When the Belvideres offered a slice of the good life
- Credit: Archant
Elegant homes, apartments, hotels, schools, playing fields, cemeteries...
This variety of developments, roughly seaward of Great Yarmouth’s Nelson and North Denes Roads, occupy a former expanse of unspoiled dunes with open sea views. A century of development means it is hard today to envisage that past.
Long-ago residents of Belvidere Road and long-gone Belvidere Terrace were at the front-line although perhaps too preoccupied by hard times to appreciate superb vistas.
The Peggotty spotlight shone on both Belvideres recently because a terrace resident was a victim of the 1912 Titanic disaster.
Colin Tooke, Yarmouth historian and author, says the North End Retreat - renamed Belvidere Gardens - was on the south side of Cemetery (now Kitchener) Road, created in the late 1850s, after the nearby Apollo Gardens closed.
They were first recorded in 1859 when Great Yarmouth Horticultural Society held a show at the North End Retreat, owned by Mr Sharman. An 1860 advertisement said the “Tea Garden and Skittle Ground, Cemetery Road, are open for the season.”
Tea “made for visitors” cost a penny each.”
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No buildings stood between the gardens and North Denes, the open land used each Whitsun for children’s races and games. The skittle alley was a great attraction, the annual skittle supper famous for its roast bullock’s head and pease pudding.
Open land east of the gardens became a cemetery extension, and by 1871 the name had changed to Belvidere Gardens, advertising its bowling green and skittle saloon offering “chops and steaks served at any hour” and the availability of “genteel furnished apartments”.
Says Colin: “A belvidere is an observation tower, or building designed and situated to look out on pleasant scenery, and in the 19th century there were fine views from here, across open denes towards Caister and eastwards to the sea.
“In 1880 the Belvidere Gardens advertised a gala and concert with dancing on the lawn to a string band, ample refreshments and a firework display”, admission was sixpence (2p today).
“At one corner of the gardens was, in 1863, a beer-house later known as the Belvidere Tavern. It closed in 1971, becoming a private house.
“I assume the gardens had a fine view to the east and possibly a small tower or lookout, hence a belvidere.”
Yarmouthian Danny Daniels, long resident in Canada, enjoyed my recent references to our long-defunct herring fishery and its impact hereabouts.
“My Mum often had some Scottish fishergirls lodging with us on Lichfield Road (after the summer visitors left, of course).
“Their favourite tea was slices of my Mum’s fruit cake along with their fried herrings!
“I often brought home a couple of herring, cadged from the fishermen along the quay as they cleaned their nets for any that had been missed earlier.
“These we enjoyed pickled - baked in the oven in vinegar with pickling spice. Mackerel were even more delicious done that way. “
In a recent column about that long-defunct fishery, I said few, if any, relevant buildings were left here on which to affix a blue heritage plaque reminding passers-by of their previous use.
This prompted “a bit miffed” reader to emphasise that one drifter has survived, our dear old Lydia Eva!
Yes, certainly, but she is not a building requiring a plaque but a handsome reminder of the huge drifter fleets, in working order and berthed here.
Finally, reporting the return of a Banana bus to our streets, I included a photograph of Yarmouth Corporation double-decker bus 66.
Retired registrar Trevor Nicholls says at least one of that type was sold to the firm constructing the first Sizewell power station in Suffolk about 1960.
“They painted it navy blue and used it to transport their work-force,” he recalls, noting that “it used to hare along” past his home at all hours of day and night.