The collection of pictures and documents is housed in The Bircham Centre, named after Samuel Bircham who gave the house to Reepham as a reading room and war memorial in 1919. The Archive rooms are in the oldest part of the building that dates back to the 16th century. Hackford House, as the Bircham Centre was previously called, was an auxiliary hospital during the first world war (1914-1918).
1964... Billy Fury visits Reepham.
Billy Fury visited Reepham in the summer of 1964. He was a pop idol at the height of his fame and often dubbed “Britain’s Elvis Presley”. No doubt this was because they shared a similar hairstyle and a certain expertise in hip gyration.
The Reepham Fire Brigade was planning a fete on Stimpson’s Piece on June 13th and wanted a celebrity to open the event and judge a beauty competition for “Miss Fire”. Billy Fury was appearing in Great Yarmouth at the time. June Betts of the organising committee wrote to Billy’s agent, Larry Parnes, inviting him and Billy to the event. They were pleased to accept and made no charge for the appearance although they did require transport to and from Yarmouth and some stringent security arrangements including a suggested 12 police officers for crowd control at the fete.
Herbert Vout was the designated driver on the day. He collected Billy and two minders but they mistakenly believed that they were only travelling the few miles to Reedham. Panic ensued when they realised they had a much longer journey to Reepham. Vout, however, calculated that the return journey could be achieved within the time frame if the contest could be held immediately on arrival and if they could return to Yarmouth very soon afterwards.
Fortunately, the timing and security arrangements worked well. Reepham only had two police officers but the desired numbers were made up by smartly uniformed fire officers. There were approximately 10 contestants, most, but not all from the Reepham neighbourhood and they paraded within the high fencing of the tennis court. A good crowd of spectators milled around outside. Billy wasted no time selecting “Miss Fire” and a couple of runners up. A newspaper photographer was on hand to capture the moment when Billy kissed the winner and presented her with a white satin sash.
Billy was presented with gold cuff links as a token of thanks. He greatly enjoyed a circuit of Stimpson’s Piece on a fire engine before rushing back to Yarmouth for his next stage performance.
The fete continued after Billy’s departure and, although it rained, a good time was had by all and an impressive £145 was raised for the Fire Service Benevolent Fund.
With thanks to June Betts
Some photographs from the Reepham Archive
Some photographs from the Archive
If you have any photographs you would like to add to the Archive, please contact us by email (email@example.com) or telephone The Bircham Centre on the number below.
Reg Fisher, Bombardier.
Reg Fisher, Bombardier of Royal Field Artillery, in Uniform. 1914-1918.
The wonderful Ollands, before it was demolished c.1969.
GB-REE-1912071102 a Billy Fury 500.jpg
Patients in the garden.jpg
Patients from the first World War recuperating in what is now the Bircham Centre garden.
Jimmy Hester and Mary Banmer.
Back Street Then
Back Street Now
WW1 market place.
Market Place North, showing what is now the courtyard of The Dial House. 1914 - 1918.
Boys football team. 1908-09
Unknown location as background. Do you know where this is or who any of the players are?
GB-REE-1912071102 d Billy Fury.jpg
Townsend Corner Then
Townsend Corner - turn of the century.
Townsend Corner Now
Prize Bull with men.
This was taken outside the gates of The Old Rectory in Church Street, early 20th century (?)
Queen Mary and E T Ruffles
Reepham Market Place West
This photo shows Reepham Market Place in about 1910. Thankfully, nothing much has changed!
Reepham Market Places East
Another view of Reepham Market Place. There used to be cattle pens in what are now the gardens of Station Cottages on Station Road.
St Mary's and St Michael's
St Mary's and St Michael's, still decked with ivy. You can also see a last bit of Hackford church in the foreground.
The Cardinal's Hat, Back Street
The oldest remaining private dwelling in Back Street in Reepham, saved from being consumed in the 'Great Fire' in 1543 by a gap between the buildings.