Playing the vehicle numbers game

GREAT Yarmouth’s exclusive EX vehicle licence series, which served us from 1903 until the seventies, was highlighted in a recent column triggered by seeing EX1945 – a 1927 AC tourer – in the hit Downton Abbey television series. Its original owner was Miss Violet Beazor, daughter of a prosperous local fish merchant, I speculated, wondering if we would ever learn more about this spirited woman who loved motorcycles and performance cars throughout her life.

This brought a response from Basil Arthur, of Lark Rise, Bradwell, who tells me: “I knew her when I worked at the Jubilee Garage (Marwood and Chapman) on Caister Road from 1945. She used to come in the filling station and pump up her tyres. She was a lovely lady.”

Mr Arthur, now 81, says at that time she was driving a maroon Jowett Javelin car and “must have had a bit of money” but usually she was cycling when he saw her. “She used to ride up and down Caister Road on her bicycle, often going to and from her allotment on Jellicoe Road where she used to spend no end of time. She used to mix with the old boys down there.

“When she cycled to her allotment she’d carry a bucket with all sorts of odds and ends in it.”

He added: “Often when I saw her she was with a younger woman, probably in her early 20s, well spoken, tall and elegant and dressed as though she had stepped out of the Thirties.”

I had written that Miss Beazor did not move to 82 Caister Road until 1970 when her name first appeared as the occupier, succeeding a long-resident Mrs Myers, but I am now drawn to the conclusion that the two women had shared the house, Miss Beazor being listed as the principal occupant after the death or departure of Mrs Myers. But that is all surmise.

From regular correspondent Mike King, a Gorlestonian living in Lowestoft, comes information about those EX number plates. I said 1JEX was recently advertised for sale by a specialist company, but Mike points out: “EX numbers did not reach this far in practice.

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“EX9998 and 9999 were Lacons’ brewery lorries and in 1956 the change was made to AEX1. The series reached as high as KEX in 1963 and changed to AEX1B in 1964. The ‘reverse number’ 1JEX was never issued.

“My own car was DEX971, registered in 1960. In 1966 DEX971D appeared on the streets. As car sales multiplied, 999 registrations seemed to flash by. By 1970 LEX***H had been reached, by 1973 XEX***M. After ‘our’ number had been subsumed by Norfolk County Council, I lost interest as they no longer had a special meaning.”

And from vehicle registrations to matrimony, following on from my column about our renovated town hall in which I said the council was considering holding weddings instead of the Central Library which succeeded Ferryside. Retired Yarmouth registrar Trevor Nicholls tells me: “The council did obtain a licence for civil marriage ceremonies in the Town Hall under the 1994 Act which authorised their being solemnised in secular buildings.

“A small number of ceremonies took place there. I attended one in the council chamber and another in the supper room, but the take-up was not great and the licence – which cost the council �1000 – was not renewed when it expired after three years. But the first of these ceremonies, although the first to take place in the present town hall, was not the first to take place on that site.”

Trevor explains that according to 19th century historian Charles Palmer, a Jewish wedding took place in the original town hall in 1845 although there was a synagogue in Row 42 (George Street to Howard Street). Palmer wrote: “On account of the many visitors at a Jewish wedding, all of whom are expected to give something, a large public room is frequently hired. On this occasion, about 300 spectators attended by invitation.”

Apparently, by a 1753 statutory dispensation, still in force, Jews have a right to wed in places of their own choosing and large premises are often hired.

Aware of my love of the old Yarmouth Corporation buses, Trevor has sent me a snap of three in hostile territory – Lowestoft! He explains: “Although there are now two former Yarmouth blue buses in the Carlton Colville museum, it is rare to see pictures of these vehicles of happy memory working away from their home territory.

“Through trains to London from Yarmouth South Town ended in September 1966 and thereafter all Yarmouth-London trains used Vauxhall. For the 1967 summer BR introduced a fast service from Liverpool Street to Lowestoft, the price including bus transfer to the holiday camps at Corton, Hopton and possibly also that at Gorleston. These blue buses were chartered for the purpose.”

“This innovation ignored the fact that that arriving passengers could have transferred at Lowestoft not into buses but into coast line trains that ran to Yarmouth until that line was axed in 1970. Some cynics saw this as a deliberate ploy by the railway authorities to starve the coast line of traffic to facilitate its closure.

“During the 1960s these particular blue buses were also hired to Eastern Counties to augment their own service during the summer peak months.”

After I wrote about autograph collectors, I received a letter from Tony Utting, of Beccles Road, Gorleston, recalling an August 1960 visit to Yarmouth Stadium to see wrestling. “During the bouts, someone behind us was really vociferous, shouting out advice loudly and regularly. On looking round I recognised the person to be the boxer Terry Downes, one of our greatest-ever fighters.”

Downes, now 76, is Britain’s oldest surviving world champion, having won the middleweight crown. Comments Tony: “What a fighter! Always going forward and prepared to take punches to land some of his own. Anyway, he stopped shouting long enough to autograph my programme which I still have.”

Another subject was Plevna Terrace, a half-hidden row of 14 small cottages off Southtown Road adjacent to the old railway terminus. Peter Allard, of Mallard Way, Bradwell, informs me: “Plevna Terrace was first mentioned in Steer’s Directory for 1878, but I guess it was built possibly for the railway workers when South Town Station was built in the late 1850s.”