Yarmouth Jetty: Reaction - a sad day, but it “was not worth preserving”

PUBLISHED: 09:41 13 January 2012

The fourth day of work to demolish the Jetty on Great Yarmouth seafront.

January 2012

Picture: James Bass

The fourth day of work to demolish the Jetty on Great Yarmouth seafront. January 2012 Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

CAMPAIGNERS reacted with dismay when diggers began to tear Great Yarmouth’s historic jetty apart on Monday.

But history experts say while the story of the jetty is significant, there is so little left of the original structure that it was not worth preserving.

The dilapidated structure – which councillors say was in need of £350,000 of repairs – should have been given minimum repairs until funding to fully restore it could be found, according to campaigners.

“It’s not about money, it’s about neglect,” said local historian Michael Boon, former chief executive of Great Yarmouth Port Authority. “They could have redeployed money to hold the jetty for another day, and they chose not to do it. It beggars belief that the council can destroy a part of Yarmouth’s history.”

Margaret Gooch, vice chairman of Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society, said: “I feel this is a loss of something important.

“I know there are very few materials there from before the 1960s but it’s on the same site as the original jetty and Nelson departed from it for the Battle of Copenhagen.”

Campaigners had approached English Heritage for funding to repair the jetty in 2010, but experts decided it was not worth listing as they believed it had been rebuilt several times.

And Anthony Wills, of the National Piers Society, echoed this opinion after news of the demolition broke this week.

He said: “Our view is that there wasn’t a sufficient amount left of the original structure for it to be preserved. It has a certain historical interest, but what was there wasn’t particularly distinguished so we had no objections to the demolition.”

The jetty has been rebuilt 15 times since 1560, according to the council.

And while archaeologists hope some form of monument to the jetty can be built, they say people should not be upset about the destruction of a rebuild dating back to 1964.

David Gurney, historic environment manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “A lot of the historic fabric has been lost but it’s played a very important role in Great Yarmouth’s development and history since 1560.

“Since then it’s been through any number of cycles of decay and repair - this is just the latest.”

He added he would like to see the jetty retained at least in part, and they would oppose the demolition of all traces of the jetty. And he is optimistic a lasting memorial to the jetty and its rich history can emerge in the wake of the demolition.

“There’s hope at the end of this tunnel that something can be done to mark that important spot,” said Mr Gurney. “We also want some interpretation there so people can understand its significance.”

The borough council’s development control committee voted to tear the jetty down at a meeting in January last year, saying it was too expensive to repair.

Charles Reynolds, deputy leader of the council, was chairman of the development control committee that sealed the jetty’s fate.

He said: “It’s a sad day, but we were left with very little choice. When English Heritage decided it wasn’t historic enough to list – which meant any funding would be impossible to come by – we had few options left.

“It’s like having to put your old dog down. You don’t want to do it but it has to be done.”

The council-owned structure has been closed to the public since 2009 because of its decaying timbers and loose cladding. Demolition work is expected to finish at the end of next week, with a further six weeks of resurfacing work on the concrete structure after that.

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