Queen drummer Roger Taylor remembers his childhood in King’s Lynn
PUBLISHED: 13:59 30 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:59 31 October 2018
In 1999, Roger Taylor spoke to the EDP’s arts editor Trevor Heaton about his childhood in King’s Lynn.
“I remember those times with great fondness,” he said in a rare interview almost 20 years ago.
Kings Lynn was proud of the new maternity wing at the West Norfolk and Lynn Hospital, off London Road, which had opened just in time to welcome Roger Meddows Taylor to the world.
So when it was announced that the Queen would be coming to open it officially, it was the icing on the cake for the band of health workers and volunteers who supported the hospital’s work.
When the Queen - subsequently the Queen mother - arrived for her two hour tour of the hospital on Saturday August 1, 1949, she was handed a golden key to perform the official ceremony, watched by the great and good of Lynn.
The opening over, the Queen chatted to the 16 mother’s or mother’s-to-be in the new unit. The first one she spoke to was Winifred Taylor, who lived with her husband Michael at 87 High Street, in the heart of the town’s shopping centre.
The Queen told her how lucky patients were to have “such a lovely place”. She chatted to Mrs Taylor about her new son, and his name.
And thus, at six days old, Roger Meddows Taylor found himself at the centre of attention.
It was something he would have to get used to. For years later, he joined with Brian May, John Deacon and Freddie Bulsara - who had changed his name to the much more memorable “Mercury” to form Queen, and went on to grab the world of rock music by it’s collective scruff of the neck and sell countless millions of singles and albums.
But let’s press the rewind button for Roger Taylor, the superstar singer, songwriter and musician and go back to a little four-year-old who was trying his best to resist his mother’s efforts to get him to start his first day at Rosebery Avenue school in Gaywood, on an autumn day in 1954.
“I remember being dragged off to school on my first day hanging on to the ice cream sign because I didn’t want to go,” he laughs.
But, with a bit of persuasion, he let go and found himself travelling the few hundred yards from the Beulah Street to the school, where he joined the 40 or so pupils in the reception class and settled down to this new phase in his life.
Roger’s parents, Winifred and Michael, a manger with the Potato Marketing Board, had moved to the streets off Gaywood’s arterial Wootton Road, soon after his birth.
“Beulah Street is now much as it was then, a neat collection of classic early 20th century town villas,” wrote Trevor Heaton.
“Sturdy, no nonsense houses, the bricks-and-mortar equivalent of a pair of sensible shoes.”
A couple of years after the houses were put up around 1913, the German’s sent Zeppelins over the east coast and people from the town used to come and stay in the houses to escape the bombs. Nowadays a simple bridge goes over the Gaywood river which runs at the bottom of the road, joining Wooton Road to the River Lane sports pitches. Wootton Road itself is much busier than in the early 1950s, with a constant stream of commuters going back and forth to hundreds of the houses which have sprung up on the outskirts of Lynn over the last generation.
Back then, things were quieter, and Beulah Street was a cul-de-sac, with the road petering out by the river (a fact which caused many a missed heartbeat to unwary drivers over the years) and then looking out over miles of heath and farmland to the town proper.
“Not a bad place to grow up in”, said Mr Taylor. “The road used to be very quiet. I remember going down to the end of the street and looking into the river. I used to see the odd pike or two. I was constantly warned not to fall in.”
After moving to Cornwall, Mr Taylor would regularly come back to visit his grandmother Annie Hickman who lived on Birchwood Street in King’s Lynn’s North End.
As a teenager on visits to King’s Lynn he would stay with a friend at the post office on Tennyson Avenue.
Alice Morris, 92, was his godmother and best friends with his grandmother Annie Hickman.
She remembers the “not very strong slight boy” who always looked after his grandmother financially even when he moved away.
“He went to college because he wanted to be a dentist but he was too good at drumming,” she said.