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Remembering the FIRST Wymondham bypass

PUBLISHED: 17:56 21 August 2008 | UPDATED: 10:37 12 July 2010

Fifty years ago this summer, traffic began to run on the first stage of the original Wymondham bypass.

The stretch extended from Bait Hill railway bridge near Cemetery Lane to the Fairland and was designed to take all through traffic, including lorries, away from the tortuous town centre route via Damgate, Market Street and Bridewell

Street.

Fifty years ago this summer, traffic began to run on the first stage of the original Wymondham bypass.

The stretch extended from Bait Hill railway bridge near Cemetery Lane to the Fairland and was designed to take all through traffic, including lorries, away from the tortuous town centre route via Damgate, Market Street and Bridewell

Street.

The main London-Norwich road - later the A11 - ran through the narrow streets of the town, and incidents like the one in the main picture above, which occurred on a Saturday morning in Damgate in May 1935, were frequent. That particular jam held up traffic for two hours.

In March the previous year a fatal accident in White Horse Street had led to the parish council lobbying Norfolk County Council to proceed at the earliest possible moment with building a bypass “which would provide reasonable safety for transport and pedestrians

in the Wymondham streets and also work for the unemployed.”

Even so, it would not be until July 1957 that work began in earnest.

At the time, the construction was described as the biggest roadbuilding project in Norfolk since the war, and it was carried out “by no more than 40 men with two draglines, two excavators, two bulldozers and seven lorries”.

The stretch, running in a straight line for 1,600 feet, crossed marshland and necessitated the diversion of the rivers Bays and Tiffey so that these joined before crossing the line of the road, thus saving the need for two bridges.

At the Bait Hill/Cemetery Lane end five cottages had to be demolished.

The bypass opened on

June 5, 1958 but planned alterations to the White Horse Street junction continued for several months.

Soon after the opening, two accidents in three days on or near the bypass prompted the then urban district council to request “Halt” signs to be installed and white lines painted on the approach roads to the junctions at Bait Hill and Station Road.

Some councillors seemed hostile to the whole bypass scheme and came out against being involved in any official ribbon-cutting at the opening.

In the event there was no ceremony, and two town councillors commented that “the less the council had to do with the bypass, the better.”

Wymondham shopkeepers were claiming losses as a result of the bypass, with trade allegedly down by a third in some cases. Cafés, pubs, restaurants, chemists, drapers, bakers and confectioners all maintained that they were suffering. Describing the Saturday, a fortnight after the opening, one trader commented: “It was just like a village - no traffic, no private cars and not even the weekend caravanners who usually park for a short time on the Market Place while they get food and supplies for their day at the coast.”

But fears were unfounded and the bypass was to prove a boon to the local community.

The stretch opened in 1958 was only the start. The whole project was completed in August 1971, when the section (now called Harts Farm Road) from the Station Road/Fairland Street junction to the Tuttles Lane roundabout was opened.

And then, on March 22, 1996, the present £16.5m bypass was unveiled, taking traffic well away from Wymondham, but with “Historic Market Town” brown signs put in place to encourage tourists to take a detour for a visit.

I wonder what those council members of 1958 would have made of that?


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