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Hidden side revealed in free museum trips

PUBLISHED: 10:34 20 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:57 16 September 2010

THERE'S never been a better opportunity to enjoy two great museums and events in Great Yarmouth - absolutely free.

A hidden side will be revealed to the Tolhouse and Elizabethan House museums as part of the Heritage Open Days event from September 9 to 12.

THERE'S never been a better opportunity to enjoy two great museums and events in Great Yarmouth - absolutely free.

A hidden side will be revealed to the Tolhouse and Elizabethan House museums as part of the Heritage Open Days event from September 9 to 12.

The Tolhouse is one of the oldest buildings in Yarmouth and has always had links with law and order in the town. Documents reveal that locals were paying rent to use part of the Tolhouse as early 1306.

The building was in use as a courthouse by magistrates and visiting judges for hundreds of years.

Prisoners held in the cells below the hall include pirates, suspected witches, fortune-tellers, deserters from the army or navy, swindlers, and thieves.

Over the centuries, the gaol changed and was enlarged many times, but the dungeon has always remained in use.

Archaeologist Ken Hamilton will talk about the recent laser survey of the medieval undercroft at noon on Thursday, September 9

And visitors can join local heritage enthusiast Les Cole for a talk on the History of the Tolhouse at noon on Friday, September 10.

The Tolhouse will be open free of charge throughout the Heritage Open Days on Thursday and Friday, from 10am to 4pm, and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4pm.

Wealthy merchant Benjamin Cowper built the Elizabethan House in 1596. The house is famous for its connections with Oliver Cromwell who is said to have frequently visited his friend, John Carter, who purchased the house from Cowper in 1635.

The premises became a regular meeting place for Parliamentarians during the Civil War and it is here, one gloomy November evening in 1648, that the fate of Charles I was decided.

The house was given to the National Trust in 1949. Visitors can find out about life upstairs and down in Tudor Yarmouth, explore amazing original rooms, and find out about the building's extraordinary stained glass.

On Saturday and Sunday, at 12pm, visitors can find out more about the Elizabethan House with special tours led by history enthusiast Bernard Embery (tours repeated at 2.30pm).

The Elizabethan House is open free on Saturday and Sunday noon to 4pm.

Historic buildings across the borough will be open free of charge for the Great Yarmouth Heritage Open Days.

Copies of the brochure are available online at www.great-yarmouth.co.uk/heritageopendays.

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