Great Yarmouth History

Rows - a unique medieval street layout

The Luftwaffe in a few short years during the 1940s managed to effectively destroy the unique town layout of Great Yarmouth which were known as Rows. The rows ran in an east/west direction from South Quay to the Market Place/King Street. No complete rows now exist but some of the narrow alley ways that run from the town down to the river follow the course of the rows. In fact many of the alleys bear the numbers of the row that was previously in this location.

If one looks closely some of these alley ways still have vestiges of medieval architecture. A very narrow cart called a Troll cart was developed to travel along the very narrow rows. Many houses had substantial wooden buffers fixed along their lengths to prevent damage to the brickwork by the Troll carts. Row 83 which runs alongside the Elizabethan House on South Quay still has its buffers in place.

Row 83 showing troll cart buffers

Row 83 showing troll cart buffers

Had the Rows survived to the modern era they would no doubt have been a very picturesque asset to Great Yarmouth. However, for much of their existence the inhabitants, which was almost everyone in Great Yarmouth, were prone to the ravages of diseases such as cholera, smallpox, typhoid and the Black Death.

Until the mid 19th century when water was piped into the town there was no provision for sewage except the use of cesspits and drinking water was drawn from wells which were often tainted by sea water and sewage. Little wonder that the estimated 26,000 people that lived in the Rows in 1846 were in a parlous state of health.

The communities that lived in the rows were close knit and the Rows were all named, usually taking the name of a business or pub located in the row. However, some had more intriguing names such as Urquharts Back, Kittiwitches, Wildgres North, Says Corner South, Split Gutter and Body Snatchers. I leave you to investigate further.