Items from the Autumn 2012 Newsletter.
LOOKING BACK AT OUR SPRING MEETINGS AND SUMMER OUTINGS
The guest speaker for our first talk of 2012, prior to the usual excellent buffet on 15th February, was Tony Weatherley who came show us some slides and to discuss some of the main features of “Lowestoft’s Interesting Buildngs”. Surprisingly, for a town that often projects a very mundane air and has suffered badly from the ravages of wartime bombing and poor post-war local government planning, Lowestoft can still boast a surprising number of interesting buildings, although you have to look quite hard to find some of them. Although Tony mentioned briefly odd properties at Gunton and Pakefield
with literary connections, almost all of his talk was centred on and around Station Square and London Road North with small deviations into a few of the side streets. It did not touch upon the High Street and all its historic buildings.
Our tour started off at the parade of shops just north of the harbour bridge with an ornate iron balcony above, half of which are currently empty. An interesting feature of them is that the shop frontages are made of cast iron and still bear their manufacturers’ nameplates — J W Brooke, Adrian Ironworks, Lowestoft and 3 Barnes, St. Miles Foundry Ironworks, Norwich. Further on lies the sadly neglected Italianate style railway station, built by Lucas Brothers ml 855 and inextricably linked with Sir Samuel Morton Peto and his Reedham-Lowestoft railway line which was the catalyst for the rapid development
of Lowestoft’s fishing industry and the growth of the town into a major high class holiday resort Equally run-down, except at its southern end, is the Tuttle’s building across the road which consists of frontages in two completely different styles. In better days it was Lowestoft’s major department store. The site was acquired for a store in 1886 and the intertwined initials FS repeated along the frontage relate to Fred Savage of the family once renowned for its steam fairground connections. An ornamental tower which once graced the south-west corner was lost through fire in 1972. Round the corner in Waveney Road, facing the one-time trawl basin, is the Columbus building with its two superb tiled mural panels. Supposedly the first iron building in Lowestoft, the origin of the splendid tiles is a mystery and even experts in the English Tile Society have been unable to discover who made them. The scenes depicted on the panels look as though they have more in common with the Spanish Armada rather than Columbus despite the building’s name. In London Road North the Victorian General Post Office is an example of public
building at its best, though all the best sculptural details lie at the top. Beyond this, now hidden behind projecting shop frontages where large trees used to stand, is a fine old villa which now houses “The Pantry” restaurant. Nearby, in Beach Road, the now-closed Jarrold’s store with its unusual corner frontage was once the Borough’s printing works, and beyond this, across the road on the corner of Beach Mews, is the recently restored but now up for sale handsome classical façade of the J & W Stuart building with swans on top of its impressive portico.
Palmer’s (formerly Chadd’ s) department store also has a handsome frontage hiding what was once a cinema and theatre, and Burton’s store (once known as Montagu Burton, the tailor of taste) is in the company’s typical house style with a billiard hall above and still bearing a pair of foundation stones laid by members of the Burton family in 1924. Further along, Clarke’s shoe shop of 1892 was built for the auctioneer J Camp, and to the rear of it, in Gordon Road, is the unmistakable St. Margaret’s House. First mentioned in 1841, it
stands out because of its circular glazed turret reputedly built for a sea captain at the time of the Napoleonic wars, and it now serves as an appropriately dignified spot for register office weddings.
Fine houses in the western leg of Gordon Road face Our Lady Star of the Sea, the impressive Catholic Church with its beautiful interior, originally planned for Denmark Road but built on its present site in 1900 and opened in 1902. The odd-looking hairdresser’s shop in London Road North, consisting of arches with flowers above, was originally a florist’s shop and, further up on the other side, the ornate narrow green and white doorway with a projecting bay above it, was built for Mr. W T Balls, auctioneer, valuer, estate and house agent. The Italianate-styled Congregational Church — the last remaining church in London Road North – bears a plaque dating it as an 1852 replacement for a 1695 chapel in the High Street. At the top of London Road North, the black Totesport timber framed building in Tudor vernacular style is across the road from the Star Supply Stores, whose old nameboard has been revealed in recent times. In bygone days boats were stocked up from here in preparation for long voyages.
Tony’s interesting talk was an eye-opener to just a few of the interesting buildings that can still be found in Lowestoft if you have the time to look them out.
Wednesday 14th March saw the return of Jon Read who came to give us a talk entitled “The Red Dragon and the Tylwyth Teg” (Welsh for “The Fair Folk”, in other words the fairies). Although a Norfolkman, Jon has long been interested in Wales and its people, language, character and weather. His first introduction to Wales was in 1950 as a 7 year old schoolboy when he changed trains at Llandudno Junction for Blaenau Festiniog where he caught a Crosville bus to stay at the local youth hostel for is 6d a night. Blaenau was renowned for its slate quarries and in those days there will little steam trains puffing up and down all the ledges of the quarries hauling loads of slate. He became entranced with Wales and vowed to go back one day. Married in 1963, he dragged his wife there in 1964 and has been back once or twice a year ever since. Wales, said Jon, is a land of mist and legends, and a lot of fairy tales, although I don’t recall him explaining specifically about the Tyiwyth Teg. He did say that each cottage in rural areas had red berries on a rowan tree to keep the devil away, and that seeing a single magpie was considered unlucky although it was OK to see two. We learnt that, whereas in Norfolk it’s hard to find a public toilet and the Council in Norwich would like to shut them all, across the border in Wales each village has one. Also, lots of English spellings have been thrown out in recent years resulting, for instance, in Conway losing it’s A and Caemarvon becoming Caernarfon.
A travelogue of scenic photos covered much of Wales including the bridge at Llanrwst which fell down because the keystone was put in upside down by a workman who had imbibed rather too much. We also saw Capel Curig after 4¼ inches of rain in a single day; Llanberis where — if you are flush with money — you can catch a train on the rack railway to the top of Snowdon where there is a plush new glass-fronted hotel; the Swallow Falls near Bettws-y-Coed; the wonderful narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway, and much more. We heard about the Welsh language which, until about 1960, was fading fast, but has enjoyed a tremendous revival since 1970 and is now taught in schools in South Wales from which it had largely vanished. We learned, too, about the weather. It sometimes rains all the time, but May/June and September/October are good times to visit. Jon said that it is magic to see the sun coming out of the mist over the mountains in the early morning, and from some of the slides he showed you could see why.
Our first summer outing took us to Wrentham on 16th May and the little wood-panelled replica of a pre-1970 village shop owned by the Carter family.
Mr. and Mrs. Carter had run shops in Southwold and Wrentham for many years, perpetuating a family business that had existed in various guises since 1809. After closing down they found themselves with a lot of stock left over and decided to use it to create “The Shop Museum” in a rented premises in Wrentham. Although situated right on the busy A12 with traffic passing by all the time, the museum only opens a few times a year on an irregular basis, and had not opened at all in 2012 prior to our visit.
Fifteen members of the Society attended, and there was not a lot of room to spare when
we were all inside. Mr. and Mrs. Carter were behind the counter, as they would have been in their shopkeeping days, happy to answer questions and share their reminiscences, and we were left to browse around the shelves packed with goods reminding members of earlier times. Everything seemed to be there, just as you would expect in a village shop in the good old days, and you could find anything from starched collars to Empire lamp oil, Trajax lacquer, Day and Martin’s floor polish, and a good selection of bifurcated rivets. Mazawattee and Brooke Bond Dividend were among the many teas; Gold Flake, Star, Woodbine and Park Drive were prominent among the cigarettes, and for soap you could choose from tins of Wylie’s containing glycerine, Edward’s dessicated soap or Fleet Wing Old Fashioned White Windsor. Striking a local note were Dawson’s Southwold Seeds from the 1949 season, and the latest in gramophone records featured such up-to-the-minute names as Jimmy Young and Frankie Vaughan. There were even piles of Meccano Magazines from the nineteen-twenties and thirties to read, as well as administrative literature such as account books and a register
of customers for rationed foods.
With Izal Bronco (de luxe), Jeyes Babysofi and much more fresh in our minds, we thanked Mr. and Mrs. Carter for allowing a most interesting visit. Their little museum is clearly a labour of love and it is a pity it is not open more often so that more people can enjoy it.
The weather stayed dry and fine for a stroll in Great Yarmouth on Wednesday 13th June. We went there to learn something about the famous Rows which were once such a defining feature of the town but which now survive only in a fragmentary form, mostly as passages which serve as short cuts between one street and another. Although turnout was poor with only ten members present, Maurice Joel led us on an instructive walk to show features which helped us to recall a bygone age largely obliterated by wartime bombing and insensitive post-war redevelopment.
The Rows, which all ran from east to west and mostly in a straight line on the comparatively narrow spit of land between the Market Place (which the Denes came much closer to than they do today) and the harbour, were a unique series of narrow passages, mostly densely lined with houses and paved with pebbles from the beach or, in a few cases, with flagstones. By the early 1 800s there were 145 Rows packed closely together and containing more than 3,000 houses and almost 15,000 inhabitants in sometimes picturesque but often quite unsanitary conditions. if 1804 the Rows were given numbers, and the few sections that still survive display these numbers right up to the present thy. Charles Dickens knew them well and described how you could touch the houses on both sides by stretching your arms to their full extent, and he also noted how, in some Rows, the tops of houses overhang forming a tunnel effect.
Our walking tour started off with what little is left of Row I on Northgate Street close to the town wall, and we soon arrived at Row 6 facing St. Nicholas Church. This was known locally as Body Snatcher’s Row where Dr. Astley Cooper would pay up to 9 guineas (a huge sum in those days) to obtain bodies dug up from graveyards which he cut up for use in medical research. Broad Row (43) still survives with shops on both sides leading to the Market Place, but the nearby Palmer’s department store saw the elimination of several Rows to enable its development. Row 46, next to the handsome Liberal Club frontage, is rare in still projecting the feel of bygone times with remnants of old cottages Some of the best remains can be found leading off from King Street, which is now sadly run down and only a shadow of its former self as one of Great Yarmouth’s premier shopping thoroughfares. Row 63 still leads to the Quaker House, the oldest house in town. Row 77 has a fine arch at its Middlegate end, and Row 89 still contains houses so close to one another that special beams are in place to support and separate the overhanging three top floors. Row 90, once known as Old Hannah’s Row, is another that is very evocative. More than one thousand houses had to be permanently abandoned in the Rows leading to Middlegate after a single night’s bombing in World War 2, much of what was left being used for commando hand-to-hand training before finally being demolished. Maurice explained how special ‘troll carts’ were developed to get provisions around the narrow Rows which ordinary vehicles could not enter. These long, two-wheeled carts were never more than about 3ff 6ins wide, and their name is today commemorated in the Weatherspoon’s pub in the modem building adjacent to the bus station. After many years of neglect, the importance of the Rows is today recognised by English Heritage and others, and hopefully Great Yarmouth Council will treat what little remains with better respect than it has done in the past. We are indebted to Maurice who, despite having recently hurt his ankle and proceeding with the help of a walking stick, came along to show us an interesting aspect of Great Yarmouth’s past.
On Wednesday evening, 11th July twenty-four members met at the Studio Film Theatre of the Lowestoft Cine and Camcorder Club in the Sparrows Nest Gardens for our final outing of 2012. This was our second visit, and once again we were treated to a most varied and entertaining evening of films and DVDs made by the talented members of the Club.
Starting with a very humorous weather forecast, we went through a whole range of subjects, some whimsical and others serious. Both aspects were employed in a film showing the first impressions of Lowestoft that a visitor might gain when arriving by train. To the bouncy background music once associated with Dr. Finlay’ s Casebook the optimistic visitor views everything that the run-down station has to offer, followed by the unwelcoming Station Square (complete with down-and-outs). After viewing the forlorn Tuttle’s building, he decides to get the next train home. On a serious theme, the revival of the manufacturing of Waveney rush man ing, firstly in an old apple factory at Aldeby and latterly at the old maltings in Caldecott Road, was thoroughly covered. An award winning film on Benacre Broad and its demise due to coastal erosion leading to the mass ingress of sea water was a documentary work of historical importance, and a
piece on Wildlife in our Parks may also prove of interest in years to come as changes take place through global warming and other causes.
A song by the group Worsted to a background of the Strumpshaw Steam Rally contrasted with a serious piece on the attempted revival by Peter Knights of Lowestoft Porcelain, and another major documental)’ on the decline of the Lowestoft fishing industry. Mother subject that members of the Club recorded which has now become history is David Turner’s transformation of Wymondham railway station with his excellent restaurant and tea room together with all its historic artefacts. Each year the Club makes a film for the Lowestoft Players and we saw one commemorating the pantomime Robin Hood. Many other subjects were featured, and the programme closed with Verdi’s “Requiem”
accompanying spectacular Raging Seas, and the evening closed with a jaunty two-minute clip on “I do like to be beside the seaside”.
Once again our very grateful thanks go to David, our compere for the evening, and also to Ron in the projection room and Marion who kindly provided the tea and biscuits. A really good time was had by all.