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PUBLISHED: 18:43 03 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:20 03 July 2010

ROLL OUT THE BARRELS: A century ago they were being piled up on the South Denes at Great Yarmouth in readiness for the herring season, about the same time as the council sought unsuccessfully to create a new dock there to relieve pressure on the quaysides

ROLL OUT THE BARRELS: A century ago they were being piled up on the South Denes at Great Yarmouth in readiness for the herring season, about the same time as the council sought unsuccessfully to create a new dock there to relieve pressure on the quaysides

THOSE of us who witnessed the end of Great Yarmouth's long reign as the world's leading herring port and the decline and extinction of the autumn fishery that served the borough so well for decades can but smile wryly at the optimism abounding a century ago.

THOSE of us who witnessed the end of Great Yarmouth's long reign as the world's leading herring port and the decline and extinction of the autumn fishery that served the borough so well for decades can but smile wryly at the optimism abounding a century ago.

In 1907, record catches had been landed, so the following year plans were laid to improve facilities. But, as so often happens, officialdom scuppered those best-laid plans.

The council was eager to revive its scheme for building a new dock excavated into the South Denes to accommodate the extra business and relieve the pressure on existing wharves. By a five-vote majority the council accepted its surveyor's idea, provided an independent consultant deemed it possible.

The consultant deemed it feasible, so a deputation went to Whitehall to put Yarmouth's case to the president of the Board of Trade - none other than Lloyd George, whose political career took him to 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922.

He listened to the port's case and sent an inspector from his harbour grant committee to Yarmouth to ascertain whether or not to give financial support. Unfortunately for Yarmouth, the inspector did not think his committee should back the new dock, citing his opinion that “the applicant would appear to be well able to defray out of their own resources the cost of construction and to receive substantial revenue from the boats and fish that would be dealt with at the new works”.

So far as I know, the scheme was never resurrected. Had it resurfaced and been implemented, South Denes would have been substantially different.

The council agreed that the cran (1,000-1,200 herring) be adopted as the official measure for catches, and that sales by the “last” must stop. A last comprised 100 long hundreds, and a hundred was about 132 herring, so a last had been 13,200 fish.

It was reported that advance orders for 160,000 barrels of herring had been received well before the start of the autumn fishery, one-fifth of an ordinary season's trade.

The steam drifter Maggie May was lost on the Holme Sands off Lowestoft, two of her hands drowning but the other eight managing to cling to the rigging for 11 hours before being rescued. Three fishermen were swept overboard from the lugger, Boys Own.

The new port tug, the George Jewson, arrived in the Yare, her duties to include supporting the dredger Industry and towing her hoppers to and from sea. The Port and Haven Commissioners decided to build their new office on South Quay, between the Custom House and the public library.

In the river, two of four visiting Royal Navy submarines collided with Haven Bridge while berthing at Hall Quay.

River trips from Yarmouth to Burgh Castle, landing five minutes walk from the Roman ruins, cost sixpence (2½p today) single and ninepence return.

The Independent Labour Party petit-ioned the council to implement “the Act for the Compulsory Feeding of Necess-itous Schoolchildren”, but was told in reply that every hungry pupil was fed. In recent days 135 breakfasts had been supplied by voluntary efforts to needy youngsters in half a dozen schools.

At a meeting of the Yarmouth town mission, the Rev Edwin Hall expressed surprise that he had not seen as much staggering drunkenness or heard so much profane swearing as he had been led to expect.

The existing Yarmouth recreation ground was named the Wellesley, and the new one called the Beaconsfield. The Royal Norfolk agricultural show took place on the Beaconsfield.

Roads in the so-called “garden suburb” were given the names Sandringham, Balmoral, Osborne, Windsor, Royal and Alexandra.

After 30 years of fundraising and work, the new St James's Church in Yarmouth was dedicated.

The former home of prison reformer Sarah Martin (1791-1843) was demolished in Row 57, beside the Star and Garter public house off Hall Quay, to make way for an extension to Clowes' booming grocery business. Recently, a memorial plaque was placed in St Nicholas's Church, where a stained glass window to her memory was destroyed in a 1942 Luftwaffe air-raid.

Other retailers looking to the future were Boots the Chemist, who moved to new premises at 11 King Street (oppposite the top of Regent Street) from 28 Regent Street (near the Arcade); Arthur Hollis, who established a corn shop on the east side of Market Place near Market Gates; and Ernest Skippings, who took over the south King Street drapery business of Mr G Carr and stayed until the 1970s.

Cab drivers feared for their livelihoods if metered taxis were allowed to ply for hire in the borough, and were relieved when the council decided not to license the new ones for at least another season.

A charabanc operator was given permission to run between the borough and nearby towns. The museum bought for £3 a model of Gurney's steam carriage, the original worked on the Yarmouth to London run.

The growing popularity of roller-skating persuaded the council to provide a 35ft pathway around the bandstand in Wellington Pier Gardens for exponents of the pastime.

A fully-equipped 8hp four-seater car was bought with ratepayers' money for use by the borough surveyor. But the usefulness of horses remained, albeit diminished, for the chief constable was allowed to hire one for a constable to patrol the seafront area and regulate traffic during August.

The swimming club again drew attention to the need for a public pool - but it was to take another 14 years for members' pleas to be fulfilled by the provision of the 100yd by 25yd open-air baths containing 600,000 gallons of cold water on Marine Parade.

Not long after that wish was granted, the club launched a campaign for a covered, heated pool that took another half a century before the Phoenix was built at Bradwell (initially as a school pool but with some public sessions), followed by the Marina Centre, created in Yarmouth in 1981 on the site of the original outdoor one.

There was talk about building a new Haven Bridge across which trams could run. The replacement for the bridge spanning the river in 1908 was opened 22 years later, in 1930.

A bowling green was laid out in the seafront Nelson Gardens. And production of artificial silk began in Grouts' new factory.

After Henry Farman flew a circular mile in France, the council invited him to make his first flight in England from the South Denes racecourse. But he had an accident and it fell through.

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