The Red Lion Eaton dates back to the 17th century and is one of the finest historic houses in the area. It originally served as a meeting place for men of affairs and influence in the city and for gentry and farmers from the surrounding countryside. Stables at the rear of the property (now guest bedrooms) would have provided shelter for horses while their illustrious owners sampled ale brewed on the premises.
Evidence of a building on the site of the property can be traced back to 1582. At this time it was copyhold of Eaton manor court, the lords of which were the Dean and Chapter of Norwich. In the manuscripts of the court it was recorded that Thomas Juyge conveyed a "messuage built with an adjacent croft". A messuage was a term used at this time for a significant building.
By 1596 the description had expanded to 'Messuage built with barn, stable, malting house and edifices with croft .. and a barn... with garden adjacent...' The existence of a malting house on the site may mean that the dwelling had by then become an inn. This seems to have been confirmed by 1612 when it was referred to as a "capital messuage" called the "Lyon".
The building, as it essentially survives today, was first built in 1643 by Robert Holmes who was sheriff of Norwich in 1646. It has been described as the finest example of a house of that date in Norwich. It still retains many original character features and in 1954 was accorded Grade II Listed status.
The former main road from the south and London passed right outside and on 28th September 1671 Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, passed by the inn on her way into Norwich to join her husband.
Over the next 150 years the inn had several owners until it was bequeathed to 5 different benefactors as a consequence of the will of a Mary Goodwin who died in 1822. By 1826 these various shares were purchased by John Morse of Norwich, beer brewer, who had already bought Day's brewery in Oak Street in 1797 together with 21 public houses. He also served as sheriff of Norwich in 1779 and mayor in 1781 and 1803. He retired from brewing in 1829 leaving his son George Morse to run the business.
In 1831 Morse and Son amalgamated with Steward, Patteson and Stewards Pockthorpe Brewery to form Steward, Patteson & Co. The "& Co" became "Limited" in 1895 until Watney Mann took over in 1967. The Red Lion now offers a range of ales and guest beers such as Adnams, Courage and Greene King.
Various licensees have occupied and run the pub during and since this time. Paul and Laura Wilson took over the lease from Eric and Beryl Colchester in October 2007.
With thanks to Geoffrey Kelly, Historical Research Consultant, for his help in compiling this history.