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1900-1949 History 1900-1949 Memories Walton Belle steamer Gorleston 1904

As mentioned earlier, many visitors from London and the South East coast arrived via the port of Great Yarmouth. This is the paddle steamer “Walton Belle” entering the harbour in 1904. She was the fifth ship to be added to the Belle Steamers fleet (later the Coast Development Company) and operated a service between Clacton and Yarmouth via Lowestoft from 1897 until the outbreak of WW1 in 1914. This in turn connected with the London steamers at Clacton.  She was requisitioned by the Admiralty in December 1915 and was used as a mine sweeper, initially on the Thames, and then later on the Tyne.. In 1917 she found the only “T” type German mine to be discovered in UK waters (only the second in the world) and this commonly became known as the “Walton Belle Mine”. In 1919 she became a hospital ship before being sent off to Russia for transport duties, finally being released from military service in 1920. The Coast Development Company had, by this time, gone into liquidation and she was sold off and renamed the “Essex Queen” running out of Chatham and Sheerness. She had a brief spell back in Yarmouth in the late 1930s before, once again, being requisitioned for duties as a hospital ship on the Thames during World War Two.  After the end of the war she spent two seasons working out of Torquay as “The Pride Of Devon” until, in 1949, she was refused a passenger certificate due to her deteriorating condition. She was finally broken up in Southampton in 1951 after a long and varied career.

More of Donald Shields photographs from 1904

Great Yarmouth paddle steamer 1904

Another paddle steamer, as yet unidentified, entering the harbour at Gorleston. This is a much smaller vessel than The Walton Belle, and was probably operating day trips out of Great Yarmouth.

Britannia Pier Great Yarmouth 1904

This is the Britannia Pier at Great Yarmouth which has had a very chequered history, suffering a series of disasters over the years.. The original pier was built in 1858 at a cost of £6,000 but, just one year later,  was partially demolished by a schooner which reduced it’s length by around 50 feet.  In 1868 it suffered yet another collision which removed more of the structure. In 1901 the original wooden pier was replaced by a new one, constructed out of steel and wood, and the grand 2500 seat pavilion was built, works which cost over £60,000. Officially opened in 1902, the pier attracted huge crowds until, in 1909, it was sadly destroyed by fire. A replacement was built, opening in 1910, but this building suffered the same fate just 4 years later when it too burnt to the ground. The fire was believed to have been started deliberately and it was rumoured locally to have been the work of suffragettes!  A third pavilion was built along with a new ballroom in 1933 and managed to avoid damage during the heavy bombing raids which Yarmouth suffered during WW2, although a hole was blown in the pier decking in 1940 as a precaution to prevent the enemy landing. In 1954 the pier and buildings were destroyed by yet another fire. The fourth pavilion was  opened in 1958 and is the one which survives to this day.

Great Yarmouth seafront 1904

Another photograph looking down over Britannia Pier and towards the Wellington Pier. The land in the far distance is now occupied by the famous Pleasure Beach. A huge banner on the side of the Britannia Pier is advertising an appearance by the professional wrestler George Hackenschmidt who was born in Estonia. George, nicknamed “The Russian Lion”, was a real celebrity of his time as wrestling was the major sport of the Edwardian era, and he drew huge crowds to his tournaments which were held all over the world. It is also worthy to note that this and the previous photograph were taken from the Revolving Observation Tower which had opened on Marine Parade in 1897 and was a remarkable feat of engineering in it’s day. After paying the admission fee, one would walk onto a platform which would slowly rise in a corkscrew fashion over 130 feet into the air - from the description, it sounds like a giant nut and bolt! Once at the top you were rewarded with magnificent views out to sea, across the town and inland over Broadland. It was said that on a clear day you could see the spire of  Norwich  Cathedral. The tower was demolished at the outbreak of WW2 as part of the Governments requisitioning of metal for the war effort.

Gorleston Promenade 1904

The beach and Promenade at Gorleston in 1904. This whole area of the seafront was remodelled over a five year period between 1898 and 1903 by the borough surveyor J.W. Cockrill. The beach gardens were laid out, the cliffside was grassed, Marine Parade was extended and the shops on the Promenade were built. A ravine was cut into the cliff with a bridge across the top and ornate “Roman Shelters” were constructed. Many new hotels and other buildings were also erected. Straight ahead, in the centre of the picture, you can see the Pier Hotel which was completed in 1897 and replaced the Hope and Anchor fishermen's pub which had stood on that spot. In the background on the left is the Pavilion Theatre which was opened in 1901.

Gorleston Pier Hotel & Beach 1904

Another photograph of the Pier Hotel and beach . The railway had arrived at Gorleston in 1903,  bringing even more visitors to this already popular seaside resort. It was said that the population doubled over the August Bank Holiday and that “No Vacancies” signs were to be seen in  every hotel and boarding house window.

Cliff Hotel Gorleston 1904 Cliff Hotel Gorleston 1904

This magnificent building was the Cliff Hotel which opened on the seafront at Gorleston in 1898. Sadly it was burnt to the ground after a fire on Boxing Day in 1915.

The Cliff Hotel, the Promenade shops and the beach donkeys at Gorleston in 1904.

Donkey ride on Gorleston beach 1904

Winifred Shields and her cousin Bob enjoy a donkey ride on Gorleston beach.

Lowestoft from Claremont Pier 1904

We move down the coast to Lowestoft now. This picture was taken by Donald from the Claremont Pier and is looking over the seafront, up towards the South Pier and harbour. The Claremont Pier was erected in  1902/3 by the Coast Development Company who owned the “Belle” steamers and was built primarily to allow their passengers to disembark and board. In the background you can see the spire of St. Johns Church which was built in 1853. A famous future parishioner of the church was the composer Benjamin Britten whose mother was the organist there.  The church was demolished in 1978, although had already been abandoned after a survey in the 1960s revealed severe structural damage which was believed to have been caused by the ingress of salt water during the 1953 floods.

Lowestoft harbour 1904

Fishing boats pictured at Lowestoft Harbour in 1904.

Lowestoft harbour 1904

Another photograph taken at Lowestoft Harbour in 1904.

Yacht Club Lowestoft 1904

This quirky looking building is the club house for the Royal Norfolk And Suffolk Yacht Club and the photograph was taken from Lowestoft’s South Pier. It was built in 1903 and was the winning design from 65 entries received after an advertisement was placed requesting submissions for consideration. The final cost  of £4,500 was far more than the club could afford but the Great Eastern Railway stepped in and paid for it’s construction, leasing it back to the club until they finally purchased it themselves in 1959.

Horse drawn omnibus Lowestoft 1904

The final picture from Donald’s photograph album  shows a bygone form of transport - a horse drawn tram on Lowestoft’s streets. My grandmother would have wasted no time in getting out with a bucket and shovel to pick up the deposits on the road for her roses!

The following set of photographs date from c1910 and are reproduced on here by kind permission of Kevin Millican and Ashley Marr. They come from a set of glass plate negatives which were found in the attic of a house in Lowestoft which Ashley once owned - how they came to be there was a complete mystery! The negatives were scanned by Kevin Millican who then contacted me about them. Looking through the photographs, I recognised the faces of the Shields brothers who featured in the previous collection of images which were taken by Donald Shields in 1903 and 1904. I contacted Donald’s great nephew who confirmed that it was indeed his family and , furthermore, he believed that the photographs were actually taken by Donald. This seems to have been an almost annual “Lads Week” holiday as a glimpse of a framed set of photos in the background of one of the photographs shows previous years trips which the gentlemen had taken under the banner of the “R.A.O.I.” The original titles for the negatives were handwritten by Donald on the lid of the box in which they were found and are included here.

Swan Inn Horning c1910

RAOI on left” The group pose on the lawn of the Swan Hotel at Horning at the start of the holiday. The skippers of the wherry “Bertha” are holding the R.A.O.I. Flag - as yet, I have been unable to ascertain what this acronym stood for. Donald Shields is pictured standing on the far left.

Wherry Bertha at Horning c1910

“Fore Peak moved”  The group pose on the fore peak of the wherry Bertha. As two ladies were present, I suspect that this was also taken at Horning prior to departure.

Pleasure wherry Bertha c1910

“Fore Peak at Horning”  Another shot of some of the group on the fore peak of the wherry Bertha at Horning. Bertha was operated at this time by Pallett, Barclay and Co. of Bacton Wood Mill on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, but had originally been owned by the Press Brothers. Bertha was a converted trading wherry and an advert for the Press Bros. from the 1880s shows that they were offering four other wherries for hire alongside her - Elsie, Kate, Diligent and Lucy. Initially, the wherries would have been converted during the summer months for the short holiday season and would have then reverted to carrying cargo for the rest of the year. As demand for boating holidays aboard wherries increased, and the holiday season was extended, they were permanently converted for pleasure use. By the late 1890s, the company had become Press & Pallett who were listed as being millers, maltsters, cake, corn, coal, seed and manure merchants at Bacton Wood Mill, Staithe and railway station. When Edward Press died in 1906 his property, including the canal, were sold at auction and a Mr Barclay must have bought into the business as by 1912 the company was listed as Pallett, Barclay & Co.


Onboard the wherry Bertha c1910

“Asleep on Cabin”  The gentlemen snooze on the cabin roof at an unknown location. Bertha’s interior cushions have been taken out to provide some comfort - I wonder how many cushions ended up in the rivers over the years!

Afternoon tea on Bertha c1910

“Tea on Cabin”  Afternoon tea on the cabin roof at an unknown location. In the centre of the picture is a box of Huntley & Palmers biscuits.

Dinner in Bertha's saloon c1910

“Dinner in Cabin”  A lovely interior shot of the wherry Bertha. The beer bottles on the table are from a Norwich brewery - I’m not sure which one, although Archie Shields worked for Bullards at the time.

Near Ludham Bridge c1910

“On Fore Peak Ludham”  I think that this was taken on the River Ant near to Ludham Bridge.

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1900-1949 Photo Gallery