Progress at last on town’s former Aldiss store – two years after inferno

Update picture of the old Aldiss shop now Original Factory Shop site in Upper Market in Fakenham ANL-140526-132446009
Update picture of the old Aldiss shop now Original Factory Shop site in Upper Market in Fakenham ANL-140526-132446009
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Wensum, by Jim Harding, May 31, 2016

I recall the actual Sunday with clarity. My wife had made her way to church as usual for the regular 10.30 communion service so I was more than a little surprised to receive a phone call from her part-way through the proceedings.

In shocked tones she explained that there was a serious fire in the Original Factory Shop building and everyone in church had been led out into St Peter’s Garden via the north door when the alarm was raised.

After her message I went into our garden and could see the plume of smoke to the west being blown away in the direction of the coast.

It was obviously critical. For the following hours, fire engines and other emergency services arrived in droves from around the county to deal with the blaze and its aftermath.

It was so fierce that even days afterwards what little remained of the building was still smouldering. The bravery and efficiency of everyone on duty at that time has already been widely voiced.

As a community we were extremely proud of their achievements. One of the conversations which took place in the months ahead was how the gaping hole in that part of the town centre would eventually be filled.

As time dragged by with no particular solution in sight the rumour spread that perhaps ‘the gap’ would remain after some landscaping so that residents might continue to enjoy the fine view of the church tower from across the market square. But that was never likely to happen.

Amazingly, it is only now that the rebuilding is scheduled to get going with contractors due on the site today[May 31].

There will inevitably be some clearance work at ground level and maybe some archaeological surveying before the new build gets under way. The plans show a three-storey structure to conform with the neighbouring rooflines in a style which acknowledges the period architecture of the town centre.

There will inevitably be some disruption to normal business with the area in front of the site cordoned off to vehicles and pedestrians. And presumably out of bounds on market days.

But at least progress will finally being made and come this time next year we should witness completion and, if not a return to the way things were, at least a pleasing restoration.

n Fakenham hosted the only jumps meeting in the country on its Ladies Day and with the sun shining down it was wonderful to see so many in attendance.

The regulars were there, of course, but what made it all a bit special was the dressing-up brigade who really turned on the style.

Major tracks in the land have been doing this sort of thing for years and it’s only been recently that we’ve joined their ranks by encouraging a party atmosphere and presenting prizes for best-dressed lady, couple and hat.

Does it detract from the main sporting priority? I don’t think so and there’s no doubt about its popularity, swelling the crowd enormously. Jockey Tom Cannon chose Fakenham for the farewell ride on his career as he now looks forward to becoming a trainer.

He was in with a chance of winning the second race on Fort Gabriel but in the end had to settle for third. A nice touch from all the riders present was to sign a pair of jockeys breeches and put them up for auction on behalf of charity.

Clerk of the Course David Hunter plumped for the East Anglian Air Ambulance and after some keen rivalry in the ring they finally went for £300. We now say farewell to racing for the summer break which extends through until mid-October.