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You are in: Norfolk » A Sense Of Place

21 July 2005 1521 BST
Take a tour of Great Yarmouth's history
Pic: The Fishermen's Hospital.
The Fishermen's Hospital is one of Great Yarmouth's "hidden gems," says tour guide Angela Woodgate.

Behind Great Yarmouth's brash bucket and spade image is a town which is steeped in history.

Its beaches attract thousands of holiday-makers each year, but in the 1400s its location lured people keen to make lots of money.


Go on Great Yarmouth's Market Place tour with Angela Woodgate (13'36")

Please be patient - this tour may take a few seconds to download.

Use the BBC Webwise guide to downloading realplayer

BBC Nation on Film: Archive footage of local herring industry

Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Norfolk Nelson Museum

Time And Tide Museum

Tolhouse Museum

Elizabethan House Museum

English Heritage: Row houses

Map of the rows

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There are four walks available in Great Yarmouth.

The Historic Town Centre walk is the one featured here and covers the heritage of the Market Place.

The Maritime Connection takes in South Quay, where Nelson landed in 1800.

The Medieval Town Wall walk traces the framework of Great Yarmouth's walls, of which an amazing percentage survives. You can also find out the reason for the steep slope in Market Gates precinct.

The Old Yarmouth walk is a circular tour of the town and is ideal for people who are enjoying a short break. You will need a pair of comfy shoes though - this walk takes around an hour and a half.



You do not have to book for any of the walks - just turn up.

For more details call town guide Dona Watson on 07901 915390 or the tourist board on 01493 842 195.

You can also order a brochure, Great Yarmouth Guided Walks, for more details.

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Great Yarmouth started life as a small spit of sand in the middle of an estuary that gradually silted up until land was formed which people built on.

The elegant houses which still line the harbour's mouth and Southtown Road point to a time when the town enjoyed a lot of prosperity - due to a small fish called the herring.

Fame and fortune

Pic: Angela Woodgate.
Town guide Angela Woodgate takes us on a tour of the historic town centre.
This tour requires RealPlayer

The herring, which was found in the North Sea surrounding the town, was Great Yarmouth's path to fortune.

Fisherman moved to the town from around the country - and they were followed by the merchants who sold herrings to the whole of Europe.

One of the reasons why the herring made so much money was because it could be preserved in salt.

While other foods would be inedible by the time they reached their destination, a profit could be made on each herring fished.

King's death warrant

As well as wealthy, Great Yarmouth was also a prominent place to live. The last person to sign King Charles' I death warrant as part of Oliver Cromwell's rebellion lived in the Market Place.

Miles Corbet was the town's MP, but after Cromwell's Commonwealth was quashed by Charles II, his life was in danger and he had to flee from Britain.

Eventually, he was tracked down in Holland and brought to the Tower of London where he endured a tormented end.

Surely this was not something he anticipated when he added his name to the death warrant, which he is said to have signed at the Elizabethan House, on the quay.

The other Nelson's Column

The quayside is also an important place in the town's history for another reason.

Admiral Nelson docked his ship in the port in 1800 after the Battle of the Nile and is said to have stayed at The Wrestlers pub in the Market Place.

Locals showed their appreciation to the seafaring hero by donating money towards a monument.

The 144-ft column in South Denes - which was built 24 years before the one in Trafalgar Square - is topped by a statue of Britannia which points to Nelson's birthplace in north Norfolk.

This statue is responsible for a piece of folklore after the town surveyor died while climbing the steps of the tower.

Thomas Sutton is said to have thrown himself off the top of the column after he discovered Britannia was facing the wrong way - but if you want to know the real reason for his death then you'll have to take our tour!

The Rows

Although the town was heavily bombed during the Second World War, some of its ancient rows still remain.

People lived and worked down these dark, smelly and dingy lanes, where residents slung their rubbish out into the sloping pathways so it would be washed away to sea.

The town's 145 rows were built so close together that people could open their windows and touch hands with their neighbours.

But people opening their doors out into the rows caused problems so a law was passed to make people reverse the hinges on their doors to open inwards instead.

If you didn't obey then you were fined and your door was nailed shut so you couldn't get out!

Today, just a few rows are still standing as part of the old format, which ran between St Nicholas Church and the fire station.

Pic: Carving at St Nicholas Church.: link
Take our tour of Great Yarmouth
The Great Yarmouth Tour requires RealPlayer


Please be patient - the tour will take a few moments to load.

On our tour discover how Great Yarmouth made its fortune and find out about its famous visitors.

You can also learn more about St Nicholas Church, the Fishermen's Hospital, Market Gates, Palmers department store, Miles Corbet's house, the town wall, Nelson's Column, the suspension bridge disaster, troll carts and the rows.

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