Phillips, Revd. Forbes


Residence of. Old Vicarage, Gorleston. Vicar of Gorleston and producer of many plays.

Forbes Phillips was an extraordinary clergyman. He was very active in the parish. He organised a regatta, founded an athletic and cycling club and a dramatic and choral society. He was known as the Smacksmen’s Parson, and enjoyed drinking with sailors and fishermen in the quayside pubs.


On Old Year's Night, he would meet the lifeboat crew under Gorleston Library clock with two bottles of whisky and, after it had been consumed, they would then march to the Watch Night Service at St. Andrew’s Church.


His love of drama and the stage brought actresses and singers to contribute to his evening services, which were often crowded. He wrote, organised and presented a Pageant, which included Druids, Romans, Queen Boudicca, the Knights Templar and the Restoration of King Charles II.  He wrote plays, comedies and novels under the pen-name of Athol Forbes.


His many brushes with the law were legendary. He was sued for slander, when his dog killed some ducks. Also, he shot a potential burglar in the churchyard. He took a horse-whip to James Beckett in the Yarmouth Mercury office in the High Street after some cartoons were shown which he did not like. He was involved in a fight on the cliffs with some supporters of Colonel Bulmer, a churchwarden, with whom he had had a dispute.


As a priest he was also controversial. He argued with the Bishop over his arrangements for a Confirmation Service and gave an interview to the Daily Mail stating that: the Bishops needed reforming. He was an outstanding preacher, but had some unorthodox views on the Resurrection, which shocked his flock and caused sensational comments in the local and national press.

Forbes Phillips carried out many improvements to St. Andrew’s Church, Gorleston, including installing oak screens, restoration of the tower and organ and the insertion of new stained glass windows.


His daughter, Mary, an accomplished singer, married Egbert (Bertie, later Sir Egbert Cadbury) of the chocolate family, who had joined the Royal Naval Air Service and was stationed at the Royal Naval Air Station at Great Yarmouth. On 8th July 1918, Lieutenants Cadbury and Leckie shot down Zeppelin L70.

Residence of Forbes Phillips (white house)