Faded Gorleston seafront beauty in line for makeover

FOR the late Victorians who first visited Gorleston, it was the height of seaside recreation – a stroll along the prom and up and down the cliff's meandering paths.

And should a 19th century fun-seeker tire of such exertions, or be caught in a passing shower, there was always the option of a moment's respite in one of the ornate shelters, built using a new wonder material – concrete.

A century on, however, and the structures, carved into the cliffs at the same time as the ravine and paths to lure a new generation of holidaymakers, are showing their age. Engineers have discovered it will take more than a nip or tuck to repair the shelters, which have been fenced off for six months for safety reasons, fuelling local frustration.

However, a major overhaul is just around the corner with conservationists taking inspiration from the parade of shops in their design. A report by GYB Services, the borough council's engineering arm, said the roofs, supporting structures and railings all needed replacing with modern materials which would look the same.

Conservationist Ian Hardy said the aim was to enhance the shelters and undo some unsympathetic renovations that were carried out in the 1970s. He said the early use of concrete was experimental in its day as a brick replacement, and, although not listed, the shelters were in a sensitive conservation area.

'What we are trying to do is pick up on the authentic railings and draw inspiration for the renovation from the parade of shops. We think Jay Jays is a conservation success with some nice interior design. It is an enhancement and we want to replicate that with the three shelters.'

Local historian Colin Tooke said they probably dated from the 1890s when Gorleston was moving forward as a holiday resort and shrugging off its fishing village heritage.

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Marketed as Great Yarmouth's more sedate sister, the cliff paths, ravine and shelters were built for the benefit of visitors looking to take the sea air and possibly enjoy a dip from a bathing machine.

The resort's fortunes were boosted in 1903 with the arrival of the railway – but the area around Marine Parade was still sprawling farmland.

Dennis Durrant, of Burnt Lane, said the shelters had been fenced off for some time, to the annoyance of locals seeking to escape the elements.

He welcomed their refurbishment, but only if it were in keeping with Gorleston's Edwardian look.

The work of JW Cockrill, the eminent borough architect who was responsible for a string of local buildings, including the Yarmouth Art College, the shelters were once popular with courting couples, Mr Durrant said. The borough council has reportedly received numerous calls from locals and councillors, asking for them to be reopened.

However, it had not responded to questions about the cost or timing of the scheme, by the time the Mercury went to press.

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