King Street set for major makeover

WITH its tall town houses, fancy architecture and big bay windows, Great Yarmouth’s King Street is today dominated by small cafes and shops which give it a lively, almost Bohemian, feel.

Thanks in part to the efforts of entrepreneurial immigrants, things are looking up for the once-imposing thoroughfare, at one time the town’s principal and swankiest street and, even today, ranked among the finest in Norfolk.

Now a funding bid finalised with the Heritage Lottery Fund in the last few weeks, means owners can apply for 60pc grants to repair their historic buildings, with no upper limit.

The three-year initiative is part of a wider regeneration scheme to enhance the setting of St George’s Chapel, which is being re-invented as an arts and cultural venue, and to revitalise the area, generating investment.

Darren Barker, borough conservation officer at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said buildings from the former 151 club to the White Lion pub on the corner of Nottingham Way would be eligible under the scheme which had also won funding for a “groundbreaking” project involving artists to record and engage the community.

Even buildings that appeared fairly modern may have time-travelled from the late medieval through Georgian re-fronting and Victorian make-overs, to some fairly crude 21st century interventions, which help to tell the town’s story and track its fluctuating fortunes.

Mr Barker described it as “one of the most important streets in the borough, if not the county”, adding that, despite their heritage worth, the buildings’ low market value had saved them from ill-conceived alterations using inappropriate materials because owners were reluctant to invest.

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“Some of the owners have done really good repairs but many still need an injection of capital. As some of the buildings are not worth a great deal, people have not done them up – but neither have they been allowed to reach the state of neglect beyond the point of no return.

“The key is routine maintenance which is what we will be pushing with workshop days for people to learn about traditional techniques.

“We want to repair the buildings because that is what we are about, but there is not much point if they are not going to be used. It is important that we find viable end uses and encourage existing users. If there are empty floors above we would want to bring them into use too.”

Originally, in medieval times, King Street was the preserve of wealthy merchants but soon gave way to more mixed use combining retail and residential.