Double coincidence reveals two old Great Yarmouth cycling shops
PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 July 2019
Not for the first time in the decades I have been penning this column, coincidence has astonished me. One thing leads to another.
Has someone deciphered my scribbled reminder notes, or hacked into the Peggotty computer, foolishly expecting to discover a cornucopia of Porthole possibilities?
The latest incident followed a feature in which I mentioned the bicycle business of Alfred Overill who ran a long-established town centre shop facing Great Yarmouth's Market Place from 1913 to 1964, closing - with neighbours - to make way for a Tesco supermarket, now long gone.
With a follow-up column in mind about Alfred Overill's local competitors in an era when cycles possibly outnumbered cars, I was scouring both a pre-war and a post-war street directory, noting other dealerships and bike-related businesses hereabouts.
At which point, the phone rang.
The caller was old friend Malcolm Ferrow, of Marine Parade, Gorleston, reporting that his wife, Joy, had just returned from Bells Road in Gorleston where replacement work on a shop-front had revealed that a previous occupier of the premises was... a cycle dealer!
Because the frontage improvement work had to continue without delay, I headed there swiftly, spotted some scaffolding in front of premises near the Springfield Road corner, and tried my luck in Elysium Beauty Treatments!
Staff and clients were probably surprised to see an elderly fellow inquiring about a long-gone cycle shop but, discreetly, never showed it.
Thankfully, I had found the correct place, but unfortunately the builders had already covered up or removed that sign. Thankfully, Elysium owner Sandy Colby had photographed it on a mobile phone while it was briefly visible.
That long-ago occupant was Bert Wells & Son, offering "Cycle Sales and Service" and announcing that the business was an agent for Rudge, Triumph and Phillips machines.
To my surprise and puzzlement, I could not find that bicycle business listed in my comprehensive street-by-street directories for 1937 and 1972.
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However, help was at hand, local author and historian Colin Tooke delving into several volumes and, by elimination, ascertaining that Bert Wells and Son was selling cycles and services there from about 1956 until 1961 or 1962.
There was also another cycle-themed surprise in store for me that day.
While driving from Peggotty's Hut to Bells Road, I went down Albemarle Road, stopping at the T-junction with busy Lowestoft Road. And immediately opposite was a cycle shop I had never noticed in recent years.
The business is B and D Cycles, occupying adjoining terrace shops, one of which (number 61) had once been the premises of Wally English... from where my one and only bicycle was bought post-war in the 1940s!
Like every lad with a new bike - in an era when they were still in short supply and choice was limited - it was my pride and joy.
It was black Humber sports model with caliper brakes, Sturmey-Archer "flick-trigger" three-speed on the handlebars, Lucas King of the Road dynamo, saddle-bag and - soon after - a clicking milometer on the front wheel.
That bike cost my father about £10, complete with the accessories, a sizeable sum in the post-war period.
Decades have passed since I bought bicycles for my family so I have long forgotten the prices in, say, the Sixties and was therefore stunned to learn that an ordinary bike - not a super-duper drop-handlebar racing model with all-mod-cons but one for everyday use - costs at least £400 nowadays.
Despite its newness, I generally referred to my Humber as "old faithful," perhaps a result of seeing too many films about cowboys and their horses at Gorleston Coliseum Cinema.
Those were usually "second features" - supporting films to the main offering - and are probably a distant memory and a long-gone practice.
Bicycle shops? Oh, yes. According to my 1972 street directory, there was still a cycle dealership thereabouts (in 63 Lowestoft Road), with J H Moore listed as the owner.