Historic Great Yarmouth

Described by Charles Dickens' character Peggotty in David Copperfield as the 'finest place in the universe', Great Yarmouth isn't just about amusement arcades, thrilling rides and enormous beaches - it also has a rich and proud maritime heritage and its prosperous herring fishery once made it one of the wealthiest towns in Britain. As a result, there are lots of beautiful, ancient buildings, particularly Dutch and Flemish, to see in the town centre and around the historic South Quay at the confluence of the rivers Yare and Bure - as well as England's second most complete medieval Town Wall.

Along the recently-restored quayside close to Haven Bridge is the town's Heritage Quarter, where visitors can enjoy the riverside walk and tree-lined avenue. Just beyond the proud 19th century town hall, the 16th century Elizabethan House museum recreates domestic life during the port's heyday. Moored opposite is the Lydia Eva, an original and lovingly-restored drifter that was part of the town's herring industry in the 1930s. At this time it is said the fleet was so big you could, going boat to boat, walk across the river. The vessel is now a museum with displays and films that illustrate the herring industry at its peak.

Further along the South Quay is the Nelson Museum, housed in a handsome Georgian mansion and telling the story of Norfolk's (and England's) greatest naval hero who spent time in the town before the Battle of Copenhagen. It was here that he first stepped ashore back in England after the Battle of the Nile and his time in Italy. The displays focus on the admiral's career, leadership skills – and love life. When the married commander returned from the Mediterranean, he brought with him Lady Hamilton!

Read more... Find Nelson in Norfolk.

Great Yarmouth historyAward-winning Time & Tide museum is a brilliant tour of the town's history.

Nelson is also commemorated by the tall pillar topped by Britannia in the South Denes - otherwise known as the Nelson Monument - and was built as a memorial after the Battle of the Trafalgar.

Read more... Nelson Monument.

Nelson and Lady Hamilton joined in a celebratory service at the town's St Nicholas church at the northern end of the Market Place, once the largest parish church in the country and now a Minster.

Close to the Nelson Museum are the Great Yarmouth Row Houses, where port workers lived in cramped tenement conditions, and the Tolhouse, one of the town's oldest buildings, dating back to the 12th century. It has served as a town hall and prison and the museum focuses on the town’s criminals through history. The kids will love the scary basement cells.

St. George's Theatre at the edge of central St. George's Park is a Grade 1 listed building, commissioned in 1714 to be modelled on the church of St Clement Danes by Sir Christopher Wren. The result was a monumental design now recognised as one of the finest examples of Baroque Church architecture outside of London. The building has recently undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment and once inside the exposed roof beams indicate for all to see that the town’s forefathers were extremely skilled boat builders.

A little further south is Great Yarmouth Potteries and Smoke House, built of ships' masts and timbers propped up against remains of the medieval town hall, and the magnificent award-winning Time and Tide Museum, housed in an old smokehouse – in fact, you can still smell it! The museum tells a compelling story of the Great Yarmouth fishing industry, has exhibits on smoking and curing, shows what life was like on board a drifter and has a recreation of a town street in the 19th century. Great Yarmouth still has three herring on its coat of arms, and it was famous for its own type of whole, salted, cold-smoked, or 'bloated', herring – known as bloaters (the nickname of the town's football team).

The celebrated bloater dates from 1835 when a herring-curer called Bishop salted some left-over fish and put them overnight in his oak log-fuelled 'smoke house, to prevent them from being spoiled. It is said the next morning he was 'both astonished and delighted with their appearance, aroma and flavour'. The town had its own entry in the epicurean encyclopaedia.

In 1913, 1,163 fishing boats were operating out of the port and on October 23, 1907 fishermen brought in nearly 80 million herring in one day. ONE DAY!

Upstairs there are exhibits on Great Yarmouth during the world wars and its history as a popular seaside resort. Great Yarmouth was one of the original seaside resorts where visitors would come to take the waters back in the late 1700s and even today you can see beautiful Victorian and Edwardian architecture along the seafront, mixed in with modern day buildings.

Don't leave without visiting St Nicholas Minster in the Market Place, the largest parish church in the country, founded in 1101. The Black Death, the Reformation and the Nazis have all had a big say in its history.

Read more... Norfolk churches and cathedrals.

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