When the council’s new brooms didn’t fit the bill!

ON THE RIGHT LINES? Tram conductors were in demand in 1916 because the war was putting demands on ma

ON THE RIGHT LINES? Tram conductors were in demand in 1916 because the war was putting demands on manpower. This tram on Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth was pictured in 1907.Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

Umpteen times that classic Only Fools and Horses clip has been screened on television, never failing to delight although we all know the punch-line: road-sweeper Trigger’s pride in his council award for his broom’s 20-year longevity...achieved despite having had 17 new heads and 14 new handles!

TRIGGER-NOMETRY: Broad Row in 1908 where broom-maker Mr Ellis ran a shop.Picture: PERCY TRETT COLLEC

TRIGGER-NOMETRY: Broad Row in 1908 where broom-maker Mr Ellis ran a shop.Picture: PERCY TRETT COLLECTION - Credit: Archant

That memory was rekindled when I re-read the minutes of Great Yarmouth council meetings of a century ago, in 1916. They were in a batch passed on by the late Les Collett, of The Fairway, Caister, who rescued them from a rubbish skip when Electric House on Regent Road was being cleared set for demolition.

That site is now occupied by part of the Market Gates retail mall.

Les, then 81, worked for 25 years for our council’s electricity undertaking based there, and told me: “I often read through them and find them better than any novel – they’re more interesting, and it’s surprising what you find in them.”

When borough surveyor James Cockrill requested six dozen new brooms, he was instructed to buy them from brush-maker Mr Ellis, in Broad Row, at his previously quoted price of 22s 6d (£1.12 today) a dozen. Failing that, tenders were to be sought from other traders whose brooms had given good results.

ELEGANT: despite its classic frontage, Electric House in Regent Road was not built until 1929 and wa

ELEGANT: despite its classic frontage, Electric House in Regent Road was not built until 1929 and was demolished in 1974.Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

Later, Mr Cockrill was told to get tenders for 50 dozen large road brooms, and Gorleston’s Mr H G Jackson’s 27s 6d (£1.38) a dozen tender was accepted.

However, months later, the surveyor showed a council committee a broom supplied under contract and the sample on which his tender was accepted. The committee deemed the brooms delivered were not up to the standard of the sample and refused to accept a further supply. But then Yarmouth trader Mr Ellis claimed that his tender was actually 10s (50p) a dozen cheaper than the figure given to the committee.

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So the committee accepted a tender for 25 dozen brooms at the lower price if Ellis would supply them.

Yes, all a tad confusing, but impossible to check 100 years on. Trigger would have been proud of them. To mis-title a TV favourite nowadays, it sounds like The Great Yarmouth Brush-Off!

On a more serious issue, Mayor Edward Worlledge reported that the First Lord of the Admiralty would receive a deputation from Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Yarmouth wanted to tell the Chancellor the Exchequer about the financial distress here, particularly since the recent German bombardment, and to stress the absolute need of immediate Government relief.

At the Whitehall meeting, the two towns asked for money to stop any increase in rates during the war and for 12 months after its end.

Whitehall was urged to send an inspector to Yarmouth immediately to ascertain the financial condition of the borough and its inhabitants with a view to granting substantial financial aid in addition to the existing relief funds.

Also, strong representations were made to the War Office for far more troops to be stationed here, but officials said no useful military purpose would be met by such a move.

A Government proposal to levy duty on rail fares infuriated the council which complained that “severe financial loss” had been caused to the borough and its inhabitants by the failure of the holiday season and the fishing industry because of the war.

The proposed rail fare duties would increase the existing serious local distress and endanger the borough’s future prosperity, particularly as Yarmouth was “far distant from populous centres and has therefore to rely on visitors from London, the Midlands and the Northern Counties.” The council prayed the levy did not become law.

Despite keeping costs to a minimum, Yarmouth and Caister Golf Club was having difficulty in paying its rent to the council, partly because receipts had been spent on upkeep. Its secretary proposed to carry on that way during 1916, hoping things might work so there would be a surplus out of which some rent could be paid.

The council decreed that until six months after an armistice, the club would be managed by a joint committee of five golfers and five members of the corporation, plus a chairman, council alderman Harold Chamberlin...who was also a member of that golf club! Our Ratepayers Association vigorously opposed the joint control scheme.

The council complained to the Postmaster General about inadequate accommodation and defective service at Gorleston Post Office in High Street, demanding more commodious premises.

Eight married and four single tram conductors sought a rise in their 21s (£1.05 today) weekly wages, pay automatically increasing by 2s (10p) after a year’s work. Married conductors were given a 2s weekly rise - but their unmarried colleagues were not.

It was decided to advertise for suitable men, ineligible for military service, to fill tram conductor vacancies. Twenty-eight applications were received, so there was no need “to resort to female conductors”. Later the council, because of extensions to the service, advertised for women conductors aged 21-35, at 21s a week.

Yarmouth and Gorleston Sunday School Union was alarmed about “the serious moral harm caused to the child-life of the country by many of the films shown at cinemas” and wanted the council committee responsible for the conduct of cinema performances ”to protect the young from the influence of unsuitable pictures.”

The council said its watch committee was not unmindful of its obligations but could not exceed its legal powers.

The National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers claimed Yarmouth’s police constables belonged to that union and wanted to apply for a war bonus, allegedly granted by the council’s watch and fire brigade committee but never received by the men.

The chief constable declared his policemen all denied the allegation of union membership, aware “it would be a grave breach of discipline for them to discuss police matters with labour union leaders.”

The town clerk also repudiated that the council had granted a war bonus to the force, and “strongly resent and refuse to allow any interference by the union or any other outside body between the watch committee and the members of the police force under their control.”