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Ding! Ding! Move Along The Bus Please. #11

After the last three posts that arose from a nostalgic revisit of the haunts of my student days in Cambridge I'm going to travel a little further back in time, and a little further east. Back to Gorleston in the summer of 1976. That legendary long hot summer that was part of my student days in Bangor. This piece of drivel features the next bygone boozer on that virtual bus journey that started way back with this post about the bygone boozers of Hall Quay and had reached as far as the former Three Tuns which stood on the corner of Garnham Road and High Street in Gorleston.

At times, after moving his showroom from opposite the former Crown and Anchor in Baker Street to Lowestoft, my father had a storeroom in number of different locations around Gorleston. He had had one near Gorleston Garage in Springfield Road, one in the former Gorleston Station building, but in 1976 he was using one in Bulls Lane, and it was on one of those hot summer evenings a lorry full of rolls of roofing felt needed unloading. No forklifts back then. It was simply a matter of the lorry driver putting a roll onto my shoulder, me carrying it into the store, standing it on its end on the floor, then returning to the lorry and repeating. And repeating. And then repeating again.

Successfully all unloaded, and with the driver given directions as to how to get on the A143 heading for Bury St. Edmunds – no satnavs back then either – I felt that I'd earned a pint, so I popped into the Old Commodore for a swift one to slake my thirst.

The Old Commodore as it was in May 2012. © Google 2024

Standing on the corner where Bulls Lane met High Street, its door was all of around thirty yards away from where those n-hundred rolls of felt now stood on their ends. My memory has me quaffing a pint of Tolly Cobbold's finest – I use the term loosely. I remember for it was pretty unusual not to be forced to consume the offerings of either Whitbread or the produce from Watney's Norwich Brewery at any place in Gorleston other than the Tramway, which offered brews from Adnam's. I know that Whitbread leased some of their pubs to Tolly Cobbold in the late '70s and '80s. The Star and Garter – which appeared in the very first post about this virtual bus journey – I know was one, but I can't find any firm record of them having the Commodore, so I'm having to rely solely on my memory for this.

The earliest that I've been able to pin the Old Commodore down to is 1871 when Isaac Marshall was the keeper of an unnamed beerhouse on High Street at the time of the census.

Extract from the 1871 census.

It's the right bit of High Street as the neighbours match those of Edward Pearson who was in residence when the next census was taken. One in which the pub was named.

Extract from the 1881 census.

Isaac had moved a little further along High Street by then, and was running the Fishing Boat which will feature in a later instalment of this journey. For it too is a bygone boozer.

Whilst 1871 is the earliest year in which I can be pretty certain that the Old Commodore was in existence, I have found a reference in White's 1845 directory which is still puzzling me a little.

Extract from White's 1845 directory.

I know of no Church Road in Great Yarmouth but all the other entries in the directory which refer specifically to Gorleston seem to name it. I've never heard of a Commodore pub in Great Yarmouth. Did Gorleston's current Church Road actually exist in 1845? It did in 1851, but there was no pub mentioned there in that year's census. Was this simply a compiler's error in attributing the wrong road to the pub? I've already said that I know of no Church Road in Great Yarmouth, but did one exist there in 1845? Is this actually referring to our bygone boozer? I don't know, so I'll just plant the reference here and move on.

Anyway, going back to Edward Person, White’s directory still has him keeping a beerhouse on High Street in 1883, but by the time that competitors Kelly produced their version five years later he'd been replaced by Thompson Swan, who had previously been at the Oddfellows Arms on Cliff Hill.

Extract from Kelly's 1888 directory.

In 1890, Thompson Swan was still running a beerhouse at the correct address...

Extract from White's 1890 directory.

...but by the time the census was taken the following year Thompson had moved around the corner into Trafalgar Road East and was trying his luck at hawking coal. His place at the Commodore had been taken by Saville Argyle. What great names folks had at the end of the nineteenth century!

Extract from the 1891 census.

Thompson hadn't stayed long and Saville's residence was probably even shorter, for by the following year one Henry Randall was mine host.

Extract from Kelly's 1892 directory.

He was still there in 1894...

Extract from Cook's 1894 directory. 1896...

Extract from Kelly's 1896 directory. 1901...

Extract from the 1901 census.

...and in 1908...

Extract from Kelly's 1908 directory.

...but had retired by the time the 1911 census came around.

Extract from the 1911 census.

Ellen Wales had moved into the Old Commodore after having run a number of pubs in both Gorleston and Great Yarmouth with her late husband Robert.

Old Commodore Gorleston
The Old Commodore in Ellen Wales's day.

She was joined shortly after by her son and daughter-in-law, Herbert and May, who'd been running the Suffolk Fishery on Pier Walk.

Ellen died in March 1914 and three months later so did Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria. Ellen's demise in Great Yarmouth's General Hospital didn't greatly upset the stability of Europe, but Franz Ferdinand's in the streets of Sarajevo certainly did.

War came. Herbert answered Lord Kitchener's call and in 1917 found himself in France, leaving May in charge of the Old Commodore. He's still there. One of five killed, along with three wounded and twenty-two reported missing, whilst retaking a trench near Roclincourt. He now lies in a trench of his own in Orchard Dump Cemetery, at Arleux-en-Gohelle.

By the end of the year May had remarried and, as Mrs May Bayntun, continued to run the Old Commodore until around 1940.

Extract from Kelly's 1933 directory, with May's surname spelled incorrectly.

During her tenure, in 1935, the pub was demolished and rebuilt, set a bit further back from the road. In all probability it was designed by Lacon's chief surveyor A. W. Ecclestone. "Billy" Ecclestone was responsible for the design of a number of Lacon's pubs built around this time in the Art Deco style, including the Iron Duke and Clipper Schooner in Great Yarmouth along with Gorleston's Links Hotel, which all featured in this earlier post.

When Lacon's brewery was acquired by Whitbread in 1965 the Old Commodore went with it and as I intimated up the page, I believe was leased to Ipswich brewer Tolly Cobbold in the late seventies. I remember that at some point in the eighties it became the Pink Flamingo for a while before returning to the Old Commodore in the mid-nineties allowing the old boy to sail into the twenty-first century.

A new millennium produced a new name. The Old Commodore was rejuvenated, becoming the New Commodore in 2003.

New Commodore Gorleston
The New Commodore in October 2008. © Google 2024

Being born again couldn't save the place for it was closed when I popped back to Gorleston in 2010 to visit Dad. It did have a brief renaissance as a Mexican-themed place, Chillies, a couple of years later but that venture didn't last long. After closing for the final time the Commodore, Old or New, was converted into a day nursery. There could very well be a pink flamingo inside to amuse its young clientele.

The Ordnance Survey map extract is copyright and has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the terms of this CC BY licence.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.


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