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Remember the Harbour Cafe in Great Yarmouth?

PUBLISHED: 21:59 17 September 2015 | UPDATED: 21:59 17 September 2015

MOTORISTS' FAVOURITE: the café when it was still in business.
Picture: COLIN TOOKE COLLECTION

MOTORISTS' FAVOURITE: the café when it was still in business. Picture: COLIN TOOKE COLLECTION

Archant

WHAT’S on today’s agenda, then? Depends on the weather to a large extent, of course.

NO LONGER A FAVOURITE...the Harbour's Mouth café near the North Pier being demolished in 1977.
Picture: SUBMITTEDNO LONGER A FAVOURITE...the Harbour's Mouth café near the North Pier being demolished in 1977. Picture: SUBMITTED

If it doesn’t look very promising, we can catch a bus into Yarmouth and look round the shops. We always enjoy a wander around Arnolds, Jarrolds, Marks & Spencer, Brants and Plattens.

Perhaps we can nip into Teddy Moore’s Red House railway-themed pub on the Market Place for a drink and have another look at his fascinating model trains purportedly travelling the world on a shelf round the bar at picture-rail height.

Alternatively we can get something to eat in Matthes or enjoy fish and chips in Nichols’ Restaurant.

If it brightens up? Well, it would have been a nice idea to catch a Corporation bus down to the Harbour’s Mouth but that’s a no-no because it’s an infrequent summer service along the front and not to or from the town centre anyway.

So I will put a few bob’s worth of petrol into the Austin Seven and we can drive to the North Pier to visit the new Great Yarmouth Harbour Lido. Seems to be the “in” place at the moment.

I’ve heard the café there serves a nice pot of tea and cakes so – depending on the weather - we can sit inside or outside and watch the shipping coming in and out of the port.

Ah, another Peggotty flight of fancy back to the Thirties or postwar Forties. Nostalgia rules OK!

Yes, all those places I have mentioned will ring figurative bells for older residents of the borough – except one, probably: the Harbour Lido. I had never heard of it, but it came to my attention recently when browsing through an album of pre-war Peggotty cuttings, at that time a nightly feature in our sister newspaper, the Eastern Evening News.

In May 1936 the pioneer Peggotty – whom we recently ascertained was not a professional staff journalist but Yarmouth Corporation bus driver Arthur Bishop, of St George’s Plain - began an early contribution: “A Norwich reader writes in reference to my notes about our Harbour Lido.”

Yes, my predecessor put capital letters to Harbour Lido so he deemed it was a proper name, not just a familiarity.

Unfortunately I do not have his original column about the Harbour Lido, a name is totally unfamiliar to me. What is clear is that the first Peggotty was commenting on a discussion at a borough council meeting that resulted in Mr W G Field being allowed to place 50 deck chairs at the Harbour’s Mouth at a cost of £3 for the season.

Mr F Base described the rental figure as “ridiculous” and argued that it should be much higher because more people frequented that area year-round than any other part of the sea-front. If 50 chairs were let at a penny a day, the lessee would take £14 or £15 in the season, he pointed out.

Councillor Fred Debbage agreed, and added that in winter the lavatory there was closed despite the presence of 90 or so cars.

But Mr Larke explained that as this was a new venture for Mr Field, the committee thought £5 for 50 chairs was ample for the season.

Significantly, no councillor quoted in the cutting used the term Harbour Lido.

That first Peggotty wrote: “What could be more pleasant than a trip to Yarmouth with a tour along the sea-front terminating in a picnic on the sand or denes at the Harbour’s Mouth. Here there is ample parking space for all, free from restrictions, and the opportunity to enjoy views of the sea and the coastline are quite unrivalled.

“The run home can be made over a first-class road by the riverside and thus adds interest to the trip.

“On a fine Sunday afternoon over a 100 small cars have been parked on the Denes while their owners and friends enjoy the sea breezes along the parade. Many, of course, make a whole day of it, and naturally look to find some of those facilities in the way of stalls and so on that are to be found on the Central Beach.

“Considering the cramped nature of the sands in the area, it would seem to be somewhat of a speculation to invest money in beach chairs but it is a venture worth encouraging.

“Unless one has made the long trek to the Harbour’s Mouth, it is difficult to appreciate why the council at their last meeting should have been so concerned over the facilities for the catering of visitors there. This spot, like many others, has been discovered by the motorist who, out for a run in the car during the weekend, seeks an attractive ending to the trip.”

A Norwich reader wrote to Peggotty about his Harbour Lido column. The correspondent said: “As you are aware, this was made popular by motorists from surrounding districts. A few Sundays back, to the surprise of a large number, we found a policeman stopping all motorists parking behind the refreshment room.

“To my knowledge, this is not done to dodge car parking fees but as a convenience to take trays of tea from the refreshment room. The following Sunday, to be within the law, I drew my car up alongside the refreshment room, which I considered to be within the building line, the policeman being present.

“No notice was taken, but a friend who arrived a few minutes later was promptly turned away and told to go to the car park.

“The question arises: is it corporation property or common land?”

So even in 1936, eight decades ago, drivers were complaining about parking places and the attitude of the police!

I presume that the café was the one near the North Pier, a survivor until its demolition in 1977, by which time the whole character and appearance of the South Denes had altered dramatically, with open space becoming industrialised. Later, the Outer Harbour reduced the denes there to a public no-go area.

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