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Meet George - the Rutland man who has holidayed in Great Yarmouth for the last 75 years




We all have our favourite places - boltholes to escape the stress and strain of life and to recharge the batteries, yet not many will compare to the pull of Great Yarmouth for George Bennett.

George, 79, has holidayed in the Norfolk seaside resort every year since first toddling on the Yarmouth sands in 1946 as a four-year-old.

He honeymooned there with wife Sheila in 1966, the wide-eyed newlyweds basking in the splendour of the Imperial Hotel.

George Bennett on his 75th anniversary trip to Great Yarmouth. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC
George Bennett on his 75th anniversary trip to Great Yarmouth. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC

And it became a place of pilgrimage 12 months ago, to remember the good times with Sheila days after her funeral, held on the day of their wedding anniversary - September 3.

It holds a special place in his heart and George, from Ryhall, is counting down the days to his latest trip next week.

"I often get asked why," he said.

George has passed on the tradition to son Mark. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC
George has passed on the tradition to son Mark. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC

"It's tradition; I still enjoy it.

"I know Yarmouth very well. I know the hotel which is excellent, I know the bedrooms I want, I know the good restaurants and public houses. It's familiar.

"If you go somewhere that you haven't been before just for a week, you can waste a long time trying to find where the good places are.

"It's not quite the same since my wife passed away last year, but I still have very good memories when I go."

The Bennett family on holiday - with dad Len, mum Agnes and the three children
The Bennett family on holiday - with dad Len, mum Agnes and the three children

George grew up in Stamford with two siblings, mum Agnes and dad Len - a sweet manufacturer with Bennett Brothers in the town - moving from Rutland Road to Exeter Gardens before the family left for Ryhall.

With most of the country's holidaymakers heading for the coastal hotspots, and fewer direct routes, the journey from Stamford to Yarmouth took a stately five-and-a-quarter hours.

All negotiated with three kids squeezed into the back of Len's Singer car, and luggage on the roof.

George on his momentous first visit to the bright lights of Yarmouth, with mum Agnes
George on his momentous first visit to the bright lights of Yarmouth, with mum Agnes

"The traffic was colossal because there were so many more people in those days going to the coast," George added.

"We would count the coaches heading to Yarmouth and there would be at least 50 - and then you had many more going by train.

"If you didn't book your holiday by January or February you wouldn't get in."

The town and its fortunes have changed much since George's first visit as a four-year-old. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC
The town and its fortunes have changed much since George's first visit as a four-year-old. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC

But with the promise of the familiar and treasured ahead of them, the trip was worth it.

"It was fantastic," said George.

"In 1949 they built Joyland especially for younger children which was great, and the beach used to be packed.

George holidaying with wife Sheila
George holidaying with wife Sheila

"In those days they had beach huts which were superb. You could just lock it up at night with all your swimming things and beach stuff and then go back the next day.

"But like all good things later in in life they got smashed and broken and were taken down."

While the expanses of Yarmouth beach was their vast playground by day, the family searched out live entertainment by night.

A second home, but never a permanent one for George. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC
A second home, but never a permanent one for George. Photo: Zoe Applegate/BBC

The country's' biggest cabaret stars, like the tourists, also made an annual beeline for the British seaside for long summer runs.

Yet with dwindling audiences, as cheaper travel prices lured holidaymakers overseas, the boom years of seaside family shows faded.

"We used to love to go the shows," he said.

"There were six big theatres and my father would book us tickets for every other night.

"All the top artists would be there like Max Bygraves and Ken Dodd - we even saw a very young Jimmy Tarbuck.

"My sister, brother and me would stand at the stage door to get autographs.

"There would be supporting artists, orchestras and dancing girls, and the shows would run from June through to September.

"You don't get the big theatre shows now and there's only the Britannia Pier theatre left. The other show houses have gone."

The pull of the place didn't wane into his adult years.

George went into publishing as an apprentice with JEC Potter Printers in Stamford before an 18-year career with national publishers emap.

After spells as an advertising rep for national magazine Motorcycle Mechanics and ad manager for Dirtbike Rider, George fulfulled a wish to run a pub and took on the Boot and Shoe at South Luffenham.

While Yarmouth has been a non-negotiable fixture on the Bennett calendar for three-quarters of a century, with Marine Lodge a home away from home, George and Sheila have travelled further afield.

They have enjoyed several trips to the United States, including Las Vegas, Orlando, and Boston, as well as Spain and Italy.

Yet Yarmouth's flat terrain became much more accessible for the couple after Sheila became wheelchair-bound having suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for many years.

But for all his love for the place he wouldn't consider setting up home in the resort.

It may spoil the magic.

"I wouldn't want to because the grass is always greener on the other side," he explained.

"I look forward to going as a holidaymaker.

"When you are there for a week or two that's different.

"If you live there it would just be the same old drag as it would be anywhere else."



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