Britain Nobody Knows-Site of Walrond Smack Boys’ Home, Great Yarmouth (16 Southgates Road)
Site of Walrond Memorial Smack Boys’ Home (16 Southgates Road, Great Yarmouth)
The Smack Boys’ Home and Fishermen’s Institute, on the Ballast quay, was erected in 1875, the chief object of which was to provide proper accommodation when ashore for the neglected class of smack boys. These boys served on fishing vessels that had a well to preserve the catch. These vessels were called smacks.
The buildings were of a Gothic character, freely treated, and contained office, dining room, reading-room, large room for meetings, dormitories on the separate bunk system, rooms for the manager and the necessary offices. The following is from an article The Sunday Magazine, published in 1879:
“On the groundfloor I find two good-sized rooms, in the larger of which some smack boys, looking very much at home, are chatting or playing at bagatelle. Above this is a fishermen’s reading-room, and on the same floor a small dormitory with five beds, the gift of the “Waterside Mission,” or rather of some ladies connected with it. At the top of the house, running the whole length of the building, is the large sleeping place, divided into little cabins, with a bed and locker in each, and there is another set of beds resting on the wooden ceilings of these “cubicles,” as they are called. These strike one at first sight as making the room unnecessarily close; but I suppose from their name they contain the right amount of cubic air, and fish-boys’ ordinary sea-quarters are the reverse of lofty. At any rate, the smack boys well appreciate the advantages of their Home, as, in the two years it has been open, three hundred and nineteen lads have lodged here. Seventy is about the number of the regular inmates.”
It stood from 1875 until 18 February 1941 when it received a direct hit and was destroyed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid which took place between the hours of 0300 and 0544. That same night shrapnel from a German High Explosive bomb punctured and ignited the Gas Holder on Admiralty Road, which lit up the skies. Until the Civil Defence and Fire Brigade cooled down and extinguished the blaze it was a marker for the other German bombers. Twenty-eight High Explosive bombs and 100 Incendiary Bombs hit Great Yarmouth that night, 6 falling on the Quayside, 1 hitting and destroying this building.[i]
[i] epw001876 ENGLAND (1920), South Quay, Great Yarmouth, 1920 (www.britainfromabove.org.uk)