Great Yarmouth History

Historical Snippets II

Great Yarmouth and Gorleston owe their original economic existence to the herring. As early as 1000 A.D.the towns were used as a base for the fishermen who followed the migrating shoals. With the herring fishing came the associated fish curing industry and of course the famous Yarmouth bloater. The local ship building industry was a direct result of the herring trade.

Until the 20th century the marshes surrounding Great Yarmouth and Gorleston were drained by windpump, after which electrical pumps were used. Two windpumps have been restored, one at The Stracey Arms which is alongside the Acle Straight and the other at The Berney Arms which is at the confluence of the River Yare and Breydon Water at its most westerly point. If you see me at either of these windpumps or more likely in the pubs - mines a pint. Interestingly the original function of the 'windpump' at the Berney Arms was not to pump water but to grind clinker for the now defunct cement works, which were nearby.

Sheep and cattle have grazed on the marshes located on either side of the Acle Straight since medieval times. By the 18th century cattle from as far away as Scotland were fattened on these marshes before going to market.

The Coastguard lookout was situated at the end of the South Pier, Gorleston. Along the length of the Pier were capstans which were used to help sailing vessels to get into the harbour against the winds and tides.

The pilot house was situated at the beginning of the South Pier, Gorleston. The pilots were there to help the safe passage of vessels past the narrow entrance to the river and the bend at Brush Quay. This valuable service is still in operation and used today. The pilot station is now situated on Riverside Road.

Great Yarmouth and Gorleston became favourite to the "well to do" in the 18th century. The masses arrived in the 19th century with the advent of the railways and cheap travel.

From the Victorian period until the 1970's boat trips from Great Yarmouth were extremely popular. There were many steamers running excursion trips to such locations as St Olaves, Oulton Broad, Norwich, Wroxham and Beccles. These boats ran from South Quay /Stonecutters Quay as did a regular service to London. There were also boats to Gorleston and Lowestoft during the 'season'. Going to Gorleston by boat and returning by Tram must have been a pleasant way to spend a summers day. Alas no more, still you can have a trip along the front in a Landau ..... not quite the same somehow.

The gap created by the ultimate disappearance of the herring industry has been replaced in part by the North Sea oil and gas industries which are serviced from Great Yarmouth. The wharfs and quays along the River Yare now host the many vessels that service the North Sea oil rigs.