Bag of delights helps solve Gorleston mystery

WELCOME RESULT: a map of the original Shrublands prefab estate at Gorleston in 1947, long-sought by

WELCOME RESULT: a map of the original Shrublands prefab estate at Gorleston in 1947, long-sought by a reader.Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

IT seemed unlikely that the contents of a used Tesco carrier bag would include anything of great promise, I must admit, but because a reader was thoughtful enough to pass it to me, I sifted through them just in case...

Mainly there was a batch of old Great Yarmouth Mercury and Eastern Daily Press supplements distributed with those papers, plus several street maps showing the urban borough before it was enlarged to incorporate neighbouring villages, the result of local government reorganisation in 1974.

Then, suddenly, one map caught my attention because it produced the solution to a plea made in this column in January but never satisfactorily resolved. Better late than never!

Reader Tracey Lilly, who lives in Humber Keel on the Cliff Park Estate in Gorleston, sought my help after her intensive efforts had failed to locate a map of the original roads layout of the postwar Shrublands prefab estate at Gorleston where she lived as a girl.

Current maps of the 60-acre development, which now comprises private and council dwellings replacing the demolished 711 prefabricated bungalows in the Sixties, did not provide the answer because some roads had altered, although keeping their names, and several of the little so-called greens had disappeared.

Some aid came from reader Richard Ebbage who gave us a computer link to an old Ordnance Survey map, but its Shrublands roads were marked but not named. Staff at the Tourist Bureau on Yarmouth Golden Mile rummaged through boxes of undistributed Fifties holiday guides which always included a local map...but none extended inland as far as Shrublands.

So we had to admit defeat.

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But there, in that Tesco bag, was a street map of Gorleston and Southtown drawn in 1947 by borough surveyor Harold Dyson. Inset in a top corner he included one of the Shrublands estate, every road and green clearly shown – and all named after flowering trees and bushes.

There was also an enlightening caption: “Tradesmen, and even those living there, are often in difficulties in finding their way about the new Shrublands Estate of prefabricated bungalows at Gorleston. This plan of the layout will perhaps help them.”

It needed a bit of magnification to bring up the lettering on those little greens, which comprised just a few prefabs, but no matter. Among original “Greens” were Acacia, Laurel, Willow, Elder, Jasmine, Catalpa, Berberis, Althea, Cydonia, Kalmia, Gorse, Rosemary, Cotoneaster, Lavender... Although most survived the reshaping of the estate, a few disappeared off the map.

When I sent a copy of this Shrublands map to Tracey Lilly, she responded, simply: “Wow! Thank you so much. I bet that if you published this map in the Mercury, it would prove to be very evocative to a lot of us ‘old ‘uns!’”

The bag-full of newspaper supplements and other material was lent to me by Thelma Hunt, of Cherry Road, part of Shrublands. She acquired them from a neighbour who correctly thought her grandchildren might be interested in facets of their home town’s history. In turn, Ms Hunt contacted me.

So, what else was in that Tesco bag? Six were Mercury supplements about Yarmouth in the decades from the Twenties to the Seventies, plus our look at the 50th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day in 1995. The 2003 reprint of the our February 6 1953 edition covering the January 31 great floods was there, plus our 1989 publication over two weeks of the entire contents of Front Line Town, the official log by wartime Chief Constable Charles Box of every German air raid, bombs dropped and the damage they inflicted.

I well remember that two-part Front Line Town supplement because I retyped every single word of the original 62-page book so the Mercury could reproduce it in different format!

There was an EDP 1993 supplement looking back on the 1953 floods; a 2005 three-parter (Seaside Special) reminding readers of the star entertainers who had spent their summers in the resort and participated wholeheartedly in charitable activities; a 1997 Mercury pull-out called Welcome to Great Yarmouth extolling our wealth of attractions; and a 1988 one entitled The Bygone Era of Great Yarmouth prepared by the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Advertiser when it was our competitor.

In contrast to the newsprint items, there was a fascinating glossy Evening News 60-page magazine consisting of nothing but aerial colour pictures of the Yarmouth and Lowestoft area taken by staff photographers in 2002. That did catch my attention as I had never seen one hitherto.

Oh yes: and a Peggotty page from a 2005 Mercury when I wrote about Smith’s Crisps being in Cobholm for six years from 1929 before moving to a purpose-built factory on Caister Road which closed in 1963, and a rival in Apsley Road (So Nice Potato Crisps) with a 3d packet almost identical to that of the national brand leader. Apsley Road might have been the registered office for a Norwich enterprise.

A commemorative booklet for the Great Yarmouth and District Society of Artists diamond jubilee (1927-1987) was in the bag, and also a Great Eastern Railway Society information sheet assembled in 1980 of 15 maps/plans of stations in the area between 1885 and 1929. It covered manned stations and unmanned halts as far as Great Ormesby, Berney Arms, Belton and Hopton.

The Seven Havens of Great Yarmouth were closely examined in booklet form by local historian Robert Teasdel who, apart from being a former tolls collector for our Port and Haven Commissioners, was a member of both the Norfolk and Norwich, and the Yarmouth, Archaeological Societies, and their national institute.

This was a reprint by the Yarmouth Independent newspaper of a learned paper he read to Yarmouth Rotary Club in 1926.

The distant days of the great autumn herring fishery were jogged back to memory when I found a full-depth scale plan of a typical wooden steam drifter, possibly aimed at model-makers, including detailed drawings of items like wheelhouse, lifeboat, capstan, coal and fish hatches, galley, funnel, stern post...

Also, there were several other maps and plans, including one of the 1883 layout of Lacons Brewery in central Yarmouth. A century later a Tesco supermarket was built on that site.

That Tesco bag was full of pleasant surprises...