John Vlieland marriage Eleanor Hill 22 Dec. 1833 is married to Mary Grimmer
And when you find information on a Grimmer family in Yarmouth you read it and think maybe there is a clue in it. So here is what we found
On the 1911 census John McDonnell’s grandmother, sixteen-year-old Louisa Grimmer, is living in Stanley Road, Great Yarmouth, with her parents Albert and Louisa and working as an errand girl in an oil-clothing factory. Her father is a general labourer in the fishing industry. The 1911 census included new questions on fertility and mortality, asking, for each married woman, how long her present marriage had lasted, how many children had been born, how many were still alive and how many had died. The entry for Louisa Grimmer makes sad reading: she had been married for 16 years and had had six children of whom only one, Louisa, was still alive. Albert and Louisa had married in Great Yarmouth in March 1895. Albert was nineteen and a coal hawker; Louisa Hunt was eighteen and heavily pregnant. Daughter Louisa was born a few days later.
The Grimmer’s marriage certificate gives Albert’s address as Row 28. The Rows were a feature of town layout unique to Great Yarmouth: narrow alleyways running parallel to each other from east to west. Originally built in medieval times, they once contained houses for both rich and poor but by Albert’s time had become a working class area. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the names of the Rows, such as Kittywitches, were replaced by numbers. There were 145 Rows in all, described by Charles Dickens in these words:
“A Row is a long, narrow lane or alley quite straight, or as nearly as maybe, with houses on each side, both of which you can sometimes touch at once with the finger tips of each hand, by stretching out your arms to their full extent.”
The Rows were badly damaged by bombing in World War II and after the war the remainder were destroyed to make way for new development, leaving just one or two houses to be preserved by English Heritage.
Albert had grown up in the Rows. The 1881 census finds him in Row 60 with parents Benjamin, a coal heaver, and Amelia, and eight brothers and sisters. In 1891 Albert has left the Rows and we find him aged 16 an inmate in Buxton Reformatory, near Aylsham. In 1905 Albert (5ft 5in, brown eyes and black hair) enlisted in the Army Reserve and was mobilized in August 1914 and posted to France. He was discharged from the Army in 1916.
Albert’s father Benjamin had also grown up in the Rows. On the 1851 census he is living in Row 91 with widowed mother Jane, a charwoman, and six brothers and sisters. Six years earlier tragedy had struck the family, when Benjamin’s older brother William, aged eight, had been one of the victims of the Great Yarmouth suspension bridge disaster.
In the spring of 1845 William Cooke’s circus had come to Great Yarmouth and, on May 2nd, staged a publicity stunt on the River Bure. Crowds, some of them local and some having come by train, gathered on the banks of the river to watch Nelson the Clown towed upriver in a bathtub pulled by four geese. As they approached the suspension bridge at North Quay, hundreds of spectators, including children, crowded onto one side of the bridge to watch them. One of the suspension rods snapped under the weight, the chains gave way, and the spectators were tipped into the river. Some managed to reach the banks, some were rescued by boats, but 79 people died. The victims included 59 children, one of them William Grimmer.
In 2013 a memorial to the victims was unveiled near the site of the disaster. Local residents raised £5000 for a black granite slab listing the names of victims.