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Memories of historic Drill Hall shared by caretaker’s granddaughter

PUBLISHED: 14:13 06 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:13 06 December 2017

Beauchamp Beechy White (right) outside the Drill Hall. Photo: Leslie White

Beauchamp Beechy White (right) outside the Drill Hall. Photo: Leslie White

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Memories of a historic Great Yarmouth building have been shared by relatives of a caretaker who looked after it for more than 30 years.

L-R daughter Rose, wife Charlotte, Beechy, daughter Olive (Leslie's mother), daughter Doris 1924. Photo: Leslie White L-R daughter Rose, wife Charlotte, Beechy, daughter Olive (Leslie's mother), daughter Doris 1924. Photo: Leslie White

Beauchamp ‘Beechy’ White was caretaker of the York Road, Drill Hall in the early part of the twentieth century.

During the three decades living in, and looking after the building, he raised six children, survived WWI zeppelin raids and organised numerous events in and around the Drill Hall.

Beechy’s story has been retold by his granddaughter, Leslie White to SeaChange Arts, current owners of the Grade II listed building, now called the Drill House.

SeaChange are collecting memories of the building as they celebrate its 150th year in a Heritage Lottery funded project called ‘Drill House 150’.

Beechys wife Charlotte and nephew Frank outside the Drill Hall 1927. Photo: Leslie White Beechys wife Charlotte and nephew Frank outside the Drill Hall 1927. Photo: Leslie White

Built in 1867 to house the Rifle Battalion of the Norfolk Volunteer Regiment, Beechy White became caretaker in 1902.

Mrs White said he granddad raised his family at the Drill Hall in the living quarters.

She added: “My mum, her brothers, sisters and cousin Frank were born there.

“She went to school next door and would tell me how grandad would hang out of the Drill Hall windows to pass them little bits and bobs, on a long pole, into the school.”

Leslie White on the right telling Beechy's story to Veronica Stephens and Joe Mackintosh of SeaChange Arts Photo SeaChange Arts Photo: Seachange Arts Leslie White on the right telling Beechy's story to Veronica Stephens and Joe Mackintosh of SeaChange Arts Photo SeaChange Arts Photo: Seachange Arts

When war came to Great Yarmouth in 1915, Beechy and his children were only feet from the first aerial bombardment of these shores.

110lb of bombs were dropped on St Peter’s Plain by a German Zeppelin on a cold dark night in January 1915.

Mrs White added: “I found an account in the Mercury of that night. One eyewitness ran to take shelter near the Drill Hall and found half a dozen ‘night-robed children’ outside, looking at the sky – that was my mother and her brothers and sisters.”

Despite the drama of war, Leslie says her mum had a wonderful time living at the Drill Hall.

She added: “Grandad taught her to shoot on the rifle range and he organised many events, including lavish meals for the soldiers. They had free coal and gas. Considering all the poverty around, she had a good upbringing.”

Do you have memories of the York Road Drill Hall? Help build a history of the building by contacting SeaChange Arts. Call Taraneh on 01493 745458 or email taraneh@seachangearts.org.uk

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