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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Suffolk

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The Nutshell Pub in Bury St Edmunds
© David Webb, 2003
Beer in a Nutshell

Quaffing a pint in the Bury St Edmunds' Nutshell Pub can have its problems. There is very little elbowroom.

At 4.57mtr x 2.13m (15ft x 7ft), it is reputed to be the smallest pub in the country. And, until recently, it held the Guinness World Record for its size too, but it has now been narrowly beaten by a pub in the United States - usually renowned for everything big. So why is the Nutshell so small?

Let's face it, when brewers design a pub they look for dimensions somewhat larger than the average family sitting room. And, first impressions would indicate that this building was dropped on to the end of a row of more established buildings in the middle of the nineteenth Century.

The Nutshell is a timber framed, Grade II listed building, and squeezes into the heart of this historic Suffolk market town. It is now firmly established as one of the town's major tourist attractions.

Size matters

The Traverse, the street within which the pub is situated, dates back to at least the Middle Ages, but there is no evidence to show that there was previously any building on the site.

Nutshell Pub, Bury St Edmunds
© David Webb, 2003
In 1857, Bury St Edmunds pawnbroker, John Stebbings, decided to expand his empire and open a shop in the adjacent building.

As well as selling fruit and vegetables, he also wanted his new shop to sell the finest local ale, but the number of customers he could serve was always restricted.

According to Landlord Mr Bayliss: "It's the actual bar drinking area that counts - and today, even if we wanted a jukebox, we just don't have the room."

The owners - local brewers, Greene King - treat it as their magnet for tourists. Spokesman, Glenn Smith, says it is much loved and is the smallest part of their estate by far. They definitely have no plans to change it.

Words: David Webb

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