A tale of two towns - Gorleston and Great Yarmouth, an inseperable duo

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 May 2019

The unusual twin-funnelled steam lifeboat James Stevens No 3, saviour of 30 lives between 1904 and 1908.

The unusual twin-funnelled steam lifeboat James Stevens No 3, saviour of 30 lives between 1904 and 1908.


Once upon a time, as our bed-time stories used to say, a small but well-established community was slowly developing hereabouts on our east coast.

Lifeboatmen outside the Ship Inn before their outing perhaps early last century.Lifeboatmen outside the Ship Inn before their outing perhaps early last century.

Originally, fishing and farming were the chief mainstays of this habitation, founded on high ground overlooking the mouth of the River Yare. This was Gorleston, the “on Sea” being added in common with many coastal towns and villages when seaside holidays were being promoted by the railway companies, I believe.

As centuries passed, progress continued. But then along came Yarmouth, built on sandbanks and destined to expand to the point where it became the major partner in the inseparable successful duo.

Despite being born across the river in Yarmouth, a family house move only months later qualified me to call myself a Gorlestonian.

So, as a long-resident Gorlestonian, I was eager to read local historian and author Colin Tooke's new booklet about my half of the old urban borough, Gorleston: Short Blue to Pop's Meadow.

Participants in the 1908 Gorleston pageant. The Participants in the 1908 Gorleston pageant. The "GREENLAND" might refer to medical missionary Sir Wilfred Grenfell who worked with deep-sea fishermen in Gorleston and sailed to Labrador to continue his duties.

Through my near lifetime's residence in Gorleston, I presumed I would know much of it already... but was proved wrong.

Hopefully I can keep the facts in my memory bank in case an occasion ever arises - perhaps a question from a reader, newcomer or member of my family.

The author, with numerous other meticulously researched books about our local past to his name, does not delve at length on any aspect but delivers facts and dates crisply and simply, almost in the manner of a journalist experienced in providing his readers with information without succumbing to over-elaboration.

Bragging rights have long-since petered out, but it is unchallenged that Gorleston existed centuries before the slow formation and gradual growth of an adjacent sandbank enabled it to become inhabited, developing slowly but sufficiently for a community to be created on it to start living there in safety.

That small cluster of homes and workplaces eventually developed into Yarmouth which was to assume the dominant role in the partnership.

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The author quotes an old saying that “Gorleston was Gorleston 'ere Yarmouth began.” So, when did Gorlestonians surrender their “first come” bragging rights, I mused.

The publication contains 32 pages of text and about the same number of illustrations, among them several old photographs I had never come across down the years.

Colin Tooke's chapters examine the major aspects of Gorleston: churches and chapels, in war-times (Napoleonic, 1914-18 and 1939-45), post-war expansion, trams and trains, beach-men and lifeboats, the fishing industry, the holiday resort, and entertainment.

They say that we learn something new every day, confirmed in my case.

I have to admit my surprise at being made aware by the fact that the Conservative Club on the corner of Sussex Road and Pier Plain was, in the 18th century, the spacious home of Garwood Burton Palmer, the prosperous founder of the Yarmouth department store that recently has passed into new ownership.

A stone's throw from that Conservative Club stands The Grove, an 1813 house in spacious wooded grounds.

For long this was the home of the late Dr Guy Buncombe, a family doctor, but I was totally unaware of its early decades under the Bell family as the site of... the Gorleston Brewery in the mid-1800s!

The author informs us that shortly after Steward, Patteson and Finch secured the lease of 22 Bell pubs in 1845, the brewery closed and the executors of John Sayers Bell sold all the public houses. At one stage a saw-mill was part of the estate.

By the mid-Thirties, The Grove became the home of GPs. The property still remains, but no trace remains of the brewery.

Oh yes: a mill on Cliff Hill? That was new to me, too.

The booklet costs £3.95 and is available from Music Lovers in Gorleston High Street, Cobholm Miniatures in Yarmouth's Broad Row, and the Time & Tide Museum in Yarmouth.

It can also be acquired through the Poppyland web site at

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