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What’s in a name? The story behind Great Yarmouth’s streets

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 November 2018

Abyssinia Road, taken on Peggotty's Box Brownie Camera.

Abyssinia Road, taken on Peggotty's Box Brownie Camera.

Archant

With residential developments springing up across the borough, their roads need naming.

Belvidere Road and Belvidere Place, both once in this Northgate neighbourhood of Great Yarmouth, pictured in 2012, but only the road remains.Belvidere Road and Belvidere Place, both once in this Northgate neighbourhood of Great Yarmouth, pictured in 2012, but only the road remains.

Do the builders suggest them, or is it a Yarmouth Town Hall responsibility?

Decades ago, devising some new road names was done by a Town Hall employee, I recall.

Often her ideas showed originality, unlike her long-ago predecessors when Great Yarmouth was developing and some undeserving puzzlers were bestowed.

First, an imaginary stroll through long-gone Belvidere Place, recently prominent in this column because a resident died in the 1912 Titanic disaster when the liner hit a North Atlantic iceberg and sank with the loss of 1513 lives.

Belvidere Road in Yarmouth, the entire right-hand side being a cemetery wall, taken on Peggotty's Box Brownie camera.Belvidere Road in Yarmouth, the entire right-hand side being a cemetery wall, taken on Peggotty's Box Brownie camera.

My thanks go to readers who furnished information about this short road between Kitchener and East Roads.

One, John Laxton (“Yarmouth born and bred”) e-mailed: “In my 1934 copy of Kelly’s Directory, Belvidere Place is shown as running from 29 Kitchener Road to East Road. It shows a Mrs Alexander living at number 10.”

Passenger William Alexander was a victim - and from Clinton Alexander came a message reporting: “I am related to the victim.” Unfortunately Clinton did not respond to my request for more information.

Also, I was sent a Kelly’s (year unknown) list of occupants of 3-11 Belvidere Place; numbers 1 and 2 were no longer included (perhaps demolished or empty), but 10 was by then the home of Walter Bowles.

Yarmouth's sunny Abyssinia Road, named after the land in East Africa where Britain fought a 19th century war. , taken on Peggotty's Box Brownie Camera.Yarmouth's sunny Abyssinia Road, named after the land in East Africa where Britain fought a 19th century war. , taken on Peggotty's Box Brownie Camera.

Off Kitchener Road is Belvidere Road, the twin Belvideres prompting retired Yarmouth borough registrar Trevor Nicholls to point out that the name can be spelt with a middle ‘i’ or ‘e’, both meaning a raised turret or lantern a-top a house, a summer-house or rising land in a garden or pleasure ground for viewing the surrounding scene.

Sounds a bit grandiose to me. The location probably looked very different then to have merited two Belvideres, especially as the high cemetery wall runs along Belvidere Road’s entire length.

Trevor reckons another local puzzler is Abyssinia Road, wondering how many people today know this is a local reference to a distant international conflict with severe repercussions a century and a half ago.

It led to the suicide of the Emperor of Abyssinia (Ethiopia today), deaths of two British and 700-800 Abyssinian soldiers, destruction of a city, erection of a Trafalgar Square statue of the British commander, and removal of many Abyssinian artworks and historical relics to national and private collections.

Trevor writes: “The emperor’s claim about his descent was denied by a British academic, whereupon British consular officials and missionaries ‘were cast into a hell-hole’, eventually being extricated by a huge army, scores of steam and sailing vessels and a team of elephants sent to invade the difficult terrain.”

Did Abyssinia merit being a Yarmouth road name? Why was it suggested?

Writing official documents meant Trevor had to be aware of local road names confusingly “duplicated, triplicated and even quadruplicated!” He notes that the borough has four Nelson Roads, three Bridge Roads, three Market Roads, two Sidegate Roads, two Stanley Terraces, two Coronation Terraces...

How did that happen?

Writing “Cerdic” (not Cedric) Place required his concentration, as did Bodleian Close, for example. The spoken word sometimes needed attention - “When a woman referred to Ramblers Close, I knew she meant Rambouillet” - Yarmouth’s twin town in France.

Napoleon Place? No, named not after the belligerent French emperor - “that would have been the 19th century equivalent of naming a British street in the 20th century after Hitler” - but his nephew, Emperor Louis Napoleon III “concerned for the well-being of working people.”

Trevor wonders if there was - or is - a Market Place Road in one of our oldest parts, recalling that nearly 60 years ago he was walking past the slaughter-house there as pigs were being unloaded from a lorry.

“One little pig, perhaps sensing his fate, made a bolt for freedom and shot off up the street, pursued by his potential executioners.”

Was it recaptured? Alas, Trevor does not say.

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