Foxearth & District History Society – Report of meeting 13th Feb 2018

The Foxearth and District Local History Society began its 20th season on February 13th 2018 with a Film archive evening. As we watched “Yarmouth in days gone by” we were taken on a herring fishing trip in raging seas and on a hair-raising big dipper ride; these really were moving pictures and not for the faint-hearted!

Yarmouth was a town built on the abundant herring fishing at the height of which some 800 million fish would be caught in a season. Until the early years of the 20th century sailing boats comprised the fleet but the advent of the coal-fired steam drifter greatly increased the yield as these, much larger  vessels, were not reliant on the wind; there were 1,000 registered drifters at one time.

This industry was highly labour intensive and hundreds of women were employed in cleaning and preserving the fish by salting and smoking. Many girls came down from Scotland to work and such “imported” labour swelled the population of the town by 10,000 in the season. The export trade thrived. To protect their hands girls bandaged their fingers and the experienced ones could gut herrings at the incredible rate of 65 a minute. The inevitable result was that they took back to their lodgings the stench of their workplace and put newspaper on the walls in an effort to absorb the odour. Herring fishing was considerably curtailed during the second World War with many of the drifters being diverted to patrol and mine detecting work and by the mid 1950s the white fish trade had largely taken over.

The other aspect of Yarmouth life from the beginning of the 20th century was its development as a holiday resort. Visitors had always come to bathe believing that the sea would cure many ailments and the provision of railway links led to the town’s rapid transition to a major attraction with its two piers and associated amusments,rides, circus and theatre. Stars like Tommy Cooper,

Charlie Chester and Arthur Askey brought in the fans. The harbour became a venue for pleasure craft taking holiday makers on tours and to the Broads and – away from the seaside – there was the race course and aeroplane flights over the area. All of this made Yarmouth the fifth wealthiest town in England for a period.

This was a very thougthfully composed film, full of interest  from start to finish and applauded by the 25 members in attendance. Members were reminded that a deposit of £5 was requested from those intending to go on the trip to Ely on 14th August.

Next meeting: Tuesday 13th March at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall. This will be the Annual General Meeting to which members (and new ones will always be welcomed) are asked to bring old photographs of Foxearth and surrounding villages.

Ken Nice

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