Joan Howard's memories

By Sarah Woods

I was born at 1pm in Pier Place at my grandparent’s house.  My name is Joan Naomi Howard.  We moved to Kitchener Road until I was 7 years old, we then moved to Albion Rd. My first school was Northgate Infants, but when we moved to Albion Rd, I went to Nelson School, I didn't stay there long as I went on to Priory Girls School.

My mother’s maiden name was Elsie May Watson; my father was Arthur Edwin Howard.  When he left school he worked at Hills Restaurant on Kings Street and then he got a job on the dining cars for the railway until the general strike.  After several months on the dole (out of work) he got a job in Grouts Silk Factory, where he stayed until retired.  Locally I had two sets of grandparents and great grandparents.  Mother's parents lived in Pier Place and fathers on Nelson Rd Central.

In 1939 I worked the summer holidays at the Floral Hall Gorleston, selling ice creams and cigarettes around the swimming pool.  I worked 7 days a week for 7/6p, then war broke out.  PriorySchool had to go to SwindellSchool because we had no air raid shelters.  We could only go half days, which was OK for us.  I was 14 that October and left school that Christmas; I got a job a Grout's Silk Factory.  I can't remember how long I was there, but I recall the German Nazi Propaganda Minister, Lord Haw Haw as he was called, saying on the radio that the German Armies would be picking tulips from the gardens on Great Yarmouth sea front.

My grandparents, auntie, my mother and I were evacuated to Bradford.  I found work in a woollen mill, but it was hard work for a 14 year old girl.  We didn't stay there long before we came back to Great Yarmouth.  I went back to my job in Grout's, that's when the real war started.  The factory was bombed and there were several near misses.  Once a week we had to do what was known as 'fire watch', we had camp beds set up around the billiard table in the factory's clubhouse.  It wasn't all doom and gloom though as there were soldiers billeted in the Garibaldi Hotel and lots of us girls and soldiers used to go out dancing.  I met my husband at the Goode's Hotel.  

I was surprised to learn his name was Derek Howard, so I didn't have to change my name when we got married.


This page was added by Sarah Woods on 07/09/2009.
Comments about this page

My mother Irma Baker and her sister Honor both worked at Grouts during the 1930,s and 40,s. I remember my aunt always spoke very loudly for the rest of her life and this was said to be because to be heard over the machinery one had to shout.

By Valerie Clare
On 30/11/2009

I worked on uptwisting machine when I was 17 in 1954. Mr Webb was the supervisor and my work mate was June Gay. I found it hard to hear after coming out of the factory, but no long term problems. I worked shifts 6am-2pm and 2pm -10pm alternate weeks. I walked from Walpole Road past the cemetary in the cold snow. My then fiance (now husband of 54 years, Eric) dinkied me on his bike on the morning shift. I enjoyed my time there.

By Doris Beckett (Nee Stubbs)
On 11/01/2010

I worked at Grouts in 1954. I can't remember how long I was there, but it was a well paid job in those days. My friend June Gay and I met there and we still correspond from there to Oz. I remember Mr Webb (supervisor?). He was very strict. I walked from Walpole Rd past the cemetary at 5.30am. It was a bit scary as all the trees in the cemetary looked frightening when it had been snowing (it was still pitch black then). It was my first job in Gt Yarmouth. My then boyfriend (now husband of 54 years) took me there after we met in 1953. I was 17 when I worked there on the 'uptwisting machine'. Very noisy. Loved the time I spent there.

By Doris Beckett
On 11/01/2010

My Grandfather Albert Grant had something to do with the canteen. It's a bit vague. I don't know when exactly. I would have thought around the '50's?

By Stewart Grant
On 04/03/2010

Mr Grant was the canteen manager for a lot of years; he also was responsible for the club room which had 2 snooker table and a ping pong table; he retired in mid 60 s.  I worked at Grouts as weaver from 1959 until 1961..

By Norman Balls
On 28/07/2010

With reference to Mr Norman Balls letter dated 28-7-2010, I also believe that Mr grant of Grouts factory canteen did retire in the mid 1960's. I think that the family name that took over the canteen and games room was Mr & Mrs Barklay and son Phillip, who was a keen drums musician, and they lived in the property next to the canteen. If these names are wrong then I'm sure some readers will know the correct names. As to myself, after leaving the Styles Secondary Modern school at the age of 15 in 1959, I was employed at Grouts factory till it's very sad closoure in 1972. Starting firstly in the "entry room", the foreman was Mr Les Jillings, then progressed to battery filling on the WM's, C&K's, Jacquards,and Northrop looms, then as an warp gaiter . On the days that I didn't use the canteen for my meal breaks I would hurry up to the market place for a bacon roll, a lump of Nelson cake, mug of tea, and return to the factory all in half an hour. When some of the looms were replaced with high speed knitting machines I was relocated to the "dye house" department, then finally working on the Famatex stenters. Very happy days. Roy Nichols 8-2-2011

By roy nichols
On 17/02/2011

When I went to the Priory Boys School 1940s, 50 Grouts factory was running then. From the fire escape steps leading from senior 2 class room we could look over the town wall onto Grouts tennis courts and watch the tennis players it was most likely their sports club does any else remember this

By colin browne
On 11/03/2011

I have similar memories as Roy Nichols and must have been there at the same time. I joined Grouts in 1962 from School. My friend David Mayhew had originally been offered the job but he went somewhere else so I applied for his job. I also started in the 'entry' room progressing to battery filler on w and ms. I managed to get to apprentice weaver on bandage looms in the 1 1/2 years I was there but happy memories. I do remember belting up the road for a bacon roll and a mug of tea. I also remember communicating in a high pitched shout on the looms. Several of my family worked there from the war onwards. My hearing suffered though after working in the 'h' shed with 160 looms clattering away. Probably the most interesting job I ever had.

By Barry Calver
On 09/05/2012

I worked at Grouts from 1955 until 1962. I done my apprenticeship as a Maintenance Fitter and Lathe Turner in the maintenance department working mainly with Charlie Jary (Deceased). David Steadman was the Chief Engineer at the time (we still have contact) I remember Albert Grant very well as I used to go to the club most evenings. Albert used to come up the stairs to check that there was no hanky panky going on between the boys and girls. When we heard him coming we would turn off the lights so he could not see us when he came in the room, He would turn them back on and were all seated around the table with playing cards in our hand and continued playing our game. I also remember Albert taking his driving test many times and he had a Lanchester Motorcar that was parked in the old shedding around the back yard. After many attempts to pass with very little success there was a fire in the shed yard and Albert's car was destroyed, very sad as it was a very unusual car. I also remember the Bowling Green that was next to the tennis courts. My father Billy Carter who worked in the stenter department played bowls for Grouts. My fathers sister Dolly Moss and her Husband Dick (both deceased) and their daughter Muriel still living in Great Yarmouth also worked at Grouts. I enjoyed working there it gave me the start in life for a good future. I am retired now but remember many good times had by so many good workmates.

By Peter Carter
On 30/05/2012

Since Joan’s item above she has now found early photos of her school days 1930, 1932 and 1934-35. As Joan is now in her 80 years she thinks that some of the girls and boys may or may not be around? However maybe out there are the children or grandchildren of the persons in the photos? Joan hopes this will stir a few memories and create a few interests. The photos are of Northgate and St. Johns school and can be seen in ‘Places’ / ‘Schools’ / Northgate and St. Johns schools 1930-1935’

By Val Norman
On 06/02/2013

I am the youngest son (now 80) of Albert and Doris Grant who managed the canteen and social club for Grouts from sometime during 1942 until 1961, when mum retired aged sixty. Albert had worked for Grouts ever since he left the navy after the First World War - his very first job on leaving school was 'boot boy' at the Star Hotel on the Quay! In the early part of the 1939/ 1945 war he, together with others from Grouts went to work in Leek, Staffordshire - I don't know why, but it was during this period that Doris, who was still in Yarmouth (Val, my eldest brother had just started his apprenticeship as a dental mechanic) heard that the company was looking for 'a couple' to manage the canteen and social club, with attached accomodation. Albert returned from Leek and they got the job! The canteen was required to supply three shifts of workers with hot meals every day. Albert and Doris were assisted by two ladies in the kitchen - May and Olive. The weekly budget for the food was very tight, so although the meals were not exactly 'fine dining', they were wholesome - there was a war on!! Albert used to ride a trade bike up to McCarthy's in the market place to order supplies and people couldn't understand how he never fell off - he pedalled so slowly! As well as cooking, Albert was responsible for the general upkeep of 'The Club' by way of keeping the bowling green mown and rollered, brushing and ironing the green baize of the two billiard tables as well as maintaining the garden strip that ran alongside the cemetery wall by the tennis courts. His workday did not finish when the last shift workers had been fed and watered - he was on call right up to 10:30, serving soft drinks, crisps and cigarettes to those workers who made use of the clubs' facilities as well as the nightly groups of Fire Watchers, who bedded down at the club. My brother Roy and I had been evacuated to Retford with the Priory School in May 1940, returning to Yarmouth early in March 1943 as mum felt that the bombing had eased up a bit and in any case we had a Morrison shelter in the front room, where three of us could sleep without worries. Sadly there wasn't enough room for Albert so he had to sleep upstairs! For a ten year old, life was quite exciting, yet uncannily fearless, collecting peices of shrapnel after an air raid and both spent and live Sten gun ammo from the army firing range that was on the beach at the end of Salisbury Road. No doubt there might still be some buried in the sands to this day. That will get the Metal Detector fraternity motivated! Numerous names of those that worked at Grouts come to mind - Norman Gooch, who managed the crepe bandage making department; Harry Lark, accounts; Mr Elton, Managing Director; Dolly Flanders, secretary to M.D.; Frank Thompson, who taught me how to make a simple radio; Charlie Fox; Roger Flatt; Mr Turrell, carpenter; Mr Blake, builder; David Steadman, chief engineer who helped me build my first photo enlarger; Frank Hurd; Mr Aspinall, screen printing; Tommy Clark who had a mutual interest in photography; not forgetting Jimmy Pipes, I don't know what he did, but he grew strawberries the size of turnips! he never let on what fertilizer he used, but they were "BOOTIFUL". Although their hours were long, Albert still managed to find time to fill the greenhouse, which backed onto the cemetery wall near the bowling green, with masses of tomato plants and cucumbers, so many in fact that it was difficult to get inside the door. I often wonder whether Jimmy Pipes gave him a few tips on fertilizers. He also had a go at rearing chickens, one at first, who was called 'Charlie Half Lug'. Then he decided to increase productivity by erecting a large chicken run to the rear of the factory buildings in the area called 'The Walk', a waste land mainly covered in weeds except for a number of concrete Air Raid Shelters and a large isolated Mulberry Tree to the rear of No. 8 St Nicholas Road. No doubt there for the leaves which were feed for the Silk Worms of earlier times. Albert and Doris moved out of 'The Club' in February 1961, when mum retired, returning to their house in Crown Road. Albert continued to work for Grouts as a lodge keeper well after his 65th birthday until he was forced to retire through ill health, and he died on 15th June 1970. Doris died from cancer on the 1st April 1985, aged 84. On a recent visit to Yarmouth, using the old town wall and cemetery wall as reference I was able to calculate that the little house that was attached to 'The Club' where we lived is now where Sainsburys have their recycle bins - that's progress for you!

By Peter Grant
On 14/10/2013

Peter Grant who contributed to this page is my Uncle! Hi, Uncle Pete. Doris and Albert Grant were my grandparents and I spent many happy hours in the 1950's in The Club. I remember sitting on the ledge under the big wooden table in the canteen kitchen where the milk crates used to go, pretending it was a boat. Grandad Albert could cut slices of meat from a joint so thinly that once he was asked by someone to "Shut that window Albert, before the meat blows off the plate". For a small child the Club was an adventure playground with its snooker tables, tennis courts and bowling green. One if my most vivid memories is of scarlet geraniums that grandad grew in the pavilion that overlooked the bowling green. Regarding Grandads car that caught fire, my father Valentine - Val or Vic for short, swore that my Nannie Doris had paid someone to set light to it before Albert killed himself or someone else! Apparently my now deceased Uncle Roy sat with Grandad who drove from Gorlestone to Yarmouth where we lived and was so frightened that he made Grandad stop the car and got out saying he'd "rather face a ruddy firing squad than drive any further with you!". But for all that Grandad and Nannie were the most wonderful grandparents whom I loved dearly. Happy days!

By Sandy Roper
On 18/02/2014

Hi Peter Grant,

Why did some of the workers from Grouts go to Leek in Staffordshire, just found out my mum worked at the factory, definitely in 1939, found her on the 1939 register, but I am also aware she went to Leek during the war, I thought it was because she got evacuated, I have a black and white of her, which says on the back, Leek. 

Would love to know more.

By Sheila merritt
On 23/11/2018

 Hello Shiela,

I'm afraid I don't know why my Dad went to Leek, except that it was work related - not evacuation. My brother and I along with many others from the Priory School were evacuated to the Sir Frederick Milner in Retford. Maybe there's a records office in Leek that could be of help.


By peter grant
On 08/04/2019

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.