A lorry, lorry interest in firms long gone

A RECENT column featured a Dutch flower lorry akin to a painting on wheels as it made its regular calls on customers in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. Both sides of its long articulated trailer were covered by paintings of animated scenes in the major Netherlands port of Rotterdam between the wars.

Luckily I never made any extravagant claim that the Dutch Quality Flowers vehicle was unique...because only a few days later, I spotted another gem.

This belonged to a leading East Anglian company, and the fact that the side of its lorry bore a picture of Southwold’s shoreline, with the lighthouse and lovely town behind it, all bathed in the golden glow of the evening sun, made it easy to deduce that the vehicle belonged to Adnams Brewery.

Emma Hibbert, its head of corporate affairs, confirms: “We do indeed have a Southwold scene on many of our lorries. The original design was created by Christopher Wormell who was the illustrator behind the ‘Adnams, Beer from the Coast’ advertising campaign.”

In that column, I said it was a pity that many commercial vehicles whose liveries were once familiar on our borough streets had long gone, mainly because their businesses had ceased trading or had been taken over and were using the styles of the new owner.

Reader Chris Hopkins, of Laburnum Close in Bradwell, shared my sentiment and, to help remind us of one major concern’s presence hereabouts, he sent me his collection of photographs of vans and lorries operated by Matthes, the Sunshine Bread bakery in Englands Lane in Gorleston that traded for many years, eventually covering much of East Anglia.

It produced bread, cakes and pastries, and also ran restaurants – that in King Street, Yarmouth, was the subject of another recent topic here.

Most Read

Chris, now 65, worked in the company’s garage from leaving school in 1963 until 1978 when Matthes disappeared from the scene, four years after the national group Spillers acquired it. His father was head of engineering in the bakery.

When I was a child in West Avenue in Gorleston, the Matthes roundsman called on alternate days, but with a horse and cart for most of that time before mechanisation was introduced for home deliveries.

Regular correspondent Danny Daniels, who reads this column on-line in Canada where he has lived for decades, found his memories jogged by my reference to familiar local delivery vehicles.

He writes: “In those pre-war days everything seemed to be brought down the road (Lichfield Road in Southtown in my case) by horse or manpower: Wright the baker (who had a shop at the foot of the Haven Bridge), Long’s milk and the coal man were all were horse-drawn, while our fresh vegetables came on a barrow pushed by a formidable, leather-lunged but very friendly gentleman.

“Mr Rodgers the fishmonger - whose son was in my class, so I got to visit his smoke-house - was another who wheeled his barrow down Lichfield Road so we could buy our fish at the front door. Our house was midway between Cook’s Dairy, towards Anson Road, and the Co-op (‘divi’ number 4443), so we never had far to go for essentials.

“And there was that centre of delight of sights and smells up on Station Road: the cattle market! In later years, the animals were brought there in lorries, but I remember pre-war seeing the cows and sheep actually driven to that market. We didn’t follow them with a little shovel and bucket, but we certainly did after the afore-mentioned horse-drawn carts! No store-bought packaged fertiliser in those days!

“On a trip back to Yarmouth several years ago, I drove around Cobholm and saw that the school had been replaced, as had a number of the old landmarks that I remembered. Mr. Rodgers’ smoke-house for his kippers and bloaters behind the old tin tabernacle was gone, as was Shipley’s smithy at the foot of the Haven Bridge.

“But the one thing that created a new lasting impression was how narrow the roads in Cobholm had become! Whereas they’d always seemed to be of an appropriate width when I walked them before the war, now I had to be very careful driving them between the cars parked on either side. I now realise why so many former front gardens - including my Dad’s prize-winning one in St. Catherine’s Way, Gorleston - are paved over to make a parking lot!”

Former Yarmouth Grammar School student Danny, now 83 and resident in Canada since 1957, has been a life-long athlete, and despite quadruple heart bypass surgery in 2006, continues to compete in veterans’ and masters’ events nationally and internationally, including hurdles and pentathlon, and runs marathons.

Recently, at a special ceremony in conjunction with the Canadian 60th jubilee celebrations, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal for his contributions to Canadian and international athletics.

“Who would have thought that all those lonely hours at training at the Wellesley Recreation Ground in Yarmouth all those years ago would have led to something like this!” he says.

Peter Allard, of Mallard Way, Bradwell, tells me that in my photograph of the late Max Bygraves on board the pleasure tripper Norwich Belle in 1951 during his summer here, the man purporting to place a diver’s helmet over the star’s head was skipper Ewart Tatnell, local manager for the Yarmouth and Gorleston Steamboat Company, who lived on Ferry Hill, Southtown, and

“unusually, actually got married on this vessel in the early 1950s.”

Peter adds that my photograph of vessels entering and leaving harbour during a long-ago herring season included the paddle tug Yare, one of the few paddle tugs built in Yarmouth. The North Shields steam drifter in the foreground was the Ursula, built in 1902.