Mending the Nets - the job of the Beatsters

Photograph showing Beasters mending the nets

By John Layton

Mending the nets was an important job in itself, as each net was some 50m long, and, with up to 100 nets per boat, the total length of netting per boat could be almost two miles.

The beatsters, as the net-menders were called, were highly skilled and, it is said, could almost mend nets in their sleep!

My grandmother, on my father's side, was a Head Beatster in the 1920's/1930's.  She was paid piece-rate, at 2/6d (12 1/2p) per net, no matter how badly it was holed.  If there was a large hole, it would take one or two weeks to fix, and the family would have to go hungry!

Photo:Beatsters at work, mending nets, 1950's

Beatsters at work, mending nets, 1950's

Great Yarmouth Musuems

This page was added by John Layton on 19/12/2006.
Comments about this page

Just a small comment to add.  In the 1940s the firm of Bloomfields net makers must have had a contract to make large mesh heavy nets to cover such things as guns, tanks, army vechicles etc.  These nets were dyed green as camouflage.  Large balls of coarse string were delivered to women at their homes, plus long wooden flat needles.  My mum had a rod across a door frame from which she made her nets.I remember sitting by the fire on winter nights threading her needles for her.  Yes, you could do it in your sleep!  Mind you, it was good radio listening time!

By colinbrowne
On 18/03/2008

My grandmother and her sister were beatsterers in the eary 1900s.  Gran was 14 years old.She worked in the long sheds (dont know where) and after she married she mended nets at home.  My mother who is 86 remembers it well.

By Elma Murray
On 06/05/2008

I was so pleased to find this page, as it explained an ancestor's occupation on the 1881 census. I had no idea what it meant.

By Hazel Fortune
On 04/05/2010

In 1911 my Gran and her sister worked as beatsters.  They were Marian and Edith Stolliday and lived on Admiralty Road, Great Yarmouth.

By Hilary Clegg
On 18/12/2012

My Nanny, May Edmunds, used to be a net mender in Lowestoft.  I didn’t know until I found this funny looking object in an old wardrobe at her home, and asked her what it was.  She said it was a net mending shuttle. I also used to go and watch a fisherman living in Winterton on Sea, he used to let us watch.

By Kath Jackson
On 28/01/2013

My Great-Grandfather was a fisherman and his family lived on Clarks Road in Gorleston on Sea. Two of my Great Aunts were described by him as "Betsters" on the 1911 Census; this was corrected in red ink to "Beatsters (Fishing)" by the Census officials - always wondered what that meant !

By Derek Darnell
On 04/02/2018

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