Chronicles of the Great War
- Credit: Archant
ACROSS the sea, war was raging in Europe, with many Great Yarmouth area men serving in the armed forces. At home, the town was hit by a German Zeppelin raid that killed two citizens and wounded others. The conflict had many repercussions hereabouts, including evening church services and cinema performances being cancelled because of a blackout, and trams not running after 7pm.
That was 1915, many of its events listed in Great Yarmouth 1886-1936, Bill Ecclestone and our Archaeological Society’s 1977 continuation of William Finch-Crisp’s Chronological Retrospect published in 1885.
When the air raid happened, one woman was so frightened that the Germans were invading that she got out of bed but tumbled downstairs and died. Also in 1915, a Mrs Cubitt, of Park Road, Gorleston, died in a half-completed dug-out.
In the absence of street lighting, a man and woman had the misfortune to walk over the quay edge and fall into the river. Although she was rescued by Special Constable Tom Green, her companion drowned. People letting lights show in the blackout were fined either five shillings (25p) or £1 by magistrates.
The Board of Guardians changed its autumn and winter meeting times from evening to afternoon because people might not be able to find their way to the Town Hall on moonless nights. Householders were encouraged to burn their own rubbish, thus enabling the Bure-side destructor to stay closed during darkness.
The road surface of Marine Parade was damaged because of heavy lorries running between the South Denes Royal Naval Air Station and its personnel’s quarters. Gorleston Pavilion became a naval and military social club while the Winter Gardens was used by the Volunteer Training Corps.
Takings at the Wellington Pier in July showed a big drop over 1914, some blame being attached to the Government banning excursion trains and cheap fares. The pier manager was authorised to engage a London concert party – The Vagabonds – from mid-July to mid-September...provided the cost was no more than £40 a week.
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In a bid to combat this decline, the council’s advertising committee issued 25,000 copies of a circular detailing local attractions and amusements, aiming to encourage people to holiday in the resort.
Many people taken to court for non-payment of rates blamed the war for the slump in trade and the collapse of the summer season.
A young domestic servant accused of stealing goods worth 1s 11d (10p today) from the basement of Brenner’s Bazaar was put on probation after her mistress said she had been upset by the death of her young man on the front line.
The education board stressed the importance of restricting meat consumption, due to increased demand by the British and French armies and the difficulties in conveying it from abroad.
Publican Mr S J Allen gave his motor vehicle to the Red Cross to transport the wounded. Seafield, on King’s Road, once owned by Mrs Hurry Palmer, became a Red Cross auxiliary hospital.
Sales of flags and home-made items, plus a Britannia Pier concert and proceeds of the sale of a cran of herring (about 1000 fish), raised £668 for the local Red Cross, more than any town in the country.
Recruiting appeals for the armed services were made by the mayor at the Regent, Britannia Pier and other amusement centres. In Regent Street a shopkeeper displayed a collection box, urging people to contribute the cost of a sandbag (4½d, about 2p today) to help the Norfolk Regiment to acquire 1000 immediately. The anniversary of the British entering the war was marked by a collection and concert that realised £220 for distressed citizens of Russia, France and Belgium.
On the plus side, the borough received £27,000 from the Canadian Relief Fund.
Yarmouth’s head postmaster announced that because of depletion of staff, letter deliveries were to be restricted to three a day (7am, 1.30pm, 5.30pm)! Yes, three deliveries a day! Despite revision in post charges, local newspapers could still be sent to anywhere in the UK for a halfpenny.
An unusual case was heard by Yarmouth magistrates against a local ship-broker, his clerk and a Danish man accused of trying to procure the sale of two Yarmouth drifters to Icelanders unqualified to own British vessels. The broker was acquitted but his co-defendants were fined £5 plus £5 costs each.
Only about 200 drifters participated in the autumn herring fishery; catches made very high prices and record earnings.
A three-year-old boy, Jack Morris, received fatal burns through playing with matches at his Northgate Street home.
Charles Leach, popularly known as “the cough-drop king” because of the Market Place stall he ran for half a century, died. Another death was that of J W de Caux, “Yarmouth’s oldest magistrate and a trouble-maker on the council”; there was no religious service but a graveside oration was made.
The town also lost the Hippodrome’s popular owner, George Gilbert. The Easter Fair became silent and still as his funeral procession passed through. Thousands gathered to pay their last respects.
One of the most talked about occurrences of 1915 came as the year was almost past – the spectacular five-hour blaze, intensified by gale-force winds that gutted the imposing Cliff Hotel at Gorleston three days before 1916 arrived. The hotel was opened in 1898 and was replaced by the present hotel within a few years.
Two other noteworthy events of 1915 were the launch of Cotton’s Dairy which merged to form Collett and Cotton in 1969, and the opening of a new cinema on the west side of the Market Place; the Central Cinema, later known as the Bijou and also the Plaza, was built on the site of the former Liberal Club.
In 1959 Woolworth moved from Regent Road into new premises on the site of the cinema; today a Poundland store trades there.