Ferryside: One of the big houses

BECAUSE I allegedly dwell in an upturned boat on the South Denes in Great Yarmouth, and these weekly columns have perpetuated that fiction of a Dickensian Peggotty’s Hut (in reality, a modest bungalow in Gorleston), I feel I should know my place and tug a figurative forelock when mentioning the occupants of “the big house”.

One property falling in that category is Ferryside, erected as a gentlemen’s residence on the Southtown-Gorleston border but for 60-plus years used as council offices and the Yarmouth district registry. That function has ended, and Norfolk County Council has put it up for sale.

In January Trevor Nicholls, retired registrar of births, deaths and marriages, who worked there for 43 years. noted that Ferryside and nearby Koolunga “are the last remaining substantial houses in the old county borough west of the river. Built for occupation by large prosperous families with servants, the key to survival into the present century has been adaptability to modern circumstances.”

Trevor said one that had not survived was Woodlands, on the High Street-School Lane corner (where a shopping precinct stands today) – and that name sparked off memories for reader Paul Godfrey, who now lives in Lowestoft. When setting up his photographic business in Yarmouth in 1968, he needed a glazer and was put in touch with Ernie Bell who until recently had worked for A & S Yallop and thought they might have one.

Recalls Paul: “I rang Mr Yallop and was invited to visit him at Woodlands, at 178 High Street, Gorleston. I drove into the gateway, through a wooded area and parked my vehicle. There was a large old house and a smaller more modern house beside it. The smaller house was actually in School Lane and was where Mr and Mrs Yallop lived. This property is still standing today and, when I recently looked, was still called Woodlands.

“The old property was used as a developing and printing works. Yallop were wholesale photo-finishers - firms who did photographic processing and printing for amateur photographers and offered their services through local chemists and other retail shops rather than market the service direct to the public.

“Yallop’s developing and printing services were available through local branches of Boots whose accounts were highly prized by photo-finishers; the work had meet Boots’ exacting standards. Boots developing and printing services were marketed by them as being of the highest quality but in reality, other retailers in the area were offering the same services - and all the films went to Yallop’s anyway.

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“At the time I met Sydney Yallop he had sold the goodwill and customer base of his photo-finishing business to Chadwick’s and was in the process of selling the property to a developer who was going to build a shopping precinct there.

“The negotiations had hit a problem due to a proposal to build a second river crossing on a flyover from Gorleston to the South Denes, and one support leg for the flyover was to be built on the Woodlands site!

“Mr Yallop did not have a glazer but he did put me in touch with another business in Gorleston that he had an interest in, and that did have one. Mr Yallop’s brother-in-law, Mr Brett, who had a furniture business at the Howard Street end of Market Row in Yarmouth, supplied the transport and the deal was done.

“That second river crossing did not happen and the precinct was built eventually. By way of a coincidence, my father’s business - Godfrey DIY - eventually owned the precinct until quite recently.

“A & S Yallop were photographers before the second world war and many of the iconic photographs used to illustrate old Yarmouth books are by the studio of Alfred Yallop, Sydney’s father.

“Alfred came to Gorleston in the late 1880s. His studio was at 197/198 High Street and he also had a seasonal business selling view cards etc on Harbour Quay. He must have been very successful, as he took over the existing business of Mrs Elizabeth Miller, trading as Miller’s Royal Studio, in the early 1900s. By then Miller’s studio was over top of the well-known gents outfitters Tom Green.

“I believe when Sydney joined his father in the business in the 1920s, the diversification into the developing and printing trade took place.

“When I saw the Yallop developing and printing works in 1968 all the equipment was still there. All was black-and-white equipment because the business had not ventured into colour developing and printing.

“A collection of Yallop negatives and prints was acquired in the 1970s from Sydney Yallop by the Gorleston photographer Brian Ollington and prints were marketed through his Porthole Gallery for many years. In recent years the Ollington business closed and the Yallop collection was sold, I believe, to a private collector.”

Paul would love to discover the identity of the wealthy family who had the original Woodlands built.

One renowned owner of the main Woodlands was Robert Hewett who moved from Barking to Gorleston in the 1860s to help with the transfer of the famous Short Blue trawler fleet from the Essex port to its new base in the River Yare. He became the company’s managing director.

Logic dictates that Robert Hewitt moved into an existing property, Woodlands, because it would have taken years to find and buy a suitable site, have plans drawn up and a large house built, and he wanted to move in quickly to supervise the major mission of his trawling fleet’s switch to Gorleston.

Within 10 years he returned to Barking when the company underwent a major restructuring, including the sale of its fishing smacks. I do not know who lived at Woodlands before Mr Hewett, or between his departure and its acquisition by the Yallops, but would be interested to find out.