The Thorpe Fisherman's Bethel Hall was erected and given to the village by the Gannons of Stone House, Aldringham in 1890. It stood on the existing car park to the south of the Thorpeness Emporium, not far from where the Heritage Group intends to site a permanent centre.
In the 19th and early 20th century, Thorpe had a thriving fishing industry with 25 boats owned by families including Ralph, Harling, Alexander, Easy, Fisher, Westrup, Wilson and Dansie. According to the reminiscences of Harold (Hal) Neave, whose family lived in a cabin on the beach, the services in the Bethel went with a swing, led by the Moorehouse family who arrived in two 'gypsy looking caravans' with the Mild May Mission to convert the fishermen. Hal Neave described the caravans drawing into a hollow close to the cabin:- 'In the caravan was a stout man and a worn looking little woman, two grown sons, a girl in her teens and another girl about our age. We watched from a distance: the older girl stood in the doorway and juggled two water tumblers, throwing them up and catching them alternately. Jack, the oldest son, was a carpenter. They first built a reading room on the other side of the Alexanders' house, then a Bethel on the Meare side of it where religious services were held.' After the Moorehouse family had left, the services were carried on by the different denominations in Leiston. Hal Neave's father occasionally took the services 'with Joe Harling on the fiddle, sawing away with his beard getting in the strings and the bass fishermen's voices roaring out 'Jesus Saviour, pilot me', 'Will your anchor hold' and 'We are out on the ocean sailing'.' It is hoped that the proposed Heritage Group Hut will prove to be a worthy successor to the Thorpe Bethel on the car park site which once resounded to the fervent singing of the local fishermen and their families.
'DOORS LOCKED AND VANDALS RAMPAGE IN SUFFOLK RESORT'
The above was a headline in the East Anglian Times dated Monday October 12th, 1981. It was reported that about 100 young people, from the Leiston area motor cycle group, were holding a disco at the Thorpeness Working Men's Club (now holiday homes). About 150 youths from rival groups, apparently intent on a confrontation with the Leiston group, attempted to gatecrash the disco but were banned from admission. This resulted in the Club, the Dolphin Inn and other properties and cars, including a police car, being damaged with windows and windscreens shattered and a telephone kiosk wrecked as the group went on the rampage. The Dolphin's landlord, Mr Alan Strong, locked the doors to the Inn to protect his customers, who sat out the disturbance for over an hour. Mr. Earnest Middleditch, steward of the Working Men's Club described the event as 'stupid and pointless'. The disco had been running for years and had never caused any trouble. Policemen, who had no protective equipment, had to dodge various missiles with two officers suffering minor head wounds. It appears that the police had some prior knowledge of Thorpeness being targeted and visited the village to warn residents of the danger. Detective Inspector Dave Moss reported the next day that a number of youths were being held in custody and we're still being questioned, admitting there were a lot of people to be seen. I would like to give my thanks to Sue Allan for providing me with the relevant newspaper coverage and relating her own memories of the incident.
Nigel Durrant and his account of the founding of the Marmalade Club
On a beautiful bright sunlit morning in July 1969 Peter Sneath called down the stairs to us: “Get up you boys! We’re taking the Persephone”, his 35 foot wooden built Dutch schooner down to Orford with Commander Taylor the owner of Drum Maid, a 38 foot fibre glass Camper & Nicholson sailboat We arrived at Slaughden Quay, meeting up with Mickey Steene and Neville Bromwich. The journey was delightful, with the weather as only the River Alde can be on a fine bright day. There was enough wind to sail well, with beautiful views of the pastures and the ripened corn. On arrival at Orford Quay Peter announced that he and Commander Taylor were meeting David Crockett and Jerry O’Donovan at the Jolly Sailor for a quick “pinkers”, saying to us boys “There’s plenty of beer in the fridge, back in an hour” Three hours later I noticed the three gentlemen walking towards the quay, arm in arm, giving the locals matey churchillian farewells Peter Sneath said, “Get ready to sail you boys, and Nigel, go down and make one of your special french salads for lunch”. I was making the nicoise when suddenly there was an almighty bump, we had gone aground. As it happened a stream of pink gin came down the galley hatch, missing my lips by inches. Peter Sneath said, “Bit of a problem here. You boys dive off and push the boat off the mud” All of us being products of a public school education in the fifties, we taught to blindly obey anyone six months older than us, so we duly dived off into the thick dark Suffolk mud, up to our shoulders. As we were laughing and giggling in the mud a local fisherman was on the bank and shouted, ‘You boys are stuck on the Marmalade. You little boys all be Marmaladers!” The club was duly formed and the first formal event was a dinner at the Plough and Sail in Snape. Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister, the Duke of Edinburgh and Sir Francis Chichester were all invited. They all replied on their formal notepaper, stating that they would have loved to attended but due to prior engagements were unable to do so, wishing the club every success Little did they know that the club then went into a period of total mayhem, appearing in Hoxne Magistrates Court for endangering the lives of people on a public service vehicle, Stradbrook Magistrates Court for shooting decorated pigeons. Having massive escargot fights with the Boulogne Sur Mer Gendarmarie, with Monsieur Ticket, the patron of Cafe Alfred screaming “Le club Confiture tout les personnes est maniacs!!” Falling asleep in the lifeboats of the P&O ferry service from Calais to Dover, only to find ourselves back in Calais! The dinner itself was a total catastrophe. The Commodore had invited a gentleman who had travelled across the Atlantic by sailing boat (whose name I cannot recall) to make a speech. He got his paperwork muddled and started to read a letter from his wife saying she had left him. he then burst into tears and a lump of hot coal was put on his beer. The rest of the evening descended into total madness After some time, Mick Cowlin took over some of the running of the club. His gentle ways and sensible attitude changed the Marmalade Club into the organisation it is today. He sorted out the finances which meant that Messrs Durrant and Sneath could no longer go into Soho clubs late at night, demanding the bill be sent to the Marmalade Club. He motivated the cub to change the Ball venue to the Meare, and is responsible for making this club such a success. I personally have many memories of crazy times, and thank the Marmalade club for keeping my teenage attitude up to the age of Seventy! With the younger members taking up responsibility and running the various events of the year, in liaison with the Officers, I wish the club every success for the next one hundred years.