon’s falcon and bore lettering on its west face stating ‘Lacon's Ales’. On top of the flat roof of the two-storey block, there is now a flagpole and an access ladder with metal balustrades at its side, to allow flags to be raised and lowered. Neither the pole nor balustrades appear in early photographs, so they must be additions.

INTERIOR: the interior is divided into three main sections, the public bar, lounge bar and central service section. The interior is now characterised by the extensive use of dark wood, such as vertically boarded panels in the Public Bar, and exposed brick. The space throughout is broken up by structural, load-bearing piers – for instance, dividing the counters into parts, while there are also exposed-brick piers situated around the centre of each of the bar rooms.

At the centre of the pub are the entrance hall, servery and toilets (these are on the ground floor of the two-storey block). The servery forms an island in the middle of the pub and to the north of it was a beer store, which is now converted into a kitchen. It is suggested that a hatch in the Lounge was for off-sales; a more obvious place for an off-sales counter would have been in the blank wall on the north of the entrance hall, but the plan of 1955 shows that a counter never existed there. The pub’s basement cellar is reached from behind the servery and has a barrel drop at its north end. It stretches out to the south, beneath the entrance hall, and there is a boiler room beneath the ‘tower’.

The right (eastern) part of the pub is taken up by the Lounge, which was designed to run through the whole depth of the building, though it had no windows on its north side. On the left (west) – similarly filling the depth of the building – is the Public Bar. The north sections of each of these bar rooms extended beyond the line of the bar and servery. These inner areas at the north were always partly divided off from the main bar spaces, having partitions at their centres. The openings either side of these partitions were served by sliding doors in the Public Bar and roller shutters in the lounge; these sliding doors/shutters are shown on the plan of 1955. The northern section of the Public Bar is now used as a performance space and the folding partition has been removed, that to the Lounge is fully separated and used for storage. The original counter-fronts of the Public Bar replicated the brick and cobble panels on the exterior and are likely to remain under the current vertically-boarded front. There are distinctive curved baffles at entrances to both the Public Bar and Lounge, covered with later upholstery, as is the fixed seating in the public bar. Other original features include the doors and window frames, ceiling panels, and the access and barrel ladders in the cellar.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a low boundary wall is located at the entrance to the car park. It makes the same use of material and chequer-board pattern as the verandah walls. Set into the wall is the original freestanding pub sign, with decorative ironwork and topped by a falcon – the symbol of Lacon’s Brewery, although the current sign board is a replacement.


L. Pearson, Decorative ceramics in the buildings of the British Brewery Industry, accessed 14/03/2018 from
Never Turn Back, Caister on Sea, accessed 23 February 2018 from
Plans and elevation drawings of October 1955, file no. D2074, Great Yarmouth District Council


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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