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Remembering Great Yarmouth’s forgotten pubs

PUBLISHED: 14:55 10 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:55 10 September 2018

Party time in a Great Yarmouth row to celebrate the end of the war in 1945. Picture: ARTHUR BENSLEY

Party time in a Great Yarmouth row to celebrate the end of the war in 1945. Picture: ARTHUR BENSLEY

ARTHUR BENSLEY

Residents and visitors to Great Yarmouth and Gorleston who fancy a wee dram, a pint, half or even a lemonade shandy are finding it more and more challenging to locate a “local” in which to slake their thirst.

One pub fewer in Great Yarmouth: the Cask and Craft - formerly the Apollo Tavern on Northgate Street - facing closure. Picture: COLIN TOOKE COLLECTIONOne pub fewer in Great Yarmouth: the Cask and Craft - formerly the Apollo Tavern on Northgate Street - facing closure. Picture: COLIN TOOKE COLLECTION

It could be my imagination, of course, but the Mercury has become almost an obituary column for pubs which seem to be putting the cloth over the pumps not just overnight but permanently.

Our recent headline must have caused many a frothy head to go flat: “Great Yarmouth loses 20 pubs since 2010 as Norfolk reels from 145 closures.” The only scant consolation landlords and publicans can draw is that it is not a local locals problem but county-wide.

That does not diminish the severity of the dilemma facing those who provide or enjoy the social pleasures of a visit to a local pub.

Among the latest casualties are the The Crystal Inn in the town centre, plus the former Apollo Tavern, renamed as the Cask and Craft. According to historian Colin Tooke’s 2006 book Time Gentlemen Please! detailing local pubs and breweries, the Apollo in Northgate Street took its name from the pleasure gardens which once occupied the area.

Long-lasting luck: a four-leaf clover picked in 1945 on the day the war ended, and carefully preserved. Picture: RICHARD MAYLong-lasting luck: a four-leaf clover picked in 1945 on the day the war ended, and carefully preserved. Picture: RICHARD MAY

The modernised Apollo opened in 1931 on the site of its demolished predecessor, its inn sign depicting the head of the Greek sun god, “but during the American space programme, it was changed to show a spacecraft, Apollo XI.”

Those long-gone gardens were created in the 1700s and over the years achieved renown not only for the quality and variety acts regularly appearing in its concert hall but also for its illuminated walks, fireworks, tea gardens, bowling green, fruit orchard...

It is hard to believe now that when the gardens were devised, they enjoyed almost uninterrupted sea views across open denes.

In a column published on a Friday the 13th, I wrote that a four-leaf clover might have counteracted any bad luck stemming from that date. That four-leaf clover mention prompted Richard May, of Bradwell, to recall August 1945 when he was in a party of South Devon Technical College students helping with the corn harvest.

On August 15, after hearing the welcome news of VJ Day (Victory over Japan) three months after the war in Europe had ended, the students stopped work and, awaiting their transport back to Torrington, “many of us chatted as best we could with the Italian prisoners-of-war also working in the field.

“While sitting, I came across this four-leaf clover! A few months later I mounted the leaf under glass.”

Seven decades and more later, Richard still prizes his lucky clover.

From the other side of the world comes an e-mail from ex-Gorlestonians “Aussie Arthur” and Carol Bensley to report: “We are still enjoying the blue skies and winter days here on the Gold Coast. It’s 28 degrees here today - not bad for mid-winter!”

They attached to their message a snapshot of a victory tea party enjoyed by residents of one of Yarmouth’s Rows - a coincidence, considering that Richard May’s reminiscences about his four-leaf clover reached me at about the same time.

Well, we have enjoyed a long scorcher of a summer here but our weather has become more tolerable recently.

Those other expatriates, Danny and Marjorie Daniels in Canada, have e-mailed that “we loved the Acle Railway Station article and photographs” of the old-style metal advertisements displayed on the buildings. “They reminded me of all those other lovely called-out names of the stations on the way to Norwich, including Brundall and Brundall Halt (did yhey mean Brundall Gardens?).

“I know it wasn’t a perfect world in those days of the early morning ‘workman’s special’ up to Norwich for the day, but it sure had a better feeling about it than much of what we experience these days does.

“Ah, nostalgia indeed!”

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