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Robert Jacob Lamb (1862-1948)


A search in the newspaper archive for someone else fortuitously turned up a reference to Robert Lamb, who played the dulcimer regularly in a pub in the centre of Norwich in the late 1880s.

A handful of newspaper reports detailed some complicated and violent domestic events involving his wife Kate (née Pilgrim), in the course of which the dulcimer was mentioned on several occasions. One 1888 report stated that “the prosecutrix [Kate Lamb] and her husband went regularly to sing and play at the Red Rose”. The licensee of the Red Rose, Charles Betts, was accused of raping Kate Lamb at the Lambs’ house in Heigham Road. Another report stated: “Her husband played the dulcimer at prisoner’s house for about two months. She had frequently accompanied him and they were friendly with the prisoner, who had been to her house previously to the day in question.” Betts was acquitted as there were serious doubts over Kate’s complicity in the relationship, compounded by money changing hands either as a bribe from Betts or a blackmail from the Lambs. The very same evening of this event, Robert and Kate went out to Betts’ pub and he played the dulcimer, somewhat testing the likelihood of her trauma.
From the court report:

[For the defence] —Did your husband the same night of the assault play the dulcimer at Betts’?
Complainant -Yes.
[Judge]—What, the same evening?
Complainant -Yes.
[For the defence] - I don't ask any further questions.

In 1890 the couple were in the process of splitting up permanently when another contretemps occurred, eliciting these headlines:

Kate had left Robert and returned to his house on two occasions wanting to pick up some belongings, but he refused her entry. Fighting ensued between, on the one side her new partner and her parents, and on the other Lamb and some friends who were in the house with him. On the second occasion, Kate broke a window, climbed in and broke “five pictures, a dulcimer, a table and a chair”.

Soon afterwards Robert found a new partner too, with a happier outcome. There is no further news about his dulcimer playing.

Robert Lamb was born in Great Yarmouth, moving to Norwich as a young child after the death of his father. He was first married at the age of nineteen, and in the 1881 census his trade was given as journeyman chair-maker, whilst on his second marriage to Kate Pilgrim in 1887, his trade is given as cabinet-maker. This means he might well have made his own dulcimer. In all subsequent census returns, his trade is given as stone sawyer.

Betts’ pub, the Red Rose, was in the centre of town, a fair walk (or perhaps cycle ride) from Heigham Road, where the Lambs lived from c.1887 to c.1890. It is referred to in the newspaper reports as “Back o’the Inns”, which is a lane running between Castle Mall and along the back of the Royal Arcade, parallel with the present day Gentleman’s Walk on the lower end of the Market Square. Betts had the pub from 1885 to 1891 and afterwards reverted to his former occupation as a printer before moving back into the hotel and restaurant trade. The pub closed in January 1935, although the building still stands and at the time of writing is occupied by Sta Travel. In 1936, when George Plunkett took the photos, it was the ‘Golden Health Stores’ and by 1939 had become a butcher’s.



Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture


Photo descriptions & sources

Photos of Back of the Inns: George Plunkett


1. Back of the Inns 3 to 9 former Red Rose Inn [1314] 1936-08-23
2. Back of the Inns 3 to 11 view north [1311] 1936-08-23


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