Whilst finding out about the history of Great Yarmouth in order to write, I found two books really useful: ‘Yarmouth and Gorleston Through Time’ by Frank Meeres and ‘Maritime Norfolk-Part Two’ by Robert Malster.
The photos, sketches and stories these books hold gave me a fascinating insight into the lives lived in the maritime town.
Together with a visit to the Time and Tide Museum, I fell in love with the town all over again. Having visited as a child, I was all too familiar with the beach, pier and Pleasure Beach. Great Yarmouth holds many pleasant memories of candy floss and ice cream, but I never appreciated its diverse history.
Starting as a fishing settlement around 900 years ago when the sandbank it sits on emerged from the North Sea, it was a mere 650 years until Great Yarmouth’s ice cream days arrived! Famous for ‘Three Golden Miles’ this is the Yarmouth many of us know so well. But behind the bright lights and entertainments is a rich fishing history, which only declined in relatively recent decades. Partly because of diminishing supplies of the ‘Silver Darlings’, but also as a result of changing tastes…. cue the fish finger! Herring just wasn’t fashionable any more and with many fishing vessels having previously been called into duty in WW1, the culmination of events lead to a steady decline in the fishing trade of Great Yarmouth.
So what was Great Yarmouth like? Sails and steam, shipyards, unique characters making their living from the sea; a seafaring population of shrimpers, beesters, fishergirls and traders…