North Walsham’s past glories captured in slide show

Scores of photographs from North Walsham's glory days will take spectators on a nostalgic trip down memory lane next week.

The event, North Walsham Remembered, has been compiled by avid collector Brian Hedge who has amassed some 18,000 photos of old Norfolk buildings, townscapes and people over the past four decades.

He has put together 250 of them in a slide show to illustrate many of the scenes lost forever in North Walsham over the past 90 years.

They include much-loved shops, booming businesses and homes such as the cottages along Vicarage Street which were demolished in a post-war 'slum clearance' to be replaced by a car park.

Mr Hedge, who was born in wartime Norwich, was adopted by a North Walsham family aged three weeks and grew up in the town, which he came to love.

His collecting days began when he met his future wife Bridget, nee Cook, who is one of a large Thorpe Market family.

'When I went to her home they were always talking about the local blacksmith or shoemaker and I used to go round to those people's families and ask if they had photos of them that I could copy,' said Mr Hedge, who now lives with his wife in Worstead.

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In those days he mounted a camera on a tripod to take pictures of photos but he now uses the latest digital technology to copy and archive his collection.

As his reputation for collecting grew, many began giving him photos of other places and he still receives frequent phone calls from people with items he might like.

'I just like looking back into the past,' he said. 'To see how things were done and to know all about the people who used to do things that way.

'North Walsham now is really dead. All the big businesses have gone - Crane's, Smedley's, the laundry, Marrick Wire Ropes, Howard's Coachworks, and they built Sainsbury's where Randell's Foundry stood. It used to employ about 150 people,' he recalled.

The idea for the slide show arose from two popular exhibitions held over the past two years in North Walsham by Mr Hedge, Mike Ling and other members of North Walsham Community Archive Group.

He hopes the audience at his slide show, on Saturday January 14, will share their memories of North Walsham's past during a question and answer session which will form part of the evening.

But Mr Hedge is not without hope for the future of the town. He has chosen to show his slides in the cinema of North Walsham's new Atrium building, on the Spenser Avenue high school site.

The building opened in September and Mr Hedge, who is a retired electrician, is the first private individual to book its cinema. He plans to offer time in future as a volunteer projectionist there.

'The Atrium is just about the only good change there has been in North Walsham,' he said. 'It's marvellous to have a building like that in the town - it's our equivalent of The Forum, in Norwich.

'I'm hoping people who come will realise what a beautiful place it is and will start to use it.'

The new cinema is the first in the town since the old Regal, on New Road, closed in the late 1970s. It had particular memories for Mr Hedge who, as a schoolboy, cleared up rubbish there nightly, including cigarette ends from behind the bike shed, in return for two weekly cinema tickets.

? Tickets to North Walsham Remembered cost �5 and are available from The Showcase Gallery, 40A Market Place, North Walsham. The evening starts at 7pm.

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