Our walking group met Dean by Lowestoft old Town Hall in the pouring rain. One or two were dressed for the weather in sou‘westers and wellies!
Dean began by setting the context: here on the site where we stood, the old Town Hall no longer used, is covered in large colourful words created by local children, inspired by Dean in workshops he’d led at their school. Dean recently wrote and produced a play Pearls from The Grit and a published the book The Grit – the story of Lowestoft’s Beach Village, these both tell all about the area we were setting out to explore.
From the Town Hall, we walked down the famous Lowestoft Scores, starting at Mariner’s Score. These scores are narrow alleys that connect the town built on the cliff top, to the former fishing village down by the shore, known as The Grit. The Scores were lined by small terraced houses, tiny one or two up and downs which Dean explained, would have been occupied by as many as thirteen children or two families in each.
Stopping periodically to show us original photos and quotes from people who lived and worked in The Grit, we were able to imagine what hard work it would have been. We saw the site of the former school, shops and pubs. The church, Christchurch is still standing and used for worship – it’s a place where fishermen lost at sea are still remembered. Dean explained that there was a great sense of community, sharing the hardships and joys of living there in the well-formed close fishing community.
One of the people who worked in The Grit was Dean’s Dad – Dean explained that his father made plastic ducks in a former net store close to where we were standing. Dean’s Dad’s Ducks was one of the first shows Dean performed, it was at Edinburgh Festival years ago but here was Dean on this rainy walking day reaching into his bag and to our amusement pulled out one such plastic duck!
The combination of personal anecdote, real stories of hardship and daily life in the fishing community whilst stopping to look closely at the architecture, gave us all an insight to the time and feel of the past. The Grit was a world of its own, extensive and active but which surprising to know, was bulldozed and cleared within Dean’s lifetime. Good to see that there is healthy regeneration today. The group finished the walk standing next to a restaurant about to open in the former Blue Anchor pub, then we visited to the newly opened independent bookshop Paperworks Books & Prints.
Many thanks to Lowestoft Heritage Action Zones for funding this walk – A digital version is in development.