GREAT YARMOUTH (2)

Great  Yarmourth landau awaiting customers.

Great Yarmourth landau awaiting customers.

There is much more to Yarmouth than the Golden Mile and candy floss. I have nothing against either. Candy floss maybe entirely made of sugar but as what you consume is about 90 per cent air it does not do you much harm. And note that the horse-drawn landau that forms the headline picture to this blog (and is a thoroughly charming feature of Yarmouth) is one of the attractions of the Golden Mile.

Nowadays, in a quite amazing piece of pettiness, the horses have to wear canvas “nappies” between the shafts and the front axle to catch any droppings. My father-in-law would have been out there sweeping up the droppings almost as soon as they appeared, to be taken home to spread on his garden. So would my father, and any number of generations before them. “Hoss muck” never stayed on the road for long, but I suppose this queasiness is a sign of the times.

The landaus are an echo of the past which remains, but many things have changed since I first was taken down to the seaside at Yarmouth. Then there were three railway stations so there were many more trains but far fewer cars. A steam shunter drew wagons along the street past the town hall to the South Quay. South Quay itself was so busy with herring drifters that they were moored two or three deep in season, when vessels from as far north as Scotland joined the local boats for the silvery catch.

Along the Golden Mile (which refers to the long strip of Pleasure Beach which runs between the beach and the Marine Parade) I would run wide-eyed. I was never brave enough to try the scenic railway, but just to the south of the entrance to the Britannia Pier was a piece of the funfair that I was brave enough to enter. This was Noah’s Ark which tipped to and fro on its canvas waves. What it contained I cannot now remember for sure but it must have been model animals in pairs. It would have disappeared about 40 years ago, when the picture of the landau was taken. The site is still occupied by part of the Pleasure Beach, but it now appears to be about cartoon characters rather than the Ark. Perhaps Noah is too biblical for this secular age.

The wartime bombing had destroyed much of the old town of Yarmouth; some of the rows remain but the cramped quarters that ran from the market place to the medieval town walls had disappeared. As you can still see from the rows that remain the house were so close together that only pedestrians could pass down them. Specially narrow handcarts were made to navigate the narrow lanes, and one of these may be seen in the Time and Tide museum.

When I first remember the South Denes they were covered by seeming acres of net drying lines. These were rows of posts about 4 ft tall with wires between them. The nets were hung out to dry when the drifters returned to port. This was a necessary part of process because in the 1950s the nets were all made of natural fibre and if left wet they would rot. This also meant that the mending of nets was a frequent chore. 

Now an industrial estate has replaced the net drying lines and tenders servicing the gas platforms and wind turbines moor where the drifters once did. Only a railway to Norwich still runs a much reduced service and nothing goes south to Lowestoft or north to Caister. But we still have the landaus.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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