Full steam ahead for all change please

AN ERA ENDS...a train bound from Yarmouth South Town Station to Lowestoft crosses the bridge spannin

AN ERA ENDS...a train bound from Yarmouth South Town Station to Lowestoft crosses the bridge spanning Links Road in Gorleston on the final day of the line in 1970. Picture: CHRIS HOPKINS - Credit: Archant

A figurative trip down Memory Lane by road and rail today, admittedly impractical as a transportation possibility, does enable me to pass on feed-back from previous columns.

REDUNDANT: the bridge that once spanned the railway line in Burgh Road, Gorleston. Picture: CHRIS HO

REDUNDANT: the bridge that once spanned the railway line in Burgh Road, Gorleston. Picture: CHRIS HOPKINS - Credit: Archant

First comes the long-demolished pair of toll-houses on the Acle New Road in the Runham Vauxhall area of Great Yarmouth. My photograph of one of the old toll-houses, at which fees were paid by highway users, led to phone calls from readers identifying the long-term occupant of the building.

That man, pictured in the doorway of the bijou brick building chatting to a passer-by, was boot and shoe repairer Louis George Dyble, who lived close by. He had to vacate the former toll-house when it was demolished in 1953 so a road-widening scheme could proceed.

I am indebted for that identification to two long-ago residents of the neighbourhood - Norma Laxon, now of Gorleston, and Brian Holmes, of South Quay, Yarmouth.

A pre-war Yarmouth directory lists Mr Dyble’s business address as The Round House, North Quay; strictly speaking, I suppose it ought to have been The Hexagonal House because it was six-sided.

PAY AND PASS: the old toll house on Southtown Road between Yarmouth and Gorleston. Picture: MERCURY

PAY AND PASS: the old toll house on Southtown Road between Yarmouth and Gorleston. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

The borough had no fewer than three toll-houses, the third sited on Southtown Road opposite Tollgate Road, squeezed between timber merchant Palgrave Brown’s premises. There seems to be little information about it, but it was demolished perhaps in the late 1940s.

Also, I was contacted by Julie Staff, who has campaigned to raise money to provide a permanent memorial near the Suspension Bridge to mark the 1845 disaster which claimed 79 lives when its predecessor collapsed into the river.

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She has opened a Facebook page after realising that the Acle New Road was built by Robert Cory, builder of that bridge; although Yarmouth had received a £10,000 Government loan, it was still struggling to repay it ten years later, she tells me.

Deciding to give today’s residents the chance to speak for themselves, Julie raised an official Government petition in January.

“If I could get enough people to sign it, then the road can be looked at again,” says Julie. “Why are they leaving Great Yarmouth behind? If people sign and share, we can make them listen instead of just passing us by without a thought or care for this town.

“People have been dying on this road for too many years. How can the future of Great Yarmouth move forward when the main road to it is still stuck in the past?

“There have been many promises over the years for it to be dualled but sadly, this has never happened. It is as if Yarmouth has been forgotten. This petition was set up because the man who built the Acle Straight in 1830, Robert Cory, had a vision for Great Yarmouth.”

To read or sign the petition, log on to: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/118068

Only if 10,000 signatures are on a petition will there be a Government response.

By mid-February only 1,458 people had signed the Acle New Road petition which will expire in mid-July.

So, from road to rail, harking back to my admission that it had not occurred to me that Bridge House on Burgh Road in Gorleston (near the Co-op roundabout) was named because of its proximity to the nearby bridge over the Yarmouth South Town to Beccles railway line that closed in 1959.

As with many a former railway track, it is well-nigh impossible to envisage steam locomotives chuffing along it, hauling carriages or goods trucks, because areas have changed beyond recognition and now comprise residential estates, industrial and agricultural sites and and other uses. Imaginations have to go into over-drive.

That South Town to Beccles line is a good example, with little or nothing remaining of the two stations at Belton and Burgh and St Olaves; the big blue and white St Olaves sign was saved and graced the side of the St Olaves Garage on the main road but has gone elsewhere (I hope).

From regular correspondent Trevor Nicholls, Yarmouth’s retired Registrar, comes a letter reminding me that former crossing-gate keeper’s cottage in Mill Lane, Bradwell, still survived although much-extended, as had some others in the area. “That in the middle of Fritton Forest must be the most isolated although when it was built it would have been surrounded not by trees but by scrub and rabbits – a warren, not a forest,” he writes.

Like many of us “of an age”, Trevor cannot refrain from harking back to days of yore: “Walking along Mill Lane, Bradwell, today it is hard to believe that across this modern residential thoroughfare - well within living memory a country lane – thousands upon thousands of people passed over a period of exactly 100 years (1859-1959, the duration of the railway).

“More fish was conveyed to London by this route than any other. Sixty years ago, on summer Saturdays, the drivers of the new Britannia-class locomotives would have been easing back the regulator to coast down the gradient into South Town Station.

“The run from Liverpool Street would have been fast – two and a-half hours – during which passengers would have had glimpses of the Broads from the swing bridges over the Waveney at Beccles and St Olaves, and in the dash across Haddiscoe marshes.

“In the long line of red-and-cream (‘blood and custard’) carriages, the first view the holidaymakers would have had of Yarmouth would have been practically the whole length of the town in one sweep: Caister water tower, Town Hall, all the church towers, Lacon’s (brewery) chimney, Nelson’s Monument, the Tower building on Marine Parade, the power station, and ships in the river...”

Finally, my reference to the old Burgh Road rail bridge prompted enthusiast Chris Hopkins, of Laburnum Close, Bradwell, to send me a photograph of it, plus another lost bridge – that spanning Gorleston’s Links Road, taken on the final day of the South Town to Lowestoft line in 1970.

For years the landward side of that bridge had “WALLBY” daubed across its width. Nobody fathomed out how it was achieved, or its significance.