Two famed sons of Yarmouth are honoured

ESTEEMED figures of Great Yarmouth’s past have been honoured with a pair of blue plaques to signify their illustrious lives.

Local people and historians gathered at two historical sites yesterday to commemorate politician and author CJ Palmer, and renowned surgeon Sir Astley Cooper.

CJ Palmer’s plaque was unveiled on Elizabethan House, South Quay, which belonged to his father in 1809; while Sir Astley Cooper’s plaque was revealed at St George’s Plain (site of the old Yarmouth General Hospital) where he served part of his surgical apprenticeship.

The two signs marked a grand achievement for the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society who have created 30 plaques throughout Yarmouth and Gorleston in the last 30 years.

Richard Powell, National Trust Director for the East of England, unveiled the memorials during two special ceremonies.

He said: “I spent all of my childhood in Great Yarmouth so it’s fantastic to come back and do something like this.

“Heritage really underpins the economic drive of this town. Let’s hope these amazing people will inspire people of today to help move the town forward in the future.”

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CJ Palmer, who died on September 24, 1882 at his home, Villa Graham in Yarmouth, was twice mayor of the borough, chief magistrate for the Yarmouth, and served as deputy lieutenant for Suffolk.

After leaving school, he was articled for two years to solicitor Robert Cory, registrar of Admiralty Court and another former mayor of Yarmouth.

In later years, Palmer gave aid to St Nicholas’ Parish Church and was active in the establishment of its restoration fund in the mid 19th century. He proved key in saving the Priory refectory from destruction and establishing a national school in the building.

Elsewhere in the borough, he was involved with Yarmouth Charity Trustees, the public library, the Sailor’s Home, and the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society. He published a number of literary works on Yarmouth.

Sir Astley Paston Cooper, born in Brooke, Norfolk in 1768, was renowned for his work as a surgeon and spent his early years in Yarmouth.

His father, Samuel Cooper was the Vicar of Yarmouth from 1781 to 1800.

During his youth, Astley narrowly escaped with his life when he attempted to cross the harbour bar and go to sea in a gunboat which was only suitable for sailing on Breydon Water.

He was apprenticed to his surgeon uncle at Guy’s Hospital, London, in 1784.

In 1802, he won the Royal Society’s Copley Medal for his research for a paper on hearing acuity in two patients with perforated ear drums – the first time the condition had been prescribed.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and became the most famous surgical teacher in Europe and in 1813 became Professor of Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons.

During his time as a surgeon he was also prolific in stealing dead bodies, known as “body-snatching”, so he could continue his research.

He died childless, at the age of 72 in 1841.