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My Great Yarmouth miss-list seems to grow by the year

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 February 2019

The pleasure steamer Southtown passes a ship laden with imported timber berthed on Jewson's Quay in August 1961.

The pleasure steamer Southtown passes a ship laden with imported timber berthed on Jewson's Quay in August 1961.

Archant

Where have they all gone? Our heritage has evaporated. Everything has changed. Only memories survive.

Watneys Maltings bridging Malthouse LaneWatneys Maltings bridging Malthouse Lane

Great Yarmouth and Gorleston’s past may not matter to younger generations but older residents cherish it, even if our recollections are viewed through rose-tinted spectacles.

In an idle moment recently, I jotted down a few major changes... and quickly filled a page documenting our losses. It was a sobering exercise.

The port is a prime example. It seems like only yesterday when in autumn it accommodated hundreds of herring drifters.

In summer there were pleasure boats busily offering sea, river and Broadland trips.

Johnson & Sons shirt and protective clothing factory on Pier Plain in Gorleston in 1978.Johnson & Sons shirt and protective clothing factory on Pier Plain in Gorleston in 1978.

Steamers imported huge quantities of timber, stacked on Southtown quaysides.

Roll-on/roll-off ferries like the Sealords and Norfolk Line were regular and frequent visitors. Coasters abounded.

Opposite Trinity House on Southgates Road, lightships were berthed for maintenance, often joined by tenders like the Warden. Giant structures for the offshore industry were towed out on barges, watched by crowds on Gorleston Pier who used to greet drifters arriving to land herring.

A comparative handful of rig supply ships are still operating here, plus other vessels secreted in commercial confidentiality in the Outer Harbour.

Two men pause for a mardle outside Gorleston gas works on Southtown Road.Two men pause for a mardle outside Gorleston gas works on Southtown Road.

As mentioned recently, our cinemas and theatres are down to a minimum; luckily the Hippodrome Circus flourishes.

The Garibaldi ballroom and bar are no more.

Pubs? In 2006 about 100 were open in Yarmouth and Gorleston, but only 53 were trading last year.

In 1968, Lacon’s closed its town centre brewery; Steward and Patterson’s quayside depot went.

As for travel, mainline termini Yarmouth Beach and Southtown closed (leaving no direct line to London) plus stations like Gorleston and Caister.

Holiday camps at Gorleston, Caister and Hemsby closed, plus the hugely popular South Denes caravan site, long before the new harbour might have required its land.

The North Denes airfield closed, its helicopters moved to Norwich.

It is impossible to list the missing umpteen town centre shops and stores in Yarmouth and Gorleston. The Market Place so-called “country stalls” where smallholders sold their produce are but a memory.

Bakery closures include Matthes, Purdy’s, Bullards and smaller ones.

Banks are fewer, the Royal Bank of Scotland on Hall Quay being the latest departure. Yarmouth and Gorleston both had head post offices (Regent Street and High Street respectively), their services now available in shops (WH Smith and McColl’s).

Industry - a major employer - has been badly hit, perhaps thousands losing their jobs and forced to seek alternative work when the machinery was finally switched off at Bird’s Eye, Erie Resistor/Electronics, Grouts, Smith’s Crisps, Johnsons, Watney’s Maltings, gasworks on both sides of the river.

Sweeping changes in the education system resulted in my old school (Great Yarmouth Grammar) plus other grammar and high schools - including the “Tech” - being rebranded or reorganised; the St Louis Convent closed.

Those who prefer outdoor swimming to indoor had to look elsewhere when the borough council closed the Yarmouth and Gorleston pools (the adjoining Floral Hall) was spared) although nobody shut the sea and robbed them of an alternative.

The Marina Centre - a comparative new kid on the block - is closing, depriving users of its facilities until a replacement is built in a few years.

Speedway, which drew crowds to the Caister Road stadium post-war, is a very distant happy memory.

So, for that matter, are skating at Gorleston Rollerdrome; morning coffee, afternoon tea or a meal at Matthes or Arnolds restaurants; being entertained by Neville Bishop and his Wolves in the 3,000-seat outdoor Marina on the Golden Mile; attending big-name star all-summer shows in several theatres, and charity football and cricket matches featuring those celebrities; Yarmouth Corporation blue-and-cream buses; looking forward to our Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s excellent productions of West End block-buster musicals, and Shrublands’ presentations...

We oldies all have our own personal “miss-lists” which, sadly, grow rapidly. But nobody will miss the accursed single-carriageway Acle Straight if it is ever dualled.

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