Peggotty seemed spoilt for choice for a home
- Credit: Archant
TALK about confused.com! That insurance website address just about sums up my dilemma over Peggotty’s Hut. It is not that I have no home to go to: I seem to have too many, leaving me spoilt for choice.
In recent weeks this column has featured several alleged Peggotty’s Huts – all commercially-orientated spoofs, of course, because the original was a figment of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens’ imagination. In his David Copperfield, set in the Great Yarmouth and Blundeston area, character Ham Peggotty lived in a converted upturned boat on our South Denes, perhaps inspired by something the author witnessed on our sands during a short visit, staying at the Royal Hotel on Marine Parade.
The current so-called Peggotty’s Hut, where I have lived for nearly 30 years, is in Gorleston.
As already reported, the Peggotty pseudonym was adopted by corporation bus driver Arthur Bishop, the original writer of this column in the Mercury’s sister newspaper, the Eastern Evening News, in 1936. The signature has survived the decades and a switch from the evening newspaper to the weekly Mercury in 1987.
So far locations for Peggotty’s Hut have included two in the Gorleston Pavilion area, one in Camden Road in Yarmouth, one in Kessingland created for a film set and one at Gravesend in Kent.
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Now comes an addition, again in Gorleston in that harbour/beach area. Ex-Gorlestonian Chris Hawkins, long resident in Oxfordshire, writes: “Your picture rang a few bells with me and I have searched through an old family photo album. The writing on the album page indicates that our picture was taken around 1930.
“As a young lad I remember the hut as a lock-up garage and the cottage to the right of the hut was used by a palmist who called herself Madame Naomi - Fortune Teller. The building behind your old boy (in a photograph I published with that recent column) was known as the Storm House Cafe in the late Fifties and early Sixties.”
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The second picture with that column might be the same structure but from a different angle, suggests Chris, explaining: “My maternal great-grandfather was a local boy by the name of Burgess. I think he was a sail-maker around this time and it is quite possible that he also traded in live bait and mussels.
“I have been told that he was well connected with the longshore fishermen and the lifeboat folk. The sails were made in the loft of the building to the left of the hut (in the picture).
“Nowadays the only original thing left standing in the 1930 picture is the little fisherman’s cottage to the right of our group. This was owned by my family until the mid-Sixties and was then sold on the demise of my grandmother.”
From Roger Caton comes this message: “As you said, there was a hut site on Camden Road at the bottom of Pier Place opposite 39 Camden Road where I lived. It was a cottage and a bakehouse, the owner being Mr Reeve. The bakehouse was demolished after the war and the cottage lived in by the Beckett family (the daughter of Mr Reeve).
“With the development of the Blackfriars Road area, the cottage was demolished. The house to the left of the cottage was called Peggotty House.”
Expatriate Harvey Gates – whose family once ran the Mariners Tavern in Howard Street South, if memory serves me correctly – contributes a possible entirely different location: “I have a very vague memory of a very similar type of hut, on the small North Quay on the Yarmouth side of the Southtown Bridge. It was (possibly) the first building along the road.
“I think it must have been attached to a builder’s yard as I can remember having to go and pick up some lime there when Dad had the urge to do some whitewashing!”
Thank you for that recollection, Harvey, but I think that adds to my confused.com state!
In David Copperfield, Ham Peggotty was portrayed as kindly and brave and certainly not the shifty villainous-looking character – the sort of chap you would not want to meet at night in a badly-lit Row - depicted in one of my previous photographs
Finally, a figurative last stroll down Gorleston’s Bells Road, a main shopping street featured in several columns of late. Ex-Gorleston resident and frequent correspondent Mike King and I were both cycling errand boys there in our youth.
Mike, now a Lowestoft resident, closes the reminiscences thus: “I loved the article about Bell’s Road. It brought back memories. I remember particularly the army surplus shop.
“Quite often Mrs Don Whiley (who ran a greengrocery and general shop on Cliff Hill, at the Lower Cliff Road corner) sent me to Mitchell’s (the Bells Road greengrocer and fruiterer where I worked) to borrow items. The chaps in there treated it as a bit of a joke. I also remember the lad who propelled their trade bike, but it was not you.
“How did all those little shops survive so long?”
He recalls two bigger Bells Road retailers from that Fifties and Sixties era – grocer David Greig and the Co-op.
Shops also prompted his memory to hark back through the decades, the catalyst being my photograph during the General Election campaign in May of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan addressing a packed outdoor public meeting on Yarmouth Market Place a half-century ago.
It was not the politics that captured Mike’s attention but the background of shops then on the east side of the Market Place. One was fruit and vegetable wholesaler McCarthy who used to deliver to Mrs Whiley “and probably all the local shops”.
The delivery driver was nicknamed “Brassy” and Mike – a serious cyclist – tells me: “I bought my first lightweight racing bike (a Jack Taylor) from Brassy’s son who lived in the High Street near Back Chapel Lane. It cost me a fiver and served me well for a couple of years.”