Located on Gaol Hill, the Guildhall Stores shared a yard with the neighbouring hostelry the Labour in Vain. Both establishments started trading in the 18th century. When the two pubs amalgamated in 1877 the Labour in Vain ceased to exist. Eventually in 1934 the Guildhall Stores were closed by Compensation.
John Crome is believed to have painted the sign for the Labour in Vain which tastelessly showed "two women engaged in the fruitless task of trying to scrub a little black boy white."
John Riddington Young tells the story of a Navy press-gang visiting Norwich at the beginning of the 19th century who set up their HQ at the Labour in Vain. In an attempt to prevent them using brutal methods Norwich Corporation offered a bounty to each man who joined. Despite them offering eight guineas for every abledbodied seaman and two for an ordinary seaman the Navy Life obviously did not appeal to Norwich citizens as only eight signed up.
This 1920 photograph, reproduced by kind permission of the Norfolk Library and Information Service, shows Gaol Hill in the 1920s. The Guildhall Stores has a sign outside advertising Whitbread's Bottled Stout and Dewar's Whisky