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EX-plaining how drivers made their mark

PUBLISHED: 16:06 26 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:06 26 May 2019

Savory's and Overill's premises were demolished so Tesco could build its supermarket on their site in 1971, but it moved to Brewery Plain after a few years  Picture: Colin Tooke Collection

Savory's and Overill's premises were demolished so Tesco could build its supermarket on their site in 1971, but it moved to Brewery Plain after a few years Picture: Colin Tooke Collection

Archant

EX-traordinary! And as permanent grump Richard Meldrew, of television comedy fame, would have declared: "I don't believe it!"

Fruit and vegetable wholesaler Savory next to Overill's modernised cycle shop in 1962. Picture: Colin Tooke CollectionFruit and vegetable wholesaler Savory next to Overill's modernised cycle shop in 1962. Picture: Colin Tooke Collection

Down the decades I have often written about Great Yarmouth borough's exclusive official vehicle registration prefix (EX) and the motors bearing them in those early years, so was surprised and delighted when the earliest pair of all was brought to my attention.

Many Yarmouthians were disappointed when a change in the format resulted in the loss of our distinctive EX.

Recently I wrote that Bertie Miller, of St George's Road, was the first person here to be convicted and banned for driving "furiously to the common danger of the public" by doing 12mph (4mph over the limit) in 1899. That law-breaker was EX8.

Reading that reminded Anthony Overill, of Seafield Road, Caister, that his grandfather Alfred was the chauffeur at the wheel for two prominent citizens in their locally registered cars - EX1 and EX2!

The proprietor outside his Overill's bicycle shop on Great Yarmouth Market Place in 1946. Picture: Colin Tooke CollectionThe proprietor outside his Overill's bicycle shop on Great Yarmouth Market Place in 1946. Picture: Colin Tooke Collection

You cannot better that!

Anthony Overill, a retired Birds Eye Foods employee aged 80, informs me that grandfather Alfred was regularly at the wheel of solicitor Mr Chamberlin's Brook three-cylinder (EX1) and fishery tycoon's Mr Bloomfield's Crossley (EX2).

Mr Chamberlin was, I presume, a partner in the firm that became Chamberlin, Talbot and Bracey, still part of our legal scene today over a century later, albeit now simply Chamberlin's, on Crown Road.

As for Mr Bloomfield, his prosperous business was to become (or already was) part of the giant Unilever group (or whatever its trading name was then) but continued to fish for herring, operating the biggest fleet in Yarmouth.

Most Bloomfield drifters' names were prefixed by "Ocean" - like Ocean Dawn - and often promoted the parent company's products (for example, Ocean Vim, Ocean Lifebuoy, Ocean Surf and Ocean Lux).

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Mr Overill senior, that chauffeur in EX1 and EX2 for those prominent Yarmouthians, turned his ability behind the steering wheel to driving ambulances in France in the 1914-18 war.

Alfred Overill was recruited into the Army Service Corps, but the ambulance in which he and his assistant Joe were travelling was blown up in the second battle of Ypres.

Joe bravely returned to the ambulance and successfully rescued Mr Overill - plus his comrade's pet jackdaw that always accompanied him wherever he went!

According to Anthony Overill - who also owns jackdaws - Joe lived in Sheffield after the 1914-18 war and was bankrolled by his grateful ex-army chum Alfred Overill when he established in the Yorkshire city a taxi business. That was to grow into a very successful enterprise.

In the minds of older residents of our borough, the name Overill will always be associated with the bicycle business on the eastern side of Yarmouth Market Place near the Market Gates road junction.

The cycle shop opened in 1913, just before the First World War, and traded for over half a century, closing in January 1964 when Tesco bought not only the Overill premises but also those of neighbouring Savory's fruit and vegetable store, demolishing them to clear the site to build a supermarket.

But then Tesco, having opened, felt the need to expand, relocating to the other end of the Market Place, occupying land where Lacon's Brewery had long operated on Brewery Plain.

Even that move could not accommodate the thriving supermarket and in 2003 it made another move to its current location on Pasteur Road.

For generations, Overill men have been named so their Christian names make the initials AG; Alfred, Anthony and Andrew were first names followed by a "G" name...

Anthony is the author of a book called The Crash Boats of Gorleston, recording the high-speed air-sea rescue launches based on our quayside during the 1939-45 war, always on alert and ready mainly to race to save the lives of airmen whose planes had to "ditch" in the sea.

Also, he is a former chairman of Caister parish council.

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