A sign of the times? No, it’s all change but road users in Great Yarmouth can be caught out
- Credit: Peggotty
You know the feeling. Traffic has been relentlessly heavy for mile after mile, hold-ups have added to frustration but at last you’ve turned on to the Acle New Road on your drive to Great Yarmouth.
Although your destination is but a few miles away and you’re running late, you are thirsty, and urgently need what nowadays is called a comfort break.
Ahead on the Acle Straight is a large road sign announcing a left-hand bend, warning that the Halvergate turn to your right is unsuitable for heavy lorries and coaches… and informing you that there is a public house immediately to your left.
Hooray! Time for that comfort break and to slake your thirst.
But a barrier prevents entry to the car park and you see that the building - which everyone from hereabouts still calls the Stracey Arms - is closed. yet a road sign still points to a “public house”.
For decades it was a pub neighbouring the 134-year-old drainage mill. In rebuilt and modernised form, it became the Three Feathers pub, the Pontiac Roadhouse (an American-style diner) and Chinese and Spanish restaurants.
Even in its latest lease of life it will be of little use to thirsty drinkers or hungry diners because it has become a Hindu Temple – the first of its kind in Norfolk. It will be a place for worship and for Hindu festivals.
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Devender Khorana, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Gorleston’s James Paget Hospital who is backing the bid, was reported as saying that the building would be a meeting place for the Hindu community and wider public with functions and get-togethers to promote social integration.
Perhaps it is time for the Highways Authority or whichever agency is responsible for main road signage to obliterate the “public house” element so it is no longer inaccurate.
Another road sign hereabouts which recently caught my attention is on Fullers Hill in Yarmouth to inform drivers unfamiliar with the area approaching the North Quay roundabout that if they proceed straight ahead they will come to...“GORLESTON STATION”!
No, the clock has not turned back the best part of half a-century; we have not been transported back from the present (when a third river crossing is being talked about in positive terms) to the era before the Breydon Bridge was constructed to give harassed drivers a desperately needed second river crossing. The directional sign is, strictly, 100pc accurate, but possibly has prompted momentary wishful thinking for day-dreaming residents with memories going back nearly half a century.
Gorleston railway station closed in 1970 because of the lamented closure of the Yarmouth to Lowestoft line, but it has not reopened quietly and without fuss - anyway, the track has long-since been taken up. That road directional sign actually indicates the current route to two separate destinations.
The first is Gorleston - across the roundabout, up the hill beyond it and turn left to go across the Breydon Bridge and along the bypass, built in 1986.
Below “Gorleston” is “Station” plus the rail logo - yes, of course, it indicates Vauxhall Station, the borough’s last surviving rail terminus of its one-time three, the entrance to which is just across that roundabout.
Writing about the Stracey Arms leads me to another public house, albeit still in business. This is Peggotty’s in King Street, Yarmouth, which dates back to the 1830s and, after three name changes, became the St George’s Wine Vaults until it acquired the Dickensian name in 1975.
Aptly, the informal renaming was done by the late Joe Harrison, the veteran Yarmouth journalist who wrote the Through the Porthole column as Peggotty until his retirement, whereupon I inherited the mantle.
Peggotty’s has just enjoyed an £80,000 refurbishment...and, immodestly, I am pleased that its owner has wisely retained its name.