Legacy of Gorleston’s Harry Harvey-George and the Short Blue fishing fleet

PUBLISHED: 13:50 24 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:51 24 March 2014

A stained glass window inside the former home of Harry Harvey-George, manager of the Short Blue Trawler Fleet in Gorleston.

 Picture: James Bass

A stained glass window inside the former home of Harry Harvey-George, manager of the Short Blue Trawler Fleet in Gorleston. Picture: James Bass

A blue plaque has been unveiled in honour of a Victorian businessman whose historic Short Blue ships helped shape a Norfolk fishing town.

Harry Harvey-George, born in Barking in Essex in 1850, moved to Gorleston after marrying Jessie Hewitt, whose family had years of experience in fishing the North Sea from Norfolk.

After joining the business Harvey-George became manager of the Short Blue fishing fleet - named after the flag on each boat, in 1879 and during his life in Gorleston made a significant enough impact to be known locally as the ‘mayor’ of the parish.

Today Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society (GYLHAS) revealed a commemorative plaque for Harvey-George and the Short Blue fleet at his former home in High Road.

“He originally lived in Surbiton Lodge on High Road and in 1890 had a new house with a tower built,” said Andrew Fakes, president of GYLHAS.

The home, which was used as a dance school before being converted into the Tower Flats, would have provided a far-reaching view of the firm’s fishing boats leaving and entering port.

“As well as being a town councillor, port and haven commissioner, Harvey-George was founded the Great Yarmouth Yacht Club and was commander of the Volunteer Naval Corps,” added Mr Fakes.

“He advocated the lowering of the east side of Gorleston harbour to lessen the force of the tides, and was therefore responsible for the creation of Yarmouth’s ‘Spending Beach’.”

Harvey-George was active in looking after the welfare of fishermen and their families and also helped establish Gorleston Hospital by giving land for the Cottage Hospital on Trafalgar Road East to expand.

By 1882, the Short Blue fleet employed 570 fishermen and over 100 more on the ground comprising of blacksmiths, engineers, and sailmakers.

But by the end of 19th century, the traditional fishing industry was fading fast following the introduction of the steam trawler. In 1901 the Short Blue fleet was laid up along Gorleston Quay - boats were broken up, converted and sold on while workers moved on to the steam ships.

Harvey-George remained as manager of the Short Blue fleet until ill health forced him to retire in January 1898. He died in 1910, but his legacy continues.

For many years his home, colloquially known as Cod End Castle, contained objects dredged from the seabed including, according to rumour, a piece of amber as big as a loaf of bread.

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