Remembering Great Yarmouth’s Half Way House
PUBLISHED: 16:09 10 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:17 11 July 2018
Both are long gone. One will never return, the other is a minor mystery. Time will tell?
Regular correspondent Trevor Nicholls, long retired as Great Yarmouth’s registrar, had a flash-back moment recently when “now” suddenly became “then”. The time machine kicked in when he was on a Yarmouth-bound bus and a boarding passenger asked for a ticket to “the Half Way House!”
Writes Trevor: “If he had personal remembrance of it, it must have been from early childhood since he was about 50!”
In fact, the distinctive Half Way House pub was demolished exactly a half-century ago! Alas, we will never learn what the busman’s reaction was, and how he and his passenger decided where he wanted to alight and how much the fare was.
Although the name of that long-gone establishment implies that it was sited midway between Gorleston and Yarmouth, local historian and author Colin Tooke writes in his 2006 book Time Gentlemen, Please! about local hostelries that actually it marked the mid-way point of the Southtown to Gorleston horse tramway.
The Half Way House, erected in 1882 on the site of the Guardian Angel public house, was partly rebuilt in 1938; its last pint was pulled three decades later and the distinctive white-fronted Art Deco pub was demolished soon after.
On the site of the Half Way House, the borough council erected housing. There is still a bus stop there, and older residents continue to think of it as the Half Way House out of habit. However, it seems unlikely that the name has been passed down to younger generations and will soon peter out, forgotten.
The Half Way House did not slip quietly into oblivion, however, being given a lively send-off wake on its last night of business. A trumpeter was among the revellers, but I do not know whether he played for the knees-up or provided the melancholy The Last Post when the towels were thrown over the pumps for the last time and drinkers supped their glasses dry.
If you lived in the old urban borough of Yarmouth and Gorleston more than a century ago and fancied a drink or two, you would not have to walk far before coming to a public house. In 1903, for instance, there were 258. I would be surprised if in 2018 the number exceeds 50 or so.
The Half Way House had a clock on its frontage, and recently the Mercury reported efforts to restore the clock that graced Gorleston’s elegant Carnegie Library until its demolition and rebuilding in modern style 40 years ago - which leads me to Trevor Nicholls’ curiosity about the fate of another public timepiece.
That was a feature of an important local building, Yarmouth South Town railway station.
A-top the station’s facade was a black-faced clock with gilded Roman numerals. “For over a century, thousands upon thousands of people must have checked the time by this most reliable of clocks at this prominent and busy location,” he writes.
“At the time of the station’s demolition in 1977, it was owned by the borough council. Minutes record that the future of the clock was discussed, one councillor saying he would like to incorporate it into one of his building schemes.
“However, since he was unable to specify which one he had in mind, it was decided that the clock would go into store until a new suitable position for it could be found.
“So, is that clock still in a council store somewhere, or has it been installed rather further from its original location that the councillors in 1977 might have intended?”
A council officer assures me that the clock is certainly not in storage. So, what happened to it? Is it back in use somewhere? Was it sold on eBay?
It must be on record somewhere in the Town Hall archives. We’d love to know its whereabouts... or fate.
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