The bizarrely named Eight Feet Road!

STATELY: The Queen's Hotel at the corner of Marine Parade and Regent Road as it looked 125 years ago

STATELY: The Queen's Hotel at the corner of Marine Parade and Regent Road as it looked 125 years ago in 1889.Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

LONG ago a radio quiz programme opened with a voice stating an obscure fact, to which the response was always a surprised: “Well! What D’You Know!” My reaction was similar when informed about a road in Great Yarmouth that had never come to my attention.

Peter Allard, of Mallard Way, Bradwell, who often responds to my pleas for information, writes: “I was reading through some old literature the other day and came across what must be the oddest road name in Yarmouth. Listed for Runham Vauxhall was one called Eight Feet Road which led off Archer Road. It is also listed in a 1920s Kelly’s Directory that I have.”

Well, in October 1969 the Minister of Transport formally announced that unless he received objections, he intended invoking Town and Country Planning Acts “to authorise the stopping up of a length of Eight Feet Road, between Acle New Road and Archer’s Road, Runham enable development of the site for use for special industry to be carried out in accordance with planning permission granted to Tunbridge & Sons (Yarmouth).”

This was a firm of tallow makers long part of our industrial scene. In my 1937 Kelly’s it was listed in South Market Road as “tallow and lard manufacturers, and hide and skin brokers” and, in my 1972 edition, was sited in Archer’s Road. Was this the company local people popularly called “the glue factory” and were aware of its presence when the wind was in the right direction?

In a 1921-22 Kelly’s, Eight Feet Road had only one occupant, William Bales. In the environs of Vauxhall lived cowkeeper Mrs Palmer and dairyman John Hill, while in the railway station yard were premises occupied by two coal merchants familiar to older Yarmouthians: Thomas Moy and Bessey & Palmer. The Vauxhall Tavern pub, demolished in 1990, was also there – plus one intriguing extra that might have slipped through the editing: “Wall Letter Box”!

Two “firsts” for me, even as a born-and-bred Bloater, were Henrietta Square with eight householders, and Pattinson’s Road where William Hodds was the sole resident in 1922 (by 1972 nobody lived there and it was marked “No thoroughfare”).

A recent topic here was the Yarmouth-bound crawling summer traffic queues on Southtown Road frustratingly stretching back well into Gorleston before the Breydon Bridge was built in 1986 and relieved the congestion. From his Lowestoft home, ex-Gorlestonian Mike King recalls: “The writing was on the wall in the very early 1960s when Southtown Road started to back up badly.

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“I remember one night in 1963 heading for a show at the Windmill to see Joe Brown. We got on the bus from Gorleston and, near the Half Way House, the traffic came to a halt. The bus did not move and it was obvious we would not make it in time. We abandoned the bus and headed for the ferry but it was farther than we thought to the Windmill.

“But at a very brisk pace we arrived just in time for the start of the show - exhausted!

“The longest jam I can remember was one race day in the summer of 1966 when returning home from work at Lowestoft. The traffic was queued back as far as the Lowestoft Road/Middleton Road roundabout where the Green Ace/Blue Star/Apex garage once stood!”

Another column was about Regent Road, the multi-faceted thoroughfare dubbed “Tat Row” by some irreverent friends of mine. Because regular contributor Trevor Nicholls, a Lowestoft resident now retired as Yarmouth’s registrar, enjoyed perusing my feature he sent a copy to friends in Bury St Edmunds who “enjoyed it too since Regent Road is a source of amusement to them.”

Trevor reports: “The first item I can remember buying in Regent Road, aged about ten, was a pair of ridiculously large sunglasses about twice the width of my face. They quickly fell apart.

“Yet there is some surprisingly good merchandise to be found there – a shop which sells super scale-model cars, vans etc, if you like that sort of thing, a niche market of high quality among the tat. In an end-of-print-run shop I bought a text book on How to Recognise Greek Art and another on the Norwich School of Painters.

“Also, the people who work in the shops are friendly and helpful to an extent which is exceptional today, perhaps because they own the shops themselves.”

Trevor adds: “Am I right in remembering a uniformed commissionaire at the front of the Queen’s Hotel on the corner of Regent Road and Marine Parade? I can certainly remember the larger-than-usual VR (Queen Victoria) postbox at that location.

“I think the reconfiguration of that vicinity which the council has carried out is really good and, on a sunny day, the locality takes on a Continental appearance.

“I remember going to a wedding at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Regent Road, in an official capacity, in high summer in collar, tie and dark suit, with my official case and so on. Walking down Regent Road, I must have resembled ‘Our Man in Cairo’ hastening On Her Majesty’s Service through the bazaar!

“As you wrote, in the midst of life, we are in Regent Road...”

Perhaps the large letter box outside the Queen’s Hotel (long-since renamed the New Beach) was to accommodate the thousands of picture postcards holidaymakers sent home in those distant days.

Finally, from Canada comes a puzzler from ex-Yarmouthians Danny and Marjorie Daniels who recently celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary. They ask: “Marjorie and I wonder (since she lived just below it on Lime Kiln Walk) where the designation The Conge came from? It obviously is not now the unoccupied space it was when she lived in its vicinity, but how did it come to be named that?”

In his 2000 book The Rows and the Old Town, historian Colin Tooke explains: “As a street name, it is probably unique in this country. The unusual name first appears in documents dated 1286 and could be derived from the nearby bend in the River Bure.”

Henry I appointed a collector of duties who lived there, and the adjacent quay was named Lords Quay or King’s Conge.

Actually, The Conge was Row 28, running from North Quay to George Street, before it was widened into a road.