In my last post on Smithfield's Old Dick you may have noticed that I made a short reference to having been in Sweden recently. Unsurprisingly, I did have a local beer or two whilst there and that reminded me that in the 'stop press' of this earlier post I'd said that I would say a few words about The Great Adventures of Mafaza, an American-style pale ale which was one of the 'specials' produced by Östersunds Nya Ångbryggeri (Ostersund's New Steam Brewery), under the Jemtehed & Brande brand, when I'd sampled it.
At this point I'd just like to say that if you're here for a bygone boozer, don't worry, one will pop up in a bit.
Back to The Great Adventures of Mafaza. Well, I sampled it a while ago, forgot that I hadn't commented and have also forgotten everything about it. I can't have another as it's one of their limited production range but to make amends here's a brief remark or two on the regular American Pale Ale produced by Ostersund's New Steam Brewery, that I managed to quaff during the recent trip.
The 5.4% brew poured clear from the 33cl bottle, deep golden with a thin white head which was quite short-lived. My rather inefficient olfactory organ caught wafts of citrus and maltiness and when I slurped a mouthful I narrowed the citrus bit down to grapefruit. Overall, not especially bitter and it disappeared very quickly leaving me wanting more. That's partly due to it only being a 33cl bottle, but it was also very much to my palette. It was just a shame that I didn't have another.
And with that done let's steam on to the bygone boozer, and in keeping with the steam theme this post's offering is the Steam Packet on Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth. The town has had four pubs which have borne this name at some point in their lives, all of which are now closed. The one that used to be on Hall Quay got a passing reference in this post and this one was the last of the four to shut up shop.
Back in the mid and late '70s it was customary for me to take an annual excursion along Yarmouth's sea front. In the student days I'd be accompanied by my much missed old school mates Ian and Paul and then, when our paths had parted, by erstwhile workmate Steve. The object and methodology were always the same – take the bus into town, then another one along Marine Parade to the Pleasure Beach from where we'd walk back along the seafront to 'admire the scenery' whilst popping into the odd hostelry or five on the way. The Steam Packet would be one of those ports of call.
Dating from about a hundred and thirty years before our 'sightseeing tours' the earliest record of it being mentioned by name that I've found is in White's 1845 directory of Norfolk. This lists Joseph Denny as being at the Steam Packet in South Town, a name which was sometimes used to describe the South Denes or South Beach area of the town and should not to be confused with Southtown on the other side of River Yare, which links Great Yarmouth with Gorleston.
I'm pretty certain that he was there a few years before 1845 though. White's directory of Suffolk, published the previous year, for some reason contains entries for Great Yarmouth. Great Yarmouth was never, ever, in Suffolk. Gorleston and Southtown – yes, that Southtown – were parts of Suffolk when the county boundary was the mid-line of the River Yare, as it was in 1844. But Yarmouth? Never.
Anyway, that 1844 directory of Suffolk shows Joseph Denny to be running an unnamed beer house somewhere in the South Beach area...
...and the census from three years before that, even though it's not named, puts him at the Steam Packet, for Henry Roper was the landlord of the neighbouring and still operating (but now simply called The Marine) Marine Tavern at the time.
The Steam Packet continued to operate for another century before closing in 1940 for the duration of the Second World War, opening again in 1946. Post-war business must've been brisk as at some point, probably in the 1960s, the pub expanded into the two properties to its south and it was this enlarged version, extending up to Devonshire Road with the Windmill Theatre across on the other side, that I recall. In the summer season it would be packed with holidaymakers and it was, as the sizzling Sun of the seventies would have put it, the luscious Lindas from Liverpool along with the stunning Staceys from Stourbridge that attracted we admirers of scenery. It certainly wouldn't have been the beer, which was Norwich Bitter, brewed in the city's former Morgan's brewery that had trickled down to Watney's following their acquisition of both Bullard's and Steward & Patteson in 1963.
In the 1980s, around the time that I moved away from Norfolk, the Steam Packet had a change of identity, switching its name to became The Sandpiper.
Quite why the name of that particular wading bird was chosen I don't know, for I have never seen a sandpiper on Yarmouth beach. Turnstones and dunlins, yes, but never a sandpiper. Not a green one, nor a purple one, not even a common one. This dearth of sandpipers may well have mirrored the customer numbers attracted to the renamed pub, for it closed in 1991.
After closure, the part which was the original Steam Packet became an amusement arcade – The Showboat, if my ageing brain is performing well – whilst the area of expansion was, for a brief while, a marine archaeology museum – Treasureworld. That too closed, in 1999, and was converted into a Harry Ramsden's restaurant.
Today, the Steam Packet I remember from the 1970s is once more a single operation as the amusement arcade, whether it was called The Showboat or not, which once was to be found in the original hotel building is now the takeaway department of the Harry Ramsden's restaurant. If you find yourself in Great Yarmouth and fancy some steaming hot fish and chips you now know where to go.
Thanks to Richard for the 1973 photograph. The image of the Sandpiper is courtesy of the Norfolk pubs website.
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.