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Celebrate granting of freedom

PUBLISHED: 17:11 10 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:15 03 July 2010

It survives as a fragile piece of priceless medieval parchment which changed the course of Great Yarmouth's history.

Now the seal is almost set on plans for a year of lavish celebrations commemorating the granting of the King John Charter in 1208.

It survives as a fragile piece of priceless medieval parchment which changed the course of Great Yarmouth's history.

Now the seal is almost set on plans for a year of lavish celebrations commemorating the granting of the King John Charter in 1208.

A series of events are planned throughout the next 12 months to mark the 800th anniversary of the charter that made Yarmouth a free borough.

The curtain will be raised with a civic parade and service on March 16 at St Nicholas Church, the day 800 years ago on which the charter was signed.

A copy of the charter will be delivered to the church on horseback before being read out at the service.

The church will also host a banquet on May 17 with dishes based on medieval recipes, prepared by Great Yarmouth College students. It will revive the tradition of the Guild Feast held on Trinity Sunday for the 300 years after the charter was granted.

Award-winning Yarmouth-based Blackfriars Brewery is producing a charter celebration ale which will be served at the feast.

Brewery owner Bill Russell said the beer, based on the recipe for a 13th century ale, would have a light hoppy, herby flavour.

And the sights, sounds and smells of the Middle Ages feature at a special Charter Market on March 18 and 19, with stall holders donning period dress. The charter gave Yarmouth powers including the right to establish a merchant's guild to control markets and exemption from paying tolls on goods sold to other English towns.

And as part of this year's celebrations, in a lasting memorial of the anniversary, a new market cross will be erected close to the Fisherman's Hospital replacing the original monument that was demolished in 1836.

Energy company Perenco has donated £5,000 towards the Market Cross, which will be unveiled by an as yet unannounced VIP. In another lasting legacy of the anniversary a large painting of present day townspeople depicted in medieval dress at the signing ceremony with King John will be hung in St Nicholas Church. The painting is being created by Ernie Childs of Great Yarmouth Potteries, who will also be producing a limited edition of charter tankards and goblets. Regular events in the town calendar including the Easter Fair, Maritime and Beer festivals will also have a charter theme. Charter committee chairman Bert Collins said: “Yarmouth people are proud of their history; the town was one of the richest and highest in trade next to London during medieval times.

“These first class celebrations will really put the borough in the spotlight I am honoured to be involved.

“It is especially exciting to be marking this historic anniversary with the future of the town looking so bright. We still want more people to join in and organise events to get as much of the community involved as possible.”

The charter will be on display at Norwich Record Office to coincide with the anniversary celebrations and it is hoped it may be returned for temporary exhibition in Yarmouth during the course of the year.

Anyone interested in organising events for the King John Charter anniversary should email lauragoodman@greatyarmouth.gov.

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