Can anyone fill gaps on this brilliant caricature?

CHARACTER STUDIES: the 33 men and the name of the venue in this pre-war cartoon have puzzled Peggott

CHARACTER STUDIES: the 33 men and the name of the venue in this pre-war cartoon have puzzled Peggotty and the owner of the drawing. - Credit: Archant

THE brows of Peggotty and others were furrowed as we sought to solve the puzzle posed by the cartoon that is my main illustration today.

The principal problem was that seeking a solution posed more questions than answers.

Identifying the 33 characters drawn by an anonymous gifted caricaturist 77 years ago, and speculating on their common denominator and the venue, proved a teaser.

The location is clearly the Punch Bowl, whatever or wherever that was, for it rings no figurative bells with either Mrs Olwen Swann, whose late grandfather – Charlie Gee – is one of the characters depicted. It is a puzzle too for both her godfather, Dennis Durrant – a man well-versed in Gorleston’s heritage – and me.

There was a bonus because in my quest for answers, I made contact with a former neighbour and playmate from my childhood in Gorleston, about five decades after I last saw her.

The cartoon was sent by Mrs Swann, of Long Lane, Bradwell, who explained: “I was clearing out my mother Nellie Smith’s house in Upper Cliff Road when she went into a care home and came across it at the bottom of a bureau with other papers.” Mrs Smith is now 95.

I assume the artist was a pal of the characters he drew because it would have been too much to expect him to know their interests, like golf and snuff-sniffing. And did he scribble the somewhat cryptic identities, or was it whoever owned the copy I have in front of me? Perhaps an artist would have used better lettering for captions...

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He placed his subjects around the stylised capital letters of PUNCH BOWL 1937. It seems likely that it was part of some convivial south Gorleston establishment like a public house, club, hotel or Masonic lodge.

Squeezed between O and W in BOWL is a bare-kneed Billy Wales, holding a hockey-stick.

When I was a little lad, William Wales (a very princely name in 2014) and his wife lived opposite me in West Avenue in Gorleston.

He was a commercial traveller but also ran a family business on Gorleston’s Lower Promenade, selling seaside requisites.

Their daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie), three years younger than me, was a playmate. Years later she married my Yarmouth Grammar School contemporary, Roger Holmes, and moved to Cromer where she worked in a bank while he became an accountant. I last saw them in the 1960s.

As there was only one R Holmes in Cromer listed in the telephone directory, I took a gamble – and got it right, enjoying a nostalgic chat with them. Elizabeth confirmed that her late father played hockey, but could not help with the enigmatic Punch Bowl.

So, let us scrutinise PUNCH BOWL 1937.

P features “Alexandra (traveller)”, although one wonders if that should have read “Alexander”; “Mr Shearing, bank” is in the loop and “Mr Claybourn (teacher)” beneath. Two pre-war directories had no Gorleston-domiciled Claybourn, only a Claybyn in Springfield Road.

U has “Mr Jones” (with snooker cue and golf bag) on the left and “Mr Bellamy” (right). A William Jones was resident in Park Road in the late Thirties, while Clarence Road had a Frederick Bellamy. The character at the top of the U is unknown.

N: “Mr French (bank)” is above “Peter Want” – a name immediately recognised by Elizabeth. He lived outside Gorleston but often called on the Wales family. Peter Want was a prominent breeder of pedigree bulldogs, and her father used to accompany him to dog shows, including Cruft’s in London.

“They would travel together by rail to London for the day with the bulldogs, and if one of the dogs got through to the next day’s judging, they would return to London by steam train early the following morning,” she recalled. Both men were keen golfers.

Neither of the C characters is unidentified.

H? With the long pipe, “Spain, newsagent”; Ernest Spain’s shop was in Bells Road and he lived round the corner in Upper Cliff Road. As for “Gotts”, a Harry Gotts lived in Springfield Road.

Now to BOWL...

On the left of the B, wearing a boxing glove, is “Alf Lodge, milk” – the Creston Dairy-man with premises in Lower Cliff Road and a private hotel on Avondale Road. Emerging from the upper loop is “Stanley(?) Wood/Ward” (a Stanley Ward lived in Anson Road, Southtown). A mystery man is at the bottom.

O features taxi driver Charlie Gee (Mrs Swann’s grandfather) who also ran charabancs and resided in Nelson Road and then Upper Cliff Road. There is no clue as to the man puffing on his pipe. Between O and W, Billy Wales squeezes in.

Neither W character is named.

In the upright of the L is “Mr Chasey (Ted’s dad)” – father of Edward S Chasey, an auctioneer and estate agent in Springfield Road. The bespectacled face in the angle is not named, nor the character (with neck ruff) to the right of the bottom of the L; above him on the edge is an otherwise anonymous “Lenny” bearing a tray.

Moving on to 1937, to the left of the 1 is an unidentified man. In the 1 is “Arthur Dye”, with “Ted Chasey” peeking round the left. An Arthur Dye lived on Upper Cliff Road before the war, while Ted Chasey’s home was on either Elmgrove Road or Cliff Hill.

In the 9 loop is “Jack Hilham”, of Victoria Road, Chasey’s long-serving colleague who, I recall, took over the agency on Ted’s death.

3’s occupant is “Chaston”; a Robert Chaston (a builder, I believe) lived on Marine Parade or Buxton Avenue pre-war.

Both 7 caricatures are anonymous although the one on the right is pinching his nose and someone has written “Takes (snuff)” beside it.

Finally, there is pipe-puffing “Ollie Redgrave”. A family of that name lived on Marine Parade. With him is a large cat...or a small lion? So we wondered if that was a clue to the venue: the White Lion Hotel on Cliff Hill. It had a billiard room in the Thirties.

The White Lion struck a chord with Elizabeth who recalled her father renting a lock-up garage behind the hotel for his little Austin although it was a good 10-minute walk from his home.

Other possible locations were the Station, Pier and Cliff Hotels.