Remembering days of pots and power

In the pre-package holidays era, they were the beating heart of Yarmouth's thriving tourist industry. Now seaside landladies past and present will be recalling those glory days in a reunion at the town's Time and Tide museum.

By STEPHEN PULLINGER

In the pre-package holidays era, they were the beating heart of Yarmouth's thriving tourist industry.

Now seaside landladies past and present will be recalling those glory days in a reunion at the town's Time and Tide museum.

The event from 2pm to 4pm on January 25 is being organised to help museum staff create a record of Yarmouth life since the war in a special project called Our Town.

Following an appeal in the EDP in September, several landladies have already come forward to be interviewed and it is hoped many more will turn up at the reunion, bringing old photographs and memorabilia such as guest books that can be copied.

Among those already to have taped their reminiscences for what will become a community archive is Barbara Wells, of Gorleston, who helped her grandmother and mother run guesthouses before taking on her own, in Wellesley Road, Yarmouth, from 1983-2000.

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Mrs Wells, 68, who welcomed plans for the reunion, said: "After the war my grandmother had a big old merchant's house on North Quay and in those days anyone who had spare rooms used to let them out. The town always had low wages and the extra money wives could earn in this way used to help out."

She recalled that her grandmother Maude Clarke let out seven rooms even though she only had one cold tap indoors and an outside toilet at the bottom of several steps in the yard.

Mrs Wells, who helped her grandmother until the age of 17, said: "There were no vacuum cleaners and the only electrical appliance was an iron which was plugged into the light- bulb socket to allow ironing to be done on the kitchen table."

She said by the time her mother Edith Liddiment took on a guesthouse in Sandown Road, Yarmouth, in the late 1950s, the era of bathrooms and washbasins in rooms had at least dawned.

"It was non-stop during the season. You were booked up for July and August by the end of May by advertising in local papers in the Midlands," she said.

When Mrs Wells opened her own eight-bedroom guesthouse, the era had moved on from "chamber pots to en-suites".

"En-suites were the first thing people asked for when they knocked on the door because that had become normal on holidays abroad," she said.

Now in retirement, she is still reminded of her hectic life through Christmas cards and letters from guests who became family friends after several visits.

Colin Stott, who is managing the Our Town project with Laura Matthews, said it would culminate in a major exhibition at Time and Tide later this year. There would also be a travelling display to community venues and a special website.

Alongside the post-war boom in the seaside industry, other themes will include the decline of the fishing industry and the rapid growth of the oil and gas industry.

Mr Stott said interviews already conducted with landladies showed they wielded considerable power in the town.

He said: "Peter Jay acknowledged they could make or break his summer shows depending on whether they liked it and sent their guests his way."

Themes that have emerged are the special friendships forged with families, returning year after year, and the long hours, staying up until the last guest had left the bar.

He said: "At the end of the season, it seems many went off for a well-earned break to Spain for several weeks. Then by the end of the winter it would all start again with the taking of bookings."

To attend the reunion, call Laura Matthews on 01493 745526.