Solving the riddle of Chapel Square...

memory 1207

memory 1207 - Credit: Archant

When I was cutting my teeth as a fledgling columnist nearly six decades ago, my Great Yarmouth mentor told me to be mindful of the fact that seldom was any subject new. The then Peggotty, the late Joe Harrison, assured me that although topics did recur with inevitability, they enhanced readers’ nostalgia buds rather than detracting from it.

Of late, borough road names and their origin have occupied this feature...mirroring a Through the Porthole Joe or his predecessor penned just before or after the 1939-45 war. I chanced upon it when browsing through an old office scrap book into which early Peggotty contributions had been pasted when they were a nightly feature in the Eastern Evening News; this particular one was datelined: “Yarmouth, Tuesday afternoon.”

In the Eighties the evening paper axed the column and I revived it in the Mercury in 1987.

That long-ago Peggotty wrote about Chapel Square in Yarmouth. Chapel Square? Never heard of it!

Peggotty told his readers: “‘Where is Chapel Square?’ was a question asked recently in a local competition, and one would have thought it of easy solution. As I knew that St George’s Church was originally called the chapel, and the Park [was] Chapel Denes, I looked for the square in that vicinity.

“But it was not to be found, and neither could I find it in any street directory.

“Later it transpired that Chapel Square comprises the cottages numbers 154 to 160 Blackfriars’ Road, and that a name tablet with the date 1828 and the initials ‘W.B.’ is to be seen over number 156.

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“One hundred years ago King Street ended at the site of the Congregational Church, and from there to present-day Friars Lane was styled Chapel Street, and York Road was Chapel Road. The south end was not called King Street till 1836.

“‘W. B.’ probably denotes that the cottages were built by William Bellamy, the butcher nearby, and as no St Peter’s Church existed at that period, the tenants enjoyed almost an interrupted view of the beach and shipping in either direction, for few houses stood between them and the sea.”

St Peter’s Church, built in 1833, has been the Greek Orthodox Church of St Spyridon since 1967 but stood in as Yarmouth Parish Church after St Nicholas’s was fire-bombed and extensively damaged in 1942, relinquishing that role when restoration was completed in 1961.

And that terrace of homes is still there today, between St Peter’s Road and the Time and Tide Museum car park, the numbering unchanged and the plaque above the front bedroom window of 156. Their sea view has long gone.

Well, we live and learn...

And while on roads and properties, let me mention a little conundrum about house numbering on Beccles Road in Gorleston, only a few paces from where it becomes Beccles Road, Bradwell. I stroll along there regularly and, without exception, the same question always springs to mind.

The properties are evenly numbered on the Lynn Grove side, and are 328, 330, 332 – and 342, immediately next door! So, what happened to 334, 336, 338 and 340?

At first I thought they might be behind the frontage properties and reached by a loke, but no. A resident told me he had no clear idea. My 1972 Kelly’s Street Directory lists those last home numbers before reaching the divide and Bradwell just as I have. After 342, the parish boundary is crossed and the Bradwell numbers start at 2, 4, 6 etc.

On the opposite side of Beccles Road in Gorleston, numbers start at 357 at the Bradwell boundary and reduce by two without any quirk...other than a gap from 215 to 183, Shrublands Way and Colomb Road causing the physical gap. I assume that the missing numbers were on properties demolished for highways purposes when Shrublands Way was constructed.

Recently I wrote about Yarmouth resident Sir Charles Loftin and Sheringham businessman Major Dunn, the former not a titled gentleman and the latter not a retired army officer. Both had unusual – and confusing – first names.

From his long-time home in Canada, ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels writes: “My father was Major William Daniels, even though he never got to be a Stoker Petty Officer in the Navy. He never knew why he was named Major.

“He was invalided out of the Navy in 1916, after his ship was torpedoed, and spent several days adrift in a lifeboat.

“He was on the Q12 - a merchant ship commandeered by the Navy and fitted with guns, hidden behind drop-down metal screens, to try and lure German U-boats to the surface. That was in the days when many U-boats did surface and give merchant crews a chance to get into their boats before sinking their ships either by gun fire or torpedo.

“The irony was that having carried out their first attack, other U-boats were warned about Q12 and - lo and behold - it was sunk by one of them with an underwater torpedo!

“My father once had a photograph from a German newspaper, taken through the periscope of the U-boat that sank them, of the Q12 going down! How he got it and where it went I have no idea.”

Danny was delighted to see my photograph “of the Britannia Pier as it used to be, with boards advertising trips to Ostend, even. That was something we never even contemplated in those days. Taking the ‘workman’s’ up to Norwich or cycling to Hopton was about it.”

One of his memories of that pier was his appearance as a page in Yarmouth Operatic and Dramatic Society’s 1946 production of A Rose Without A Thorn. Danny, then a grammar school pupil, was recruited by deputy headmaster “Jimmie” Whitehead who played Henry VIII, with Brenda Collett as Ann Boleyn.

Finally, the 1934 unsolved murder of dealer Horace Butcher in his Middlegate Street premises, killed by blows to the head from a 7lb metal weight – subject of another recent column. Ex-Gorlestonian Mike King, of Lowestoft, says: “His demise was the talk of the town before the war. When my nanny took my mum from Cobholm to visit relatives in the Rows, my mum was terrified when they walked along Middlegate.

“Matters were hushed up, according to folks at that time, and they were reluctant to talk about it. It was thought that the murderer was well-known.”