7 secrets to Yarmouth’s history hidden in plain sight
PUBLISHED: 11:02 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:33 24 January 2020
Although Great Yarmouth’s eyes now turn to the future and regeneration, we can’t forget about the hidden quirks that reveal the history of this quaint coastal town.
1. The Pirate's Tombstone
Found in St Nicholas' Churchyard, this tombstone is dedicated to David Bartleman - a shipmaster from up North who in 1781 staved off a coastal attack by a notorious pirate, 'Fall', who was thought to have been hired to wreak havoc on British fleets by the Americans in the War of Independence.
The affair prompted the Mayor of Great Yarmouth to write an angry letter to London's Admiralty for not caring more about the Norfolk Coast, and for failing to provide the town with 'a single warship.'
2. The tombstone of George Beloe
Everyone's heard the story of Nelson the Clown, the bath-sitting floating spectacle who was due to be pulled down the River Bure on the 2nd May 1845 by four geese in front of crowds of children before the suspension bridge snapped.
What you might not know, however, is that the only surviving tombstone from the tragedy belongs to that of nine-year-old George Beloe in St Nicholas' Churchyard.
At the top spans an engraving of the moment the bridge snapped, with the eye of God peering down on the victims as boats attempt to rescue them.
Yarmouth's vicar saw the event as divine punishment for the town's sinfulness, and founded the priory school to provide for destitute children.
3. The medieval brick cellar
One of the only surviving pieces of architecture recorded in the 1208 Charter, granted by King John to Yarmouth guaranteeing their rights as a free borough, is the medieval brick cellar which stretches from 50-56 Howard Street.
The charter included the right to hold a market as long as the town sent, every year, to the sheriffs of Norwich, '100 herrings baked in twenty-four pasties'.
4. The gables at the Fishermen's Hospital
Yarmouth built its wealth on the back of the herring, but the Dutch had also begun exploiting North Sea herring stocks by around 1500.
Queen Elizabeth granted a settlement licence to 30 Dutch master fishermen in danger of religious persecution in their own country in 1568.
Though people threatened to start kicking them out ten years later, the shape of the gables at the Fishermen's Hospital, which was built in 1702 to provide housing for 'decayed fishermen', is indicative of the imprint Dutch architecture was to leave upon the town.
5. The Lombard Pawn Shop on King Street
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This site has significance beyond mere changes-of-hands throughout the ages.
In the 13th century, it used to be Yarmouth's castle. Near Row 99, the structure had four turrets used as watchtowers to warn the surrounding countryside of an enemy's approach.
It was repaired several times in the 1600s, but became ruinous, and was eventually taken down altogether.
6. Wellington Mews Arch on Wellington Road
This arch, which literally appears out of nowhere, and lives just past the Nelson Hotel, was part of a vision for Yarmouth in the 1840s which never materlialised.
The grandest of the arches along this road, the Wellington Arch, was intended to be the impressive entrance to a new estate of summer residences for high-ranking families and royalty.
But as the plans folded, and defects were found in the drains of surrounding properties, it was decided at the end of the 19th century that the site was just too smelly.
7. The crest above the Royal Hotel
It wasn't all bad though. Many royals have come to visit Yarmouth for different reasons. For example, one was a well-known adulterer and used Yarmouth as one of his haunts.
Teetering at the top of the Royal Hotel along the seafront is the crest of King Edward VII, who stayed there in the late 1800s.
Here, he is reported to have entertained his high-profile mistress, who was music hall singer and stage actress Lily Langtree.