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Year when town was on the crest of a wave

PUBLISHED: 11:14 12 November 2010

OPTIMISM abounded in two of Great Yarmouth’s most important industries in 1935 – three-quarters of a century ago.

Approval was given to a huge improvement scheme on the seafront to boost tourism, while prospects for the unpredictable herring fishery were encouraging.

The central parade area – known as the Golden Mile since the war – was in line for a £38,900 upgrade that had a dual purpose: to help the resort stay in competition with its rivals, while providing work for 200 local men at a time of high unemployment with more than 3800 men and 730 women on the Labour Exchange registers.

The plans approved by the borough council incorporated an auditorium, bandstand, gardens, shelters and promenade. In a further fillip to the holiday trade, the council consented to the Sunday opening of the bathing pool, Waterways, bowling greens and tennis courts.

Also on the plus side for the summer business was a bumper bank holiday with beaches, Regent Road, Marine Parade and the piers thronged in beautiful weather, with estimates putting the number of trippers arriving by rail at 65,000 to augment the thousands who travelled to the resort by road, in either cars or coaches.

Drivers making for the seafront found that a traffic roundabout had been built at the junction of Regent Road and Marine Parade.

During 1935 visitor numbers were boosted by chess players from all over the world competing in the annual congress of the British Chess Federation in the Town Hall.

The pool was looking for better custom in 1935 to help offset the fact that takings had dropped by £700 in 1934. It was not equipped with a filtration plant and had to be emptied once a week.

Down at the Fishwharf the herring season opened with high hopes after a deal was made with Soviet Russia for 50,000 barrels of cured herring, and in Exmouth Road a new cold store was erected for W J Burton capable of holding 88,000 20lb boxes of smoked herring mainly for the Mediterranean trade, particularly Greece.

The herring industry had undergone major change but proved successful; it had been rationalised, more fish of better quality was caught, exports rose and so did income. New regulations meant a reduction in the number of nets, the occasional detention in harbour of drifters, a ban on fishing in some areas and the fixing of cran prices now and again.

The strengthening of the fishing trade meant that the Port and Haven Commissioners could expect more income from that source in future, but a poor performance in 1934 resulted in its contribution being £2,000 below budget. Despite that, the gross revenue was an improvement, mainly through large rises in coal and wood imports, and the P&HC enjoyed a good year financially.

But despite optimism among those engaged in the holiday and fishing industries, the continuing plight of the 4,000-plus unemployed cast a gloomy shadow over Yarmouth and Gorleston.

A mass demonstration of local workers moved a resolution condemning “the attacks made upon the standards of employed and unemployed by the national government in its 1934 Unemployment Act”, and also bitterly criticised the Means Test and Labour Colonies.

Also, a large meeting of religious, political and other bodies chaired by the vicar discussed the dire situation of the jobless and their families, and wondered how they managed after it was disclosed that the average budget of a three-person family with an income of only £1 a week was: rent 7s 6d (37p in today’s decimal currency), clothes ls 6d (7p), clubs 6d (2p), coal 2s 4d (13p), light 1s (5p) and food 7s 2d (36p).

I was born the previous October, 1934, when my parents were living with my maternal grandmother in Salisbury Road. As my drifterman father was out of work other than in the autumn herring season, income was a pittance and he was advised to seek official financial help…but because my parents were proud at having managed to pay their bills and stay out of debt, their application was summarily rejected.

The death of leading local personality Arthur Patterson was widely mourned, for he was truly a man of many parts: naturalist, author, Mercury columnist, lecturer, humorist, Breydon Water expert, school attendance officer…

A government inquiry considered further Yarmouth proposals for slum clearance in connection with extending The Conge to North Quay. Archaeological enthusiasts successfully sought to have the Wrestlers Inn excluded because of its historic connections with hero Nelson.

The full programme of local celebrations to mark the silver jubilee of King George V were announced and included souvenir boxes of chocolates, athletic sports at the Wellington Pier, children’s visit to the Hippodrome Circus, thanksgiving service at the parish church, bands, public lunch, procession of decorated vehicles, ball at the town hall, and two beacons in Gorleston and Caister as part of the national chain organised by the Scouts (an idea revived in 1981 by Gorleston’s Bruno Peek); pensioners would receive gifts and a lunch.

The new Co-operative Society department store was opened on the Market Place… and was recently closed when Vergo, that acquired the premises and business, also failed. Its rival, Arnolds, was sold to the Debenham’s chain but kept its name until 1972. Smith’s Crisps moved to a new factory on Caister Road, Charles Potter founded a rock-making business on Regent Road from which tram tracks had recently been removed. Solicitor Leslie England founded the company that still bears his name today.

The Anchor and Hope public house at the corner of St Peter’s and St George’s Roads closed and was demolished.

The first telegram at the rate of nine words for sixpence (2½p today) was sent from Yarmouth by mayoress Mrs C N Harbord to the Prince of Wales.

A row over 66 tombstones in the parish churchyard near the south door ended with an airing in a church consistory court in Norwich. The vicar, Canon Aubrey Aitken, wanted to move them as “a hideous eyesore” but Archeological Society secretary Mr R H Teasdel opposed the plan as “vandalism.” It took four hearings before the court found in favour of uprooting them.

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