All roads lead to memories

MAIN EARLY YEARS...Great Yarmouth Marine Parade in the 19th century. The Royal Hotel is one of the

MAIN EARLY YEARS...Great Yarmouth Marine Parade in the 19th century. The Royal Hotel is one of the buildings. One road behind this terrace is Napoleon Place which, thinks a correspondent, was named not after the belligerent Bonaparte but one of his successors who was an Anglophile. Pictures: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

IF memory serves a-right and I am not imagining it, in the Seventies there was a Great Yarmouth Town Hall employee whose office was up in the clock tower. One of her responsibilities was devising names for new roads in the borough; hopefully her chain of thought was not broken by the nearby clock’s quarter-hour chimes..

Sometimes her job was simplified by builders and developers suggesting names that perpetuated their family or business. If nothing was forthcoming, she had to don her figurative thinking cap and, if a new estate was involved, try to seek an overall theme.

It sounded an enjoyable challenge, so I regret that I cannot remember any she conjured up for the council to decide upon. But looking round the borough, one has to admire some of the results of the imagination and research of that particular council employee and colleagues before and after.

Whoever came up with suggestions down the decades, one of the best is the Cliff Park Estate in Gorleston reminding future generations of long-gone historic Yarmouth Rows like Humber Keel and Lawyer Cory’s. Finding enough Oxford University links for the scores of roads on the Magdalen Estate (built on land bought from that college) must have been a tough assignment.

At one end of Yarmouth seafront we have classic writers (Byron, Shakespeare) and at the other, Dickensian references (Micawber and, yes, Peggotty). Flowering trees and shrubs have given their names to Shrublands roads. Not far away the theme is British artists, birds and horse breeds.

Many others commemorate the names of the great and the good – royalty, gentry, noblemen, statesmen and heroes, many from long ago and unremembered today. So former Yarmouth registrar Trevor Nicholls set himself a retirement challenge to research the origins of some obscure ones.

This column has already homed in on his suggestions for the derivation of Plevna Terrace and Abysinnia Road. Now he has produced more, most of which fall into the above categories.

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Hamilton Road - Lord Claud Hamilton, chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, High Steward of Yarmouth; Havelock Road – Sir Henry Havelock, general, Indian Army; Wolseley Road – Sir Garnet Wolseley, Lucknow, Indian mutiny, China, Canada, India and Africa and, as field marshal, commander-in-chief British Army (1895-1900); Wellesley Road – Sir Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, victor at Waterloo, later Prime Minister – Apsley House, his private home in London, probably gave its name to Apsley Road.

Garnham Road – John Garnham RN, died 1845 aged 92; Addison Road – Addison Williamson RN, owner of Koolunga, distinctive residence on High Road; both Manby Roads – Capt George Manby, master of the Yarmouth barracks, inventor of the breeches buoy maritime lifesaving apparatus, lived and died at his home on High Road; Cerdic Place (Marine Parade, Yarmouth) – Viking or Anglo-Saxon chieftain; Clarence/Avondale Roads – titles of Prince Albert Victor (1864-92), eldest son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Edward and Alexandra, who was Duke of Clarence and second in line to the throne when he died.

Estcourt Road – when built, the most northerly east-west road in the borough and named after the chairman of the Board of Guardians; adjacent is the workhouse built in 1838 for 500 inmates, exclusive of vagrants and the sick.

Burnt Lane – reference to a pre-1538 devastating fire in the Gorleston Priory, a St Augustan house suppressed at the Reformation (the next comparable fire in this vicinity was in 1981 when the maltings were gutted). Beaconsfield Road – probably after Benjamin Disraeli, Earl Beaconsfield.

Rodney Road – Admiral George Rodney RN, US war of independence, but he returned home through illness and missed the vital Battle of Chesapeake Bay in which the French were not prevented by the Royal Navy from reinforcing the American and French forces at Yorktown where Britain lost its American colonies.

Anson Road – Commodore Anson, circumnavigator in 1740 who, on the death of the last Earl of Yarmouth, bought the Southtown and Euston estates. The Earldom of Lichfield was conferred on Thomas Anson in 1831 and he was Postmaster General for six years during which the penny post was introduced.

Gatacre Road – Sir William Gatacre, fought in the battle of Omdurman when the British recaptured Sudan; in the second Boer War he was less successful and fell from popularity. Word went round Yarmouth that he was to arrive at South Town Station and a large crowd gathered...but he was not on the train.

Sidegate Roads (one Runham Vauxhall, one on Gorleston-Hopton boundary) - “a sure clue that the main road was once a turnpike (toll) road. The side-gate was used by pedestrians, obviating the need for the keeper to raise the toll-bar. The toll-gate house at the Yarmouth end of Acle New Road, built in the 1830s, stood until the 1950s.” Also, there is a Tollgate Road off Southtown Road.

Palgrave Road – Trevor Nicholls wonders if someone of this name was “a local son” and has an idea that a Palgrave was a professor of English at Oxford in the 19th century. I can enlighten him: Sir R H Inglis Palgrave was from 1880 until 1918 chairman of the trustees and governors of Great Yarmouth Grammar School and gave his name to an annual English essay prize (never, sadly, won by me).

Similarly Middleton Road: “Local worthy, councillor, builder?” he puzzles. That road, built in 1922, was opened by Ernest Middleton, of Southtown Road, our mayor that year and four years earlier. In 1932 the mayor was Harry Middleton. I do not know if either Middleton owned stationery shops, headed a building firm or was a solicitor.

As for Napoleon Place - “A mystery! What is this doing here? Like naming a road ‘Hitler Street’ but I have an idea that it might be after a later member of that family with whom Britain was on better terms than it was with Bonaparte.”

Trevor did more research and confirmed his rethink: “France, under Louis Napoleon III , fought with this country against the Russians in the Crimean War, 1854. That is precisely the time at which Marine Parade and adjoining streets were being laid out. Thus, is this little Yarmouth street named after an ally whom I think, spent the last years of his life in this country is buried in Surrey or Sussex?”