Do you remember the Pleasure Beach water dodgems?
- Credit: Archant
ALL the fun of the fair?
In honesty, Great Yarmouth’s traditional post-Easter fair was never my bag in either childhood or teenage years.
The rides gave me no thrill, my darts never hit the playing card let alone pierced the centre of the ace to win a bit of junk, my sawdust-filled paper ball on elastic usually missed the girl I was pinging it at but instead struck a startled and irate granny, candy-floss looked too much like garish cotton wool to risk a taste...
As usual, I passed it by with scarcely a glance this year as we shopped in the town centre, ignoring the raucous music and wondering what its attraction was. Nothing to do with age: I have always shunned the fair.
The same thing can be said about our famed Pleasure Beach. Our children loved it and we enjoyed watching them, but in my youth it was never on my radar, so to speak. I rode on the famed Scenic Railway once, sampled the cuddle boats beneath it, and reluctantly ventured on the Ghost Train.
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None of these fairground-style alleged delights even remotely kindled my interest, yet for some they produced life-long happy memories.
One such aficionado is reader John Clarke who wrote to me for help in finding a photograph of the Water Dodgems at the Pleasure Beach.
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“I would like to see anything about the Water Dodgems at the Pleasure Beach. I certainly rode there about 1949,” he said.
My visits to the Pleasure Beach were too infrequent and fleeting for me even to note the presence of one minor attraction.
Not so John: he obviously revelled in it, and presumably spent most of his pocket-money riding on/sailing in the Water Dodgems.
When I said I had never heard of them and wondered how they worked, he replied: “They were very central to the Pleasure Beach. Just like normal dodgems, they were fed from a ceiling-type pole to pick up the power, but I have no idea where the electrical outlet may have been.
“They rode like land dodgems, with a hovercraft-style rubber bumper. Great fun!”
In my quest to help John, I trawled through scores of online photographs of the Pleasure Beach attractions down the decades without chancing on one of the elusive Water Dodgems. Albert Botton, who runs the family business, tried to help but was equally unsuccessful.
Eventually John solved his own problem: “Searching the web under ‘Water Dodgems’ I found a picture from Cleethorpes which is very much as I remember those at Yarmouth Pleasure Beach about 1955,” he wrote.
John attended Yarmouth Grammar School from 1951 to 1957. Where is he now?
“I’m not actually far from the briny, but I don’t think they have heard of herring here, let alone the real taste of a bloater. I now live in Poole, Dorset, which is more of a crabby and oyster place.”
The elusive Pleasure Beach Water Dodgems were a side issue, in fact, for John had contacted me as a result of my feature about the Queen’s Hotel (long-since the New Beach) at the Regent Road-Marine Parade junction. His interest was aroused because his mother was a waitress there during and after the war.
“I was born in 45 Queen’s Road in 1939 and evacuated to Blake Road (away from the bombs?),” writes John.
“The Navy commandeered 45, 46 and 47 Queen’s Road which were occupied by WRNS. Post-war, when I was about seven, my mother had bought 46 Queen’s Road.
“Number 47 had been completely destroyed by bombs and that side of 46 was supported by massive timbers to hold up the wall. My father took me to visit and we clambered through two strings of barbed wire to go in and see the damage. He worked forever restoring the place to a habitable condition so that it could work as a boarding house.
“Later we lived at 46 Queen’s Road (now the Southern Hotel), nearly pictured in another of your recent articles.
“The house at that time became a boarding house and later holiday flats. I have read suggestions that this was the first site of holiday flats in the UK.
“I read of the Beazor family and wondered who commissioned Grace Ville. Its name was carved in stone. Clearly it was built for someone of great stature. This has a superb mahogany staircase, with one newel of oak put in by the Navy.
“I also knew the Wadbrook family who were involved in the restoration of the Scenic Railway at the Pleasure Beach, but I do not know the nature of their involvement. They had a home in 45 Queen’s Road.”
John Clarke’s mention of Queen’s Road properties resurrects a 2013 Peggotty topic when the hit Downton Abbey television series included the Yarmouth-registered classic car, EX1945, a 1927 AC Six owned by enthusiast collector Alec Jacobs, of Gloucestershire, but originally driven by Miss Violet Beazor, an adventurous member of the prosperous fish merchant and curing family who was born at 47 Queen’s Road in 1897.
In the TV drama EX1945 was “wrecked” in a collision as a character was driving home, pre-occupied and happy, from hospital where his wife had given birth to the heir to the Downton estate.
The current telephone directory lists no Beazor in the Great Yarmouth area, although my 1937 Kelly’s street directory lists two Robert Beazors, both living a few doors from one another in Queen’s Road, one at 47 and the other at number 42.