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TV tribute to holiday landladies

PUBLISHED: 16:53 11 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:36 03 July 2010

THEY are as bright and breezy as the end of the pier show and helped make a stay at the seaside special.

Now a TV programme is paying tribute to the Great Yarmouth landladies who have welcomed generations of holidaymakers to the resort.

THEY are as bright and breezy as the end of the pier show and helped make a stay at the seaside special.

Now a TV programme is paying tribute to the Great Yarmouth landladies who have welcomed generations of holidaymakers to the resort.

The story of the town's unsung army of landladies is being told in next week's edition of Inside Out on BBC1.

The traditional bed and breakfast blossomed as the working classes began heading to the coast in their millions at the start of the last century. In the early days rooms often only had a jug of water and basin and outside toilets, but to many guests even this was still relative luxury.

At one time there were more than 500 guest houses in Yarmouth and even today there are still several hundred, often welcoming back regular visitors year after year.

The lives of the landladies are being featured in the programme to link up with a project at the Time and Tide Museum to record their memories for posterity.

Presenter Julie Reinger spoke to former landladies and got some hands on experience working at the Winchester guest house in Euston Road.

“Greg and Samantha Haddon, who own the Winchester, were brave enough to let me help serve breakfast to their guests,” said Julie.

“It was great fun and I loved meeting all the holidaymakers - it quickly became clear you have to be a real people person if you want to run a successful guest house.

“It's a real testament to Greg and Sam's hard work that all those staying at the Winchester, during our filming, were regulars.

“I also had the pleasure of meeting two lovely ladies - Margaret Fowler opened her first guest house in the 1950s and Barbara Wells is the third generation of her family to run a B&B in Yarmouth.”

Often known for their no-nonsense attitude, it seems that at one time the landladies also had the summer season stars quaking in their boots.

“I was fascinated to discover that back in the 1950 s and 60s it was the landladies who called the shots at places like the Windmill and Hippodrome,” added Julie.

“In those days Yarmouth's theatres attracted all the big names, Tommy Cooper, Morecombe and Wise, Benny Hill, and if the landladies didn't like the shows, they didn't recommend them to their guests. They had the power to make or break a show.”

Julie only visited Yarmouth for the first time when she started work on Look East nine years ago but her grandparents Bill and Vera Smith spent many happy holidays in the town.

One of her favourite pictures of them was taken onboard a boat called the Norwich Belle during a stay in Yarmouth in the 1960s.

“They sadly passed away before I came across the picture and I had always wondered about the boat and what they were doing on board,” said Julie.

“When we were setting up to interview Margaret Fowler I happened to ask if she knew anything about the Norwich Belle. I was delighted to discover she did, and that it was one of two boats that used to take holidaymakers to Scroby Island to see the seals and the shipwreck.

“Finally, thanks to Margaret, the mystery was solved.”

Inside Out, BBC1, 7.30pm, Good Friday, March 21.

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