Then and Now
by Geoff Pardon
Following a recent conversation I had regarding my collection of old views of the village, it was mentioned that it would be interesting to visit the locations where the originals were taken and then compare the changes that have occurred over the years, and this is the result. In the descriptions given I have drawn from my knowledge of having lived in the village all my life and my father and my grandfather before me.
Beacon Hill 1930
A colour postcard published by Pearson’s stores of Trimingham. The B1159 coast road winds its way over Beacon Hill and each side of the road is grazing farm land. The small side road on the left is the entrance to The Nest, which was originally a holiday retreat built by the Jarrold family (of the Jarrold department stores). The building on the hill-top is Beacon Hill Cottage which was demolished when the “Golf Ball” radar was installed by the RAF. Directly opposite to this house there was a track leading to the cliff top, which continued on to a beach access at Marl Point below Beacon Lane. Later, due to cliff erosion, the track went on down the cliffs behind where Trimingham House caravan site now is and on to the Fishermen’s gangway. This was the route taken by the fishermen of the village to where the boats were kept, and they had small huts and bell tents on the cliff to keep their gear in.
In 1941 ten acres of land on both sides of the coast road at Beacon Hill was taken over by the M.O.D and was initially used by the army as an early radar site for detecting E-boats and low-flying aircraft as part of the wartime defences. Also at this time the infamous mine fields were sown along the cliff tops, and in 1942 the site was transferred to the Air Ministry when it became RAF Trimingham. The site was equipped with a Type 54 radar on a 200 foot tower, which was sited directly behind Beacon Hill Cottage. On the seaward side of the road three other types of radar were installed on concrete plinths, which remain there today. On the land side of the road a guard-house was built along with access to the underground operation rooms. A military accommodation site was established 1.5 miles away at what is now Fraser Crescent estate and Collingwood Drive. This site also became the base for the mine-clearing operations which took place up until 1966, when the beach and cliffs were declared safe for the public to use.
The same view taken in 2019
Beacon Hill cottage has gone and the track that led to the beach was closed when the M.O.D took over the site. Access to the beach is now via Vale Road. A second entrance to the site has been created just over the hill on the land side of the road. This is for heavy transporters to access the site and move the mobile radar unit contained in the “Golf Ball” to other sites. The sea side of the road was for a few years used as grazing pasture but has now become largely overgrown.
The site was mothballed in 1964 and in 1969 the 200ft tower was demolished; in 1980 RAF Trimingham was closed. The site was sold and the guard-house became a private house. At the end of the 1980s the MOD decided to repurchase the site, but only the landward side of the road. The guard-house was modified, having its original 1940s veranda removed and dormer windows put in the roof. Further development of the site saw Beacon Hill Cottage demolished and by the mid 1990s the radar dome appeared and on-site generators were installed. Today the site remains operational and is linked with RAF Boulmer, in Northumberland and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, forming part of the UK air defences.
On the seaward side, cliff erosion has reached the boundary fence of the site, where there used to be around 30 meters of rough grass land and barbed wire fencing before the cliff edge. The entire cliff top had barbed wire fencing which stretched from the Low grounds at Watch Tower Lane on the West side of the village to the border of Mundesley in the East. The fencing had signs warning of mines and to keep out. When the beach was re-opened the wire and signs remained as it was estimated that around 100 unexploded mines remained. Cliff erosion has now taken all of the fencing and the mines!
For more details about the RAF at Trimingham visit:
Wikipedia, RAF Trimingham; Norfolk Heritage Explorer, RAF Trimingham; Subterranea Britannia.
East Cliff 1926.
A photo taken looking west from the cliff top behind Beacon Hill in 1926. The large building on the left was High-Cliff House, now High Lawns. The building to the left was the post office and general stores, now Seagulls and Old Post House. To the right can be seen the roof of the large barn at Beacon Farm and in the distance is the Church. The next building in the distance to the right is Bar Haven, a guest house which had a nine-hole golf course, and at the time had its entrance on the old coast road (Loop Road). Bar haven is now Grey-stones and was one of the few properties in the village to have a wartime air-raid shelter. The whitewashed building is Cliff Farm and at the time was a working farm with several outbuildings.
All of the buildings and land to the right of Cliff Farm have been lost to cliff erosion. Some of the houses were demolished and materials used to construct the Retreat on Gimingham Road. Also parts of the red brick and flint walls can be found on the beach after rough weather washes away the beach sand. The area was known as Low Street and a roadway from here led up to the Crown & Anchor yard where it joined the coast road. This road was called the Promenade, and there was another track past Cliff Farm and High-Cliff House which joined the coast road on Beacon Hill.
One of the properties was a four bedroom house called The Lime Works which was owned by a Mr James Marshall. He operated lime kilns here and created a track down the cliff to where the chalk was excavated by hand, employing a horse and cart to bring it up to the kilns for burning. The process produced quick-lime for building and soil treatment. My grandfather, when not at sea, worked for Mr Marshall, and he used to turn the lime in the kilns. This was to ensure the chalk was dried evenly. Mr Marshall was also a saddler and harness-maker.
Low Street used to run further East from here and had a row of terraced houses similar to Malvern Terrace in Middle Street. These were lost to cliff erosion a decade or so before this photo was taken.
The same view in 2019
This photo was taken from a position as near as possible to the 1926 photo; however, with about 40 meters of cliff top gone, here the view is at a slightly different angle. The cliff edge is now just to the right of Cliff Farm and there are more than 50 meters gone here. The Promenade road has been closed and incorporated into the grounds of Cliff House and the track past High Lawns is now the driveway to Cliff Farm. Cliff Farm is used as a holiday home and the black timber chalet to the left is Windy Ridge, another holiday home. This was once a naval radio listening station operated by WRENS, who were billeted at Cliff House in the 1914-18 war; Cliff House was a convalescent home at the time. High Lawns is now flats, along with the adjoining stables now called The Coach House.
High Lawns, formerly High-Cliff, was once a guest house and gained its name from an extensive lawn area to the west of the building that once had a tennis court and a bowls green used by the guests and the local bowls club.
The bungalow in the foreground is The Dale which was built on the site of a former holiday chalet called The Pightle. This was constructed from an old railway carriage standing on telegraph poles as legs to counter the slope of the land. The farm land in the 1926 photo has mostly all been lost to cliff erosion and the remaining area up to the main coast road is now disused meadow.
Mundesley Road 1930
A view of the Mundesley Road looking East on a printed postcard published by S.E.Pearson, General Stores, Trimingham. The coast road has no markings and no speed limit. The building in the distance is High-Cliff House with its stables, and the next building is Seagulls with the Post Office and general stores just behind the Crown & Anchor hotel sign. Directly opposite here was the fresh-water pump in a gap in the hedge. Not every property had mains water at the time and fresh water was collected and carried to individual properties. There was a cast-iron hand-pump to fill your bucket and a wooden picket fence around the gap in the hedge. Mains water arrived in the 1950s and the derelict pump was removed in the late 1970s and donated to Cromer Museum. The Post Office was also the telegraph station and at this time few houses had telephones, so messages came to the telegraph station where a hand-written note was given to a runner who then delivered it. The runner was usually a young lad and my father used to do this for 6d (2.5p) per message.
The Crown & Anchor hotel was built in 1840s, and had 18 double rooms, two bars and a restaurant. There was also a stable block with hay-loft adjacent to the hotel and this was on the Promenade road leading down to Cliff Farm and the cottages in the area known as Low Street.
The building at right angles to the road pre-dates the hotel and was a converted farm building and was used as a garage and storage by the hotel. Next to this building was Taylors Lane which led almost 120 meters to the cliff edge, where there was a small cottage. On the lane, just past the hotel there was a wide-gated entrance to the hotel gardens, which led to a flight of steps with concrete crowns on plinths at the hotel door. The lawns and gardens went almost halfway down the lane and just beyond here there was a midden. A midden was an early form of rubbish dump and was used mainly for glass bottles, tin cans and ash from coal fires – no plastic or polythene bags in this age. Taylors Lane was a very ancient track and its hedges were composed of sloes bushes, hedge maple, wild filbert nut, crab apple and wild hops. The building behind the flint wall is Beacon Farm, a working farm at the time with pig sties, bullock sheds and a large hay barn around a big square yard behind the farmhouse. In the hedged area just beyond the flint wall was the farm pond. This pond was fed through a drain under the road with water from an area known as The Pit across the main road at the bottom of Middle Street, which was natural drainage from the fields and roadway. The pond overflowed into another drainage pit further down Taylors Lane and this led to a natural drain which ran to the cliff edge at the bottom of the lane.
The white fence on the left was the entrance to a camp site, where the Boys Brigade had a summer camp. The Boys Brigade also camped on the cliff top at Trimingham House, before the District Council created a permanent camp-site on the Gimingham Road.
And in the right-hand corner of the picture is the edge of the Green and the entrance to Middle Street.
The same view 2019
The coast road looks much the same but now has markings and a 40 mph limit. The biggest change is that the Crown & Anchor has gone. In 1988, whilst undergoing a major refurbishment, a fire broke out in the roof and it was destroyed beyond economic repair, and after standing derelict for five years it was demolished in 1994 along with the stables. The old farm building on Taylors Lane had been demolished in the mid 1970s after the roof collapsed during a gale. The site has now become “amenity land” and is just a grass meadow with sea views. The Promenade road and Taylors Lane have both gone and the cliff edge is now only 40 metres from the main road which would have been up to the lawns and gardens behind the old hotel! The area which was a midden went down the cliff in the 1990s and I have many interesting old bottles and stone jars found from here.
On the opposite side of the road the drainage pit at the bottom of Middle Street has gone, and the surface water now goes into drains connected to the main sewer which was built in the late 1970s.
The pond in Beacon Farm has been filled and the second drainage pit on Taylors Lane has now gone over the cliff. Beacon Farm is now a private house with B&B and no longer a working farm, but in the early 1960s there used to be corn driers in the large barn behind the house and there were pigs and bullocks in the smaller outbuildings. The corn driers were moved to Grange Farm in Church Street when the farm was sold. The fields behind the farm on the cliff edge were used for growing hay and the area which was used as a camp site is now gardens to the Bullock Cottages.
MIDDLE STREET 1912.
A printed PC dated 1912. The street is a dirt track with no tarmac and this photo was taken just three years after the Methodist chapel was built. The chapel site was once a wood yard with a derelict thatched barn. The Methodists used the small building across the street (the small gable behind the hedge) before having the new chapel built. This was known as the Cart shed chapel and was used for worship from the mid 19th century until the new chapel was built. Before this worship took place in the open air.
The water in the foreground was known as The Pit and was formed by natural drainage from the street and adjoining farmland. Just beyond Malvern Terrace the building at right angles to the street was known as Cubitt’s workshop with double doors opening on to the street. On the left hand side is a farm house which had a small dairy, now Three-ways, and this is one of the older properties in the village dating from before 1750. Directly opposite to the farm was the butcher’s shop.
The Cubitt family had quite a presence in Middle Street – as well as owning the workshop, Samuel Cubitt built two of the cottages at the top of the street and George Cubitt owned Malvern terrace, and he once owned Three-ways before moving to Beacon Farm.
MIDDLE STREET 2020.
The same view in 2020. The tarmac road now has drainage connected to the mains sewer and The Pit has disappeared with drainage from the farm land going into a ditch behind the bank on the left. The chapel is now two private houses and was used for worship up to the 1950s. Behind the privet hedge in front of the chapel are the remains of a flint wall, which was part of the old thatched barn from the wood yard. Just past the stone wall At Last has been rebuilt with an upper floor. The next property, Little-Dene, once two cottages, has been made into one but remains single storey and The Butchers Shop is now an annex to Little-Dene. Malvern Terrace is virtually unchanged and Cubitt’s workshop is now Berlea cottage. The large doors that once opened onto the street have been bricked up and replaced with two circular leaded windows.
On the other side of the street Three-ways was a holiday home from the around 1910 up until now and was owned by the Fowler family from Leicester until 1990 when it was then purchased by my sister. During what became a major refurbishment much of the original farm house came to light. The original dairy became the kitchen with a trap door leading up into the hay loft, which is now a bedroom. Opening up one of the fire places revealed an old bread oven and many of the original timbers have been preserved throughout the house including old ship’s spars in the roof, which presumably were salvaged from shipwrecks from the local beach. There was once a rumour that a smugglers’ tunnel led to a cellar under the cottage but alas we found no evidence of this.
When the Fowlers owned Three-ways the Cart Shed chapel was turned into an annex with four beds for extra visitors, and in the 1950s and 60s there were a lot of visitors in the summer months. My father used to maintain the house and gardens and I continued this until recently.
Adjacent to the farm house the old barn has been converted into two properties, Blazes and Sou-west.
CHURCH STREET 1935.
A photographic postcard dated 1935. The view shows the road going to the left at the church and in to Loop road, which at the time was still the main coast road. The road has no white lines and there are no street signs. The row of cottages on the left were owned by the Pearson’s. The first cottage was a grocery and general stores, the middle cottage was holiday accommodation and the cottage nearest was Pearson’s tearooms, catering for visitors and holidaymakers. The M&GN railway brought many visitors to the village and they stayed at the Crown & Anchor hotel and guest houses such as Bar-haven, Cliff-house and Highcliffe. At this time enormous benefits to health were said to be had from a holiday or short stay spent in the dry “champagne” air at Trimingham and after a scramble down the cliffs secluded and safe bathing could be had! (this was before the mine fields).
The grocery and general store also became the post office, but at the time this photo was taken it was at Cubbits stores on Mundesley road, (now the Old Post-house).
On the corner of Church Lane there is a large stone, this is a piece of grey limestone left behind as glacial drift during the last ice age, locally these were known as “mount stones” and used as an aid to mount bicycles and even horses. There used to be another one of these in the old pub yard and the one that is in the photo is still there today, around the corner in Church Lane.
THE SAME VIEW 2020.
The main road now takes a sharp right bend and rejoins the original coast road at The Green. The new road was built in the late 1950`s due to cliff erosion and the old road became known as the Loop road. Loop road was not very busy and I remember as a youngster running our home made go-karts from just behind Grey-stones down the hill, around the bend at Bottle-dene and all the way to the shop! It was still used up until the mid 1980`s when the cliff erosion reached the road and motor vehicles were barred and barriers were placed just beyond Grey-stones at the eastern end and Bottle-dene at the western end. The road has now gone behind the new houses and is mostly overgrown and inaccessible. The row of cottages are all now holiday homes and the cottage on the left, (Trimmy house), has had its roof raised. In the mid 1960`s the Post Office moved from Bottle-dene on Loop road to the grocery and general stores and it was run by Alice Pearson. I remember the layout inside the shop, the entrance door had a bell on a springy piece of metal which alerted Alice there was someone in the shop. A beam across the ceiling had rows of pegs from which various items hung for sale, and these included ladies hair nets, sticky fly catching strips and lamp wicks. A glass cabinet behind the door contained various souvenirs including crested china, novelty ash trays and Trimingham-on-sea car stickers. On a shelf behind the counter there were a row of large glass jars containing various sweets, mint humbugs, lemon sherbets, jelly babies etc. To the right of the door beside the newspaper rack there hung a Frith’s postcard rack with sepia postcards all with views of the village. The post office counter was in a small room at the back of the shop and the post box was built into the wall just down the side of the shop off the road.
In the late 1970`s the isolated North Norfolk area suffered a spate of post office raids and Trimingham was one that was targeted on two separate occasions. The first raid resulted in Alice receiving a black eye and broken glasses but nothing was taken and the assailant fled. On the second occasion two masked men broke into the shop and threatened Alice with an iron bar and made off with a four figure sum of cash. Alice, in her mid 70`s, was badly shaken but still opened the shop and post office the following day. Unfortunately this spelt the end of both the shop and post office and not long after the raid they both were closed. The red phone box was installed in the late 1950`s and was used by many villagers, several times I recall having to queue and wait to make a call! The box now houses a defibrillator for emergency use.
CHURCH STREET 1934.
This is the lower part of Church Street and on the left is the school. Built in 1849 by Lord Buxton for the education of poor children, it was in use as a school until 1932. After this the youngsters of the village attended the Belfry School in Overstrand. Following the closure of the school the Rev. Arthur Buxton allowed the building to be used as the village hall and functions such as Christmas parties, jumble sales, dances and whist drives were regularly held until this all moved to the Pilgrim Shelter.
Further along the street is Grange Cottage. This used to be where W. Warne ran a blacksmith shop, and on the other side of the street there are eight semi-detached flint cottages, all built by Lord Buxton. George Clark, a fisherman, lived at number 16 and he had a smoke house at the back of the cottage. He worked his boat, Mayflower, from Trimingham beach until the mine field stopped all fishing activity. After the war the beaches remained closed but George used the railway to bring fresh fish and crabs from along the coast to Trimingham where he then delivered them around the local villages. This gained the railway the title of The Crab & Winkle Line.
Lower Church street 2020
Buxton Hall, the old school, is a private property now but in the 1980s and 90s Norman Spence ran a motor repair shop here and both myself and my father had our cars fixed and MOT’d here. Norman is now retired and still lives there today.
Most of the cottages are now hidden from view by garden growth and trees but are largely unchanged, apart from the usual modern additions like plastic window frames.
This is the narrowest part of the busy main coast road through the village and it has been on the parish council agenda for decades to get street lighting and/or a footpath past the houses to join the pavement at the church. The most recent development was to extend the 30 mph speed limit to beyond Woodlands Leisure Park. There is still a need for 20 mph through Church Street and the bend at the church.