Great Yarmouth nostalgia: Stroll along the seafront in the 1920s

The Pleasure Grounds at Great Yarmouth

As it was known then, the Pleasure Grounds at Great Yarmouth attracted tourists and visitors from far and wide in the 1920s. - Credit: Mike Adcock Collection/Norwich Heritage Projects.

OH we do like to be beside the seaside… with many holidays on hold, let’s take a look at the time when all many people could look forward to was a day out at the coast.

And where better for the family to head off to for a few hours than GREAT Yarmouth.

These lovely old photographs from the Mike Adcock Collection, looked after by Norwich Heritage Projects, illustrate the way it was back in the 1920s.

The Great Yarmouth funfair in the 1920s by the seaside

The Great Yarmouth funfair during the 1920s, when a day out was the only holiday for so many. - Credit: Mike Adcock Collection/Norwich Heritage Projects.

One woman who spoke so well about those times was dear Ethel George, in her book The Seventeenth Child written with Carole and Michael Blackwell back in 2006.

Ethel was born in Norwich in 1914, the youngest of 17 children, living in a small three-bedroomed house. Her words were recorded and Larks Press published the local best-seller.

Family photo of Ethel George with members of the Edwards family who grew up on Barrack Street, Norwich.

Ethel with other members of the Edwards family who grew up near Barrack Street in one of the poorest parts of old Norwich. - Credit: Family Collection

This is Ethel George's The Seventeenth Child is a book about growing up in Norwich in the first half of the 20th century. 

This is Ethel George's The Seventeenth Child is a book about growing up in Norwich in the first half of the 20th century. - Credit: Submit

“The men didn’t have a week’s holiday when I was growing up. But they musta had Monday and Tuesday for August Bank Holiday. Monday was father’s day out, but he always kept the Tuesday for our day trip to Yarmouth,” said Ethel.

She recalled the excitement of this very special day. Her mother packing a little toilet pot, the children having a “pail” and spade. The tram ride to the station – singing on the way.

The scenic railway at Great Yarmouth in the 1920s.

The scenic railway at Great Yarmouth in the 1920s. - Credit: Mike Adcock Collection/Norwich Heritage Projects.

Marks & Spencer's "penny bazaar" in George Street, possibly in the 1920s. The assistants pictured we

Marks & Spencer's "penny bazaar" in George Street, possibly in the 1920s. The assistants pictured were (L-R) Miss Lily Wiseman, Miss Edna Nelson, Miss Gladys Bly and Miss Doris Woodrow. - Credit: Archant

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When in Yarmouth mother and father called in the big pub on the right as you left the station. He had a pint while she had a stout.

“They wouldn’t be there for long. It was just their little treat and they’d get a stone bottle o’ pop for us to share.”

Ethel recalled: “On the way to the seafront mother went into a baker’s shop and got two lovely crusty long loaves. And she’d buy some ham to go with them. She brought the marge from home.

“When we got to the beach, she would spread the tablecloth on the sand, and father and all us children sat round. I can see her now, sitting there, prim and proper in a black coat over her black skirt and a hat. Always a black hat, big-brimmed and tall. And my father, very smart in his trilby, grey tweed suit and buttonhole.”

A promenade concert on Great Yarmouth seafront in the 1920s. 

A promenade concert on Great Yarmouth seafront in the 1920s. - Credit: Mike Adcock Collection/Norwich Heritage Projects.

After their meal they would go for a paddle. “The sea would come over your feet and then draw away. You felt you were flying,” said Ethel.

They couldn’t afford a donkey ride but would then get on an open landau which took them to the Pleasure Beach, the funfair, and then back. They didn’t go in… as there was no money for the rides.

“When it was time to go home, we’d walk to the station. There were no toilets on the trains in them days. So, going and coming back, this little pot was always available. I think we all had a little tinkle in it. Then mother would throw it out the window.”

Headshot of writer Ethel George

Her memories live on… Ethel George. - Credit: Family Collection

And she added: “We were a bit tired when we got home, but that day was really, really a lovely treat. It was like Christmas all over again.”

Dear Ethel died some years ago… but her memories live on.

For more old photos and articles about Norfolk history and heritage, subscribe to our fortnightly Through the Decades email newsletter. Sign up by clicking here

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