A snapshot of Great Yarmouth holiday fun from yesteryear

PUBLISHED: 17:29 11 July 2014 | UPDATED: 17:29 11 July 2014

DONKEY DELIGHT: a young girl takes a ride on Gorleston beach in 1904. Picture: PETER ALLARD COLLECTION

DONKEY DELIGHT: a young girl takes a ride on Gorleston beach in 1904. Picture: PETER ALLARD COLLECTION


DESPITE innovations making fairground rides like those at Great Yarmouth’s Pleasure Beach more exhilarating (for those who enjoy that sort of thrill), and the constant electronic din emerging from the Golden Mile’s amusement arcades, the resort has managed to cling on to some of its quieter delights.

CELEBRATION: residents of Row 45 in party mood to mark Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Second from right is coal-heaver William Garwood whose daughter Ellen is fourth from left.
Picture: HENRY MANGUZI COLLECTIONCELEBRATION: residents of Row 45 in party mood to mark Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Second from right is coal-heaver William Garwood whose daughter Ellen is fourth from left. Picture: HENRY MANGUZI COLLECTION

For example, the horse-drawn landaus remain popular as they clip-clop along in their special lane, their passengers enjoying the same leisurely experience as their predecessors for perhaps a century or more.

Another traditional seaside favourite is donkey rides, reintroduced to Yarmouth a few years ago and still a “must” for kiddies despite a bit of a scare when there were claims that overweight children were too heavy for their mounts. This summer the donkeys are on the beach near the Britannia Pier.

I believe there was a long donkey-free gap before their return to the sands, but the animals were certainly there in the late Twenties.

From reader Mrs Jean Young, of Springfield Road, Hemsby, comes a photograph of she and her sister Dorothy enjoying a shared donkey ride at Yarmouth in 1927-28 when the family lived in Martham. Seeing a picture of donkeys in a recent Great Yarmouth Mercury prompted the former Jean Hodds to search successfully for the picture.

“Mum and Dad always took us down there when Dad came home from fishing,” writes Mrs Young, who is almost 90. Her sister has predeceased her.

I assume the donkey shot in the recent Mercury was of a group from Scratby entertaining children at Yarmouth’s Time and Tide Museum in May. Thanks for the memory, Mrs Young.

It is only a ten-minute donkey ride from the sea-front or museum to the St John’s Head public house at the junction of North Quay and St Francis Way, a hostelry mentioned here recently when I featured the long-gone Troy Alley which, I believed, was a dead-end between the old Rows 45 and 37. Although the area was blitzed in a 1941 air-raid, the old pub largely escaped damage.

My jottings brought an e-mail from professional photographer Paul Godfrey, who recently published a book entitled Snapped at Gorleston-on-Sea about the commercial seaside cameramen there long ago. Paul recalls: “When I had my studio on North Quay, it was in the old shop that builders merchant Garson Blake & Son had, next door to the St John’s Head and Row 47.

“My Uncle Stan worked for Boulton’s (close by on North Quay and mentioned in my original column) and used to call on their customers who lived in the villages around Yarmouth in his car to collect payments and to take orders for new pieces of furniture. I think Stan was what some would call a tallyman and all items were bought on credit and payments were made weekly with the transactions recorded in a little book that the customer kept.

“I do not recall Boulton’s being involved in ladies fashion but I do remember they had a French polisher, a carpet fitting team and an upholstery department: my parents still have chairs they bought after the war that were given a new lease of life by Boulton’s upholstery department in the 1960s.”

Paul’s special interest is local photographers of yesteryeaar, and he continued: “Your list of residents of Row 45 in 1886 is of interest to me as you mention a photographer. I have trawled through various census documents looking for photographers and photographic artists residing in Yarmouth and would be interested to know the name of your 1886 photographer.”

When I told Paul it was an M Mills, he replied: “M Mills, a Row-dwelling photographer, could have been a beach photographer. 1886 falls half way between the 1881 and 1891 census documents and M Mills is not listed in either as an occupant of a house in Row 45. Drat!

“So a bit more research is needed by me. A Yarmouth beach photographer in 1886 would have had a lot of competition on Yarmouth sands, and earning a living would have been hard.”

Struck by a Row 45 resident with the distinctive name of Dublack, Paul searched the 1891 census and found Mary Dublack, a beatster (repairer of fishing nets).

Continuing down Row 45, he came across Troy Alley with several properties listed, prompting him to question my original statement that it was a short blind alley with no residents. Caister reader Derek Barker also challenged my assertion, wondering if Troy Alley extended from Row 45 to Row 47.

Paul Godfrey discovered about 17 Troy Alley homes listed in the old census, their adult occupants earning livings as herring packer, shoemaker, silk winder and silk mill cleaner (at Grout’s, presumably), bricklayer’s labourer, insurance agent, fish dealer, smacksman... One propery was the home of several Italians, the head of the household listed as “musician.”

Nowadays folk regularly claim that political correctness has become illogical as the establishment neuters wording so as not to offend or embarrass. Those census forms at the end of the 19th century included a column for listing three categories of disablement: “deaf and dumb, blind, and lunatic, imbecile or idiot”!

Derek Barker informed me: “I came across Troy Alley whilst researching my family a few years ago. According to the 1881 census there was a William Lamb, a bricklayer born in Hartlepool in 1865, living in Row 45. He married my grandmother’s sister, Elizabeth Jane Brown, in 1888 at St Nicholas’ Church, Yarmouth. In the 1891 census they were living in Row 47 which also refers to Troy Alley.

“I was born in Row 102 and lived there until I married. My mother was born in Row 109 and my grandmother was born in Row 132.”

Finally, Barry Austin, landlord of the St John’s Head since 1995, reports: “I have always been interested in the history of North Quay but so far have been unable to establish the age of the St John’s Head.

“Back in 2005 a Harry Manguzi (a Burgh Castle resident) dropped in a photo of Row 45 taken in 1897 during a street party celebrating Queen Victoria’s jubilee. The gable end of the St John’s Head can clearly seen and is little altered today.”

Apology: Many readers will have spotted that in the caption to last week’s old picture postcard of Bells Road in Gorleston, I confused left and right and wrongly wrote that Spain’s shop was on the left. And I used to be a greengrocer’s errand boy in Bells Road!

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