A snapshot of Great Yarmouth holiday fun from yesteryear
PUBLISHED: 16:26 11 July 2014 | UPDATED: 21:37 17 July 2014
PROBABLY nothing encapsulates that memorable pre- and post-war era of Great Yarmouth's dominance in the summer holiday industry more than the fleet of pleasure craft that ferried passengers either up and down the River Yare, into Broadland or out to sea.
A boat trip was a must-do for many of those visitors who chose Yarmouth and Gorleston for their holidays, often captured on their Box Brownie cameras to remind them of highlights of their stay with us. Across the country, lurking at the back of many a sideboard drawer, or in a cardboard box up in lofts, must be a rich collection of snapshots of those pleasure trippers taken by visitors.
Photographs of those vessels are all we locals have left, too, because everyone our pleasure vessels have long-since left the Yare. Most were broken up, a couple rotted away as derelict hulks; but a tiny handful has survived, albeit beyond their former home port and at least one unrecognisable in appearance.
A notable survivor is the 122-year-old Yarmouth Belle, built in Southtown and deployed on Broadland and Norwich outings. Post-war she left her home port for the Thames and in the Eighties was fitted with mock funnel and paddlewheels to give her the appearance of a Mississippi river steamer.
Happily she remains there, doing pleasure-tripping, and in June 2012 was honoured to be invited to be in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee waterborne pageant on the Thames – sadly, a day of non-stop heavy rain.
Older readers might well undergo a wonderful bout of nostalgia at mention of the names of some of those pleasure trippers: Norwich Belle, Hotspur, Golden Galleon, Eastern Princess (skippered by my father after he retired from drifting and trawling), Brit/Coronia (a Dunkirk veteran, sailed for Gibraltar), Yarmouth, Southtown, Cobholm, Queen of the Broads, Pride of the Yare, Resolute, Oulton Belle (another Dunkirk evacuation veteran, later renamed Regal Lady and based in Scarborough, possibly still there pleasure-tripping)…
That was not intended to be a complete list, by the way – only those I recalled as I wrote.
Chris Hopkins, of Laburnum Close, Bradwell, a long-time friend of this column, is an enthusiast of our long-gone pleasure boats whose delight can only be imagined when he acquired an exciting batch of photographs of many of them. “They were obtained from a chap at a collectors’ fair over three visits,” he explains.
The pictures included a fair proportion from the copyright files of Archant, publisher of the Great Yarmouth Mercury, and were probably taken by the late Les Gould, a diligent and long-serving colleague who came to the borough after the war and recorded local faces and places, subjects and objects, until his retirement in the Seventies. He regularly patrolled the quaysides seeking photographs for our range of newspapers, and shipping was among his favourite topics.
Others in Chris Hopkins’ cornucopia of Yarmouthian waterborne delights were old picture postcards. But regardless of format, the shots rekindle so many happy memories.
One pleasure boat recalled by so many enthusiasts is the Norwich Belle which took passengers on short sea voyages to see the seals on Scroby Sands until she left in 1961 to become a floating restaurant on the Thames and then was conveyed as deck cargo to Israel where another friend of this column, Peter Allard, of Mallard Way, Bradwell, saw her in the port of Eilat, possibly serving as a divers’ tender...
Looks as though she is still in Eliat and largely unchanged, for he has been sent a picture of her obtained through the 21st century computer technology of Google Earth!