Exhibition reveals life at Lowestoft’s bustling port

Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Harbour Master John Wooley, with Pilots Bob Mountney, Gary Horton and Richard Musgrove, Pilot Coxswain Mike Knott. Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Harbour Master John Wooley, with Pilots Bob Mountney, Gary Horton and Richard Musgrove, Pilot Coxswain Mike Knott.

Friday, May 16, 2014
4:53 PM

It has been a bustling hub of the town for generations.

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Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Mending nets.Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Mending nets.

The port was once the economic heart of Lowestoft, providing work for thousands of people and a home to scores of fishing boats that brought home catches from a bountiful North Sea.

But, while times have changed, the town’s harbour remains a key focal point of the town and its recent history is now the topic of a photographic exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office.

The display Port People – which will run until the end of May – includes a variety of images drawn from the vast collection belonging to the Port of Lowestoft Research Society (PLRS).

All of the photographs featured were taken around Lowestoft docks over the last 60 years.

Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Gassey Cook and Vic King preparing fish.Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Gassey Cook and Vic King preparing fish.

Ruth Silburn, public service manager at the record office, said: “The exhibition will be available for viewing to the end of May and it may be extended if we get a lot of interest. The photographs were taken around Lowestoft harbour from the 1960s to date of people involved with dock work.

“Some of these photos have never been on show before, and some are unidentified.”

The display includes pictures showing Butchers Yard in 1964, engineering workers at Small & Co, employees from Associated British Ports and fish merchants and people preparing fish on the quayside. It will also feature a board of images of the South Pier, dating back to the late 1880s.

Stanley Earl, secretary of PLRS, said the society was delighted to have the chance to exhibit the pictures and he hoped they would be of great interest to people in Lowestoft.

Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Rodney Reeve preparing fish.Port People exhibition at Lowestoft Record Office. Rodney Reeve preparing fish.

“The photos featured in the exhibition show fish market scenes, port workers and fishermen from the 1960s to the present,” Mr Earl said. “We are pleased that the records office let us use the searchroom for exhibitions as we believe it is important to exhibit the history of Lowestoft.”

The PLRS came into existence in 1955 when five local maritime enthusiasts got together to help stage an exhibition to celebrate fishermen’s week at Tuttles department store in Lowestoft.

By 1963, the founding five members – Cyril Baldry, Roy Breach, Peter Kilby, Jack Mitchley and Les Moore – thought it would be a good idea to put their shared interest onto a more formal footing.

So it was that in November that year, the PLRS came properly into being.

Its stated aim was “to compile a written and photographic record of the port and of the vessels and industries connected with it and also to collect other relevant material”.

Today that collection has grown to more than 15,000 prints.

Mr Earl added: “We are now finishing the digitisation of about 15,000 photos and database relating to the images, which are housed in the record office. Some of these photos are for sale, depending on the copyright.”

With the PLRS growing substantially in recent years, membership is open to anyone interested in the maritime history of the area. Details of how to join are available at the record office, or by writing to: Stanley Earl, 25 Southwell Road, Lowestoft, NR33 0RW.

Lowestoft Record Office acts as one-stop shop for anyone researching local history, be it their family tree or the history of their home or community.

■The Lowestoft Record Office can be found on the first floor of Lowestoft Central Library in Clapham Road South. It is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9am to 5.30pm, Tuesday from 9am to 7pm, Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. As well as hundreds of old photographs, it holds thousands of documents, books and registers which are accessible to people carrying our local history studies or researching the history of their family or home.

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