Thought you were in Cobholm....

FOR many a year before this nostalgia-orientated column was reborn in the Mercury in 1987, another feature had graced the pages of this newspaper and been revered by its readers: Around and About, written under the pen-name of Scout.

FOR many a year before this nostalgia-orientated column was reborn in the Mercury in 1987, another feature had graced the pages of this newspaper and been revered by its readers: Around and About, written under the pen-name of Scout.

For most of that time, when the Mercury was still in broadsheet format, it was a hard-hitting, civic-minded, no-nonsense column that took to task local politicians and town hall officials whom, the writer felt, had let the townsfolk down.

There was nothing off the record for Scout, pseudonym of the Mercury's tenacious chief reporter, Ralph (Eustace) Sherwin-White. Civic dignitaries dreaded sitting beside him on a bus or bumping into him in the street, for their utterings could well find themselves in his column come Friday if he felt it justified to do so.

Around and About continued after Eustace's retirement, penned by his successors, but the subject matter mellowed as forthright comment and campaigning were succeeded by notes of general interest.

Three or four times in recent months, my column has concentrated on that wrangle over whether Southtown or South Town is correct. I had to admit my lifelong use of Southtown for both the neighbourhood and railway terminus might have been wrong and that anything train-linked was two words, although a retired railwayman denied this.

A knowledgeable contributor to that debate was Trevor Nicholls, from Lowestoft, a retired superintendent registrar of births, deaths and marriages in Great Yarmouth, who also suggested I should consult an old Mercury article for more information. It transpired that this was an Around and About column - not a piece of outspoken journalism by Eustace White but an interesting item by one of his young successors that I append here, probably muddling the issue even more and straying across borders...

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Beneath the headline, “Why Cobholm isn't all that you might think it is,” Scout asked: “Where is Cobholm? If, like me, you thought Cobholm was all of that bit of the world entered by Mill Road (traffic permitting), you are mistaken - at least, that's the claim of some of its residents.

“Most people, I'm sure, think Cobholm is the area of Yarmouth bounded by Breydon Water, Southtown Road and the line of the now-defunct railway line, but this is disputed by residents like Mr John Twitchett, of 71 Granville Road, who reckons that he lives in Southtown, not Cobholm.

“Last week we reminded readers of the dreadful floods of 1953 and, naturally, used several pictures of what we thought was Cobholm under water. “You've done it again!” said Mr Twitchett, who, with his neighbours, is getting mildly irritated by our constant references to 'Cobholm' - although I was anxious to point out that this was the area which most people considered was also called by that name.

“Mr Twitchett lives in Southtown. since that is where Granville Road, Olive Road, Mill Road, High Mill Road and a few other 'Cobholm' addresses really are, he says. His house, or so say the deeds, are part of the High Mill Housing Estate, Southtown, built on the site of the old High Mill. The other big housing estate was the Green Cap Mill Estate, also in Southtown.

“Even the famous Cobholm tip isn't: that's in Southtown too, says Mr Twitchett. So, where oh where has our Cobholm gone?

“The answer is that Cobholm is the tight-knit little community affectionately called 'Cobholm Island', bounded by High Mill Road and including streets like Isaac's Road, Dolman Square, Breydon Road and the romantic-sounding Tyrolean Square. It has a pub (the Lady Haven), a Methodist Church and a parish church. The rest is merely masquerading as Cobholm when it is actually part of Southtown.

“So now you know. Some time ago we wrote about borough councillor Mrs Brenda Mills having to move from Cobholm - the area she still represents - to Gorleston because of her health. 'Cobholm will miss her,' we wrote - but apparently she never actually lived there, according to Mr Twitchett and the official maps to be found in the public library.

“Which all goes to prove... what? That Southtown - which starts in High Road - is really much larger than we think. But things won't change now. Whatever the maps say, people will stick to their mental impression of where Cobholm is - apart, that is, from Norfolk County Council, which hasn't a clue.

“Cobholm tip may be on Southtown Marshes but the sign put there by the county council reads 'Cobham'... and that's in the Home Counties.”

I readily admit that I have always reckoned Southtown to be the large area stretching from the foot of Haven Bridge to the Half-Way House junction with Beccles and High Roads, with Cobholm everything to the north of Bridge Road and the Two Bears Hotel.

My current idea of Cobholm includes the Tesco store - we often drive there the back way along Mill Road. My mother always called herself “a Cobholm girl”, living in Isaac's Road. According to Mr Twitchett's reckoning, she qualified because Isaac's Road was part of Cobholm Island.

Just to add to all this bewildering scenario, consider the two following items. For a start, Peter Allard, of Mallard Way, Bradwell, a friend of this column and an enthusiast for our borough's past, tells me: “On Manning's map of Yarmouth (1842), Southtown is spelt South Town. Does this confuse the issue?”

Secondly came the news that a

pre-1969 British Railways Eastern Region blue enamel street direction sign to both the Vauxhall and South Town (sic) stations was to be auctioned at a specialist sale in Gloucestershire and was expected to fetch about �1,000.

My journalist youngest son sparked off this hoo-ha when he questioned my lifelong use of Southtown as one word, not two, claiming that the railway terminus that closed in 1969 should be South Town.

Grudgingly, I conceded defeat because a photo in my possession showed South Town on the front of the long-gone building, something I had never noticed.