The joy of shopping in Gorleston’s Bell’s Road
- Credit: Archant
IT’S time for another figurative stroll down Bells Road to deliver updates from readers responding to my recent columns about this once-prime shopping street in Gorleston and the family bakery businesses located there and elsewhere.
Three letters published in the Mercury correspondence columns raised – and answered – the question of whether or not Bells Road once had a second public house in addition to the long-gone Royal Albert. The Free Trade Stores, located on the corner of South Road, was suggested but dismissed because it was never a pub, only an off-licence – a bottle-and-jug run by Mrs Edith Adams for three decades.
It was suggested to me that her three children were all now dead, but it happily transpires that this is not the case. I contacted her daughter, Margaret Moore, who has e-mailed me from her home in Spain to explain: “My brother (George) died two years ago aged 88 and my sister (Olive) died a lot younger, aged 68. Both were a lot older than me.”
Margaret, now 79 and a class-mate of mine at Stradbroke Road School in the 1940s, lived at the Free Trade Stores until she married in 1959. Her message from Spain adds: “I know Bells Road isn’t what it used to be but I still love dear old Gorleston and Victoria Road” (where she and husband Michael lived before moving to Spain).
It was Margaret’s father, Freddie Adams, who was the taxi driver my parents occasionally employed to drive us to Great Yarmouth’s South Town railway station when Corporation buses were inconvenient for us and our luggage.
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From El Alamein Way in Bradwell, Kathleen Farman tells me that she clearly remembers Mr and Mrs Adams and their three children in Bells Road. She believes Freddie Adams had a horse and carriage, the animal stabled near where the Cliff Hotel is today.
Strange, but despite being an errand boy for a Bells Road greengrocer and knowing the once-busy shopping area well, I cannot recall the “bottle and jug” home and business of the Adams family ever being called the Free Trade Stores. Certainly it was not a pub, for the interior had neither chairs nor tables but comprised only a full-width counter as far as I can remember.
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Many years ago the property was converted into two flats.
An early contributor to the Bells Road debate was Don Bullard, of Elm Avenue, Gorleston, a member of the family bakery business round the corner into Nile Road. His wealth of happy memories of his earlier years includes one of a regular family meal: “We would have a lovely big jug of shandy from there (the Adams’s beer-off) on a Saturday lunch time with fish and chips from Morley’s on Lower Cliff Road (fantastic) and a lovely fruit loaf with butter from our own bakery.”
He reminds older readers that farther along Bells Road towards Upper Cliff Road was a haberdashery shop run by the Misses Eagle and Green (“It’s now a dog parlour.”)
Regular correspondent Peter Allard, of Mallard Way, Bradwell, contributes to the Bells Road saga with the information: “My grandfather, Tom Allard, had a shop at 42 Bells Road, called The Modern Radio shop, but he later moved into 58D Bells Road during the war. Number 42 is now an estate agents, Darby and Liffen.
“The history of this once busy shopping area has been largely neglected over the years and your article may hopefully spring people into life and send in more photographs etc.”
Of course, it is easy for older generations of Gorleston residents like me to pronounce that Bells Road has lost its busyness and animated character. Yes, in comparison with Bells Road as it was in the late Forties and Fifties, it is now quiet – but the subsequent arrivals happily shopping and going about their business there accept it as it now is, perhaps unaware of its past vitality and character.
Times and shopping habits have moved on...
In a previous column on Bells Road, I appended a list of traders in business in 1952 (a year I was an errand boy there) culled from that year’s Kelly’s Street Directory, but cannot remember seeing in the book the name of sports outfitter Goodrich; he was certainly there, on the east side between Springfield and Upper Cliff Roads, and his daughter Shirley was a talented artistic roller-skater at Gorleston Rollerdrome in the long-gone Super Holiday Camp era.
For interest, below is another incomplete list from a Kelly’s two decades later, in 1972.
Newcomers and successors in 1972 included Percy Field (tailor, menswear), hairdresser Risian, EW Millichamp (builder), Charles Hall (grocer), JH Lambert (butcher), Dorothy’s wool shop, The Chocolate Box, Justine Fashions, Gordon (hairdresser), Runnquist (antiques), JR McBride (beer retailer), Olivette’s Knitting Wools, Nortcliffe (turf accountants), Charrington (coal merchant), C Sellen (coin dealer), WD Warman (fishmonger), The Colour Box (wallpaper), FG Searby (greengrocer), John (hairdresser), RH Hall (greengrocer), Washeteria, Edna Riseborough Gowns, Co-Op (dry cleaners), Gorleston Coaling Company, Bernice (ladies hairdresser), Wright’s Hardware, W Porter (greengrocer), Rawlings (hardware), Shirley’s (dresses), Auto-Electric (motor engineers)...
By that time Bells Road had attracted several solicitors and professional offices to add to its variety although I think the bank sub-branches in the 1952 listings had gone by 1972.
In 1952 one coal merchant had premises in Bells Road, joined by another by 1972. I doubt if in 2015, when coal has all-but disappeared as a fuel for heating family homes, many ordering offices exist anywhere.
The topics of Bells Road and big and small bakeries were running in tandem in this column, and from his long-time home in Canada ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels e-mails: “Apart from the bakers’ shops, in those days there were also the bakers’ vans which delivered bread to us on Lichfield Road.
“I can’t remember if was Wright’s or Brown’s the baker who kept us supplied. In any case, they also had a shop at the Cobholm end of the Southtown Bridge and I particularly recall that at Easter time they not only featured hot-cross buns (which still survive) but also little saffron loaves (which don’t).”