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When Regent Road saw pandemonium

PUBLISHED: 10:15 05 June 2018

The seaward end of Regent Road, opposite the Britannia Pier, in 1907. Photo: Mercury Archive

The seaward end of Regent Road, opposite the Britannia Pier, in 1907. Photo: Mercury Archive

Mercury Archive

In 2018, it is impossible to envisage pandemonium reigning in Great Yarmouth’s Regent Road, of all places.

Regent Road with tram tracks in the early 1900s. Photo: Mercury ArchiveRegent Road with tram tracks in the early 1900s. Photo: Mercury Archive

But it did, spurring the editor of the Yarmouth and Gorleston Times in 1911 to write blisteringly about the blighted lives of the road’s residents, legitimate traders and users.

It became almost a no-go area because of unscrupulous touts drumming up business for rogue traders.

The editorial declared: “The efforts which the authorities are making to alter the condition of affairs on Regent Road, and to reduce pandemonium to some semblance of order and quietness, will be hailed with a good deal of satisfaction by the townspeople generally.

“In recent years matters have become well-nigh unbearable, and private residents have been driven almost demented by the incessant noise which has characterised the road during the summer, while scores of visitors have complained bitterly of having to run the gauntlet of the shouting and yelling mob of touts and auctioneers.

“The authorities have been fully alive to this state of things and anxious to bring about an improvement, but hitherto have been powerless to cope with the evil because they have not possessed the necessary powers.

“Now, however, they have a weapon in the new byelaws, placing them in a position to deal effectively with those responsible for creating this state of affairs.

“As a result of court proceedings against two auctioneers, a decidedly noticeable improvement has been brought about, and the residents of the locality are enjoying a measure of peacefulness at last, as great possibly as can be hoped for on a road so entirely given over to the season’s business and where competition is so keen that there is ever the temptation to overstep the mark when the policeman’s back is turned.

“At the same time there is this fact which should not be overlooked, and that is that the more importunate have in the past benefited, no doubt at the expense of those who have endeavoured to carry on their business with some approach to quietness.”

Putting them all on an equal basis meant fairness all round, wrote the editor.

“The byelaw under which proceedings were taken was framed to grapple effectively with everything complained about, and he hoped this would prove to be so.

He added: “The condition of Regent Road of recent times has not been such as to favourably impress visitors to the town.”

Despite welcoming the new byelaws, he criticised aspects of the first prosecutions brought under them. Those byelaws had been sprung suddenly upon Yarmouth, depriving those affected of notice to which they were entitled.

“No-one can defend the secrecy... which has surrounded their being drafted, and receiving the official sanction.

“These byelaws are extremely drastic.

“Legally they were published, but it is absurd to imagine that a copy hung on the inner doors of the main entrance of the Town Hall is, in the true sense of the word, publication!

“How were the townspeople to know such byelaws had been drafted and were awaiting Government approval?

“Some intimation should have been given to the public. Those affected have a real grievance in this respect.

“Then it savours somewhat of sharpness to intimate to persons one evening that a new byelaw has come into force - and take proceedings for a breach of it occurring within 24 hours!”

He emphasised that he was not defending the byelaw violation but claimed that it was not clearly explained to the defendants, the evidence pointing to the fact that a genuine misunderstanding existed - if the accused had grasped the situation, proceedings would have been avoided.

Regent Road has lost much of its elegance and non-seasonal businesses - pram and piano dealerships, for example - and suffered from a major fire in 2016 but remains generally popular with visitors.

• Do you remember Regent Road in its days of ‘pandemonium’? Write to Great Yarmouth Mercury, 12 Kings Street, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2BA or email gymlocal@archant.co.uk

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