Town’s history recalled with three blue plaques

PUBLISHED: 10:12 28 October 2011 | UPDATED: 10:39 28 October 2011




SIGNIFICANT events which helped shape Great Yarmouth’s history were celebrated on Monday with the unveiling of three blue plaques.

More than a dozen people paid homage to the Yarmouth bodysnatchers, the Guildhall, and the 1845 suspension bridge disaster when special memorials were revealed at the St Nicholas Church railings and the White Swan pub on North Quay.

The blue plaques were commissioned by The Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society and will join more than 30 memorials throughout Yarmouth and Gorleston.

Andrew Fakes, president of the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society, said: “The purpose of these plaques is to increase the interest in the history of Yarmouth and make it a more distinct town.”

The bodysnatchers plaque was unveiled by Rev James Stewart, curate in the Parish of Great Yarmouth, following an introduction by Dr Paul Davies.

Bodysnatchers, or resurrectionists, were hired by surgeons to steal bodies from graveyards across the country, with fresh corpses and the bodies of children fetching the highest prices.

Among those who employed bodysnatchers was the renowned surgeon Sir Astley Cooper who was the son of the vicar of Great Yarmouth.

His need for corpses saw him employ Thomas Vaughan, a former stone mason, who rented a house on Row six, Great Yarmouth, and stole 10 bodies from St Nicholas’ churchyard.

He maintained his criminal career by concealing the corpses in old houses on the row before packing them in crates of sawdust and sending them by wagon to London, via Norwich.

He was paid 10 to 12 guineas for each body, but was eventually arrested and jailed for six months. A later bodysnatching incident, where Thomas Vaughan stole the clothes from a corpse, saw him arrested again and transported to Australia.

Meanwhile, a second plaque was also erected on St Nicholas Church railings to mark the site of the town’s Guildhall. A third plaque remembering the Yarmouth suspension bridge disaster of 1845 was fixed on the White Swan public house because the previous plaque was vandalised.

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