Middleton Road built, well, down the middle

BEFORE OR AFTER THE TURKEY? People enjoying Christmas sunshine in Gorleston beach shelters in 1953.

BEFORE OR AFTER THE TURKEY? People enjoying Christmas sunshine in Gorleston beach shelters in 1953. - Credit: Archant

SEASIDE residents like Great Yarmouth Mercury readers, and the visitors spending the festive and New Year holidays in our hotels, invariably take a brisk stroll along our sea-front or cliff-top as part of their enjoyment, regardless of the weather.

TAKING SHAPE: construction workers building Middleton Road in Gorleston in 1923.

TAKING SHAPE: construction workers building Middleton Road in Gorleston in 1923. - Credit: Archant

It blows away the cobwebs, we insist, allows us to wear our new gloves or scarves or whatever we had in the clothing line as Christmas gifts, and provides a brief but welcome respite from over-indulgence in food, drink, television and embarrassing party games.

So today, I am steering away from the sight of the sea and the sniff of the ozone by opting for a location that is du-different, in good old Norfolk style: the Middleton Road neighbourhood in Gorleston!

It is a re-visit, in truth, a follow-up to my recent column on Howard’s grocery shop, which traded from the 1940s at the junction of Middleton Road and Pound Lane where convenience store onestop is now, and other businesses and roads in that area of Gorleston roughly south of Springfield Road and the railway station.

Some parts of the former A12 Yarmouth-London main road are now more or less dead-end backwaters resulting from the closure of the railway in 1970 and the provision of the bypass slicing through Gorleston along the former train track.

Regular correspondent Mike King, Gorleston-bred but long resident in Lowestoft, wonders what was there before Middleton Road was constructed in 1923 from Gorleston Parish Church to Lowestoft Road.

“Something must have been there before,” he reasons, particularly as his 1906 Ordnance Survey map shows what appears to be an unnamed road from near the Church Road-Church Lane junction to at least Albemarle Road and the bridge built in 1903 to span the new Yarmouth-Lowestoft railway line running through a cutting.

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If it was simply a minor straight road or lane with few, if any, properties along it, why go to the expense and trouble of providing a bridge over the line for it?

Side roads such as Stradbroke, Albemarle, Suffield and Elmgrove were already in existence, as was the water reservoir, long grassed and still there beside Elm Avenue. “The 1906 map shows that the earlier road took the course of the present Middleton Gardens and continued a very long way, probably to Crow Hall Farm. This road was called Pound Lane,” writes Mike.

“When Middleton Road was constructed, it connected with the existing road via a short curve. The name was applied to the whole road, and Pound Lane retained for the short road beyond Howard’s Stores. Well, that’s the way I see it.”

The road was named after the then mayor, Ernest Middleton.

In my youth, before the Magdalen Estate was built postwar, there was only a handful of homes alongside Middleton Road, the landward side between Western Road and Gloucester Avenue being open fields. If I pedalled along Middleton Road, it was akin to a ride in the country!

That recollection is reinforced by ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels who, with his wife, Marjorie, has been resident in Canada for 58 years. “Your column raised nostalgic memories,” he e-mails. “I remember an autumn day of many years ago, before the Magdalen Estate was built, when I was cycling along Middleton Road and saw a farmer ploughing that big field, with a large flock of seagulls following his newly turned-over furrows, screaming and fighting for the unearthed worms.

“Of course, on that side of the road, the only houses in sight were the four or five relatively ‘posh’ ones at the top of Western Road.

“Another such memory arises from another autumn evening, cycling back after a visit to Mike Browne (my fellow classmate, head boy at Great Yarmouth Grammar School and best man at our wedding) who lived in Reedham.

“His father was the postmaster, his older brother Peter had also been at GYGS, and his younger sister, Felicity, was a High School friend of my wife Marjorie.

“On this occasion, as the light was fading and mists were starting to arise, I cycled past a field (the only one in my memory) in which they were growing celery. The so-distinctive aura, the heavy bouquet arising from those rows upon rows of that crunchy plant, was a delight never experienced before or since.

“It was somewhat different, I should add, from that which arose as I walked along South Quay when the Scottish herring drifters were in the harbour!”

From reader Donna Moughton, of Poplar Avenue, Gorleston comes a flattering e-mail saying: “ I read with utter fascination and enjoyment your article on ‘the way we used to do our shopping’ not only because I grew up on the Magdalen Estate (some 40 years ago) but because I am now living on Poplar Avenue.

“Whilst I moved Norwich way to work, we brought our house as a family home, because my husband always loved this avenue and did his paper round here. Funny how a memory takes you back to a place.

“I adore how a picture can transport you to a place and time and I have been inspired to make a first visit to the Time and Tide Museum in Yarmouth and take a look through some old photos. Your article inspired to find out more about my house.

“Thank you for a wonderful read.”

Back in that post-war era when I was a cycling schoolboy, a favourite meeting place at weekends for us teenagers was Vettese’s ice-cream parlour and snack bar in Regent Road in Yarmouth – the one near the former Waxworks building, not that on the other side of the road near the Queen’s Hotel.

As we sipped our hot chocolates served by friendly staff, we lads would be wearing our gabardine trousers and single-breasted roll-collar two-button sports jackets and, if our mothers had succumbed to our pleadings, either crepe-soled shoes or loafers.

The teenage girl clientele were always looking trendy and chic, in our eyes.

Those teenage recollections from long ago resulted from reading recently of the death at 89 of Joseph Vettese, a stalwart of the business dynasty.