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Town hails 800 years of history

PUBLISHED: 09:32 17 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:38 03 July 2010

EIGHT hundred years of freedom is not a bad record, and yesterday Great Yarmouth celebrated in style.

A special parade and service was held to mark the anniversary of the town gaining its royal charter from King John on March 18, 1208, an event which changed the course of the town's history.

EIGHT hundred years of freedom is not a bad record, and yesterday Great Yarmouth celebrated in style.

A special parade and service was held to mark the anniversary of the town gaining its royal charter from King John on March 18, 1208, an event which changed the course of the town's history. It meant that the town could run its own affairs, trade freely and become prosperous.

The parade set off from the town hall and made its way to St Nicholas' church, although the wet and windy weather meant that only small numbers of people turned out to watch. Councillors, mayor Paul Garrod, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and representatives of local community groups, including the twinning association, the RNLI and the Soroptimists, were among those in the parade, led by the Winterton Marine Cadets band.

As the service got under way, there were three knocks on the church door and a rider on horseback entered the church with a copy of the charter in a re-enactment of the events of 800 years ago. It was presented to Richard Packham, the council's managing director, who proclaimed its contents to the congregation, including the order “that the borough be a free borough forever”.

The charter was then laid on the altar by the Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Rev David Atkinson. Later it was given to Mark Thompson, 34, the borough's youngest councillor. The linking of old and young, past and present, was continued in an address from the mayor's cadet, Jane Paddison, and a dedication to the spirit of the charter, led by 101-year-old Jack Chase, the oldest freeman of the borough.

Local historian Michael Boon explained the charter's significance. “With a charter, the burgesses of Yarmouth would be able to enter harbours and trade at fairs without paying heavy taxes. They would be able to hold their own fairs. The charter granted the town an income from a variety of sources and freed the town from the yoke of the king's control.”

A message of congratulations from Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was read out during the service, which was led by team rector Michael Woods.

Afterwards a new beer was launched from Yarmouth's Blackfriars brewery, appropriately called Charter Ale.

Also unveiled yesterday was a specially created banner depicting the story of the granting of the charter, which is now on show at the Time and Tide Museum. It has been created by community artists Tara Sampy and Kate Munro with collaboration from the town's museum, Norfolk Records Office, and students from Yarmouth High School.

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