STARTING WORK IN YARMOUTH WHEN VICTORIA WAS QUEEN

THE EARLY LIFE OF EDWARD LOUND

 PART TWO

This is the second chapter of memoirs of my step-grandfather Edward Lound. In the first chapter, published on this blog in January of this year he recounted his earliest years from his birth in Leicester to his schooldays in Great Yarmouth. In respect of his grandfather, Thomas Lound, I have found out a little more information; the smack “Cambria” of which Thomas Lound was the master and at sea at the time of the 1871 census was launched 25 November 1869 from Messrs Smith’s yard in Yarmouth. This next part of his story tells of life in Yarmouth in the last years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th. As you will see he joined the army some years before the First World War and his experiences as a recruit at Normanton barracks in Derby will be the subject of the next installment.

My school days were drawing to a close. I did not know what I wanted to do so I had a look round. In Yarmouth however jobs were not always available. After some little while I heard that Messrs Pickford & Co Ltd, on Theatre Plain, wanted a boy. Hastening to call at the Office I saw the Manager who took all my particulars and told me to come back the next day. I duly reported back and the Manager said that he would give me a trial. He told me my duties, what the job entailed and my hours of work. When he was away canvassing I would be in charge. He told me my rate of pay would be five shillings a week. We very pleased about this last bit of information I can assure you, for that was the weekly rent of our home, 122 Blackfriars Road.

Well, the job was not too bad, and I soon mastered the workings of it. Most days I was alone in the office. My boss wasn’t too far away, and I knew where I could find him – in the Theatre Tavern opposite! This was obviously what he had meant by canvassing. So if I had any queries, or we received a visit from a Railway Official I’d pop over and bring him back. We got on fine. I kept a large day book and in it I recorded everything; the cost of parcels (charged by weight) and everything that had to go by rail. I also had to do the documentation for the railway which was quite a task. The station we used was Vauxhall, although there were two others in the town, Yarmouth Beach (M&GN) and Yarmouth Southtown.

The railway wagons were brought to the goods yard to collect the parcels and I had to fill in the invoices. Then in the evening I would go to the passenger department and enquire the number of wagons they had used for our invoiced parcels, and their location. I then had to check all our parcels against the invoices. When I had done I had to sign the docket and leave a copy with the railway clerk.

Now in the springtime this wasn’t too bad, but when the autumn arrived it was different. It was dark as the nights drew in,and I had a job to find my wagons. Nobody seemed interested in helping me. I obtained a lantern which helped me to find my wagon, but while I was inside sorting my parcels I was shunted up and down the line. When I was uncoupled I had no idea where I was. The trains finished up on quite different lines to where they had been when I began parcel sorting. I had to cross the tracks to get back to the station, and trains were coming up and down as I made my way back. I truly was afraid. It was a good job, and I could do all the things required of me; also I was practically my own boss, but after consulting my Grannie about the matter I handed in my notice. Then I had to find other employment.

It was 1899 and it wasn’t easy to find work. I was 15 years old and of course we missed the five shillings a week that I had been earning. The days of unemployment soon became very irksome to me, but one day a lady I knew told me to go and see Alderman J. W. Nightingale of the Aquarium Theatre. I had to ask him if he needed any help in the office.

I lost no time in going round to Marine Parade and enquired if I could speak to Mr Nightingale. I was told he wasn’t in, but was asked what my business was. When I told the gentleman he said that Mr Nightingale’s son was there, and he  would go and tell him. As I sat and waited I did not see many clerks about, and not much work seemed to be being done. After a while the man returned and said “Come this way.” A very smart gentleman (Mr Nightingale’s son) was there and I said “Good Afternoon, Sir.” He told me to sit down and he took down all my particulars such as my name, address, age, what school I had attended, my previous employment and why I had left it.

He was writing all these details down on a card when Mr Nightingale (who I knew by sight) came in. I was introduced to him and when he had read the card which his son had filled in he told me to report to Mr Taylor the Refreshment Manager the next day at 8.30. Mr Taylor would explain what I was expected to do.

Mr J. W. Nightingale J. P. was the proprietor of the Royal Aquarium and specialised in all kinds of entertainment. He was originally from London where he had learned the catering trade.  I was principally involved in the catering side to begin with. As far as this went he would arrange Banquets, Wedding Breakfasts, At Homes, Masonic Meetings and Race Meetings. He was a Licensed Victualler and all kinds of entertainments and amusements came under his overview. There were no longer any fish in the aquariums that still lined the walls of the theatre, although the rocks and tanks were still intact. Originally the tanks had been filled with sea water and wild fish swam about in them. Besides the Aquarium Theatre he managed the New Britannia Pier when it reopened after refurbishment and the Queen’s Hotel where he had his private residence.

The Bass trip to Yarmouth in 1909 required 15 special trains from Burton on Trent.

The Bass trip to Yarmouth in 1909 required 15 special trains from Burton on Trent.

Before we go any further I would like to inform you what this man could do. At one time he gave a complete dinner for Messrs Bass and Ratcliffe from Burton on Trent at the Royal Aquarium. This dinner was for all their employees, a thousand of them. They were all served at one sitting and he had already supplied all the amusements for the day. Shows, donkey rides, boat trips and band concerts were all free.  He had also arranged that all the pubs in Yarmouth would provide free beer for all the people from Bass on that day. We hired waiters from the Oxford and Cambridge colleges who were available as it was in vacation time. There was nothing lacking in the kitchen, nor did we run dry of beer; it was a great success. You will learn more of the sort of things that he laid on as I progressed with him from stage to stage.

Now to tell you something of my work and of the office staff. There were five of us men and a lady; Mr Taylor aged between 50 and 60 was the refreshment manager. Thomas Wigg was the accountant. He had started as a boy in buttons, and by the time I joined the firm he was about 28. Tommy Wigg was an expert on the tuppenny tin whistle. He could play all our operatic light music, so during our spare dinner time our office was flooded with music. His father was a flautist in the Aquarium orchestra. By the time I joined Tommy Wigg had been right through the catering business. The other three were juniors learning the trade whose number included myself. Then there was Miss Fisher who travelled in daily from Norwich and was our typist.

My first job on arrival at the Royal Aquarium in the morning was to open and empty the letter box. I took the post over to the Queens Hotel and placed it on the hall-stand. I returned to the office and took the keys and hung them on the board, ready for the staff when they reported for duty. When the cleaners had finished in the Governor’s office I took a duster and placed all his papers in order, giving the desk a special polish. On the first morning I was shown round the whole building of the Aquarium, upstairs and down, including the kitchens and wine cellars. I was introduced to the staff.

THE ROYAL AQUARIUM THEATRE, GREAT YARMOUTH c 1900

THE ROYAL AQUARIUM THEATRE, GREAT YARMOUTH c 1900

During the day my duties were in the general run of office work; copying letters in the copying press, indexing the letter books, writing up the postage account and getting the mail ready for despatch. I also had to answer the phone which in 1899 was only employed by the largest businesses and was used only for commercial transactions. I had to attend to all messengers and other callers and help in every way possible. I had to be courteous to all. We had an hour for dinner, as I joined when preparations were being made for the summer season. During the height of the season our dinner time was reduced to half an hour.

When I had been there for six months my work began to change. Our summer season was now in full swing and as the season is not very long everybody was extremely busy. We had to make hay in the sunshine. During the summer months I acted as cashier for the 1st class and 2nd class dining rooms. I was also responsible for making out the menus, so early in the morning I would go to kitchen where the chef would give details of the meals he would be serving that day. I would then return to the office and write the menu out. We commenced serving dinner at 11.30 a.m. and carried on until 2.30 p.m. Then the staff could have their meal. This was only half an hour because then we had to prepare teas. As soon as tea was over we had to begin preparations for what for many was the major part of the business, the theatrical side. This came under the direction of Mr Nightingale’s son Walter.

Walter Nightingale booked all the companies for the Royal Aquarium Theatre, the Theatre Royal and the New Britannia Pier. He had an Acting Manager and in the evening I was attached to his department. I helped out while learning the theatrical side of the business. My sweetheart used to go to the theatre to see the plays while I got on with my business. When the show was over she would sit and wait for me in the office. At about 9.15 I would receive all the bar takings including the girl’s float money. These I would lock up together with the bundles of cigars and cigarettes. When it was time my sweetheart and I would stroll homewards together. Most of our summer evenings were spent in this way, but we were together and happy.

During the early summer Great Yarmouth would occasionally be visited by royalty. We were visited by the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward the Seventh). He was the C-in-C of the Prince of Wales Own Royal Garrison Artillery. They were stationed at the barracks on the South Denes and the Prince and his retinue stayed at Shadingfield Lodge opposite the Wellington Pier. At these times we would have many visitors to the Aquarium. All the places of amusement put on special performances and shows, late dinners and dances. This carried on for the best part of a week. After these jollifications we gave the Royal Aquarium a good internal spring cleaning to be prepared for our normal summer season.

Yarmouth Races used to be held on the South Denes

Yarmouth Races used to be held on the South Denes near the Nelson Monument.

Towards the end of September, if the weather was kind and we could carry on so long, we began to close some of the dining rooms. We laid off the summer staff. About this time we had the Race Meeting. This was held on the South Denes opposite the Nelson Monument. We did all the catering for this event and they were very hard days indeed.

As only a few months earlier we had begun out summer preparations we now had to prepare for our autumn business. The herrings season was coming and we held several sprat and bloater banquets at the Queens Hotel.

Now was the time for Masonic Meetings. We were the centre for Lodge 131 and Lodge 133. These meetings were held in the Artillery Mess house which was divided into two, the Lodge and the dining room. We had a Mr Beckett who always arranged the furniture for the Lodge. I could not say for sure that he was a Mason but he could dress the Lodge for the meeting and make sure it started on time. When the business was done dinner was served and my job commenced, for I was there to attend to the wine.

I picked up quite number of things about this secret society, and developed a wish, should the opportunity arise, of applying for admittance to be a Mason. (This opportunity did indeed arise many years later.) There were Masonic Banquets and they also held Ladies Nights when all were allowed to enter – but not when the Lodge was working.

You can see from this brief outline that my working life was now governed by the changing seasons. I had learned much under good experienced teachers of the refreshment and theatrical businesses, but I was not satisfied and desired to expand my knowledge. I applied to Messrs Moss and Stoll Empires Ltd for training as a residential assistant business manager. Their business was arranging World Tours, which was what had first attracted my attention. They were based in London. In due course I received a reply to my enquiry offering me an interview. If they took me on I would receive a starting salary of 25 shillings a week. Considering the cost of living in London, board and lodging, laundry etc (I would have had to wear evening dress with a clean shirt daily) I could not survive on this money. I did not attend the interview.

I had by now been working for Mr Nightingale for a number of years and I afraid I was becoming rather restless. I wanted a job with a future, a permanent position with prospects of progressing. In nine years I had enjoyed only two weeks holiday. My friend George Palmer had played in the Royal Aquarium orchestra but he had recently left. His father, Mr Palmer senior, played the flute and piccolo and George was cellist. The family had run a musical instrument business on Blackfriars Road in Yarmouth and took over a similar  business in Liverpool. They were also joining the Rotunda Theatre there which was in the course of completion. I missed them from our orchestra, and once they had settled in to their new home I went and had two weeks holiday with them in Liverpool. It was all thoroughly enjoyable.

I now began to feel that my days at Great Yarmouth were drawing to a close. The office staff had dropped to just myself and a boy. Things were very slow in Great Yarmouth for what I wanted out of life. I needed someone to look after me, but I could not marry on my present wages. If I had been given another £2 a week I might have changed my mind, but that did not happen. Before I mentioned anything about leaving I paid a visit to the Royal Artillery Barracks to see Quarter-Master Sergeant Hunt. In the Orderly Room I told him how I felt about things. He told me that I had a good job and not to throw it up for a fresh beginning in the army. He gave me a lot of good fatherly advice. We talked it over and it was decided that I would go into the army while my intended wife should get work outside of Yarmouth. She was a good dressmaker having served her time and we started looking for a job for her. We saw an advertisement for a good skirt and blouse hand in Eastbourne. I wrote and after some correspondence she got the job with the “Court Dressmakers”. She was the first to go. Of course there was much opposition . It was a long journey but she was well pleased once she had settled in. She got promotion and stayed until 1911, only coming back home because her mother was alone in Yarmouth.

Next it was my turn and I had to break the news to my grandparents. I knew this would be difficult so I left it until the last moment before going to the barracks to enlist. At last the day came and I went down again to see QMS Hunt. He was a Roman Catholic and a good man; he handed me over to the Recruiting Sergeant, and having passed my test took me to the Medical Officer. I completed my Attestation Paper and the Clerk said to me “Norfolk Regiment.” I said “No”. “Where do you want to go then?” asked the Sergeant. I said the 16/17th Lancers, the Death or Glory Boys.

“They are are full up and are not taking anyone on at present. How about the Sherwood Foresters?”

“Where are they stationed?” I asked and was told Derby, so Derby it was. I was given a Railway Warrant, a Ration Allowance and the good wishes of the barracks. Then came one of the worst moments of my life. I had to say farewell to my grandparents. They had been so kind to me and that was heart-breaking for them and me, for I knew I should not see them again. The parting was a wrench for us all – it was goodbye.

I can see them now in middle room of 122 Blackfriars Road and they were both weeping. They had kept me and loved me for 24 years and now I was going out of their lives. Thus ended my catering career and it was also farewell to Great Yarmouth for the time being.  As I walked down the road to Vauxhall Station I was wearing my overcoat and bowler hat. It was a bright sunny day, the 29th of April 1908, but I felt sad.

E. M. LOUND (1884-1971)

THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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