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Great Yarmouth

Local History and



I hope you will find this latest edition of the Journal both interesting and informative, as we again
have an excellent selection of articles and my thanks go to all those who have contributed.

As I mentioned in my editorial last year, our annual Journal is the result of much hard work and
research by many people; it is my job to collate this work and set it out in the most interesting
manner for readers. I am pleased to say that the quality of the articles and accompanying
photographs submitted for publication remains high, making my own role in the process much

Last year saw a substantial increase in the number of blue plaques placed on local points of
interest by the Society. Many of these presentations are covered within this 2012 edition of the
Journal, with illustrations. In addition, there is once again an excellent selection of historical
articles, and summaries of a number of the Society’s activities during past year.

For future editions of the Journal, I will of course be pleased to hear from members at any time
during the year who have articles ready for publication. I will also be pleased to hear from anyone
who is considering writing a piece, but may need some guidance as to preparing their work and
the format in which text and images should be submitted.

Finally, I would remind members that back issues of many of the Journals published between
1985 and 2011 (but please note, not all years) are still available, so if you are missing any from
your collection, do please contact me and I will supply if I am able to do so.

John Smail


Telephone: 01493-300999

Address: 36 Yallop Avenue, Gorleston, Great Yarmouth. NR31 6HD

Great Yarmouth
Local History and

No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of Great
Yarmouth and District Local History and Archaeological Society and the author(s) concerned.
Apply in the first instance to the editor.

The responsibility for obtaining any necessary permission to copy or reproduce other people’s
material, or to copy or reproduce material from other publications for use within Yarmouth Local
History and Archaeology lays with the author(s) and not the Editor or the Society. Upon receipt of
articles from contributors, the Editor will assume that all the necessary authorisation has been
obtained and he will not be held liable in the case of subsequent query.

The responsibility for accuracy of facts within any article lays with the author(s) of that article and
not with the Editor or the Society.

Any opinions expressed within an article are those of the author(s) of that article, and not
necessarily those of the Editor or the Society.


Registered Charity No. 277272


President: Andrew Fakes

Chairman: Paul Davies
Treasurer: Derek Leak
Secretary and Vice-Chairman: Margaret Gooch
77 High Road, Gorleston, NR31 0PB
Tel: 01493-661270

Committee: Carl Boult

Ann Dunning
Alan Hunt
Peter Jones
David McDermott
John Smail
James Steward
Michael Wadsworth
Patricia Wills-Jones
Honorary Members: Norman Fryer
Shirley Harris
John McBride
Alec McEwen

Paul Rutledge
Russell Smith
Colin Tooke
Percy Trett

Three Committee Members retire each year according to a three year rota.
Officers are elected annually, and Honorary Members remain so for life.

21st January The Medieval Legacy in the East Anglian Landscape

Derek Leak, Committee Member, GYLHAS

18th February Norfolk’s Coastal Heritage

Dr. Rik Hoggett, Coastal Heritage Officer, Historic Environment Service, Norfolk CC.

18th March The Acle Dig

Lily Hodges, Archaeologist, Norfolk Archaeological Unit.
15th April Fritton Lake at War
Stuart Burgess, Lake Manager.
20th May AGM followed by Norwich Heritage and Regeneration Trust
Sophie Cabot, Engagement Manager, Norwich H.E.A.R.T.
16th September The Herring Girls
Chris Unsworth, Local Historian.
21st October The History of Great Yarmouth Grammar School
Michael Boon, former Chief Executive, Great Yarmouth Port Authority.
18th November Characters of East Anglia
Mark Mitchels, Lecturer and Author on the History of East Anglia.

16th December Christmas Social and The History and Archaeology of Christmas
Margaret Gooch, Committee Member, GYLHAS

Lecture Summaries 2011-12

September 2011

Over 100 members and guests attended the first September Meeting of Great Yarmouth Local
History and Archaeological Society at the Central Library on 16th September 2011

The Chairman, Paul Davies, mentioned the Society’s activities and visits during the summer, and
the blue plaques recently placed around the town. He then introduced the speaker for the
evening, Mr. Chris Unsworth, who gave a thoughtful, illustrated lecture on the Scottish herring
girls and their involvement with Great Yarmouth. He began by saying that his grandfather, Tom
Bruce, was the skipper of the drifter Admiration, No. INS99. This boat came to down to Great
Yarmouth during many herring seasons. He also said his grandmother was a herring girl.

Mr. Unsworth said that it would probably now be inappropriate to speak of herring girls or herring
lassies today, but these terms were used over many years. The gutting and packing of herrings
was hard and even dangerous work, but many Scottish women volunteered to follow the drifters,
catching the shoals of herring round the coast of Great Britain. There was little alternative
employment in the Hebrides and the coastal areas of Scotland, and it was possible to make a
relatively good amount of money. Scottish fish merchants depended upon their skill, rather than
train local gutters at English ports.

Enormous quantities of herring were caught and only about one fifth were consumed locally, so
the fish were preserved in barrels, which were mostly exported to Europe. Packing was done by
crews of three women, two gutting the fish with the tallest of the girls packing them into the
barrels. The herrings were graded by size and only perfect fish were packed. The use of sharp
knives and rock salt made the work unpleasant and the only protective wear was bandages made
of old flour sacks wrapped round their fingers. Hours of work could be very long if a lot of fish
was caught and the work was carried out in the open. First aid, washing, and even toilet facilities
were not provided until late in the history of the industry. Scottish churches were prominent early
in promoting the welfare of their womenfolk.
Chris Unsworth answered several questions regarding the herring fishery, adding that wages and
numbers of people varied throughout the years. He pointed out that most of the pictures of the
fish gutters showed the men in the background with their hands in their pockets. A great
camaraderie among the women was mentioned and members present recounted that herring
gutters were generally cheerful and would knit and sing. Great Yarmouth also benefitted from
their presence as its shops were a great attraction and novelty to the Scots and, at the end of the
season, they spent their earnings on furniture, crockery and even pianos, which were sent to
Scotland in the holds of the drifters.

October 2011
An illustrated lecture by Mr. Michael Boon was presented entitled The History of Great Yarmouth
Grammar School. Michael Boon, a former pupil, limited his talk to the last 100 years of the school
on its present site at Salisbury Road, when it moved to its present site. He mentioned the various
headmasters from Doctor Raven to Mr. Toone, the current headmaster. Various masters were
mentioned including their nick-names such as Alf, Tojo, Streaky, Bushy and Benny.

The school expanded over the years, but it suffered great upheaval in 1940 when wartime
conditions made it necessary to move to Retford, where the staff and pupils ‘time-shared’ the
facilities with fellows of Retford Grammar School.

Over the years the school enjoyed a great number of extracurricula activities, such as a cadet
force, drama and musical performances and a debating society. They even had mock elections,
when boys chose to represent the political parties standing in general elections, and tried to
convince fellow pupils to vote for them. Various trips were organized, including one to Moscow,
which presented difficulties as the Berlin Wall was erected in between the outward journey and
time when the party returned.

Several talented athletes emerged amongst its pupils, some of whom had success on the football
field or cricket pitch. Old boys obtained distinction in many fields. Several former pupils gained
professorships. There were two bishops, one general and three pupils who gained knighthoods
in varied fields, such as ballet dancing and electricity generation.

Changes in education resulted in the school expanding. It became co-educational in 1971 and it
is now referred to as Great Yarmouth High School. The school continues to expand and now
covers new subjects relevant to the 21st century.

November 2011
The Society enjoyed an informative and entertaining lecture by Mr. Mark Mitchels, of Woodbridge,
on Characters of East Anglia.

Mr. Mitchels began with Sir William Bardolph of Dennington, Suffolk, who accompanied Henry V
to France in 1415 with a company of Suffolk archers, with whom Sir William had been practicing
shooting with bows and arrows for many years. His view was that Henry V had to secure his
place on the English throne after his father, Henry IV, had usurped from Richard II by means of
military victories in France.

Having captured Harfleur after a long and costly siege, he decided to march his army up to the
English-held port of Calais. The French army were determined to take revenge for their previous
defeats at Crecy and Poitiers, and had a force of about 30,000 men compared to Henry’s band of
around 5,000. He was forced inland by the French, destroying all the bridges over the Somme,
and he was brought to bay at a place of their choosing, Agincourt, which was a rain sodden field
between two woodlands. The two armies faced each other with the French in high morale,
however, Henry and his fellow commanders were able to encourage their men with speeches
almost as good as those Shakespeare suggested. His first order to his small army was to move
one hundred yards nearer the French line, which seemed foolhardy, but this put the enemy in
range of the longbow.

The result of the Battle of Agincourt is now well-known. The nobility of France was desperate to
find glory by destroying the English force and capture Henry, but they were shot to pieces by
English archers. Mr. Mitchels thought that Henry lost 100 men, whereas the French lost 7,000.
Sir William Bardolph died in 1441, as Chamberlain to Henry VI and a Knight of the Garter. He
and his wife have a fine tomb in Dennington Church but, as a humble man, he was buried in the

William Kemp, vicar of Fressingfield, came next. In 1621 he told his congregation from the pulpit
that his wife, Phillipa, had committed adultery, to the great shock of the village. A week later he
got into his pulpit again and told the congregation he was mistaken. He vowed to remain silent
for seven years as a penance. Phillipa died two years later, but her husband lived for another six
years, possibly dying of a heart attack, but his vow of silence prevented him from calling out for

Mr. Mitchels had almost nothing good to say of Dick Turpin the highwayman, born at Hempstead
in Essex, as he was vicious, cruel and foolish. He conceded that Turpin was a good horseman,
but the epic ride to York on Black Bess was fiction written by the Victorian author Harrison
Ainsworth, who wanted to portray highwaymen in a romantic light.

After causing a great deal of harm, and getting onto the wanted posters in the south of England,
Turpin did go to York to start a new life under name of John Palmer, but he stole a horse, which
was a capital offence. He wrote to his brother asking for help, but the letter was not accepted in
Hempstead. James Smith, Turpin’s school teacher, who was at the post office, recognized the
writing and exposed Turpin to the authorities.

Turpin was tried at York in October 1738. He was not overwhelmed by the seriousness of his
situation and went to be hanged in new clothes, without fear and with great panache, becoming
popular with the crowd, who admired his calmness in the face of death.

The only Norfolk man mentioned in Mr. Mitchels talk was William Fredrick Wyndham of Felbrigg
Hall, who inherited a fortune, but he was so stupid that even his fellows at Eton College
recognized the fact. He contracted a bad marriage and bought his wife £14,000 worth of
jewellery. His uncle tried to get him proved insane but, in a noted case, this was not accepted.
He had a fascination with trains and collected the tickets, waved the green flag, and even drove
the trains on the Norwich to Cromer line from time to time. His wife left him and took all his
money. He was reduced to becoming a coachman earning a guinea a week. He died at the age
of about 25 having blown a fortune.

The last East Anglian character Mr. Mitchels mentioned was Maria Marten of Polstead, Suffolk.
Maria was far from being a sweet and innocent maiden and already had two children when
William Corder agreed to marry her after a stormy relationship. He lured her to the Red Barn and
killed her, buried her under the floor, then went to London and pretended Maria was still alive.
Maria’s Mother had three dreams that her daughter was buried in the Red Barn and this, Mr.
Mitchels told us, was the only time that evidence of a dream was taken by the English legal
system, and Maria’s body was dug up.

Corder was charged with her murder at Bury St. Edmunds and a crowd of 15,000 turned up to
see him hanged. This was the first execution in the town for thirteen years and various pieces of
his body were kept for many years. Mr. Mitchels felt that the case became a melodrama and that
Maria Marten was portrayed a sweet and innocent girl, whereas William Corder was portrayed as
dastardly villain. He felt that this was a great over simplification of the facts.

December 2011
An eventful Christmas meeting took place at the Central Library when the Society’s Secretary,
Margaret Gooch, was ready to give an illustrated lecture on the History and Archaeology of
Christmas, but the library’s projector failed to work. A member’s projector was fetched and was
set up, however the president tripped over the cable and pulled it out of the socket to much
amusement, but Margaret was finally able to begin her talk.
She began by saying that many people believed Christmas had lost its real meaning today with
much eating, drinking, office parties, presents and commercialism, but she argued that revelry
had been going on around the time of the winter solstice throughout thousands of years of human
history and that the Christian Church had adapted these dates and celebrations to commemorate
the birth of Christ.

Margaret Gooch mentioned various prehistoric structures, which indicated the shortening of day
length, and which would be reversed towards the end of December when the days would
lengthen again to provide a harvest in the coming year. The site of a henge at Arminghall, south
of Norwich, was mentioned where, although no posts or standing stones remain, crop marks
indicate that it would have served as a prehistoric calendar.

The Romans had three important festivals at the time of the winter solstice; Saturnalia; the
Festival of the Unconquered Sun; and Kalends. These could be rowdy and licentious affairs,
when slaves were allowed to eat with their masters and were sometimes served by them.

Rome became nominally Christian under Constantine and images of the Nativity began to appear
throughout the Empire. Margaret showed many images from all over Europe. Most of the
religious activity was based on monasteries in the Anglo Saxon period, but the lay population
would have continued to celebrate in the manner of the previous Yule festivities. In the court of
King Arthur, we are told that Christmas was celebrated with feasting, but Christianity waxed and
waned during the Dark Ages.

Christmas grew in popularity in the Middle Ages with nativity scenes appearing in churches, which
were decorated with candles and greenery, and this extended to houses.

Nativity plays were originally performed in Latin but St. Francis had them performed in the
vernacular language as a way of telling the Christian story. Outside churches people celebrated
the festivals of Christianity by singing and dancing, probably drawing on pagan traditions. The
first carols appeared about 1300 and derived from the French carola, a circular dance. The first
carols were based on mystery plays and traditional tunes, and God Rest You Merry Gentleman
was thought to be based on a Norfolk folk tune.

Medieval celebrations were rowdy affairs when boys were appointed to be bishops for the twelve
days of Christmas and, sometimes, a local man was appointed the Lord of Misrule.

In Britain, Puritanism gained ground as a reaction to the excesses and corruption of the Roman
Catholic Church and, if something was not part of the Christian story directly from the Bible, it
should be shunned. Oliver Cromwell’s parliament banned Christmas in 1647, but this law was not
universally followed and pamphlets were circulated supporting the previous festivities. After the
Restoration some maintained the frugal Puritan celebration, but others took up the traditional
Christmas regime again.

Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens were largely responsible for modern celebration of
Christmas. The Queen popularised Christmas cards and the tree among the upper classes, and
the halfpenny postage rate introduced in the 1870s led to a huge expansion in sending greetings.

Father Christmas was an old English tradition but, in America, Washington Irving began to use
the Germanic term Santa Claus, deriving from Saint Nicholas. Clement Moore, another
American, in his poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, suggested that reindeer pulled the
sledge. Prior to 1931, Father Christmas was depicted as being dressed in green, but the artist
Haddon Sundblom produced advertising pictures of Santa Claus drinking Coca Cola and wearing
a red suit, which has become generally accepted.

Margaret Gooch also mentioned Christmas turkeys and geese, mince pies, boars’ heads, plum
puddings and many other aspects in her well-thought out talk on the festive season. She was
thanked for her forbearance with technical difficulties by the Chairman and the President. The
lecture was followed by a very pleasant buffet provided by Jean Smith and family.
February 2012
Around 100 people attended to hear Graham Kenworthy give an illustrated talk on The Harbour
Branch Railways of Norfolk. He began his presentation by explaining that his research originated
from part of his duties when he was employed by British Railways in the mid 1960s, which
supervised the removal of various lines and sidings in East Anglia that had become redundant.
He felt he needed to know a little more about their history before the records were lost forever.

Graham Kenworthy spoke about the extensive railway lines around the port of King’s Lynn, which
connected Norfolk to a large part of the national rail network. During the industrial and
agricultural changes that happened in the middle of the 19th century, it was necessary to move
much greater quantities of fuel, crops, raw materials and finished goods. The most efficient way
of doing this was by rail transport. However track systems have their limitations, as they need a
great deal of space, can only deal with small inclines, and cannot turn sharp corners. Graham’s
maps showed how they tried to deal with this problem at King’s Lynn, and how horses were used
to assemble trains so they could be towed to the main lines. Even the small port of Wells-next-
the-Sea had an extensive railway system, running almost to the end of its harbour but this has
been removed, with only a few clues left to show that it ever existed.
Great Yarmouth’s extensive railway system was discussed. This dates from 1844 when the line
to Vauxhall Station was opened, but the unusual shape of the Port of Yarmouth with its miles of
quays, made it necessary to add extra tracks, so that ships could be loaded and unloaded directly
into railway trucks.
The chequered history of the bridges over the River Bure was discussed, including the fall of the
first suspension bridge in 1845. The railway company had built a new bridge by 1848, described
as a tubular bridge of iron, 33 yards long and twelve yards wide for the use of their trains and for
road access to the station. This was strengthened by adding bowstring girders, and a footway
was added on the south side in 1886. The bridge replacing Cory’s structure (which had
collapsed) was not robust enough for the increasing traffic in the 1930s, and the road was
diverted to the railway bridge until the Callender-Hamilton Bridge was opened in 1953. The
railway part of the bridge was closed to traffic in 1975. It has recently been decided that this
bridge will be improved and re-opened in the near future to provide access to the railway
The port railway lines were set into the highway, and were referred to as a tramway. They
eventually reached as far as the Fish Wharf and there were as many as four tracks on South
Quay to carry heavy goods trains in and out of the port of Great Yarmouth. These were pulled by
horses, steam and diesel engines over the years but, when they were on the public highway, they
had to be escorted by a man with a flag or a light.

The fishing industry declined, the need for large quantities of coal lessened, and ships passed
Great Yarmouth in favour of bigger ports. These factors led to the necessity for the quay railway
to be reduced, however it did have a brief boom when scrap iron and steel was carried to A.
King’s yard for export. It finally closed in 1975. The tracks were taken up, but Graham told us
that a section remains under the ramp up to the Bure Bridge roundabout and is buried deep
beneath the tarmac.
Books Published by Members of the Society in 2011
The Story of Hemsby on Sea by Andrew Fakes ISBN 9780954450953
A History of the Racecourse by David Tubby ISBN 9780956896704
Zanzibar to Shoreham in 100 years by Margaret Gooch ISBN 9780954450960
The Priory and Parish Church of St. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth : Foundation : Destruction :
Restoration by Michael Boon ISBN 9780956751218
The Beach and Harbour Mission, St John’s Church, The Beachmen’s Church Great Yarmouth by
Paul P. Davies ISBN 9780954450960
Yarmouth Archaeology & Local History
Table of Contents

10 Charles Dickens and his Association with Great Yarmouth

Colin Tooke
14 Bradwell Post Mill
Peter Allard
16 Religion and Fishing
Margaret Gooch
23 Donations Received by the Society during 2011

24 The Plaque Placed on the Priory School, Market Place, Great Yarmouth
Ann Dunning
26 Gorleston’s North Sea Church Mission
Peter Allard
31 Trafalgar Day - 21st October 2011
Paul Davies
33 The Body-Snatchers Plaque
Paul Davies
40 Great Yarmouth Mercury “Asked and Answered Corner” 1927
Graham Brown
42 The Plaque Placed on Vauxhall Station, Great Yarmouth
Andrew Fakes
44 The Plaque Commemorating Sir Astley Paston Cooper
Paul Davies

48 Ferryside
Trevor Nicholls
66 Great Yarmouth and the 1902 Education Act
Michael Wadsworth

76 Photographs from Andrew Fakes’ Collection

Andrew Fakes
78 The Suspension Bridge Plaque
Paul Davies
82 Plaque Commemorating Charles John Palmer
Paul Davies
86 Solomon Allies - The Gaoler
Chris Wright
90 The Report upon the Charities of Great Yarmouth 1876
Derek Leak
96 Great Yarmouth Archaeology and Local History Society Bulletins

99 Summer Outing 2011

Paul Davies

Charles Dickens and his Association with Great Yarmouth
Colin Tooke

As this year, 2012, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, it is an appropriate time to
look at his associations with the town.

On New Year’s Eve 1848 Charles Dickens, accompanied by his friends John Leech and Mark Lemon,
arrived in Norwich. On the journey they had visited Stanfield Hall, the scene of the murder of Isaac
Jermy, Recorder of Norwich, a crime for which James Rush was later executed at Norwich Castle, and
a crime that had attracted great publicity.

From Norwich, where he had a miserably bad night’s rest, the party travelled on to Great Yarmouth.
The strangest place in the wide world; one hundred and forty miles of hill-less marsh between it and
London, Dickens wrote in a letter
to his friend John Forster.

At Great Yarmouth they stayed at

the Royal Hotel, overlooking the
sea. During his brief stay in the
town, Dickens gathered material
for his novel David Copperfield,
said by a number of historians to
be a thinly disguised and
unacknowledged autobiography.

Although he had spent his early

childhood in Kent, it appears
Dickens chose a locale previously
unknown to him to set the scene
for his book, although the story
moves back to London, which had
been the actual scene of his
The Royal Hotel as it would have looked when Dickens stayed there. youth.
Opened in 1842
The party returned to London on
10th January 1849, having visited Lowestoft and Somerleyton during their stay in the eastern counties.
At Somerleyton they had been the guests of Sir Morton Peto and, this is when Dickens is said to have
discovered Blundeston, which he renamed Blunderstone, and in doing so gave his character David
Copperfield a birthplace. The village was chosen because of the sound of its name.

Charles Dickens was 36 years old when he visited Great Yarmouth and, during his stay in the town, he
took the opportunity to talk to many fishermen, sailors and local inhabitants from whom he heard
seafaring yarns and experiences he was to find useful for the forthcoming novel. Many characters in
David Copperfield appear to have been based on people he met and many scenes in the book can be
related, even if very tentively, with the town. As the first part of David Copperfield was published in
May 1849, it would seem likely that the main storyline was already in Dickens’ mind before his visit to
Great Yarmouth and the information he gained here was used to complete the detail of the story. The
novel was published in 20 parts, from May 1849 to November 1850.

When young David Copperfield set out from Blundeston to spend two weeks with Mr. Peggotty in his
house on Great Yarmouth beach in the company of Mr. Barkis the carrier, his first impressions of Great
Yarmouth were how it lay in a straight line under the sky… a mound or so might have improved it. The
Buck Inn on Hall Quay has been suggested as the inn where David alighted from the carriers’ cart to
find Ham Peggotty waiting for him. While it is a fact that carriers’ carts left this inn for outlying villages,
there are no records of a carrier to Blundeston in the 1840s, but in Blundeston there was said to be a
carrier by the name of Barker.

Continuing his journey to Pegqotty’s house, it was
probably either Middlegate Street or South Quay
that Dickens was referring to in the passage when
we got into the street and smelt the fish, and pitch,
and okum, and tar, and saw the sailors walking
about, and carts jingling up and down over the
stones… Peggotty told me that Yarmouth was,
upon the whole, the finest place in the universe.
Shipbuilders’ yards, net chambers and rope-walks
were to be found in abundance in this part of the
town at that time, in fact everything that would be
associated with a busy seaport town, a scene ideal
to be intertwined in the story.

Yon's our house Mas'r Davy said Ham, I looked in

all directions, said David, as far as I could stare
over the wilderness and away to the sea and away
at the river, but no house could I make out. There
was a black barge or some other kind of
superannuated boat, not far off, high and dry on the
ground…That's it, Mas'r Davy", said Ham.

It has been discussed for many years how Dickens

arrived at the idea of Peggotty’s Hut, but there is no
doubt it was based on something he had seen in
Peggotty’s Hut, Brush Quay, 1904
his travels, although not necessarily in Great
Yarmouth, for it has been suggested he saw boats
used as houses on the Thames mudflats several
years previously.

While in the town he is said to have walked

across the Denes to Nelson's Column, where he
encountered the keeper of the monument, one
James Sharman, an ex-sailor who had seen
active service with Nelson on the Victory. When
Sharman first took the job of keeper, he is said
to have lived in a hut left behind by the builders
of the monument, which he no doubt altered and
repaired over the years with anything that came
to hand, but whether this resembled an upturned
boat, as was Pegqotty’s house, is doubtful.

Dickens, however, could not have seen this

building as it was demolished three years before
his visit, but no doubt Sharman described it to
him. It is possible there were other similar
structures on the Denes at that time, indeed the
many shipwrecks of the 19th century would
have produced ample material. There was a
building standing on Camden Road that
included an upturned boat in its construction,
and this has been referred to many times as
being the original Peggotty’s Hut. While Dickens
may have seen this building, it is doubtful if he
Peggotty’s Hut later became a shooting gallery run took much notice of it because it was not until its
by the famous Whimsical Walker, a clown retired demolition in 1889 that it was discovered that
from Bertram Mills circus. Photo taken 1930s parts were made from a boat.
Although it is not stated in the book, it is possible that the character of Mr. Peggotty was based on
either one of the members of a local beach company, or James Sharman. Several other locations
have been associated with passages from
the book but there is no evidence to
substantiate them.

The Duke’s Head, Hall Quay,

from where the London coaches
departed daily. Was this where
David caught the coach?

The Duke’s Head Hotel could have been

from where David later set out for London
by coach, for coaches did leave from this
inn, but a London coach also (in 1845) left
from the Bear (on the Southtown side of the bridge) and the Angel (in the Market Place). The Duke’s
Head or the Crown and Anchor have been suggested as the inn where David met the amiable waiter,
William. It has been said that the Star Hotel was where David and his friend Steerforth stayed, but this
could have been any one of the many inns in the town at that time.

No. 74 Middlegate Street has been identified as the shop

on which the premises of Mr. Omer, draper and
undertaker, who arranged Mrs. Copperfield’s funeral,
was based. This is quite possible, for it was a typical
example of the small bay-fronted shops of the period.
This was later the shop of Mr. T. Sparharn, Carpenter
and Builder, who advertised Coffins Made and Funerals

When nearing the end of his life, Dickens wrote a second

preface to David Copperfield in which he said, ...of all my
books, I like this the best. It will be easily believed that I
am a fond parent to every child of my fancy and that no
Number 74 Middlegate Street
c.1910. Used by Dickens as the
one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them.
shop of Mr Omar But like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a
favourite child, and his name is David Copperfield.

In 1849, Dickens wrote if you bear a grudge against any particular insurance office, purchase from it a
heavy life annuity, go and live at Great Yarmouth, and draw your dividends till they ask in despair
whether your name is Old Parr or Methuselah. The Great Yarmouth air had obviously left an
impression on him.

Dickens used other information he gained while in Great Yarmouth in his journalistic writings in the
magazine Household Words. In volume seven, published in 1853, he wrote an article called The
Norfolk Gridiron in which he described the Rows as forming the bars of a gridiron and gives a graphic
description of the rows and their inhabitants. The layout of the town is an irregular long square… a
cross street at each end of the parallelogram (Fullers Hill at the north and Friars Lane at the south)
both wide apart and inconvenient, causing this goodly watering-place to be more like a rabbit warren or
an ant hill than a city of men. In the same article Dickens describes in detail a shipwreck near the Jetty
on 4th September 1852. The local beachmen, impressing him with their actions to save the crew of
the wrecked boat, as he says feats like these are continually performed by the Yarmouth beachmen,
without their seeming to think that they have done anything extraordinary.

These articles would indicate that Dickens visited the town again in 1852, when he witnessed the
shipwreck at first hand. Although he left over 13,000 letters, the true details of his visits to Great
Yarmouth remain unknown, perhaps due to a lack of research rather than a lack of written evidence.

It has been said that Dickens gave one of his celebrated 'readings' at the Assembly Rooms in 1870.
This is possible, as the Assembly and Reading Rooms were opened in 1863, but no written evidence
of this has been found. Would not Palmer have mentioned such a famous visitor to the town in his
work published in 1875?

Several attempts have been made to use both Dickens’ name and Peggotty’s Hut in commercial
ventures. In 1928 the Dickens Art Gallery was opened on the beach, on a site opposite the Empire

The Dickens Gallery on the beach opposite the Empire cinema - 1928 to 1933

This was a boat, entrance being gained by a door cut in the side, where oil paintings and statuettes of
Dickens characters were on sale. Postcards and other literature relating to the writer were also
available, the owner being an artist, J. McKenzie Aylott. This art gallery closed in 1933.

For several years in the early part of the 20th century, a beachman’s hut at Gorleston, on Brush Quay,
was called Peggotty’s Hut. Today only a small plaque on the front of the Royal Hotel, a few street
names at the south end of the town, and the names of two public houses, remind us of the Dickens
connection with the town.


Brooks, Dr. E.C., Blundeston and District Local History Society, Information sheet, (18th January

Dutt, W., Some Literary Associations of East Anglia, (1907).

Dickens, C., Household Words, vol. 7, (1853).

Hennessy, P., Charles Dickens 1812-1870, (1945).

Hardwick, M & M., Dickens’ England, (1970).

Yarmouth Independent, Supplement, Pictures of Old Yarmouth, (1897).

Bradwell Post Mill
Peter Allard

My parents moved to Bradwell in 1957 and a year later I began to do a paper round for the local
newsagent. This business was centred in a small round building alongside the main A143
Beccles Road. I had no idea at the time that this structure was all that remained of the Bradwell
post windmill. It was used to store the papers and other materials, but the actual sorting of
newspapers was done in an adjacent tin shed.

It was only when it had been

demolished and my interest in windmills
began to flourish that I realized the
significance of this round building.
Sadly, I took no photographs of it, but
fortunately I have since found one
which was taken sometime during the
1930s by Philip Rumbelow. The site
was owned by Charlie Hadingham, who
owned the Bungalow Shop opposite.
The newsagents that I worked for were
the Kemp Brothers of Belton.

Site clearance began in about 1967/68

and bungalows were soon built in the
area. The area has changed much and
is now Lilac Close; the exact site of the Photograph showing the remaining part of the mill,
windmill is now difficult to determine. I the Round House, in the 1930s
would have guessed the mill stood on
the site of bungalow number 4, but digital mapping puts the exact site as bungalow number 15,
which is on the south side of the road (and almost opposite where I considered it would have

Bradwell Mill (TG 510042) was marked on the Platt’s

1584 map of Lothingland and was considered to have
been built between 1450 and 1500 by the manors of
Gapton and Bradwell Halls. It is certainly marked on
Ogilby’s Britannia Road Map of 1675, and again on
Kirby’s 1736 Map of Suffolk.

Various millers have included a William Clark in 1844,

Stephen Clark 20 years later and George Benns
between 1869 and 1874. William Disney then took
over the running of the mill in 1875 and, by 1883 this
had passed to Robert Disney, presumably William’s
Map showing the mill site in 1904 son. Various later directories continue to refer to
(from an ordnance survey map). Robert as still being the miller; the Kelly’s 1900
The lane running from top to bottom on the directory also importantly mentioning the mill as
left is now Mill Lane, and the bottom one worked by wind. However, by 1904, Robert is only
running diagonally across is the main mentioned as a corn dealer and living at the Mill
Beccles Road House.

Between 1912 and 1922, a Sidney Disney appears on the scene, but is only listed as a corn and
flour merchant. The name of Disney, and of any corn or flour merchant in the village, disappears
after this date. Interestingly, Robert Disney also owned the corn tower mill at Burgh Castle
around the turn of the century and was still listed as the miller there in 1911/12. The Disney
family were also involved with Acle tower and steam mill; a George Disney from Burgh Castle
purchasing both in 1893 for £350.
At least three photographs of the windmill in working order have survived the passage of time. It
was a very typical Norfolk-type post mill with a full width porch, although it was unusual in that it
had a gallery around the top of the buck.

The mill was very badly

damaged during the
violent gale of 24th March
1895, which destroyed
three of the sails. It was
apparently repaired and
evidence suggests that it
worked up until the first
few years of the 20th
century. It was still
standing when the second
edition of the large scale
ordnance survey took
place in 1904. However, a
later survey in 1926 refers
to it as the old mill,
presumably meaning it
was by now derelict, but
still standing.

When the remains were

demolished is unclear. A photograph of the mill in working order, circa 1890
Charlie Hadingham recalls
only the round house being there in the 1930s, its main use then being to store cattle feed. It was
also used as a meeting room for the local Toc H young men’s club.

During the Second World War, the brick round house became the headquarters of the Bradwell
Home Guard. From what I remember of its interior during the early 1960s there were no remains
of any of machinery left, which had long been taken away. From talks with the then owner,
Charlie Hadingham, during 1978, the remains of this mill had been in his family for many years
and he had heard stories of its destruction in 1895.

The only reference to its presence today is Mill Lane, which runs to the west of the site, but this
unusually had no direct access to the mill site whatsoever. The Norfolk official county reference
for this site is HER 10589.

For many years the old Bradwell village sign lacked a windmill. When a new village sign was
recently erected, the hoped-for windmill appeared, but unfortunately a tower mill is shown rather
than the expected post mill as requested.


Ordnance Survey Maps, (1906 and 1926).

Yarmouth Independent, (6th April 1895).

Various Suffolk Directories, (1850 to 1936).

Hadingham, Charlie, Personal conversations, (1980s).

Yardy, Alison, Information received, (February 2012).

Religion and Fishing
Margaret Gooch
Address given at the Annual Blessing of the Nets Service at
St. Nicholas Church on 2nd October 2011

When I was first asked to give this address, I wondered what I could possibly add to the history of
the Blessing of the Nets in Great Yarmouth, expounded so well by Michael Boon in his previous
addresses on this occasion. But then I began to consider the relationship between religion and
fishing, which is a very strong one.

Left : fishing

From prehistoric times to today, this relationship is very clear: in archaeological remains, the bible
(especially the gospels), the medieval church, superstitions, Christian missions to fisherman and
care of fishing communities from churches and religious organisations. Fish is an important food
and fishing is a way of life, often
dangerous, with its own culture,
beliefs and superstitions.

And so, this address is more

properly entitled Religion and
Fishing, and I will try to show
this service of the Blessing of
the Nets in the historical context
of this relationship.

In prehistoric times, fish was an

important part of the staple diet
of people who had access to the
sea, and to rivers and lakes. It
is therefore not unreasonable
that fishing appears in their
mythologies and catching fish
Above: gutting fish has a particular symbolism in
both pre-Christian religions and
Tomb of Pabasa ‘Chief Steward of the God’s Wife Nitocris’ (Neitiqert) in Christianity itself.
during the reign of King Psamtek I of the Saite Dynasty XXV
Luxor west bank
The importance of fishing in ancient
beliefs and myths is revealed
particularly in burial customs and
belief in the afterlife.

In ancient Egypt, Spell 153B of the

Book of the Dead, illustrated on
papyrus, is a spell for escaping the
Catcher of Fish. Three gods are
shown hauling a large fishing net
through the water in order to catch the
souls of those unworthy of entering
the next world.

Tomb paintings in the West Bank

necropolis at Luxor show scenes of
the afterlife in which the deceased is
Fish motif on a Roman Pavement depicted spreading fishing nets in the

At Lindholm in Denmark, there is a remarkable Viking

Age graveyard, where male graves were marked out
with stones in the shape of fishing boats. These were
not ship burials of Viking warrior kings, but probably
humble fishermen’s graves. In Norse myths, Thor, with
the giant Hymer, went fishing to catch his great foe, the
World Serpent, who lived under the sea. They fixed an
ox-head on a large line and hook as bait, and set out in
a fishing boat to catch the evil serpent. The serpent
took the bait and there was a terrible struggle to get it
on board in order to kill it. There is a dispute amongst
saga writers as to whether they succeeded or not.


Much closer to home, during the

construction of the A47 by-pass near
Norwich, a bronze age cemetery was found
where there were boat-shaped coffins.
Again, not high status burials, but
interments from a community which was
engaged in river fishing. As we can see,
fishing and catching fish had particular
significance in the ancient world.

But most importantly, it is the Bible that we

now turn to. There is little reference in the
Old Testament to fishing. In Genesis Ch. 1
vs. 26, God gave man dominion over the
Christ calling the fishermen disciples. fish in the sea.
Stained glass window in the south transept of
St. Nicholas Minster, Great Yarmouth

However, it is in the New Testament that we see the significance of fishermen and fishing to Our
Lord. In the gospel of St. Matthew Ch. 4 vs. 18, Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee saw two
brothers, Simon known as Peter, and Andrew, both fishermen, who were casting a net in the sea.
He said to them Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. They put down their nets and
followed Him. Walking on, he saw two other brothers who were also fishermen, James and John,
the sons of Zeberdee, who were mending their nets, and he called them to follow him. They did
so, leaving their father and their boat.

A similar version of the story is told by Luke Ch. 5 vss. 1-15, which you have already heard in one
of the readings during this service. Fishermen were recruited as the first disciples, and analogies
with fishing and the symbolism of catching fish and catching men are important features in the
teachings of Christ. Christ had blessed the fishermen’s nets and they had caught an abundance
of fish and so the precedent for ceremonies such as
this was set.

As Christianity spread, Christians were persecuted

by the Romans until the conversion of the Emperor
Constantine in the 4th century. One of the secret
symbols that Christians used in communicating with
each other was the fish.

For the medieval church, fish and fishing were

important. Fasting was required on Fridays, the day
of the week on which our Lord was crucified, and
during Lent and Advent. On these days meat was
not eaten, but fish was allowed; fish were not only a
staple part of the diet of those who lived near the
sea or other sources, but were extremely important
for living a Christian life. To provide them with
Roman Christian funeral monument ready supplies of fish, many monasteries and large
engraved with fish: 3rd century estates had fish ponds where they cultivated fish,
such as carp.

We turn to Great Yarmouth, where the relationship between fishing and the church is particularly
marked. Great Yarmouth owes its existence to that small herring fishing community which settled
on a sandbank in the 10th century. In the autumn, vast shoals of herring occupied the sea off the
Norfolk coast, and this attracted fishermen from far and wide.

Before the Norman Conquest, there is thought to have been a church on the sandbank dedicated
to St. Benet, which was only used during the herring fishing season. This church and the
Benedictine Priory were constructed in 1101, and appropriately, the church was dedicated to St.
Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen.
On the other side of the river, the church
of the long-forgotten parish of Little
Yarmouth (which occupied what is now
North Gorleston) was also dedicated to
St. Nicholas, reflecting the fishing
community there.

After the Norman Conquest, herring

fishing grew rapidly in importance, herring
became popular, and not only fishermen
were lured to Great Yarmouth, but
merchants from the rest of England and
from Europe came to buy fish and to
barter merchandise.
Herring fishing 1555

This international gathering grew into the Free Herring Fair, which was one of the great medieval
fairs, and was held on the South Denes after its early beginnings in the market place. Fish was
exported to ports in Europe and the Middle East. The Herring Fair lasted for 40 days, from
Michaelmas, 29th September (traditionally the celebration of harvest), until Martinmas, the 11th
November, when the harvest of the sea had been gathered in.

The custom of Blessing the Nets, and the wetting of the nets by the sea, took place on the
Sunday nearest to Michaelmas, probably on the South Denes, when the church blessed the
fishermen’s endeavours and a fishing sermon was preached. Such ceremonies could be found
amongst fishing communities around the Mediterranean, and are thought to have originated in
Portugal, a seafaring nation.

As we have seen, the demand for fish was not just as an essential foodstuff, but it was also a
religious requirement, and monasteries were large purchasers of herring. From 1362, a last of
red herring was delivered on each St. Andrew’s Day to the Chapel of St. George at Windsor, with
the Corporation of Great Yarmouth being included in the College’s prayers. The gift was later
commuted to an annual sum of £8. The church took its dues from the herring trade. Instead of a
tithe, or 10% of the catch, a fishing dole, Christ’s Half Dole, the equivalent in cash of 10% of the
catch, was paid to the church, presumably to the owner of the advowson. By 1800, the dole had
been commuted to one guinea for each herring fishing voyage, and half a guinea each for
mackerel fishing voyages. In 1322, the owners of the advowson of the parish of St. Nicholas,
Little Yarmouth, the Prior of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, petitioned the King, because the
parishioners had not paid their “Christesdole” for 20 years, which, and I quote, pertained to them
through their church at Little Yarmouth from fish caught at the same place.

After the Reformation, the Blessing of the Nets ceremony ended. A well-attended Christmas Day
breakfast at the Priory seems to have survived the Reformation, but was renowned for rowdy
behaviour. In 1613, the breakfasts ceased, but instead the owner of the Priory paid £10 per
annum for the benefit of fishermen.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, herring fishing from Great Yarmouth declined in favour of the
Dutch fleets. Fishing had always been a hard and dangerous life, and in 1677, King Charles II
ordered that collections be made in the Great Yarmouth churches for fishermen. In 1702 the
Fishermen’s Hospital was constructed in the Market Place. It provided
homes for 20 aged, destitute fishermen and their wives. Although it was
founded by the Corporation, it was supported by the Church. In 1705, the
Fishermen’s Gallery was built in St. Nicholas Church by John and Rachel
Fuller. It cost £150, and the rent from seats that were let out was donated
to the Fishermen’s Hospital; this was later replaced by a £5 per annum

The difficult and dangerous lives led by fishermen made them the subject of
19th century religious fervour and philanthropy in the town. In 1849,
concern for the spiritual welfare of fishermen, and beachmen, resulted in
the founding of the Beach and Harbour Mission by Dr. Hills, the Vicar of
Great Yarmouth. Two scripture readers were appointed to work one day a
week amongst the beachmen and their families. Dr. Hills

A boat, the Dove, was purchased to visit ships in the roads to offer scripture
reading and services. As fishermen were at sea for several weeks at a time, they were cut off
from any religious influence. A special flag was flown on boats that were holding a religious
service. The flag was to let other boats know that a service was about to take place and was
presented to the Master at a special service. To receive a flag the Master was required to be a
communicant of the Church of England, to be a believer, and to be called by God. He was
required to hold a service on Sundays and to hold bible readings and prayers whilst the boat was
at sea. Prayer books and bibles were provided by the mission.

Two curates were particularly involved in the
mission: the Revd. John Gott opened up the
Wherryman’s Mission and the Revd.
Johnson devoted himself especially to the
beachmen. The beachmen’s services were
held in a shed, which was often full, and Mr.
Johnson became involved in the construction
of a church especially for the use of the
beachmen and their families.

St. John’s Church was opened on 14th

February 1858, on the site of a ropewalk.
Pews in the church were reserved for
fisherfolk free of charge, and at a time when
a large part of a church’s income came from
pew rents, the church had financial
problems. The church was overcrowded and
St. John’s Church in 1859
to deal with the demand, a temporary Iron Beach and Harbour Mission
Mission House, the South End Mission, was
used to hold services.

In 1870, St. James Church replaced the Iron

Mission. Later on St. Johns, which had become
part of the Oxford movement, became
fashionable, and the fishing congregation moved
on to St. James’s Church.

St. John’s Church is still very attractive, with

capitals decorated with seaweed and shell
designs. It is disused and is a Grade II listed

Iron Mission and St. James’ Church c.1870 Recently English Heritage awarded it a grant for
restoration. In 1860, the Wherryman’s Church of
St. Andrew was built. At much the same time as
the spiritual needs of the fisherfolk were being attended to, in 1858, the Sailors’ Home, or Refuge
for Shipwrecked Mariners, was founded on Marine Parade, to care for the many seafarers
shipwrecked off the treacherous coast. Separately, in 1867, a fund for widows and orphans of
fishermen and seafaring men was established by the Vicar of Great Yarmouth.

In 1876, the Walrond Smack Boys’ Home was

opened on Southgates Road to provide
accommodation and entertainment for the
fishing smack boys when they were ashore.
They led very hard and dangerous lives, but
when they were ashore, were thought to be in
moral danger. The home was taken over by the
Missions to Seamen in 1894. A reading room
for fishermen was opened at the same time as
the boys home in 1876, and a small institute had
been founded in a Row, off the Quay. There
was a need for a larger Fishermen’s Institute
and chapel on the Quay to cater for the fishing
fleets there. The new Missions to Seamen
St. Thomas’ Church : Mission to Seaman Institute, with a chapel dedicated to St. Thomas,
63 Southgates Road was opened on South Quay by the Duke of York
in 1900.
In 1877, the then Vicar of Great Yarmouth, George Venables, revived the Blessing of the Nets
Service. The fishing nets were draped in the church and were blessed, prayers were said for the
fishermen’s safety, and thanks were given for their catches. The Fishers’ Song was sung, and
each fisherman was given a copy of the song.

In spite of the religious influences being brought to bear on the fishermen,

they were extremely superstitious, and many of their superstitions were
related to religion, sometimes to pagan beliefs. Uttering the words, salmon,
pig or rabbit were outlawed because these were thought to have been Celtic
symbols of pre-Christian Gods. The first fish caught was thrown over the
side for the sea god, Neptune. Mentioning a clergyman on board a fishing
boat, or passing one on the way to a boat, especially on a Sunday, was
inviting disaster. Mentioning a church by name at sea, when recognising
landmarks, was unlucky. Also unlucky was telling anyone you were going
fishing because the Lord would send a storm. As the nets were spread over
the starboard side, the fishermen doffed their caps and said Over for the
Revd. George Lord. This recalls our Lord’s command to the disciples in John Ch. 21 vs. 6
Venables to cast their nets on the starboard side, and they then caught an abundance
of fish.

In the mid-twentieth century, the herring fishing industry in Great Yarmouth went into terminal
decline, and now there is all but no fishing in the town.

But the Blessing of the

Nets service was revived
again two years ago, and
we now remember the
importance of herring
fishing in the history of the
town, and the courage and
fortitude of the fishermen.

We are not the only ones

to still hold such services.
At Barra on the Isle of
Erriskay, a service is held
each year to bless the
fishing boats. Services
are also held at Lancing in
West Sussex, Whitby, and
Lyme Regis, but they may
not have such an ancient
heritage as Great Blessing of the Nets at St. Nicholas Church in 1908
Yarmouth’s, and they are
mainly blessing of boats,
not specifically nets. The idea has caught on in the United States and Canada, where there are
Blessing of the Boats services in Jacksonville, Brunswick, Washington DC, and Toronto, amongst
others, all originating from the 1970s and 80s. At Island Bay near Wellington, New Zealand, a
Blessing of the Boats ceremony has been held each February since 1933. The practice was
brought to Island Bay by Italian immigrant fishermen who hailed from the Gulf of Naples. The
tradition of Blessing of the Boats in Southern Italy goes back for centuries. The blessing would be
undertaken by the local priest at the start of spring. Fishing boats were decorated with flags and
bunting, and would sail past the priest to have holy water sprinkled on them while the priest
recited prayers and made the sign of the cross. The belief was that if the boats received the grace
of God, they and the fishermen would be protected from the sea and from the weather, and would
reap the bounty of the sea. Boats were named after local saints, and on the day of the Blessing,
the statues of the local saints would be carried from their churches to the shore.
We have moved from Ancient Egypt to
modern America and New Zealand. Fishing is
a dangerous activity, pursued to provide an
essential food. It is no wonder then that
deities have been petitioned to aid fishermen’s
safe return with an ample catch and that
fishing and fishing boats have played a part in
ritual and mythology. For Christians, fishing
has a special significance as Our Lord chose
fishermen as his first disciples, and the
fisherman, Peter, was the rock on which the
church was founded. The church has provided
spiritual and practical care for fishermen and
their families. As we can see throughout the
ages, and throughout the world, fishing and
religion have been inextricably linked.

References :

National Archives, SC8 272/13570.

The Bible.

Davies, Paul P., The Parish Church of St.

Nicholas Great Yarmouth, Paul Davies,

Hedges, A. A. C., Yarmouth is an Antient

Town, Great Yarmouth Corporation, (1959).
Above and below :
Judd, Ernest A., The Great Yarmouth Institute
Blessing of the Nets Service at
of Missions to Seamen, a Brief History of the St. Nicholas Church 2011
First 100 Years, (1955).

Page, R I., Norse Myths, The Trustees of the

British Museum,

Taylor, John H., (ed),

The Ancient Egyptian
Book of the Dead, The
Trustees of the British
Museum, (2010).

Trolle, Annette Lerche,

et al., Lindholm Høje,
Burial Ground and
Village, Aalborg
Historical Society,

Addresses given by
Michael Boon at
Blessing of the Nets
Services, (2009 and
Donations received by the Society during 2011
Paul Davies

Two organisations in the town wished to support the erection of blue plaques in the borough. In
November 2011 a cheque was presented for £250 by the Red Cross of Constantine, Conclave
323 at the Masonic Lodge. In August the Mayor of Great Yarmouth, Councillor Michael Jeal
donated £200 from his Mayor’s Charity Fund.

Andrew Fakes receiving a cheque at the

Masonic Lodge with Margaret Gooch
and Paul Davies in attendance

Margaret Gooch and Paul Davies

receiving a cheque from the Mayor at
the Town Hall

Christmas Tree Festival at

Great Yarmouth Minster

The society exhibited a tree at

the first festival held at the
minster in mid December 2011.

The tree was constructed by

society member, Alan Hunt
and featured many blue
plaques and it attracted a great
deal of attention.

The Plaque Placed on the Priory School, Market Place, Great Yarmouth
on June 7th 2011
Ann Dunning

The Priory School stands on an

important historic site with a complex
history. To commemorate the site’s
major uses since medieval times a
plaque was placed on the school.

Thomas Fastolph founded St. Mary’s

Hospital on the site in the late 13th
century for the care of elderly needy
men and women of Great Yarmouth.
Gifts and legacies to the hospital
resulted in a chapel being built.
Consequently the hospital was closed
during the Dissolution of the
Monasteries in the mid 16th century.

Great Yarmouth Corporation soon

found many different uses for the site,
including an armoury, the first
grammar school in the town, a
workhouse and a house of correction
(a bridewell).

On the south of the site the town’s butchery was established and the Feather’s Inn expanded its
land. On the north of the site the fine house (later occupied by Miles Corbett) was built. Some
land was left open and part of this became the so-called Dissenters’ Graveyard.

Right: Tony Wright

unveils the plaque

In 1650 a Children’s Hospital (a charity school) was
established, which later as the Hospital School, operated
until 1982, although its buildings were replaced in 1842
and 1931. The Great Yarmouth Art College also had an
annexe here and the Priory School had partial use of the
building until its wholesale move to the site in 1999.
Therefore there has been a continuous educational use on
part of the site since 1551.

Ann Dunning gave a short history of the site to a large

audience, which included Great Yarmouth Local History
and Archaeological Society members, former staff and
pupils of the Hospital School and all the Priory School staff
and pupils.

The plaque was unveiled by Basil

Littleproud, who taught on the site
from 1946 to 1983 and Tony Wright,
a former Member of Parliament for
Great Yarmouth, who had been a
Hospital School pupil.

Above and left: The unveiling ceremony

with Ann Dunning and Tony Wright

Gorleston’s North Sea Church Mission
Peter Allard

The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen began in Gorleston in 1881 and gradually
developed into what is now a well-known national institution. Although this mission was
associated with the Church of England, it was also associated with many nonconformist bodies.

The forming of a strictly local Church of England Mission

began in 1890 when the St. Andrew’s Waterside Church
Mission, based in the Thames, began visiting Great
Yarmouth in their little yacht named Sapper, a 32 ton
sailing vessel built in Newfoundland in 1881, which had
sailed across the Atlantic with its crew of five the previous
year. The St. Andrew’s Waterside Church Mission owes its
origin to the Revd. C. E. R. Robinson, Vicar of the parish of
Holy Trinity, Milton-next-Gravesend, who in the year 1864
founded what has become an important mission.

During February 1891, the Sapper laid in Great Yarmouth

harbour in the charge of the Revd. Clement Hall. An
appeal was launched for contributions of money, books,
and warm clothing for the fishermen of the town. Mrs.
Kew, the Elms, Gorleston, very kindly agreed to act as
local secretary, and to receive any donations at her
address close to the Gorleston riverside. By June 1893,
the little Sapper was very busy visiting not only fishing
vessels, but also light vessels, coasters and all kinds of
other craft plying the North Sea. It is recorded that she
visited no less than 573 vessels during 1892. During the
A 1901 advertisement for the North summer of 1893, and flying the St. Andrew’s flag, she had
Sea Church Mission visited all the light vessels between Great Yarmouth and
the Isle of Wight with the exception of one, and held
services aboard.

During the spring of 1894, a newer and larger vessel, the 142 ton Goshawk was presented to the
mission for use mainly with the fishing fleets. Although still owned by a Mr. West of the Royal
Yacht Squadron, she was now under the control of the mission and the Vicar of Grimsby. She
visited Great Yarmouth during November 1894 with the chaplain, the Revd. Best, on board and
later visited Lowestoft. She had been built as early as 1865.

Efforts to establish a North Sea Church Mission in Gorleston began during early February 1895;
the chairman of the appeal and instigator of the mission being the Revd. Forbes Phillips, of
Gorleston. This was at the urgent request of many local fishermen who, being churchmen, felt
the loss of church privileges during the long weeks and months they spent at sea. Forbes Phillips
arrived at Gorleston in 1893 and was soon to become the most charismatic figure in Gorleston
until his premature death in 1917.

By June of the same year, some £250 had been subscribed, and the committee hired the trawling
smack, Will Morgan, for an indefinite period. This vessel, YH 830 and of 41 tons, had been built
by Fellows on Cobholm Island in 1881. After she was fitted out, she sailed for the North Sea
fishing fleets with the Revd. Best on board. During August, she sailed again, this time with the
Revd. Forbes Phillips of Gorleston on board. Bad weather prevented the vessel finding the Short
Blue Fleet and the vicar, who had anything but a pleasant trip, had to be landed at Cromer
suffering badly from the effects of the stormy weather. This trip convinced the vicar of the
hardships the fishermen had to endure in their hazardous calling. It was duly considered the Will
Morgan would not be large enough for the Church to continue with its work during the winter
months, and a further appeal for a larger vessel was commenced.
The North Sea Church Mission received an unexpected donation of £2,000 in early October 1895
from an anonymous lady to build a new ship for Church of England work in the North Sea. This
placed the mission on a definite footing; designs and models had already been made by H. Lee of
Gorleston to be ready for the next spring. It was anticipated the vessel would be about 100 tons
and would need trawling equipment on board to earn her keep. Other donations received
amounted to £1,700, but initial expenses had been very high. During mid-October, the Will
Morgan was taken to Norwich to take part in the Church Congress with the Revd. Forbes Phillips
addressing the gathering on the work of the mission. After this visit, the vessel was returned to
her owner.

The work of building the new vessel commenced in a yard alongside the mission’s room on
Gorleston quayside during November 1895, but by early December the keel had been removed to
Messrs. Hewett’s yard, as it had been arranged for them to build it. During January 1896, an
important event took place at Gorleston Parish Church and on Gorleston quayside, in connection
with the North Sea Church Mission. This was the dedication of the smack, Elizabeth Phillis YH
1018 (built on Cobholm Island by Henry Critten in 1885). She had been purchased by the
Mission from John Bass junior of Gorleston. At 70 tons, she was considerably larger than the Will
Morgan and more suitable for winter work in the North Sea. She was to be renamed the St.
Andrew the Fisherman, and after repairs due to a small fire on board, she was ready to sail.
Although her hold had not yet been fitted out as a church, she sailed out of the harbour in early
February 1896 to the sound of gunfire. The Revd. Best was on board and he took with him the
wishes of the Church of England.

Meanwhile, work continued along Gorleston quayside on the new mission vessel, to be named
Frances after the only stipulation the anonymous lady donor had left. The stern post was fitted to
her in mid-January and she was beginning to show her form. It was hoped she would be ready
by mid-summer. By May 1896, it was stated that work had slowed on her for various unknown
reasons, and the launch date had passed.

Work on the St. Andrew the Fisherman

to convert her to a mission ship began
during June 1896. She had her
capstan engine and boiler taken out
and it was stated she would not go
trawling again. This space would be
utilised for the accommodation of
fishermen for social gatherings and to
attend services. To help with the
North Sea work, the schooner rigged
yacht Goshawk, belonging to the
renamed Thames Waterside Church
Mission, arrived in Great Yarmouth
harbour during late June. She had
been laid up for a while, but was now
available for use in the North Sea. Smack ‘St. Andrew the Fisherman’ belonging to the Mission
This was the last reference to this
Mission in Great Yarmouth or at Gorleston and it seems now to have been solely based in the
River Thames. The St. Andrew’s Waterside Church Mission (or Thames Waterside Church
Mission as it was also known) merged with the Missions to Seamen in 1939.

A statement of the accounts of the North Sea Church Mission appeared in the Yarmouth Mercury
for 25th July 1896. It was prepared by the Revd. Forbes Philips and certainly made interesting
reading. The cost of hiring the Will Morgan the previous year was £494, which included wages,
maintenance and provisions, whilst the cost of the St. Andrew the Fisherman so far had been
£619, which had included the cost of purchasing the vessel. For building work on the Frances,
Hewett’s of Gorleston had so far been paid a total of £443. All expenditure of the Mission was
listed, and included the senior chaplain’s wages at £120 per year whilst the second chaplain
received only half this amount. Other interesting accounts were the sending of the Will Morgan to
Holland for extra ballast, which amounted to £13.18 shillings, and for an exhibition at Newcastle
at £10. The figures of the balance sheet were received with some horror, and were seen to
contain some extraordinary figures and indicative of extravagance. The £494 spent on the Will
Morgan is extraordinary indeed, as the vessel was sold for only £44 by its owner after its mission
work in the North Sea.

By July 1896, the North Sea Church Mission had financial difficulties and work had ceased on the
new vessel Frances at Gorleston. Much blame was given to Forbes Phillips and his management
for the economic mess the mission was now in. Over £4,000 had been raised, but little was left to
complete this new vessel. To compound their problems, the St. Andrew the Fisherman was
nearly destroyed by fire during rat fumigation in November 1896.

Calls were made during June 1897 for radical management changes in the running of the North
Sea Church Mission. However, by July, it had been restructured after several London auditors
had gone through the accounts. The Revd. Forbes Phillips resigned, along with other members
of the management team. Leadership was now in the hands of a Mr. J. H. Easterbrook of
Ludham, who it was noted had had considerable experience in management. The Bishop of
Thetford was elected President and it was noted that the Frances had already been launched
from Hewett’s yard, but was far from ready.

The first annual meeting of the North Sea Church Mission was held at Norwich on 22nd
September 1897, when it was confirmed that John H. Easterbrook would take on the duties of
both chairman and general manager. Much discussion took place and the new manager replied
to many questions, and stated that the mission might still be able to count upon an annual income
of £2,000. It was however, at the close of the previous year in a very serious financial plight, but
it had now reconstructed its finances. Local press reports for February 1898 mentioned that the
St. Andrew the Fisherman had been very busy, and had since the end of June last year been at
sea for 198 days, and in the harbour for refitting on only 41 days.

It was also mentioned that a

definite decision had been taken
to complete the Frances. She
was to be docked for a special
survey and then tenders would
be publicly invited for her
completion. In late July 1898, a
welcome announcement stated
that an anonymous donor had
come forward and offered to
defray the expense of
completing the Frances and
fitting her out for sea.

By the end of 1898, it had been

decided to complete the
Frances as a twin-screw
Steam Mission Vessel ‘Frances’, from a painting by Les Hawkins steamer, and plans had now
been pushed forward. Messrs.
Beeching Brothers of Great
Yarmouth had been entrusted with her alteration and completion, whilst Crabtree of the
Southtown Iron Works, had won the tender for the engines and machinery. Meanwhile, the St.
Andrew the Fisherman was working mostly with the Great Northern Fleet and Lowestoft vessels
in the North Sea and receiving much appreciation, with the Revd. Edmunds being the sailing
chaplain on board. She alone spent seven weeks with the Lowestoft vessels. The Mission had by
this time established offices and a warehouse along Gorleston quayside, although the exact
location of these has proved impossible to find.
The Frances was moved to Beeching’s dock on the Great Yarmouth side of the river in early
1899, where she was to be completed as a church and hospital ship. Adverts for her sails and
rigging were being advertised in May 1899, whilst her Crabtree steam engines won first prize in
the recent Great Yarmouth Trades Procession.

On May 20th 1899, the Yarmouth Independent announced she has now been coaled and her
machinery will be put in very shortly along South Quay. It was further announced that John
Easterbrook, the Managing Director of the Mission, had gained the same privilege from the
Custom authorities as the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen to sell tobacco to the
fishermen free of duty. This was most welcome as all fishermen like a bit o’ bacca as much as
anyone else. Applications for a master and chief engineer for the Frances appeared in local
papers on 17th June 1899. Subsequently, a Mr. Greenacre was appointed ship’s master and a
Mr. Hargreave as the chief engineer.

On June 28th 1899 the Frances was dedicated alongside the Town Hall at South Quay after
many years of frustration and setbacks. The dedication was performed by the Bishop of Norwich,
and assisted by the Bishops of Ipswich and Thetford and many of the local clergy. The choir of
St. Mary’s Church, Southtown, rendered the musical part of the service whilst the address was
given by John Easterbrook, Chairman and Managing Director of the North Sea Church Mission.
The twin-screw driven Frances was given the port fishing number of YH 400, and thus able to
trawl for fish, when not in use as a mission vessel, and earning the much needed revenue.

The 1899 annual meeting of the North Sea Church Mission was held at Westminster, London the
following month, where it was announced that income for the year amounted to £2,053 as against
£2,285 the previous year, although this had included a £1,000 donation from a Miss Marter. Mr.
Easterbrook appealed urgently for additional support, and stated that the Mission required an
annual income of no less than £3,000. It was also stated that the St. Andrew the Fisherman had
been at sea for 312 days during the past year and, despite the loss of its skipper Nathaniel
Metcalfe, had supplied 366 smacks with medicine, 118 smacks with woollens, 419 smacks with
tobacco and 515 smacks with literature. Church services aboard fishing vessels had totalled 282.

The Frances soon began work in the North Sea, one of her first trips being to the Grimsby based
Hagerup and Doughty’s fleet of fishing vessels, where they received an enthusiastic welcome.
Frances was the very first steam mission vessel in the North Sea; it was not until the following
year that the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen’s steamer Alpha appeared on the

The early 1900s saw depression within the North Sea fishing fleets for many reasons. The
famous sailing smacks of Hewett’s Gorleston-based Short Blue fleet had totally disbanded and
many of the steam vessels that remained were paying much higher prices for coal. A number of
the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen vessels were having to be laid up and the
North Sea Church Mission decided to lay up and sell its vessel the St. Andrew the Fisherman
during the latter part of 1900. She was eventually sold in January 1901 and quickly sailed for new
owners in Holland. It is interesting to note that this vessel was still afloat in Swedish waters up
until 1956.

The 146 ton Frances was open to the public at South Quay, Great Yarmouth for two days during
September 1900 followed by an open day at Gorleston. She was decorated with flags and
attracted much attention on both sides of the river. A large number of visitors inspected the
beautiful church cabin, the snug little hospital and reading room amongst the stalls that had been
set out. Following this, she promptly began to prepare for her winter work in the North Sea.

Disaster struck the Frances during a gale on 27th January, when strong seas swept the mate,
George Double, overboard. Skipper Charles Munning, a late Admiral of the Short Blue fleet said
it was impossible to see anything on deck, and that George Double was believed to have sunk
almost immediately as he had his sea boots on.

After 1902, the North Sea Church Mission found that it was proving very expensive to run the
Frances, the price of coal being very unfavourable. Contributions were now dwindling, but the
institution continued in being until at least 1905, when it was decided to lay the wooden built
Frances up in Great Yarmouth harbour. She lay at Bollard Quay for many months, until
eventually being sold on Wednesday 25th July 1906. After brisk bidding at the Great Yarmouth
Fish Wharf Rooms, the auctioneers, Messrs. De Caux and Sayers, sold her to a Dutch buyer; a
Mr. S. A. Bakker of Ymuiden being the successful bidder at £910. The North Sea Church Mission
had been in serious financial difficulties for several years and, even John Easterbrook himself,
was sued and had to pay money.

There is a slight twist to the tale of this short-lived

North Sea Church Mission story. In August 1907,
a Miss Caroline Everard died, and in her will she
had left £1,500 to the North Sea Church Mission,
although it had ceased to exist by the time she
died. The Revd. Forbes Phillips of Gorleston
contested the case, despite having had nothing to
do with the Mission for many years.

The case was heard at the High Court in London in

May 1908, where it was proved to the judge by
John Easterbrook that the North Sea Church
Mission had disappeared in 1906. The judge said
he was not satisfied that the mission had existed
for so long, but it certainly came to an end in or
before the year 1906.

He also stated there was no evidence that the

Revd. Forbes Phillips was ever connected to the
Mission after 1898. The vicar had earlier stated
that there was evidence of various persons having
done work for it since, then under his supervision,
which they called ‘mission’ work.

Summing up, the judge, Mr. Justice Swinden Eady,

stated they were also uncertain whether or not to
pay the money to the Royal National Mission to
Deep Sea Fishermen, which did very similar work
The Reverend Forbes Phillips of Gorleston in the North Sea. However, he was certain that the
North Sea Church Mission no longer existed, and
therefore he directed that the legacy fails and falls
into residue.

In his final summing up, the judge directed that costs be awarded to Forbes Phillips, the Vicar of
Gorleston. What eventually became of the £1,500 Caroline Everard legacy is unfortunately


Yarmouth Independent, Various editions, (from 9th August 1890 to 21st October 1899).

Yarmouth Mercury, Various editions, (from 22nd September to 6th June 1906).

The Great Yarmouth Printing Company’s Annual, (1901).

Trafalgar Day - 21st October 2011
Paul Davies

Every year the Borough of Great Yarmouth hold

a Civic Trafalgar Day Memorial Service at the
Norfolk Pillar, Ferrier Road, Great Yarmouth.

In 2011 more than 90 people, including several

members of the Great Yarmouth Local History
and Archaeological Society, gathered at the
Pillar for the short service. The band of the
Winterton Marine Cadet band led the civic
procession. The service was led by the three
clergy of the Great Yarmouth Parish. Hannah
Bentley, the Curator of the Nelson Museum,
gave a brief resume of Nelson’s life. A tot of rum
was used to toast the immortal memory of
Above, and below right : Admiral Lord Nelson. The proceedings ended
Trafalgar Day Service 2011
with the singing of the National Anthem.

A service of this kind has been

performed for many years. It is of
interest to read an extract of a sermon
preached by Canon Willink (the vicar of
Great Yarmouth) on the text What mean
ye by this service? (Exodus Ch. 12 v.
26) in St. Nicholas’ Church at the
centenary of Nelson’s death in 1905.

This demonstrates triumphalism and the

strong belief that the British had in their
role in the world and also the changing
attitude of people over the intervening
106 years.

Willink stated that: we meet in the very church where, on 6th November 1800, Nelson himself,
sitting in a seat under the end window of the south aisle, (the church was still divided at the time
as a result of the Commonwealth era) returned thanks to God for one of his greatest victories at
the battle of the Nile. We now meet in this church for a three-fold purpose, each of a character
most lofty and arresting.
Firstly, we meet to worship God in thankful
commemoration of a great historic deliverance.

Secondly, we meet to render grateful homage to

Almighty God for the memory of one of the greatest and
best loved of Englishmen, whose knowledge all
succeeding generations of our island will hand on to
imperishable fame.

Thirdly, by our meeting today the power of enthusiasm,

which is inseparable from this occasion, may kindle in
every heart the flame of a noble patriotism, the ideal of
an all absorbing duty and the joy of complete self-

Willink continued: if the designs of Napoleon had

succeeded, then the duty of this country in colonising the
waste places of the earth, the task of civilising barbarian
nations and of blessing them with peace and good
government would for ever have passed out of Britain’s
hands. Canon Willink

There would have been no Canada, no India, no Australia, no Africa or Egypt as now, thank God,
we know them. If Britain had been vanquished it would have been a calamity for the whole world
and an immeasurable loss to the whole human race. It was the will of God that the work of the
last great century of colonisation should belong to Britain. God had fitted the English race for this
purpose and it was essential that it was not crushed by Napoleon. Thus the victory was given to
this country.

However necessity is laid upon me now to point out that

the last seven years of Nelson’s life were lived in an
absolute contraindication to his previous life of unsullied
personal honour (the affair with Lady Hamilton). He not
only stands out in history as an example but as a
warning also. Just as it was the gleaming medals on his
breast that marked him out for the fatal bullet, so it was
his celebrity that drew him to his moral ruin.

I do not wish to dwell for a moment longer than

necessary on this dark shadow that damages the fame
of our hero, but speaking in God’s House I feel
compelled to say what has been said and, lest if his
wrong doing were un-blamed or un-repudiated, it should
be thought that others might do what Nelson did. This
gross immorality cannot be ignored when Nelson is held
up as a person of manly and patriotic virtue and nothing
is said in condemnation of his guilt and his utterly
unworthy and indefensible error of his later years. To
conquer our own evil nature is a harder task and a
greater triumph than to destroy a fleet.

Although we are now friends with France, other foes are

with us. These are the great triumvirate of evil, which
Postcard are equally as dangerous, that is, drunkenness, impurity
and gambling, which insidiously sap the foundations of
our nation.

The Body-Snatcher’s Plaque
Paul Davies

On 25th October 2011 the plaque was unveiled on

the south-facing railings of St. Nicholas’ Church by
the curate of the parish, Revd. James Stewart.
The plaque was sponsored by Colin Smith, a local
stonemason. Paul Davies spoke about the body-
snatchers, who were also known as
resurrectionists, as follows:

Corpses were sought by surgeons to further their

study of anatomy. Surgeons employed body-
snatchers to obtain corpses. The fresher the
corpse the higher the price. Corpses of children
attracted a premium.

Amongst surgeons who employed body-snatchers

was the well-regarded Sir Astley Cooper, the son
of the Vicar of Yarmouth from 1781-1800.

Before the passing of the Anatomy

Act in 1832, the necessity of
obtaining corpses by unlawful
means, rendered the trade of body-
snatching a very lucrative one. Prior
to this the only legal source of
corpses was the bodies of hanged

Right :
Revd. James Stewart
unveiling the plaque
Photograph: Derek Leak

For instance, in 1813 John

Hannah strangled his wife at
their house in Row 91, Great

He was the last man to be

hanged for murder in Great
Yarmouth. After the body had
remained hanging, for the
usual length of time, it was
given to the local surgeons to

Amongst the resurrectionists
Cooper employed was Thomas
Vaughan. He was one of the most
noted resurrectionists. Thomas
Vaughan (alias Thomas Smith) was
a former stonemason’s labourer
and had been raised as a Roman
Catholic. Sir Astley Cooper
described Vaughan as a man of
dissolute and drunken habits,
without common prudence and of a
bad character.

Vaughan was born in 1790/91 in

Limerick, Ireland. He was a small
man at five feet four inches tall. At
some point he moved to London,
Unveiling the body-snatchers plaque where he became well-known to the
magistrates for petty crime.

After stealing bodies in various parts of the country, including Kent, Berkshire, London and
Lancashire, Vaughan, in 1827 rented a house for a short time in Row 6 (Body-Snatcher’s Row),
near White Horse Plain, Great Yarmouth. Recently local historians have argued that he had, in
fact, lodged in Row 5 or even Boulter’s Row (Row 3). Vaughan purchased crates and sawdust
from Job Orris and two canvas bags from Mary Clark. He concealed the corpses, which he had
stolen, in some old houses in the row. He took at least ten bodies from St. Nicholas’ Churchyard
before he was discovered. The bodies were sent to London, by wagon, via Norwich and were
packed in sawdust in the crates, which measured four feet two inches long by 14 inches wide and
14 inches deep. The crates were marked Glass – handle with care. He was paid between 10 and
12 guineas for each body.

As a result of an investigation it was found that the following bodies had been removed from the

Charlotte Atkins an infant buried 17th October 1827

James Burwell aged five years buried 25th October 1827

Elizabeth Ditcham aged seven years buried 25th October 1827

Mark Rivett aged 39 years buried 28th October 1827

Helena Brightman aged 30 years buried 28th October 1827
and her infant son William
Roger Burdett aged 67 years buried 4th November 1827
Elizabeth Beck aged 21 years buried 4th November 1827
James Rising aged 36 years buried 6th November 1827
Elizabeth Balls aged 38 years buried 6th November 1827

When the news broke of the body-snatching in Great Yarmouth it caused great excitement and
the relatives of the dead opened many graves. It was said at the time that the graveyard had the
appearance of a ploughed field. A contemporary report said, there being suspicions of grave
tampering, George Beck, a baker, whose wife had recently been interred in St. Nicholas’
graveyard, determined on having her grave examined. It was found that the body had been
taken away. There was a great sensation and the churchyard was thronged with people, who
employed themselves in opening the
graves of their deceased friends and
relatives. The scene continued for four
days and at least ten bodies were found to
be missing.

The courts regarded body-snatching only

as a misdemeanour meriting a short
prison sentence. The legal status of a
body was such that it was not regarded as
goods. It was not property, so technically,
it could not be owned, bought, sold or

The court case against Thomas Vaughan

took place on 16th August 1828. Robert
Barber, the accomplice of Thomas
Vaughan, stated: that at night they went to
the Denes and climbed over the
churchyard wall and walked towards the
new area of the yard (presumably that
part consecrated in 1811 that took in a
part of the Priory Gardens). They stopped
near a tomb with iron railings. Vaughan
asked Barber to hide behind a gravestone
to keep watch. Vaughan opened a grave
and the body, a female, was removed and
put into a bag. Barber then helped
Vaughan fill in the grave so that it looked Map of the Rows

They then took another body in a similar fashion. They took the bodies to the west side of the
churchyard, opposite Boulter’s Row (Row 3) and Vaughan carried the bodies to his lodging and
placed them in a stable. Barber continued: the bodies were placed in boxes packed with sawdust
and put on a wain for London, for which the cost was 1s. 9d.

George Beck, the husband of Elizabeth Beck, testified that: he went to examine his wife’s grave
and found the coffin lid broken and the body missing. He saw a shroud at the bottom of the


The Mayor’s Officer, Peter Coble, made enquires and quickly traced Robert Barber to Beccles,
who confessed and was brought back to Great Yarmouth and was gaoled. The tenacious Coble
then tracked Vaughan to Norwich, Colchester and finally to London where he found him in a
public house in Southwark. He was arrested and brought back to Great Yarmouth for trial. He
appeared in court, but a threatening crowd gathered, so Vaughan was moved to the gaol where
the hearing continued. He was committed for trial and granted bail. He disguised himself as a
sailor and rapidly left Great Yarmouth. Vaughan petitioned that his trial should not take place in
Great Yarmouth because of the animosity of the townspeople. In August 1828 he was tried at
Norwich Assizes. Vaughan was found guilty and was sent to jail for six months, which he served
in Norwich Castle.

The London surgeons, via an intermediary, sent down

a person to act on Vaughan’s behalf at an expense of
£14. 7s. 0d. of which Sir Astley Cooper contributed
half. The surgeons also allowed Vaughan ten shillings
a week for the 26 weeks he was in prison and six
shillings a week for his wife. Vaughan worked regularly
for Cooper.

On his release, Vaughan continued his body-snatching.

Later, in 1830, he was found to be in possession of
stockings and a shift, presumably to sell, which he had
taken from a dead body in Plymouth. This theft raised
his crime to the level of felony and he was transported
on board the Argyle to Tasmania, Australia for a period
of seven years. His wife, Louisa, was also transported
on board the convict ship, Mary. In Tasmania there are
records of Vaughan and his wife breaking the law.

By 1838, they had served their sentence, but there is

no record of them returning to England. Indeed, Astley
Astley Cooper with a skull and Cooper’s son, Bransby, wrote in 1843: Vaughan and
femurs - 1819 his wife have never returned to this country, although
the period of their banishment has long expired.

Cooper and the other London surgeons went to

extreme lengths to obtain bodies for dissection from the resurrectionists, whom they paid well.
Andrew Bierce, the American writer, described resurrectionists in his Devil’s Dictionary as those
who supplied the young surgeons with that which the old surgeons had supplied the undertakers.

In defence against the trade of body-snatching lofty railings were erected around churchyards and
around family vaults. It was advised that coffins should be secured with strong iron bands prior to

Following the body-snatching episode in Great Yarmouth a new cemetery was opened in 1828
(the so-called Dissenters’ Cemetery) near Market Gates. Shares, totalling 120 in number, were
sold at £5 each. No person was allowed to hold more than two shares. The cemetery measured
155 feet by 137 feet and was enclosed by the town wall on the east, high buildings and walls to
the north and west and lofty iron railings with a gate on the south side. It was closed for burials
in 1854. It was for the use of people who wished to be buried in a secure cemetery and
dissented from being interred in St. Nicholas’ Churchyard. However, many non-conformists
(Dissenters) were buried there.

In his evidence before a House of Commons committee in 1828, which was examining the trade
of body-snatching, Sir Astley Cooper declared, there was no person, whatever his situation in life
might be, whose body after death, if so disposed, he could not obtain. The law only enhances the
price and does not prevent the exhumation.
Cooper had operated on a Beccles man, William Cowles, by tying his external iliac artery for an
aneurysm (swelling of a blood vessel) and creating a collateral circulation due to smaller blood
vessels opening up.

The patient survived the

operation, but Cooper was
determined to acquire the
body after death and to
examine his own handiwork.
He had to wait 18 years, until
1826, for the patient to die
and when he was buried at
Heckingham, just outside
Beccles, Suffolk, the local
surgeon, Henchman
Crowfoot, sent a message to
Cooper. Cooper sent two
reliable resurrectionists
(probably Vaughan and a
sexton, called Hollis) from
London to retrieve the body. Heckingham Church

Cooper wrote in his journal: cost, what it may. The body was unearthed, placed in a sack, taken
by gig to Beccles, placed in a box and sent to London. The specimen of the anastomotic
circulation, which had occurred after Cooper's operation, was preserved and was placed in Guy’s
Hospital Museum. The specimen was lost during the Second World War. Cooper’s account book
has the following entry concerning the taking of the body:

Coach for two there and back £3. 12s. 0d.

Guards and coachmen 6s. 0d.
Expenses for two days £1. 14s. 6d.
Carriage for subject and porter 12s. 6d.
Subject £7. 7s. 0d.

At Smithfield, in the City of London, there is a

plaque on a wall where a public house existed. This

The public house, the Fortune of War, was the chief

house of call north of the river for resurrectionists in
body-snatching years ago. The landlord used to
show the room where, on benches around the walls,
the bodies were placed labelled with the snatcher’s
name waiting until the surgeons at St.
Bartholomew’s Hospital could run round and
appraise them.

Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the Murder Act of

1752 stipulated that only the corpses of executed
murderers could be used for dissection or hung in
chains from gibbets to rot. Previously a decree in
1540 had granted the bodies of four executed
criminals every year to the Barber Surgeons
Site of the Fortune of War at Smithfield and Company. By the early nineteenth century, the rise
the plaque of medical science, occurring at the same time as a
reduction in the number of executions, had caused
the demand for bodies to outstrip supply. In the
eighteenth century hundreds of people had been
executed each year, often for trivial crimes. By
the nineteenth century on average, 55 people
were executed annually, while as many as 500
bodies were needed by the medical profession.

The 1832 Anatomy Act, provided for the needs

of physicians, surgeons and students by giving
them legal access to corpses that were
unclaimed after death, in particular those who
died in prison or the workhouse. Further, a
person could donate their next of kin’s corpse in
exchange for the burial costs.

Right :
Carlo Ferrari, an Italian boy of 14 years of age, who
was drugged with rum and laudanum and then
drowned in a well by the body-snatchers Bishop and
Williams in 1831. Two London Hospitals refused to
accept the body and Bishop and Williams were
arrested, convicted of murder and executed.
Bishop and Williams admitted to taking 1,000 bodies
over a period of 12 years

The activities of Burke and Hare in 1828

hastened the passing of the Anatomy Act, as
they went around obtaining bodies by murdering
them. Similar episodes took place in London in

The Anatomy Act did not gain universal approval as a handbill published in Great Yarmouth
showed. It related the arguments and scenes of a most violent character when the students at St.
Bartholomew’s Hospital argued over the quota of bodies received from the workhouses. The
hand bill finishes:

See the effects of the accursed Anatomy Act

Parties quarrelling over a dead body, like dogs over a bone.

The story of the body-snatchers in Great Yarmouth is well-known. However, the sale of bodies
from the Great Yarmouth workhouse to Cambridge University is less talked about.

In 1901 the Board of Guardian’s visiting committee reported on the practice of sending dead
bodies to Cambridge University for dissection. The Board of Guardians was the committee
responsible for running the workhouse. Bodies of deceased inmates, without relatives, had been
sent to be dissected by medical students. In the previous two and a half years seven bodies had
been sent. The Guardians had permitted the practice in 1881.

The bodies were sent on the 8pm train from Vauxhall Station to arrive in Cambridge at midnight
so that the people of Cambridge would not be shocked by the number of bodies arriving in the
city. The train fare was £4. 6s. 0d. One pound was paid for the coffin and small sums were paid
to the workhouse staff for shrouds, the hire of a barrow and the transportation of the body to the
station. It appeared that some of the staff made a profit from the sum of £6. 14s. 6d., which
Cambridge University paid for expenses.

The entries in the workhouse register stated, buried by friends for the bodies sent to Cambridge.
It was therefore impossible to know how many bodies had been sent. It was estimated that 68
had been sent in 20 years. It was also alleged that, in some cases, thorough inquiries had not
been made to trace the deceased’s relatives.
Most of the present Board of Guardians was
unaware of the arrangement. There were
rumours in the town that coffins of dead
relatives were filled with bricks and the
bodies were surreptitiously sent for
dissection. The Guardians agreed, by nine
votes to four, to continue to send bodies to
Cambridge, under certain safeguards.

It is probably true to state, that the activities

of the body-snatchers, abhorrent as it was,
hastened medical and surgical advance. At
the time, the theory of medicine and surgery
was rooted in the theories of Galen (born 129
AD), who was the physician to several
Roman Emperors. Medical practice was still
based on Galen’s four humours and blood-
letting, sweating etc. were the mainstay of

Examination of corpses led to better

understanding of the working of the human
body, surgery advanced, antiseptics and
anaesthesia were developed, etc. The
misery of the relatives of those who were
snatched led eventually to the benefit of the
general public.

Left :
James Wilson, 18
years old.
In 1828, Burke and
Hare smothered him
after a struggle. He
was sold to Dr. Knox
of Edinburgh for £10,
who dissected him

Right :
Body-snatchers by


Palmer, C. J., The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, (1873).

Gray, Patricia and Richards, Paul, The True Life and

Crimes of a Body-snatcher, (2000).

Norwich Mercury. (16th August 1828).

The following two Great Yarmouth Mercury extracts, which remain of interest, have kindly been
supplied by Graham Brown and appear in their original state:

Great Yarmouth Mercury

November 5th 1927 Page 11
The Mercury Asked and Answered Corner
For notes, queries, and replies, on old Yarmouth

Where was the Boulter Museum?


At the king invitation of Mr. George Chasteney and Mr. J. Starling of Leach’s a few weeks since, I
was privileged to inspect a beautiful interior of a long apartment surmounted by a wonderful
octagonal dome at the rear of no. 22 Market Place, occupied by W. & E. Turner and made
sketches of the ornamental plaster work and the unique and delicate detailing, which was
beneath the entire cornice. Speculation was rife as to its former use. Could it have been the
General Headquarters of the Masons prior to erecting the Masonic Hall in Row 108, Free Library

Had there been shows and exhibitions held

there similar to the tavern shows of a century
since? Did the long room connect the front
property with the peculiar roof, i.e., no. 22
Market Place? According to C. J. Palmer,
we relied upon Boulter’s Museum, having
been attached to the premises situated at the
south east corner of Row 35, where the
beautiful carved fire places are (see page
223, Vol. 1. Perlustration), and we dispelled
the idea of Boulter being at the south east
corner of Row 38 that had been known as
“Ferriers Row”, and “Ellis, the Basket Makers
Row”. However, the work of demolition
began under Mr. James Hogg and securely
fastened to the block supporting the dome
was a lead tablet as under;-

I have a catalogue, 165 pages, containing

thousands of exhibits that comprised this
Museum as collected by Daniel Boulter.
Pasted on cover is an advertisement of Daniel Boulter, at no. 19, Market Place, Yarmouth, who
sells wholesale and retail a great choice of best London made, Birmingham, Wolverhampton,
Sheffield, and Pontipool goods; silversmith, jewellery, cutlery, and toy line &c. He mentions that
the museum, that has taken twenty years to collect, is daily open for inspection. Admittance by
ticket, 1/-. My copy belonged to W. Ticken of Norwich and written is:, January 7th 1794, visited
the Museum. May 13th, 1794, again visited the Museum in company with Mrs. Warren, F. Elvin,
J. Keer, C. Bensley, and spent two hours. Very much to my satisfaction, being attended in the
museum by my young friend, J. Boulter, junior. In the open yard below dividing the property to
the south is a lead pump with the following important lettering:
J. P.
Probably in the near future an opportunity will be afforded to inspect the title deeds to the property
and discover that J. B. is connected with Mr. and Mrs. Boulter.

No. 19, Market Place, for the past 70 years, has been at the north east corner of Row 35,
successively occupied by the chemists Mabson, Eldridge, Cossey, Welch, and Roberts.
No. 20 was occupied from 1863 by Breeze, the ironmonger, Burt, Burt & Welham, Hacon the
grocer and Leach Bros., and No. 22 for a long time was Freeman, the leather curriers, hence the
workpeople at Leach’s to this day term their warehouse across Row 38, Freeman’s.

The copper dome as seen from the west end of the Row was picturesque, and now demolished,
will be missed. Little did the Boulters and Howes, the carpenters, who had their workshops back
of the walls, imagine that after 125 years their forethought in recording the event and the place
would settle an interesting point and gladden the hearts of a few who like to record things as they
were. Several old Georgian copper coins have been found. The Peace referred to was the
Treaty of Amiens, 27th March, 1802, between England, France, Spain and Holland. I should
imagine Moore & Nuthall, the first class tailors 60 years ago, fulfilled all the requirements re air
space and light, under Factory Acts. This was their large workroom at the rear of no. 22, Market

Great Yarmouth Mercury

November 5th 1927 Page 11
The Mercury Asked and Answered Corner
For notes, queries, and replies, on old Yarmouth

A Churchyard Tombstone

A noted individual a century ago in Yarmouth was the above named ‘student of the stars’. He
resided at a house in the Lion and Lamb Row (No. 109) and, above his doorway, he displayed a
signboard typical of his cult. Formerly he had been employed by three local solicitors.

Near the west wall of the church was a

headstone erected in 1829; the inscription I
give under.

To the casual observer, there was nothing of

particular note regarding the stone beyond the
fact that three young ladies had so tragically
lost their lives one summer’s day on Breydon.
But there is a story to unfold. The astrologer
Cooper had warned Miss Aldred and Miss Bax
less than a month previous to be ware of
imminent danger on water excursions and sea

Within 12 months of erection the tombstone

was minus the name and age of Elizabeth
Waters. This was accounted for by the fact that
the poor family of Waters did not contribute a
proportionate share of the stonemason’s
charges and the name was erased; by whom?
We at this age cannot determine.

The stonemason, John Logdon, died on 1st

December 1834 and lies buried near the
Chapter House. Originally this stone stood
west of the church, but after continuous
searchings I can find no trace of it.

The Plaque Placed on Vauxhall Station, Great Yarmouth on 9th June 2011
Andrew Fakes

The 70th anniversary of the mass

evacuation of children from Great
Yarmouth and Gorleston was
marked on 2nd June 2010 by a
reunion at Great Yarmouth Town
Hall. This event was attended by
many surviving evacuees.

After this event Great Yarmouth

Borough Council decided that the
evacuation should be marked in
a more permanent way.

It approached the Great

Yarmouth Local History and
Archaeological Society to help in
this matter. It was decided that
one of the society’s blue plaques
should be placed on platform one
of Great Yarmouth Vauxhall

The evacuees and Malcolm Robertson from Anglia Television News

gather at Great Yarmouth Vauxhall Station

At the unveiling on 9th June 2011 the president of the society said: We now largely know how the
Second World War panned out, but I ask you to consider the situation of how the parents and
children of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston saw their world in the spring of 1940.

They had been warned of untold damage from air-raids with the more frightening possibility of gas
attacks. Certainly nothing much happened in the months after war was declared in September
1939, during the so called Phoney War, but by January 1940 most people would have been
aware of ships being bombed off the Norfolk coast. This continued until early April when Nazi
forces turned their attention to the Norwegian campaign.

However, by the end of May 1940 the ruthless efficiency of the German Blitzkrieg had overrun
Holland and Belgium, with France on the brink of surrender. On 26th May it was the Ministry of
Health that recommended the evacuation of the children from east coast towns as far north as
Great Yarmouth. It was not a compulsory evacuation, but heavy persuasion was used.

The organization of the evacuation was in the hands of Mr. G. J. Wroughton, Clerk to the
Education Committee. All state schools in the east coast area were to be closed. A letter dated
28th May 1940 was sent out to parents telling them of the evacuation stating: “The Government
strongly urge that every parent
shall take advantage of the
evacuation scheme now being
prepared. You are free to make
up your mind BUT YOU MUST
ONCE. It is your duty to do so for
the sake of your children. THIS

Wartime reports suggest that it

was all a ‘jolly’ adventure in the
style of propaganda of the time in
order to keep up morale and, no
doubt, it was to some. But fear of
the unknown, and leaving home
for the first time to go to live with
strangers, was uppermost in the
minds of many children and
parents. There are as many
stories of the evacuation of Great
Yarmouth as there were people
involved in it, but what is certain is
that it saved many lives, as the
town was heavily bombed during
the war.

The plaque was unveiled by an

evacuee, Alan Barham, in the
presence of the Mayor of Great
Yarmouth and Anglia Television.
Alan Barham, one of the evacuees, unveiled the plaque
The unveiling featured in a three
minute slot on the local news

Plaque Commemorating the Building where
Sir Astley Paston Cooper
performed part of his Surgical Apprenticeship
Paul Davies

On the 18th August 2011 a plaque was unveiled

on 3 St. George’s Plain, Great Yarmouth, the
building where Astley Cooper served the early
part of his surgical apprenticeship. The plaque
was sponsored by Dr. Terry Mills, the owner of
the property. The Society had placed a blue
plaque commemorating Astley Cooper a few
years ago on the Old Vicarage, where he lived
as a child.

Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1768-1841) was the

fourth son of Samuel Cooper, who was the vicar
of St. Nicholas’ Church, Great Yarmouth from
1781-1800. Astley Cooper was born in Brooke
in Norfolk in 1768 and spent his early years in
Great Yarmouth. His godfather was Sir Edward
Astley, the Member of Parliament for Norfolk,
his paternal grandfather was a surgeon in
Norwich, his uncle, William Cooper, was the
senior surgeon to Guy’s Hospital, London and
he was also related to Isaac Newton.

During his youth many anecdotes circulated in Great Yarmouth of Astley Cooper’s vivacity,
animal spirits, love of fun and contempt of danger. On one occasion he attempted to cross the
harbour bar and go to sea in a gunboat, which was only suitable for shooting birds on the inland
Breydon Water. He narrowly escaped with his life. Another time he took two pillows off his
mother’s bed and carried them up the spire of St. Nicholas’ Church at a time when the wind was
blowing from the northeast. He ripped them open and shook out their contents. The feathers
were carried away to the Market Place
to the astonishment of the crowd
there. Most people thought the
feathers came from the wild fowl on an
island or that they were a prediction of
some calamity.

It is not known why Astley Cooper

decided to enter the medical
profession, but his family background
had an influence. Two events also
probably influenced him. Firstly, he
saw his 13-year-old foster brother,
John Love, fall so that the back of his
knee was crushed under a wagon
wheel. Cooper tied a handkerchief
over the wound and the boy was put
on the wagon and carried home in a
fainting state. A doctor could not be
found and the boy bled to death from a
ruptured femoral artery. Different
surgeons in the neighbourhood were
Astley Cooper called, but when they heard the nature
of the case, they all made excuses not
to attend. One had a most dangerous case of fever to attend to, another was with a woman in
labour and the third was treating a patient with inflammation of the bowels. Secondly, Cooper
watched William Donne operate on a bladder stone. Donne performed 40 of the first 50
lithotomies (removal of bladder stone) to take place at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Cooper studied under the surgeon Francis Turner (1742-1796) in a building facing St. George’s
Plain in Great Yarmouth. Francis Turner was a distant relative of Astley Cooper’s mother.

Cooper remained in Great Yarmouth for a time before moving his apprenticeship to his uncle, a
surgeon, at Guy’s Hospital London in 1784. He soon moved it on to Henry Cline, a younger and
more able surgeon at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London. Cooper spent the winter of 1787-88 at
Edinburgh Medical School. When he returned to London he attended lectures given by John
Hunter, the renowned anatomist and surgeon. Cooper was accustomed to return to Great
Yarmouth and to spend the summer months at his father’s vicarage and used to take part in
discussions at his father’s dinner table,
making provocative remarks in order to
annoy the other guests. He also used
that time to continue his association
with Francis Turner of St. George’s
Plain, studying pharmacy and general

Cooper was appointed a Demonstrator

of Anatomy in 1789 at St. Thomas’
Hospital at the early age of 21 years. In
1791, he married Miss Anne Cock, who
had inherited a considerable fortune. At
the age of 23 years (1791) Cooper was
appointed Lecturer in Anatomy and
Surgery at Guy’s and St. Thomas’
Hospitals in London. This was a joint Francis Turner’s House
position, which he held with Cline. St. George’s Plain

In 1792, Cooper took his wife to Paris.

Whilst there he had the opportunity to witness the atrocities committed in the name of liberty
during the French Revolution. He wrote in his journal on returning to the hotel one day I found my
dear wife very much alarmed. We sat together at the window, and presently a mob passed,
carrying the heads of some Swiss guards (the King of France’s bodyguard) they had killed, 22 in
number. Each person had some trophy, some had cut off a finger, some a hand. In the evening
the gardens of the Tuilleries were full of dead men, and there they lay naked, having been
stripped of all their clothes by the mob. He also witnessed the horrors when the political
prisoners were liberated from the Abbaye, only to be murdered by an infuriated rabble gathered
outside its door.

In 1793, Cooper’s reputation as a practical lecturer led him to be selected to lecture on anatomy
at the Royal College of Surgeons. He held this position for the next three years.

On the resignation of his uncle, Cooper was appointed surgeon to Guy’s Hospital, in his place. At
the same time his private practice increased and gradually became the largest in London.

Cooper was fortunate to have independent financial means and he could devote himself to
experimentation, without the need to earn a living. He also lived in a time when it was acceptable
to perform experiments on living animals and he formed a friendship with Edward Coleman (the
founder of veterinary medicine). Coleman and Cooper performed so many experiments on
animals that a friend complained that Cooper had filled up the Houndsditch in London with their
corpses. He helped John Hunter dissect a whale and later Cooper obtained corpses of various
animals (lions, monkeys, elephants etc.), to experiment on.
In 1802, he won the Copley Medal, a high honour from the Royal Society, for a paper on hearing
acuity in two patients with perforated eardrums. This was the first time the condition had been
described. This paper led him to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. By this time he was
the most famous surgical teacher in Europe. Over 400 students used to attend his lectures,
though his Norfolk accent never left him. He illustrated his lectures with freshly dissected

In 1805 he was a founder member the Medico-Chirurgical

Society. In 1813 he was appointed Professor of Anatomy at
the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1816 he performed his
famous operation of ligation of the aorta for an aneurysm.
Cooper studied anatomy in depth and also studied the effects
of ligation of femoral and other arteries in dogs. These
experiments laid the foundation of his work in arterial surgery.
He ligated various arteries on a number of patients, usually to
treat an aneurysm and to encourage the development of a
collateral circulation. On nine occasions he ligated the
external iliac artery and once ligated the abdominal aorta. He
also amputated through the hip joint, a method which was
unusual in that time. These operations were performed in the
days before anaesthetics and antisepsis.

Cooper wrote books on fractures and dislocations (1822), the

testis and diseases of the breast (1829-1840) and the
anatomy of the thymus gland (1832). His masterpiece was a
dissertation on herniae (Part 1 in 1804 and Part 2 in 1807),
the description of which is so complete, that there is little to
add to it today. The illustrations in this book were so
expensive that Cooper lost £1,000 in publishing it. All the
copies were sold.

He performed the first grafting of autogenous skin on a man

whose thumb he had amputated and pioneered the use of
catgut sutures 50 years before Lister used them.

At the height of his career he was said to be earning £21,000

a year. His largest fee of one thousand guineas was paid to
him by a West Indian planter for a successful operation to
remove a bladder stone.

He was a first class anatomist and his name is remembered

in the naming of many anatomical features, notably, the Cooper’s Chair
suspensory ligaments of Astley Cooper in the breast,
Cooper’s fascia, Cooper’s hernia etc.

Cooper became a baronet in 1821, after performing a small operation on George IV by removing
a sebaceous cyst from his head. He was the president of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1827
and again in 1836. The following year he was appointed Sergeant Surgeon to the King. He
continued this appointment under both William IV and the young Queen Victoria.

In 1827 Cooper’s wife died and a year later he married Miss C. Jones.

Cooper returned to Norfolk for short holidays. At this time the weaving industry in the county was
in decline. Looms had to be worked around the clock and children were employed to help their
families earn a living wage. Many of these young children developed curvature of the spine.
Cooper designed a chair to correct these deformities. His design compelled the child to sit
upright on the chair, in order to avoid falling of it.
Cooper and the other London surgeons went to extreme
lengths to obtain bodies for dissection from the
resurrectionists, whom they paid well. Resurrectionists
stole bodies from graves in order to sell them to

Cooper died in London at the age of 72 years, in 1841.

He left no children, his only daughter dying in infancy.
He was buried, at his express desire, beneath the
chapel of Guy’s Hospital. A statue was erected,
financed by members of the medical profession, in St.
Paul’s Cathedral, London, near the south door.

An anonymous obituarist wrote, Cooper’s success was

due to markedly pleasing manners, a good memory,
innumerable dissections and post-mortem
examinations, and a remarkable power of inspiring
confidence in patients and students. His connection
with the resurrectionists and the great operations
attributed to him combined to fascinate the public to an
extraordinary degree. A great part of his practice was
medical and he relied almost totally on opium,
tartarised antimony, sulphate of magnesia, calomel and
bark as treatment.

Cooper was described as a thorough Englishman, pre-

eminently distinguished by simplicity, courage, good
nature and generosity. His exertions in the pursuit of
science were almost unprecedented; but he knew that
their results would permanently benefit his fellow
creatures. He was uniformly amiable, honourable, high-
spirited and of irreproachable morals. Tall and portly,
yet well-proportioned, of graceful carriage, and of a
presence unspeakably assuring, with very handsome
features, wearing an ever winning expression,
animated by extraordinary lustre and penetration of the
eyes, of manners bland and courteous, without a tinge
Cooper’s Statue in
of sycophancy or affection, and the same to all classes
St. Paul’s Cathedral
of his fellowmen, he commanded universal admiration
and respect.

Mr. Travers, who became Cooper’s articled pupil in 1800s, wrote at that time he had the
handsomest, most intelligent and finely formed countenance I ever saw. He wore his hair
powdered, with a queue (a pigtail); his hair was dark, and he always had a glow of colour in his
cheeks. He was remarkably upright, and moved with grace, vigour and elasticity. His voice was
clear and silvery, his manner cheerily conversational without attempt at oratory. He spoke with a
rather broad Norfolk twang, often enlivened with a short ‘Ha. Ha’, and when he said anything,
which he thought rather droll, would give a short snort and rub his nose with the back of his hand.


Palmer, C.J., Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, (1875).

Cooper, Bransby Blake, The Life of Sir Astley Cooper, (1843).

Davies, Paul P., History of Medicine in Great Yarmouth, (2003).

formerly known as STONE COTTAGE
situate at High Road, South Town
Trevor Nicholls

Ferryside © Graham Gosling

Upon the winding, unsung banks of Yare,

A mansion stands, to many a bosom dear,
Hard by whose foot, along the boiling tide,
Commerce and wealth each moment gaily glide:
Hard by whose flow’ry foot, a spacious lawn,
From fragrant shrubs, breathes ev’ry sweet morn.

“W” – in the Baker and Preston papers (below)

(Hereafter, in this piece, Southtown is rendered in the present day manner of one word, except
when quoting from documents in which it is written in the older, two word form).

Although this narrative begins with the premises at the start of the 19th century, it is worth noting
that the immediate locality is documented much earlier. The ferry, from which the present
building takes its name, can be traced to the grant of a right-of-ferry to the Augustinian Priory of
Gorleston founded in the reign of King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307). The ferry closed in August
1997. Ferry Boat Lane continues to Burnt Lane (its name derived from the destruction caused by
a fire in the Priory) to the ferry steps. Until the construction of the first Haven Bridge in 1427, this
was the principal route from the south into Great Yarmouth, via the South Gate, from the south.
Because of the poor, not to say dangerous route through Southtown, even after the opening of
the bridge, the ferry continued to serve this purpose.
Accounts of Kett’s rebellion describe his men as setting up ordnance, hauled over from Lowestoft,
upon Ferry Hill in an attempt to coerce the bailiffs to supply provisions to the insurgents’ camp at
Mousehold Heath, Norwich. On 17th August 1549 the townsmen, advancing through Southtown
under a smoke-screen created by setting fire to a haystack, routed the rebels, killed several, took
30 prisoners, and captured the six cannons. In bitter revenge, Kett’s men came back by night
and destroyed the materials assembled for the rebuilding of the harbour, before attacking the
town from across the Denes. They were again repulsed, this time by guns on the walls. Given
the configuration of the old town and of the land on the west side of the river, it seems reasonable
to suppose that the Ferryside site was very close to, if not the actual location of, this episode in
the long history of the struggle for English liberty. Certainly, the insurgents needed only to have
looked over their shoulders as they set up their ordnance on Ferry Hill, for the most tangible
evidence of one of their grievances: the loss of alms and hospitality to the poor, for centuries
afforded by religious houses.

Gorleston Priory, suppressed in the previous decade, would by then have been prey to pillagers
for its stone and other materials for about 11 years. Even so, as Teasdel points out, the ruins
were to be the dominant feature of Gorleston for a century to come. The conventual precinct
extended to the land opposite the present Ferryside site, reaching an apex at the corner of High
Road and Beccles Road (then Fen Street), a location which in later centuries would be occupied
by the Greyhound public house, now a private residence. A large entrance gate to the Priory
stood nearby, close to the present White Horse corner at the foot of Burnt Lane, which name is
itself a priory reference.

The Southtown Road, long the haunt of robbers and vagabonds, quite apart from being prone to
flooding, was turnpiked in 1775, and by the start of the nineteenth century Upper South Town was
becoming a pleasant place to live. Faden’s map of 1797 shows few buildings on Southtown Road
itself, a situation which was to change within the next half-century as the more prosperous
citizens of the old walled town built themselves houses either side of the metalled highway.
Despite the smallness of scale of the 1797 map, on land adjoining the river are shown maltings,
according to C. J. Palmer, erected during the middle of the 18th century by Whitbreads, the
London brewers. Meanwhile, opposite, on a parcel of land measuring about one acre and
bounded by Ferry Boat Lane, Maltster’s Lane (now Malthouse Lane) and High Road, the northern
part of which is now subsumed in the Beccles Road dual carriageway, stands Stone Cottage
referred to in the lyric verse above.

Stone Cottage
Early Nineteenth Century: South Town Academy: Thomas Wright: the Revd. Edward Valpy:
Charles Colwell.

I cannot put an exact date to the construction of Stone Cottage, but the name was surely a
misnomer. Contemporary drawings depict a large, three-storey house and the poet quoted above
was moved to describe it as a mansion. I have found three gazetteer references to it.
Nearly at the south-east extremity of Southtown* is Mr. Wright’s Academy for young gentlemen
which has been established for many years. This boarding-school is delightfully situated, the
grounds are tastefully laid out, and it appears as if every method has been resorted to by the
proprietor to conduce to the health and amusement of his pupils: Preston’s Picture of Yarmouth,
The united villages of Southtown* and Gorleston are agreeably situated on a ridge of land which
handsomely decorates the combined streams of the Yare, the Bure, the Waveney and the
Wensum and ushers them into the ocean. A lofty portion of this ridge is occupied by the
agreeable improvements of Mr. Wright’s Academy for young gentlemen (founded 1800), which is
in every way, ornamental, with a variety of plantations and parades laudably appropriated for the
amusement and exercise of his numerous pupils: Baker’s Guide Through the Neighbourhoods of
Yarmouth, 1820 (Meggy, Printer, Great Yarmouth).

* note the early examples of Southtown rendered as one word.

North of the White Horse Inn, a narrow lane, enclosed on one side by the mouldering and ivy-
covered wall of the precinct**, enables us to regain the Lowestoft high road opposite to South
Town Academy conducted by Mr. Thomas Wright. The improvements effected on this estate are
extensive and well-designed. The house stands upon an eminence with a carpet of level lawn in
front surrounded by trees and flowers of every kind and hue. The situation of this establishment
is highly conducive to the health and amusement of the numerous pupils and it is certainly one of
the most agreeable and ornamental objects in South Town and its vicinity: Historical and
Topographical Notices of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and its environs, including the parishes and
hamlets of the Half-Hundred of Lothingland in Suffolk, John Henry Druery, 1825, Nichols & Son
et al, London.

** a reference to the last remains of the Priory.

A print of Stone Cottage, circa 1820

Great Yarmouth had no grammar school from 1757 until 1863, and Mr. Wright’s establishment
was one of several which filled that need. Some of his pupils went on to attain distinction in public
life, including:

Sir Samuel Bignold, Knight, who became Member of Parliament for Norwich and Secretary to the
Norwich Union Fire and Life Company.

William and John Cantiloe Joy, sons of the Great Yarmouth to Ipswich mail-coach driver, who
became accomplished marine artists. Their first efforts however were of the school and its
grounds. They were assisted in the cultivation of their art, by Captain George Manby, F.R.S.,
whose house still stands in High Road. As barrack master at the Royal Barracks, he allowed
them to view the seascape from it. The Joy brothers’ work in adult life, was described as, more of
nature than of art, more matter of fact than poetry, well and honestly painted (as per C. J.
Palmer). It gained the admiration of seafaring men for its realism.

The Hon. Sir Edward Hall Alderson who became a famous judge of the mid-nineteenth century,
presiding in the Courts of Common Pleas and of the Exchequer. His decisions in Hadley v
Baxendale (1854), Winterbottom v Wright (1842), (both in Contract) and Blyth v Birmingham
Waterworks (1856) (in Tort), are leading cases known to lawyers throughout the common-law
The oldest of the malthouses are those adjoining the river. In a map of 1842, they are shown as
‘malthouses and granaries’ and appear in Faden’s map of 1797. Combe’s much larger additions,
post-1874, are, in the main, on the west side of the lane.

In the 1880 plan (right) the terrace of

houses opposite in High Road
(bearing date-stone 1886) have yet to
appear, as does, also, Highfield Road.

Conversely, by 1906, the short row of

cottages north of the main house
have gone.

world. In later life he resided at Cliff Cottage, now Sparrow’s Nest, Lowestoft, delighting in visiting
the scenes of his childhood. As a boy, he had walked to the ferry to get to school. Alderson
Road is named after him. His daughter, Georgiana, over the opposition of her future father-in-
law, married Lord Robert Cecil, heir to the Marquess of Salisbury. Lord Robert became, in
succession, Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, Foreign Secretary, and Prime Minister. He
was also the origin of the expression Bob’s your uncle, a reference to his preferment of his
nephew, Arthur Balfour.

By 1832, Stone Cottage was in the possession of the Revd. Dr. Edward VALPY, D.D. whose
death occurred on the premises that year (the name derives from the Italian, Volpi, meaning fox-
like). During the latter days of the school, and during the Revd. Valpy’s occupation, the premises
would have witnessed a period in the long history of the port, which these days, seems to have
been forgotten: the Great Migration. The depression and the associated unemployment which
followed the ending of the Napoleonic Wars, the mechanisation of traditional trades in place of
cottage industries, and the punitive Poor Law all led to large-scale emigration to North America
and Australia from the Eastern Counties. Many of these people, often desperately poor, and their
passage sometimes paid by the parish, sailed from the quay across the river and opposite Stone
Cottage. The authorities at Wrentham, Suffolk, for instance, paid for no less than 33 persons (13
from one family) to emigrate between 1832 and 1836, although not all necessarily via Great

The property was acquired by Charles Colwell (died 11th October 1896 and described in his
obituary notice as a Professor of Inventions), one of life’s born eccentrics and the embodiment of
the maxim that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Those of his activities which attracted
most attention, according to Ecclestone, happened after he had left Stone Cottage. He fought the
authorities, and won, for the fair expenditure of the rates on the Gorleston side of the river, over
the closure of public access to the quays and South Pier and the cliff-top path at Gorleston.
There was a protracted correspondence with the Town Clerk about the alleged lack of interest in
their duties by the councillors for the St. Andrew’s Ward. He had a view about the underpinning
of the new Town Hall, which was in danger of collapse soon after its completion in the early
1880s. He invented a non-submersible, self-righting lifeboat which capsized off Orford Ness, but
righted itself with gear and its inventor intact. He devised a system for ventilating mines and
became embroiled in litigation, which he lost, over a scheme of insurance he initiated. It would be
a century before the Port and Haven Commissioners promoted a Private Act of Parliament, which
effectively reversed the Court’s decision for Colwell over the quayside public access issue.
Colwell, slumbering at Gorleston Cemetery, must have been turning in his grave. It was Colwell’s
decision, in 1874, to sell Stone Cottage, which led to a large-scale transformation of the property,
and to its present day appearance.

Ferryside Late Nineteenth Century

Edward and Caroline Combe
(An architectural appraisal follows at the end of this section)

Edward Henry Harvey Combe was born at Honfleur, on the Normandy coast of France, on 17th
June 1846 and educated at the college there and at schools on the continent. The 1881 census
notes his being a British subject. He was the son of Charles James Fox Combe of Bognor,
Sussex, and grandson of Harvey Christian Combe (motto nil timere nec temere), sometime Lord
Mayor of London, and Member of Parliament for the City of London, who established one of the
great porter breweries in the eighteenth century. Edward Combe married Caroline Elizabeth
Laura, only daughter of Charles Brown, at St. Nicholas’ Parish Church, Great Yarmouth on 16th
August 1869. Bride and groom were both 23 years of age. His occupation was stated as
Merchant and his address as Camperdown.

William Pitt the Younger, Prime Minister at 24 years of age, once said that youth should never be
imputed to any man as a reproach, in the sense of being a disqualification from responsibility.
Edward Combe, as a young man, appears to have lived by that proposition. He quickly entered
into the public life of the town, being elected Churchwarden for Southtown in 1873 at what
Ecclestone describes as a stormy meeting. Upper Southtown, for
ecclesiastical purposes, was in the parish of St. Andrew’s,
Gorleston. He had been appointed magistrate the previous year
and one is reminded that these days, there are not many Justices
of the Peace aged 26 years of age, nor for that matter, First
Citizens of Ancient Boroughs at 32. In 1878 he was elected
Mayor, being the last holder of that office to be installed in the
Tolhouse. In 1879, he was appointed Captain, 2nd Volunteer
Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, retiring as Lieutenant Colonel in 1896
(commanded 1892-96). His recreations were hunting, shooting
and yachting. He was a member of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk
Yacht Club at Lowestoft.

Ferryside became a focus of Great Yarmouth life, one of the

Edward Henry Harvey Combe grandest establishments in the Borough, a centre of entertaining
on a lavish scale. Apart from raising the attendance and
efficiency of the Volunteers, Combe was instrumental in the
revival of Great Yarmouth races which had been in abeyance for some years, and which were
restored to the South Denes directly across the river from the house. In 1876, a large dinner
party was given and one of the malthouses was decorated for roller-skating. Mrs. Combe had the
misfortune to fall, and broke her leg. With the help of other local women, Mrs. Combe organised
Penny Dinners for the poor children at the Board Schools. A reminder that the property was once
close to open country lies in the fact that in 1892, a meeting of the Great Yarmouth Harriers was
held at Ferryside, the field travelling around Bradwell, Belton and Hopton.

Edward and Caroline Combe had four sons and five daughters, who survived them. The 1881
Census gives a glimpse of the household in the then brand new dwelling. Apart from Edward and
Caroline, then both aged 34 years, there were three sons; Lionel, 8; Leonard, 6; and Herbert, 3.
There were four daughters; Edith, 7; Sybil, 4; Mildred, 2; and Nina, 1 month. There were also six
female servants, including a visiting nurse, no doubt tending Mrs. Combe after her recent
confinement. Incidentally, the Council had marked the birth of Mildred during the year of her
father’s mayoralty with a gift of a silver epergne surmounted by a silver cradle.

The same Census enumerated 13 members of the Hurrell family living in the cottages adjoining
the main house, including John Hurrell, 77 years of age, malster, (sic) (see architectural notes).

When I first came to Ferryside, there were people who could remember the Combe family. One
elderly gentleman told me that Colonel Combe was keen to preserve privacy in his ample
gardens, and to that end, erected a high weatherboard fence on the top of the boundary wall, so
that people on the horse trams could not see in. The boards kept blowing down and every time
he had them put back.

People I spoke to could remember the tennis court being flooded in winter to make a skating-rink.
I regret that I was away when, during the l960s, one of the children referred to above returned to
her childhood home. She pointed out the tree which had been planted to commemorate her birth,
possibly the copper beech, which stood at the foot of the drive until it succumbed to disease in the
1990s. If the east coast gales had kept blowing down her father’s fencing, it was a tornado which
swept through in 1895, that damaged the house. An elderly woman, remembering the beautiful
grounds, which seem to have endured from the early days of Stone Cottage and of which even
today vestiges remain, said that spring was not considered to have arrived, until the bluebells
were out at Ferryside.

In 1901 the Combes removed to Bedford House, London Road, Ipswich. In 2001, on the trail of
the Combes, I visited this area, close to the town centre. Like many such localities, it could have
been described as past glories, present decay. It turned out to have become the red-light district.
The terraces, once family houses, had been converted into flats and bed-sits, Bedford House
being one such. To the Combes, in 1901, it must have seemed as if they had moved into a doll’s
house after the amenities and amplitude of
Ferryside, 55 miles away along this same
road. Mrs. Combe died at 108 London
Road, Ipswich on Christmas Day, 1909,
aged 63 years, after an illness of two
years. In the register of deaths, her
widower is described as of independent
means. On that day, just after Christmas
1909 and following his wife’s prolonged
illness, Edward Combe, as he attended
the Registrar’s office to register the death,
must have felt an immense distance from
the full and active life he and Caroline had
begun in Great Yarmouth exactly 40 years
previously. Edward Combe died in 1921
and a window to his memory was created
Bluebells in bloom at Ferryside in April 2007 at St Andrew’s Church, Gorleston.

The Maltings

It is as well to refer, at this point, to the Maltings. Combe was the business representative of
Watney, Combe, Reid (afterwards, Watney Mann). In 1874, on the northern half of the estate, he
built the largest maltings in the county at a cost of £12,192, extended them in 1880 and again in
1888, and in 1896 obtained permission to construct a high, covered bridge over Malthouse Lane
joining the new buildings to the eighteenth century ones lining the river, which he had acquired
from Mr. Dowson, Whitbread’s representative.

The maltings could work 3,000 quarters

and had storage for 7,300 quarters of
malt and 3,700 quarters of barley.
Maltings are one of the visual delights of
architecture in Eastern England with
their long, low roofs, towers and turrets.
As with large, old houses, of which
Ferryside itself is an example,
adaptability to changing needs is often
the key to survival. At Oulton Broad and
Melton near Woodbridge, maltings have
been converted into residences, and in
the latter case, the original buildings
appear to have been very considerably
extended to enable that to be done.
The Maltings
Maltings, near Ipswich railway station have become a night-club and those at Snape, a world-
famous concert hall. Combe’s maltings had the advantage of being accessible by barges and
wherries. Indeed, Combe had a small coaster, the Edith, presumably named after his eldest
daughter. This vessel conveyed malt to London and elsewhere. This proximity of the property to
the river was, many years later, to be of advantage to the Fire Brigade, which, during the Second
World War, stationed a fire-boat here. The malting, however, unlike many elsewhere, had no rail
connection. Moreover, theirs was to be a sad fate. The quayside maltings, covering three acres,
were acquired by Norwell Offshore Services in the 1970s. The buildings, some dating back to the
eighteenth century, were demolished, together with the bridge of 1896, but malting continued until
1981 at the premises on the west side of Malthouse Lane. On the night of 31st October 1981,
these were destroyed in a fire, the cause of which was never established. This must have been
the biggest conflagration in the vicinity since that in the Priory kitchens 500 years previously,
which devastated the neighbourhood. The ruined maltings buildings were demolished soon after
the 1981 fire, and with them, the original structures dating back to the mid-eighteenth century.
Architectural Notes

Within five years of acquiring Stone Cottage, Combe had not merely changed the name of the
house, he had demolished it and erected a completely different type of residence on the footings.
To my mind, two mysteries attach to this. Firstly, Stone Cottage appears to have been at least as
big in terms of cubic feet as the house which replaced it, although the older building probably did
not have either the large reception rooms, bedrooms, or the spacious stair-hall of the new one.
Secondly, the site gave the opportunity, not taken, for the erection of a brand new house with a
panoramic view of the river, the Denes and the sea beyond on its eastern side, whilst maintaining
prospects of the beautiful gardens on the other.

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but

I cannot see that there is much pleasing
to the eye in the house which, in 1880,
Combe built on the site of the old one. It
appears ungainly, being too tall for its
base. Writing in 1756, Isaac Ware, in A
Complete Body of Architecture, said Most
buildings of any expense have stone at
least for the dressings, and brick,
although in greater quantity, must always
be sub-ordinate to it. There are certainly
clues, apart from the lack of stone, that
Combe did not have, or chose not to
apply, unlimited funds to the construction
of his new house and he did not conform Pediment showing gauged brickwork, the initials EHHC,
and the year 1880
to the normal practice in this part of the
country of using gault brick.

Ferryside was built of red brick with a blue

slate roof, which distribution everywhere, by
rail, had made easy. Nevertheless, the
bricks are laid, in the main, in Flemish Bond
(stretcher-ender), which is stronger and more
expensive than English Bond (stretcher-
stretcher). There is some embellishment in
the same red brick in the form of egg-and-
dart and dentiled cornicing, and, at first-floor
level, an attractive band of gauged-brick
roses, as well as ornamental window-
headers. An elaborate rendering of the
initials EHHC and the year 1880 appear,
recessed in the same brick, in the pediment
facing the front lawn.

Inside, rather than using exotic hardwood

such as mahogany, or a native one such as
oak, the staircase and six-panel doors and
high Victorian skirting boards are of pine or
deal. That this house is today considered
large is a reflection of the paucity of modern
expectations. There are only two large
reception rooms, although the building has a
total of 25 rooms of various types.

Left : The Staircase

Nevertheless, that said, the house is impressive to the modern eye and, as was observed by the
late Judge Moylan at a trial at Norwich Crown Court in 1973 (R. v Shiner), speaking of the
configuration of the interior, it seems to be most unusual. This is because the front consists of
two floors and the back of three, incorporating also at least part of the earlier Stone Cottage.

The visitor, upon entering the front door, passes through the vestibule (interior height, 14 feet)
and enters the stair-hall. This rises through the full height of the interior of the building (28 feet)
and measures 16½ feet by 26 feet. The dog-leg staircase rises in four flights with three landings
and one quarter-landing. It is the central feature of the house. The newel posts contain pipes
which originally supplied gasoliers that stood on top of them. A carpenter suggested to me that
the alternate diamond-shaped banisters might not be original. If that is so, they might have been
installed for safety reasons during the children’s home era. The raised steel rods fitted on the
handrails during that period were removed in the 1980s in
the interests of historical accuracy. The small gate
inserted on the quarter landing in the l980s, to close off
the upper floors to unauthorised persons, has the merit of
matching the structure in both design and materials. The
wooden-ball ornamental features that occur in both raised
and suspended form are survivors from a typically 1970s
simplification regime, part of the extensive alterations in
that decade, when several were removed.

The panelling which forms the under-stairs cupboard

apparently originally extended at right-angles beneath the
first-floor landing to form a hidden corridor linking the
kitchens and associated rooms, with the butler’s pantry
(now the strong-room) and drawing-room. This is borne
out by the fact that beneath the modern carpeting at this
location there remain diamond and square pattern tiles
identical to those in the adjacent ground-floor service
corridor. For three decades from 197l, an enclosed
reception desk occupied the site of this former
passageway. The old arrangement meant that the
servants could reach all the principal rooms without using
the main staircase or the hall. There is a separate
Ground floor corridor backstairs staircase reaching all floors.

Throughout its height, the stair-hall is characterised by the original dark varnish on all the
woodwork. The small modern window beside the front door goes some way to admitting daylight,
but the overall impression is gloomy, not helped the municipal cream emulsion on the walls. The
window took the place of a door to the conservatory. That typically Victorian structure had been
removed by the time I arrived at Ferryside in 1965, but its pink-concrete base (matching the front
terrace) remained for several years until it was dismantled by the firemen on the condition that
they alone were allowed to use the space for car parking. The conservatory would have given a
more balanced, squat appearance to the building. A slight difference in the colour of the exterior
brick-work shows the full extent of the conservatory more than half a century after its demolition.

Opening from the stair-hall, to left and right are two well-proportioned rooms. That to the left, the
drawing room, unlike the other, has a window bay and, without this feature, measures 18½ feet
by 22 feet, and with a height of 12½ feet. Like the hall, it had a door to the conservatory. In this
room, between 1960 and 2011, approximately 20,000 civil marriages and a tiny number of civil
partnership ceremonies took place. During that period, this room was always elegantly
maintained and a striking feature is the mantelpiece with over-mantel having a central, oval
mirror. I had always supposed that it had been made for the room at the time of the 1880
rebuilding, but I have recently seen similar pieces at Bridge Terrace, Lowestoft, and in a saleroom
at Risby near Bury St. Edmunds.

The Marriage Room, once the drawing room, in its final décor in registration use.

Another feature of the room for many years has been the superb polished oak conference table
which came from the Mayor’s Parlour. Apart from appearing in countless wedding photographs, it
is also to be seen in the portrait of Edward Pitt Youell, Mayor in 1866. This painting was until
recently in the Assembly Room at the Town Hall. The table might have been part of the
furnishings of the old Town Hall.

The room has a boxed beam ceiling which is out of period with the building and inconsistent with
the fact that in the corresponding room across the hall, the ceiling is elaborately moulded. My
theory is that the ceiling in the drawing room was brought down by blast from a parachute mine
dropped on the maltings on 18th March 1943. A builder once remarked to me that he thought
that the outside of this elevation of the house showed signs of blast damage. The room to the
right of the front door, the dining room, measures 12½ feet in height, 26 feet in length and 15¾
feet in width. The mantelpiece, with no over-mantel, was more solid looking than that in the
drawing room and was of polished mahogany. It was removed in the 1990s when the adjacent
floor was strengthened, neither the room nor the house having been designed for trampling on by
generations of local government clerks. Opening from this room is a single-storied apartment
built as a medical consulting room. It is an 11½ foot square and is separated from the main room
by inner and outer doors to secure privacy.

The former bedrooms above the drawing and dining rooms have the same width and length as
the respective rooms below, but are both 13½ feet high, hence the exceptionally tall windows on
that floor. The master bedroom, that is the one above the drawing room, had a dressing room of
the same height, and being 16½ feet by 10½ feet, spanning the hall.

The housekeeper’s sitting room, kitchen, scullery and laundry room are at the back of the house,
and unlike the better rooms which are in the two-storey part, occupy the ground floor of the three-
storey part of the building. The 15 inch thickness of one of the walls in this area suggests that, at
the time of the 1880 rebuilding, an exterior wall of Stone Cottage became an interior wall of the
new house. During October 1997, this wall was cut through to make a new interior doorway. It
was found to contain rubble and two lengths of pine and oak were dragged from it.
Adaptability has meant the survival of this house until now, but the conversion to offices in 1960
and then further alterations during the next 50 years led to so much drilling, hammering, knocking
-through and juddering, it might be supposed that the old place is standing up only by force of
habit. For instance, the conversion of the former master bedroom in 1960 to a general office and,
then in 197l, to a room for the Director of Social Services, meant the erection of three full height
partition walls. The room was restored to its original dimensions in 2010. In the 1970s too, it was
even proposed to similarly divide the room below, the former drawing room at that time, the
Marriage Room, an alteration which, if carried out, would have ruined the proportions of a much
admired apartment.

The cellars, accessed from beneath the service stairs and which extend beneath the inner part of
the hall and the smaller room to the rear of it, are clearly anterior to 1880 and must be those of
Stone Cottage. The features are whitewashed sloping walls, thin bricks forming the floor of an
intriguingly curving corridor, a low tunnel with a floor of pale yellow brick connecting two
subterranean rooms, and brick wine racks which were ripped out as recently as the 1990s.

A neat addition to the property and with a foundation stone dated 1896, and bearing the initials
E.L.C., as does the exterior of the drawing room, is the single storey extension on the north-west
corner of the house to which it is linked by a conservatory-like passageway. The original purpose
of this room is uncertain. With a pitched ceiling, the room is 30 feet by 20 feet. It has a skylight
as well as French windows, the latter, from the rudimentary lintel, having the appearance of a
subsequent alteration. It might have been built as a billiard room, which would accord with
Colonel Combe’s reputation for entertaining his fellow officers. On the other hand, the presence
of an apse at the north end might have been to accommodate a small orchestra which again is
consistent with the Combes’ reputation for good living.

Long gone are the five cottages which stood at right angles to, and in very close proximity to, the
back of the main house. They appear in an Ordnance Survey map of 1880, but are gone by the
one of 1906. In the 1881 Census they were occupied by 13 members of the previously
mentioned Hurrell family ranging in age from 77 years, that is, John Hurrell, head malster (sic) to
Alfred Tennent, his grandson, aged 12. A short-lived free sheet, the Gazette, of April 1990 has a
picture of these cottages in a scene entitled The Lower Ferry from a 19th century water-colour.
The cottages, from the window voids, are similar in appearance to Stone Cottage and might have
been a wing of it, although it is clear that they are standing very close to, if not actually joined to,
the present house.

Still extant, directly behind the site of these cottages, is a low, crumbling section of flint wall.
Boundary walls of this material, knapped flint, probably originally pillaged from the Priory
(suppressed 1538), are common in this neighbourhood. That separating the property from
Malthouse Lane is well-preserved. In 1997, one such wall was rebuilt into a modern
reconstruction on the High Road side. It is particularly evident from the rear of the building that
the interior has determined the exterior and not vice versa: the house appears to have been
extended like a game of dominoes.

In the south-east corner of the site are the stables, converted into offices in 1971, but previously
used as stores by the Fire Brigade. The L shaped structure is of interest for its pantiled roof.
When I first came to Ferryside in 1965, it was still possible to see where the front hooves of
generations of horses had worn down the floor as they had stood looking out into the yard over
the half-doors. The small belvedere atop the angle of the building which appears in a photograph
taken from the South Denes circa 1907 is long gone.

Apart from the fire station and its practice tower, there are two modern excrescences in the
grounds. A flat roofed, single storey office building was erected in about 1960 to accommodate
the Weights and Measures Department. In the next decade, a similar if smaller building - a Meals
-on-Wheels kitchen - was put up on the site of the five cottages referred to above.

Early Twentieth Century, 1901 to 1939
Medical Men: Doctors James and Charles Ryley, William Wyllys Junior, Henry Wyllys, and
Leonard Ley

With the departure of the Combe family, there began nearly four decades of
occupation by medical men. Dr. James Ryley was the first. He had been
Mayor 1898-99. His son, Charles Meadows Ryley, followed him into the
profession. Charles was at Ferryside a short while. He specialised in
ophthalmics and was variously at Guy’s, the Chatham Royal Naval
Hospital, St. John’s Bermondsey, and Rotherhithe Hospitals. Dr. James
Ryley died at Ferryside in July 1915.

Following in the spirit of Mrs. Combe’s good works, the Ryley household
gave a garden party for the Waifs and Strays Society.

Ferryside was acquired in 1920 by Dr. William Wyllys junior. His father had
been a well-known Yarmouth doctor. The younger Wyllys, who was to
James Ryley
practise in the town for over 50 years, was described by Dr. R. G.
Newberry, later Medical Officer of Health, as a most able ophthalmologist.
When his aged father became frail, the younger Wyllys had him to live at Ferryside, the older
man’s death occurring there in 1931. Dr. Wyllys junior was a keen sportsman and had been
centre half and captain of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital football team. He was President of Great
Yarmouth Town Football Club. His sports were, in addition, swimming and rowing. He loved
music. He was in practice with his brother, Henry, who lived at Lichfield House, Southtown Road,
the site now occupied by the new Park View flats.

Dr. William Wyllys junior died at Wimbledon, Surrey in 1945, soon after
leaving Ferryside. According to the late Basil Adlington, FRCS, the Wyllys
brothers considered themselves upper-crust. They had no panel patients
and ministered to the more affluent citizens of the town. Here, then, is a
glimpse of local and indeed British society at that time, demarcated by the
most visible lines of social class. Neither of the Wyllys brothers would
have been mistaken for a poor patient, even at 200 yards, any more than
Colonel Combe would have been taken for one of his labourers. Within
living memory, Dr. William Wyllys could have been seen leaving Ferryside
on his rounds, always in a grey top hat and black morning suit with tails.
As recently as November 2011, the late Mrs. Cecilia Ebbage, aged 94
years, (who had been in the employ of the doctors’ solicitor brother, G. F.
Wyllys), and writing to the Yarmouth Mercury, referred to the carnation
Dr. William Wyllys which Dr. Wyllys would invariably have worn.

When I came to Ferryside, there were still many local people who remembered the amplitude of
life of the household in the first four decades of the 20th century. In the early part of the period,
there were still carriages and pony-traps and a pair of dalmatians running alongside them. The
coachman wore a cockaded hat and, in winter, a sleigh was substituted for the wheeled vehicles.
Then came a splendid motor car with a very early “EX” number plate, and gleaming metalwork.

One of the first telephones in the Borough was installed at Ferryside, the number being Gorleston
8. Since the Cliff Hotel was Gorleston 6, there were, it was said, a larger than usual amount of
wrong numbers received at Ferryside and, perhaps vice versa.

The Drs. Wyllys were joined in 1910 by Dr. Richard Leonard Ley, who was to become one of the
leading lights of the Great Yarmouth medical world. He had the distinction of operating upon a
casualty of the first air raid in the history of warfare in which there were civilian deaths. On 19th
January 1915, a Zeppelin dropped bombs on St. Peter’s Plain, killing two and injuring several
others. A bomb splinter that Ley removed from his patient, he later had made into a tiepin. He
achieved 57 years in medical practice in the town. Although his patients came from all walks of
life, he was unique in Norfolk in refusing to join the National Health Service. Dr. Ley, as a
student, had been room-mate with the future Lord Moran, Sir Winston Churchill’s personal
physician. Moran might, at a very late stage in the negotiations, have persuaded the consultants
to join the National Health Service, but his old room-mate remained unconvinced. Dr. Ley
enjoyed music and poetry, some of which, of an ardent nature, he had published.

The War Years, 1939 to 1945 : Ferryside ceases to be a private residence

The days of gracious living at Ferryside ended suddenly when, upon the outbreak of war in
September 1939, many properties in Great Yarmouth, as nationally, were requisitioned by the
Government. Ferryside became Fire Brigade headquarters, the firemen sleeping in the house
until the completion of the Fire Station on the High Road frontage (this building, rebuilt in the early
l970s, remains to the present day. In November 2011, the Yarmouth Mercury reported that far
from being closed, as had been mooted often down the years, £65,000 had just been spent on its

During the war, Ferryside had a number of close shaves. On 16th February 1941, 16 high
explosive bombs fell on nearby Suffolk Road, killing one person and destroying Gorleston North
Railway Station, which closed permanently the following year and, I remember, what a long walk
it was to be in the 1960s, to and from the other one.

On 18th February 1941, 28 High Explosive bombs and 100 incendiaries fell on the town, including
again, Suffolk Road and Malthouse Lane. A splinter penetrated that potentially most volatile of
targets, the gasometer at the Southtown Gas Works, but it did not explode. This very hazardous
target had also received a hit in the Zeppelin raids of the First World War. On 12th May 1941, 38
High Explosive bombs fell the length of the town. Addison Road and Highfield Road, directly
opposite Ferryside, were hit, which probably accounts for the 1960s houses among the older
ones in the latter street.
Ferryside’s closest brush with fate however came in the raid of 18th March 1943 when a high
explosive bomb fell on the malting, killing one man, George Banham, who was on night fire
watching duty. The Halfway House Public House and neighbouring buildings were damaged by
blast, and Southtown Road blocked by debris. I have a theory that it was this bomb, which
brought down the drawing room ceiling at Ferryside. It was in a raid earlier that day, that eight
people were killed and 27 injured, when on a bomb fell on Queens Road and Nelson Road South;
240 incendiaries fell on Great Yarmouth and Gorleston that day, starting many fires. A person
told me that Czech soldiers were briefly billeted at Ferryside.

1945-1960 : Children’s Home : 1960-2011 Local Government offices

The days of large houses with servants, except for the very rich, were at an end. In 1947 the
Borough Council acquired Ferryside and converted it to a children’s home under the provisions of
the social welfare legislation of 1948. The Yarmouth Mercury, published at Christmas 1951,
records that that was the first Christmas as a children’s home, there being a picture of the
manager of the Gorleston Coliseum cinema delivering presents. The home had been transferred
during April of that year from premises in Addison Road, which subsequently became local
authority accommodation for elderly men. In recent years, some of the children had two reunions
at Ferryside and I spoke to them about its history. It was clear that they viewed their days there
with very mixed feelings and I was confirmed in the impression that the State makes a poor
parent. The children left to new, purpose-built accommodation on the Magdalen Estate in 1960,
but their tabby cat, Tiddles, remained to catch mice attracted by the maltings. After conversion of
the premises to offices, it was not unusual to find mice running round and round in waste paper
baskets in the mornings, or to see the occasional owl sitting in a tree in an autumn dusk. Tiddles
became office cat and spent his old age sitting on a chair in the hall to amuse visitors and to add
to the general air of eccentricity of the place.

John McBride, in his A Yarmouth Diary gives the precise date for the transfer of the Register
Office from the Town Hall as having been 13th April 1960.
After the war, the firemen had marched out of the house, but in 1960 with the children gone, the
Chief Fire Officer returned his headquarters to the premises when they were converted to office
use. In fact, I heard it said that he commandeered the rooms he wanted and everybody else had
to look out for themselves: a sort of “land-grab”.

The fire brigade stores, in the old stables previously mentioned, were in the charge of an amiable
fireman, Fireman Flint, who was no longer on the active list by reason of age and a leg injury
sustained at a fire. Occasionally, surplus stock was sold off. I remember that, in the late 1960s,
two of my young colleagues bought themselves a greatcoat each. Now, these garments were of
such quality and durability that a gentleman possessing one would consider that it had completed
that section of his wardrobe for life. Today, such a coat would cost, I suppose, £150 to £200. Mr.
Flint’s asking price was in the region of five shillings (25p).

Occasionally, the firemen would use the staircase and landings, as well as the cellars, for practice
with breathing apparatus. Thus, members of the public coming in would be baffled to find a single
file of firemen, all kitted up with apparatus, slowly going up the stairs, each man with his hand on
the next man’s shoulder, while the rest of us, apparently oblivious to this scene, went about the
more prosaic business of local government.

Conversion to offices had occurred because of pressure on space at the Town Hall. Fire, Welfare
Services, Children, Registrars, and Weights and Measures (in their own new bungalow in the
grounds) moved in; five departments with perhaps no more than 20 staff between them. There
was local opposition to the removal of the Registrars from Hall Plain in the town centre with its
proximity to the hospitals, and the Registrar General was quick to make a stipulation that any
further move should not be more than a mile and a half from the Town Hall. Perhaps he feared
what the Council would do next, or had experience of what had happened elsewhere. Ferryside
thus became for the next 51 years, to the town, what Somerset House was for 130 years, to the
nation; the repository of the records of births, deaths and marriages. The first Superintendent
Registrar here was Cyril E. Brown, (retired 1964) and the first Registrar, Alexander J. Buchan
(retired 1971).

Retiring from local government at Ferryside in 1971 had been the Children’s Officer, Noel
Colinridge, and the Chief Welfare Officer, Charles H. Saunders. The latter had then achieved 50
years’ service, which had begun under the Poor Law. He had succeeded Cyril E. Brown as
Superintendent Registrar in 1964 and was to continue with that part of his former joint
appointment until 1974.

The retirement of
Charles Saunders,
Chief Welfare Officer,
in 1971 © Graham

As a consequence of local government reform, on 1st April 1974 the new Norfolk County Council
superseded Great Yarmouth Borough Council as the owners of Ferryside.

By then, the house was overcrowded with 54 personnel, and the Yarmouth Mercury of 16th
February 1979 reported that the council was facing legal action by the Health and Safety
Executive for that reason. The influx of new staff had followed the creation of Social Services
Departments in 1971 merging a number of branches of local government going back to the 1948

I remember that the old general office, once the master bedroom, was converted into an office for
the new director, who had it decorated in bright red wallpaper. An observer, possibly speaking
from experience, said it resembled a bordello. Certainly, both this room and that of the deputy
director on the top floor, which now benefited from a cobalt blue carpet appropriated by the
Council from the Chinese restaurant on the corner of Regent Street and Howard Street South,
whose owners had done a moonlight flit, leaving debts to the authority, had desks larger than that
used by the President of the United States.

In 1964, the premises and neighbourhood had had another near miss when a United States Air
Force jet fighter crashed on Darby’s Hard, strewing the High Street with wreckage. Nobody was
injured, but at Ferryside, Reginald Stevenson, general clerk, remembering his war time
experience in London, instinctively dived under his desk.

At the end of the 1960s, the high boundary wall, in danger of toppling, was lowered although it
rises, still, to its original height next to the gateway into Ferryboat Lane.

It was during this period too, that many of the stately old trees in the grounds were lost to age,
disease and storms. A great elm at the corner of High Road and Ferryboat Lane was felled at
this time, as was also a huge chestnut tree by the long-closed gate into the lane mentioned in the
last paragraph. It would have been old at the time of the 1880 rebuilding, and might even have
pre-dated Stone Cottage.

A fine flowering cherry tree which appears in many wedding photographs of the late 20th century
was planted to the memory of the late George Shorten, caretaker in the early 1970s, who died on
Christmas Day 1973. Although this tree died a few years ago, a conifer (Chamaecyparis laws,
Royal Gold), which was planted in November 1999 to the memory of Bernard J. King,
Superintendent Registrar 1977 to 1990, is flourishing and stands close to where the chestnut tree
once was.

The Yarmouth Mercury of 4th November 2011 reported that the last civil marriage took place at
Ferryside on Thursday 27th October 2011. The Registrar’s office had moved to new
accommodation at the Central Library, Tolhouse Street, a short while previously, although at the
time of writing (January 2012) some Social Services staff remained.

What would Edward and Caroline Combe and the doctors make of their elegant and commodious
home, if they were to revisit it today? What would the old Colonel and his hunting and yachting
friends, and the officers of the regiment, make of the notice at the front door saying that it is
forbidden to smoke within? There is enough, but only just enough, ambience left to sense those
earlier days.
As this account began with verse, so, I think, it is most appropriately ended in that form:
The venerable mansion has always affected me like a human countenance
Bearing the traces not merely of outward storm and sunshine
But expressive also, of the long lapse of mortal life and accompanying
Vicissitudes that have passed within.
Nathaniel Hawthorne - The House of the Seven Gables.

Applied to Ferryside, could any words be more apt?

Sources and Bibliography

This narrative would be lacking not only detail which hitherto, has never been written down, but
also the colour which those minutia convey, without recollections over five decades of all those
people, some now long gone, who remembered Ferryside in not only the first half of the 20th, but
also in the latter half of the 19th century.

One man said he could remember having a boil lanced in what became the Marriage Room. I
suspect his memory was letting him down a little. The medical consulting room was across the
hall, and I think it unlikely that Dr. Wyllys would have carried out minor operations in his drawing
room. As recently as 21st October 2011, a correspondent of the Yarmouth Mercury recalled that
being unable as a boy to see the blackboard at school, his mother had taken him to consult Dr.
Wyllys. As a consequence, the young man had been taken straight from Ferryside to Jacques
Opticians in Gorleston High Street for his first pair of spectacles.

Several people alluded to the strict lines of demarcation in a society, locally, as well as nationally,
divided by class. They remembered just how elegant the Wyllys brothers were, the amplitude of
their lifestyle and of their establishments compared, for instance, with the squalor and poverty of
the Rows area of the town; long a thorn in the side of the sanitary authorities. Several people
remembered the dalmatians running with the doctor’s carriage, and also the gleaming motor car.
According to Dr. Paul Davies, Dr. Henry Wyllys never learned to drive and sometimes went to his
house-calls on horseback, as had, as a young man, his father, Dr. William Wyllys Senior.
Incidentally, William Junior and Henry had two brothers, one of whom was a founding partner in
the Great Yarmouth law firm, Lucas and Wyllys, and another who was Paymaster of the Royal
Navy and who settled in British Columbia.

The late Mrs. Cecilia Ebbage, writing to the Yarmouth Mercury on 4th November 2011, mentions
that she worked for the former of these two brothers, George Harvey Wyllys, and states that
Harvey was used as a second name by several members of that family. She posits a connection
to the famous 17th century physician, William Harvey, who in 1628 discovered the circulation of
the blood. Intriguingly, Harvey was also used as a second name by two members of the Combe

The female members of the Combe household were never to walk down Burnt Lane, a prohibition
which, by the middle class standards of the time, would not have been considered out of the
ordinary. Colonel Combe’s obsession with his weatherboard fencing, which kept blowing down
and which he persisted in re-erecting, was recalled by a number of people. This constant source
of local amusement is referred to also in the notes of Mr F. H. Emms (unpublished) entitled, A
Walk Back into Gorleston History.

One man told me that as a boy in the 1950s, he was passing Ferryside, then in its children’s
home era, and his father had warned him that if he did not behave, he would end up inside. My
colleague, Mrs. Brenda Burridge, Superintendent Registrar, who, as a young woman, visited the
home, was asked with heart wrenching poignancy of a Dickensian quality by a little girl, Are you
going to be my new mummy?

It was in the present century that an elderly woman with a very long memory told me that locally,
spring was not considered to have arrived until the bluebells were out at Ferryside.

One day, in the 1960s, when I was in my teens and he was probably in his early 90s, I met, in
what had been Dr. Wyllys’s drawing room, Mr. Robert Hollis. He had retired to the south coast
and, like Sir Edward Alderson 80 or so years previously, was making a visit to the scenes of his
youth. For many years prior to 1939, Bob Hollis as he was known, had been Registrar of Births
and Deaths for the old Gorleston Sub-District, which comprised all that part of the former county
borough west of the river. Many people have told me that they remember going, not to an office,

but to Mr Hollis’s house a few doors along from Ferryside (named Old Registry House by the
present occupant) to register births and deaths. Bob Hollis perpetuated a formerly common
practice, which dated from the inception of civil registration in 1837, of conducting his registration
duties in his front room. He, of course, like Mrs. Ebbage mentioned above, remembered, indeed
saw daily, the comings and goings at Dr. Wyllys’s premises. In those days, Bob Hollis would no
more have expected to have seen, one day, people being married in Dr. Wyllys’s drawing room
than to have encountered a herd of elephants stampeding down High Road.

Neither could Bob have foreseen that before too long, albeit after a World War which would
change the fortunes of houses like this, his successors would occupy what had been the doctor’s
kitchen, scullery and laundry room, through which, over a period of 50 years, thousands of
members of the public would pass on registration business. Although a little on the small side,
these rooms made a neat, self-contained unit. The cast iron cooking ranges were removed from
these rooms in the 1960 conversion, although in one of them, the airing cupboard slatted shelves
remain to this day, often to the delight of people who glimpse them, prompting such remarks as,
This is a really old house, isn’t it?. One jaded soul, though, observed, You’re still in this
mausoleum then?

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis (times change and we change with them) might be a
motto for Ferryside itself, but if I was then too young to see the incongruity in the course which
history often takes, Bob Hollis, standing in that fine room with its long associations, surely
appreciated it that morning.

And finally …………

On the afternoon of Wednesday 11th August 1965, a hot summer’s day, I walked up the
Ferryside drive for the first time. I was 16 years old. I had spent two and a half days in an
induction course at the Town Hall for the most junior of juniors entering local government. I was
to spend nearly 43 years at Ferryside, retiring in June 2008.

My last position, from 1976 to 2008,

was as Registrar of Births, Deaths
and Marriages, although virtually
from the outset I had been involved
in civil registration in one way or
another. So quaint a place as that
rambling old Victorian house, with
such a long and colourful history,
which down the years I was to
uncover, and the job itself, were a
world removed from the mundane
surroundings and routine which most
people tend to associate with
municipal administration. In spending
m an y e ve n ing s st ud yi ng at
Ferryside, I was conscious of
treading in the footsteps of Mr.
Thomas Wright’s young pupils many The author, Trevor Nicholls, Local Government Officer
years before, one of whom, Baron from 1965, Registration Officer 1969 - 2008
Alderson, was to become one of the
great legal minds of his time.

I slept several nights at Ferryside when the winter weather was severe, and also at the time of the
1981 Census. For all that the poet Longfellow averred in Haunted Houses that we have no title
deeds to lands, for past generations hold in mortmain, their old estates, I never saw any ghosts.
Yet had I done so, as this history reveals, such a splendidly larger than life group of people would
have been a pleasure to have met.

Wrentham, Suffolk parish registers for the 1830s, at Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft.

Palmer, C. J., A Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, 3 vols, (1872–1875).

Ecclestone, A. W., Gorleston, (1974).

Davies, Paul P., A History of Medicine in Great Yarmouth, (2003). (Contains some portrait

Pike, W. T., (ed), East Anglia in the Twentieth Century, Contemporary Biographies, (1912). (This
rare volume is in the Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft, and contains a portrait photograph of
Edward Combe).
Box, C., Great Yarmouth 1939-1946. (Papers in the possession of the Great Yarmouth Local
History and Archaeological Society re World War II bombing – (comprehensive record of air-

Tooke, C., Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, Front Line Towns, (1999).

Ecclestone, A. W., and J. L., The Rise of Great Yarmouth, (1959).

Teasdel, R. H., History of Gorleston, Powells, (1933).

Tooke, C., Southtown and Gorleston, Poppyland, (1994).

Tooke, C., Time, gentlemen, please! Public Houses of Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Caister,
published privately (2006).

Sexton, Linda, Fifty-four miles to Yarmouth – the History of the Ipswich to South Town and
Bungay Turnpike 1781–1872, Dunnock, (2008).

Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage of England, (2008).

Meeres, Frank, A History of Great Yarmouth, Philimore, (2007).

Champion, Matthew, Kett’s Rebellion 1549, Timescope, (1999).

Sturman, M. A., History of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Fire Brigades, vol II, (1988).

McBride, John, A Yarmouth Diary, published privately, (1998).

Clayton, Joseph, Robert Kett and the Norfolk Uprising, Martin Secker, (1912).

Great Yarmouth and the 1902 Education Act
Michael Wadsworth

The idea for this article came from reading an article published in 2007 in The Local Historian i. It
was suggested by the author, Roger Ottewill, that traditionally the 1902 Education Act had been
portrayed as one of the most far-reaching and controversial pieces of legislation prior to the First
World War, and that it was a clash between the then Conservative (Unionist) Government and the
Church of England on the one side, and the main opposition party of the time (the Liberal Party)
and the non-conformist Free Churches on the other. Prior to the Act being made law, The Times
described opposition to it as being unscrupulous and virulent and was based upon unreasoning
suspicion ii. The Daily News, on the other hand, described it as a vicious and provocative
measure iii, and the Westminster Gazette claimed that the Act would unleash political turmoil
(and) organised lawlessness for conscience sake iv.

Historical interpretations

Ottewill pointed out that the Act has been portrayed in a number of different ways. He has argued
that historians, when discussing the Act, point to two issues. Firstly, the 1902 Act is at times
portrayed as a major step towards the state funding of education. Secondly, it is sometimes
criticised for the abolition of the local school boards, which were directly elected by the rate-
payers, and placing control of state funded schools to indirectly elected Local Education
Authorities (LEAs). These two issues, that of funding and of control, are in some ways still very
relevant and important today.

A number of perspectives have been adopted when examining the 1902 Education Act.
Ecclesiastical historians have often portrayed the controversy surrounding the Act as the last
great conflict between the Church of England and the Free Churches. However, some have
argued that this view is rather misleading and that views towards the Act were far more diverse.
D. R. Pugh, for example, has argued that the views of the Wesleyan Methodists were far from
united v. Political and administrative historians see the Act in a number of ways. For political
historians, the Act has often been portrayed as one of the factors that enabled the Liberal Party to
win a landslide General Election victory in 1906. Along with Free Trade versus Tariff Reform, the
Taff Vale judgement, the 1904 Liquor Act, and temperance, the Act was an issue around which
the various strands within the Liberal Party could unite.

Administrative historians have seen the Act as one of the indicators in how the view of what the
state should look like changed from that prevalent in the early 19th century, which emphasised
voluntarism in the provision of social services, to the 20th century concept of the Welfare State. It
was also a marker of the move away from having a variety of specialist bodies providing local
services to the multipurposism of the 20th Century local authority. Ottewill has argued that
investigations into the 1902 Education Act have tended to concentrate on the national level and,
unlike the studies of the 1870 Education Act, very little attention has been paid to local
implementation of the Act. Attention has been given to the activities of local school boards and of
the provision of elementary education, and much less attention has been given to the
development at a local level of both secondary and adult education vi.

Objectives of the 1902 Education Act

The 1902 Education Act itself proposed to end what was seen as a divide between the schools
run by local school boards, funded by a local rate, and the voluntary schools, mainly run and
funded by the Church of England via the National Society for the Promoting of the Education of
the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church (more commonly known as National Schools)
and the less numerous British Schools, which were run by the British and Foreign Schools
Society, which was mainly supported by the non-conformist churches. School boards were set up
to provide elementary schools where either there were no existing voluntary elementary schools,
or if there were, insufficient space within the existing schools to take all children. After 1881,
school attendance became compulsory for children between five and twelve years of age.
It was felt that the education system prior to the 1902 Act, particularly the national schools, was
not sufficiently funded to cope with the demand created by the introduction of compulsory school
attendance, even though there was some grant aid available from central government funds. It
was also felt that the quality of education varied according to whether you went to a voluntary
school or a board school, with board schools being seen as providing an education of a higher
standard. Concern was also expressed over the provision of religious education within schools
and the desire that this should be non-denominational was expressed.

The 1902 Act sought to bring all schools under the authority of either the local County Council or
the local County Borough Council. Part 1 of the Act set up both major and minor Local Education
Authorities (LEAs). Major LEAs were the County Councils and the County Borough Councils.
The minor LEAs were non-County Borough Councils with a population of over 10,000 people, and
Urban District Councils with a population of over 20,000 people. Major LEAs dealt with all
publicly funded education within their area, whilst minor LEAs just dealt with elementary schools
within their area vii. Part 2 of the Act dealt with post-twelve years education. In this Part of the Act
it was stated that the local education authority must consider the educational needs of their area,
and take such steps as seem to them desirable, after consultation with the Board of Education, to
supply or aid the supply of education other than elementary, and to promote the general co-
ordination of all forms of education viii.

Part 3 of the Act covered elementary education and the management of schools. Each school
directly under the control of the LEA was to have six managers, four of whom were to be
appointed by the LEA, and two by the lower tier local authorities. Voluntary schools were also to
have six managers, four of whom would be appointed according to the deeds that had set up the
school, and two who would be appointed by the LEA. The managers would be responsible for the
provision and upkeep of the school buildings (with funds from the LEA), the appointment of the
teaching staff, with the LEA responsible for salaries and for the running of the school within the
policies of the LEA. Religious instruction would be in accordance with the trust deeds of the
individual school and under the supervision of the school managers. The National Board of
Education was granted power by Parliament to force LEAs to carry out the duties defined in the
Education Acts ix.

Education in Great Yarmouth before 1902

How was education provided in Great Yarmouth before the 1902 Education Act and how did it
affect education within Great Yarmouth? At one point, there had been two school boards that
covered what is now present day Great Yarmouth. One covered the Runham Vauxhall area of
Great Yarmouth and operated just one school of about 100 pupils. This school board was
incorporated within the Great Yarmouth School Board with the Provisional Order being passed in
1890 and its last meeting being held in August 1891 x. The Great Yarmouth School Board was
founded in 1875. Within the first eight years of its existence it had spent £14,000 on a school
building programme, which included elementary schools at Cobholm, St George’s, Northgate, and
in Gorleston xi. Some church schools were built after the 1870 Education Act, for example the
Catholic Elementary School on Albion Road, which was built in 1881.

School attendance was not free to begin with. The normal fees charged were 2d or 3d per week.
For example, in 1889, the Northgate Board School charged 2d per week per infant, and 3d per
week per older child. Some consideration was given to large families with the third and
subsequent children from such families paying 1d per week. Free elementary schooling was
introduced in 1891. Some teachers were known to provide some sort of breakfast for the children
from the poorest families, as well as free or cheap lunches xii. Additionally, there were some
elementary schools that were set up to educate those children whose families were in the local
workhouse. These were partly funded by payments from the borough council. For example, in
January 1902, the borough council's finance committee approved the payment of eight shillings
and sixpence to be paid to the East and West Flegg Union, and £20 to the Great Yarmouth
Union, in substitution for local grants towards the wages of teachers who worked in the Poor Law
Schools xiii.
St. George’s School in St. Peter’s Road, Great Yarmouth, was originally built as a Board Elementary
School for the Nelson Ward of Great Yarmouth.

Secondary education took two forms within Great Yarmouth. The borough council had
established a Technical Education Committee, which oversaw the work of the Great Yarmouth
School of Science and Art. The Great Yarmouth School Board provided what was called evening
continuation schools and classes. Between the enactment of the 1902 Education Act and its
implementation within Great Yarmouth, these continuation classes were jointly funded by both the
school board and the borough council xiv. Non-technical secondary education was provided by
the Great Yarmouth Grammar School, and by private fee-paying schools.

Implementation of the Act in Great Yarmouth

The borough council had set up an Education (Advisory) Committee to make recommendations
on how the Act should be implemented in Great Yarmouth once it had been placed on the statute
book. This committee reported to the full council on 10th March, 1903.

The main proposals of the committee were that the council delegate its full powers over the
provision of publicly funded education to the committee, that a budget be prepared for approval
by the council twice yearly in order that a rate could be set, and other financial issues were
detailed. It was recommended that the committee have, and the power to draw up, its own
standing orders, and that the legal work of the committee be carried out by the Town Clerk xv.
These recommendations were approved by the borough council, and sent to the Board of
Education in London.

These buildings, now part of the Great Yarmouth College, were originally part of the Edward Worlledge
School built in 1906 in Lichfield Road, Southtown.

In reply to these proposals, the Board of Education recommended that the following be
incorporated in the council's proposals:

The (Education) Committee, when complete, shall consist of 21 members, including persons of
experience in education, and persons acquainted with the various kinds of schools in the
borough, appointed by the borough, being:

Fourteen members of the council.

One person nominated by the Council of the Senate of the University of Cambridge.

One person recommended by the managers of the Church of England Voluntary Schools in the

One person recommended by the managers of the other voluntary schools in the borough, and

Four selected members, two at least of whom shall be women of experience in the education of

Provided always that the following interests (to be borne in mind):

The secondary education of boys and girls in its higher and lower grades.

Technical instruction and commercial and industrial education, having special regard to
the industries of the borough.

No nominated, recommended, or selected member shall be a member of the Council xvi.

The council appointed the first Education Committee at its full meeting on 7th May, 1903. The
fourteen members from the borough council were : Aldermen W. Diver, T. A. Rising, E. W.
Worlledge, Councillors H. D. Arnott, C. N. Brown, R. F. E. Ferrier, J. Goode, A. Harbord, A
Johnson, B. W. Lacey, R. Nudd, T. J. Saul, A. N. Tyrrell and J. Williment. The other seven
members were, Revd. The Earl of Chichester MA1, The Countess of Chichester, Mr D. T. King,
Revd. W. Thorpe Goodrich, Revd. J. K. Jackling, Mrs E. Leach and Revd. Rigby xvii.

Issues surrounding the provision of education in Great Yarmouth included the connection of the
council's schools to the water mains and the employment of children of school age. At the full
council meeting held on 12th April 1904, it was agreed, that the time has arrived when the control
of the municipal charities known as ‘The Children's Hospital’ (including the new Grammar and
Commercial Schools) and ‘The Great Yarmouth Exhibition Foundation’ (late Blue Coat Charity
Trustees), and the endowments connected therewith, should be transferred to this Corporation as
the Education Authority for the borough xxviii.

Also approved in 1904 was the construction of a new school in Southtown that would provide
places for 820 children within a lower department (infants, first, second and third standards), and
an upper department (fourth standard and upwards)2. Admission for infants would be free, but a
fee of 3d per week would be charged for the division of the three standards. Admission to the
upper department would be 6d per week, with the provision of scholarships of between 15% and
25% of the places, and these would be open to competition to all boys and girls within the
borough, who had passed the fourth standard.

It was proposed that the girls would be taught mainly domestic subjects, which would include
household management, cookery, laundry, sewing, mending, knitting, hygiene, composition,
literature, grammar and history. Education for the boys would be commercial-based and would
include commercial arithmetic, history, geography, book-keeping, typewriting, shorthand, office
routine, French, literature, citizenship and two sciences xix.
The Earl of Chichester was the Vicar of St. Nicholas’ Church, Great Yarmouth
This was to be opened in 1906 as the Edward Worlledge School
Opposition to the 1902 Education Act

Prior to the 1902 Education Act becoming law, its provisions were discussed fully by the Great
Yarmouth School Board and opposition to what was proposed was articulated. At its monthly
meeting held in May 1902, the first item of business was a resolution opposing the Education Bill
which stated: that this Board strongly disapproves of the Education Bill now before the House of
Commons on the following grounds:- 1) Because it fails to secure the unification and
improvement of the present system of imperfect public instruction, 2) Whilst it permits the
abolition of school boards, it proposes to establish an education committee which is in no sense
directly appointed by, or responsible to, the ratepayers, therefore, 3) While it provides that the
entire cost of the maintenance of voluntary schools shall be borne out of public funds, the
increased aid is not accompanied by any really adequate and public control, 4) Because no
provision is made in the Bill for the establishment of national training colleges, and for the
protection of teachers from ecclesiastical tests, whether in schools or existing training colleges xx.

This was not fully supported by all members of the School Board, and a counter proposal was put
forward that stated: that this Board approves the main provisions of the Government Education
Bill, and particularly welcomes the proposals for setting up one local authority for all grades of
education, but it is strongly of the opinion that the Bill ought to be amended 1) by the omission of
the permissive clauses in Part III, and 2) by the insertion of provisions for unifying and
augmenting existing grants from the National Exchequer, that satisfactory progress may be
secured in national education xxi.

After a wide ranging discussion, the School Board voted in favour of the counter proposal with the
main concern being the cost to local ratepayers of bringing the standards of education within
some of the voluntary schools to that of the best of the board schools. The 1902 Education Bill
was also discussed at length by the borough council. At the council meeting held on 10th June
1902, it was proposed by Councillor Williment, and seconded by Councillor G. T. Brown, that this
council, while welcoming the attempts made by the Government in the Education Bill now before
Parliament to unify and improve the present system of National Education, protests against any
further change being thrown upon the local rates for the support of primary education, and
demands that the constitution of the new local Education Committee shall be in the hands of the
council, and that such committee shall have the full power of appointing and dismissing all
teachers in schools under its control xxii.

During the meeting of 10th June 1902, it was proposed by Alderman Worlledge, and seconded by
Alderman Martins, that the resolution be amended to, that this council, whilst welcoming the
attempts made by the Government in the Education Bill now before Parliament to unify and
improve the present systems of National Education, is of the opinion that any further charge for
the support of primary education should be provided from the national Exchequer rather than from
local rates xxiii.

This particular meeting produced a stalemate and the meeting was adjourned without a formal
vote on the resolution or its amendment. These resolutions were raised at the council meeting
held on 8th July 1902 and the amended resolution that omitted the section concerning the
appointment and dismissal of teachers was carried.

During January 1902, a conference of local educationalists to discuss the Education Bill was
organised by the Great Yarmouth Teachers Association with representatives from the Great
Yarmouth School Board, voluntary school managers, the Church of England and the Non-
Conformist Churches, Charity Trustees, the Great Yarmouth Grammar School, the borough
council’s Technical Education Committee, and head teachers from voluntary and board schools
and from private schools attending. The meeting's chairman was Edward Worlledge, who was
then the Chairman of the Great Yarmouth School Board. The resolution that was adopted at the
end of this conference welcomed the prospect of a single authority to oversee all publicly funded
education, whether it was elementary, secondary or technical, but was concerned with the proper
funding for education and that the major share of this funding should come from national
Government xxiv.
Whilst concerns were expressed within Great Yarmouth about funding, other issues were aired.
At a Free Church council meeting held early in 1902 in Gorleston, the Bill was criticised as a way
of subsidising the failing Church of England schools with public money, stated that the abolition of
the successful school boards was wrong, and that there was no protection for teachers against
being made to take an ecclesiastical test. Later in the year, at a meeting of the Great Yarmouth
and Gorleston Free Church Council, it was agreed that a league be set up to campaign against
the Education Bill, and that should it become law, to encourage ratepayers to resist that part of
the rates levied for its application xxvi.

At a public meeting organised by the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Free Church Council in April
1902 at the Park Church, the Education Bill was described as a backward step by the meeting’s
chairman (Mr. A. E. Cowl), who went on to say that opposition to the Bill was a fight for religious
freedom. Opposition to the Education Bill was also based on the fact that the directly elected
school boards were being replaced by co-opted committees not directly responsible to the
ratepayers. The concept of a unified body organising education was welcomed, but that it must
be directly elected. It was predicted that the Bill would double the rates, with public money
supporting ‘sectarian’ teaching, and that it failed to abolish ‘sectarian’ teacher training colleges or
establish a publicly funded national college for teacher training. Furthermore, it allowed
continuing a ‘multitude’ of secondary schools that would hinder the creation of a true national
education system. Finally, it was argued that educational matters had not been raised in the
General Election that took place in 1900; therefore the Government had no popular mandate to
make such major changes to the education system xxvii.

Passive Resistance League

Meetings against the 1902 Education Act continued throughout 1902 and 1903. These led to the
creation of the Great Yarmouth and District Passive Resistance League, which encouraged
objectors to the 1902 Education Act not to pay the full rates as a form of protest. This League
was founded at a meeting held in Howard Street South in February 1903, with the Chairman
being Revd. A. E. Calvert.

There were two levels of membership: Active and Associative xxviii.

Speaking at a meeting held at the Town Hall in March 1903, the Revd. A. E. Calvert described the
reason for such action being taken by the resisters was that the Education Act cut at the root of
some of their most cherished principles. Also, the voice of conscience was greater than that of
convocation, and such resisters were not extremists or hysterical, but as Free Churchmen had
been placed in a grave crisis. Furthermore it was argued that what was being destroyed was a
system of school boards that were both non-sectarian and successful. The LEAs, which were
replacing these school boards were described as being unrepresentative of the local people, and
were devoid of local and real authority. The Education Act was described as being highly
sectarian as it raised the rates to support a clerical monopoly xxix.

There was not widespread support for such a viewpoint within Great Yarmouth. In a letter
published in the Yarmouth Mercury, W. Thorpe Goodrich3 argued: the point, the only point, that
this letter aims to make clear is that the grounds stated…for not paying the rate are not tenable.
They are grounded on sand. The fact urged for justifying it is not a fact. So that the difference
between the resisters and the defenders of the Education Act is a difference, not of conscience or
denominationism, of Liberalism or Conservatism, but a difference of a matter of fact, or what is
and what is not a fact. Does the Education Act divorce taxation and control? No, as control is
maintained by the Act and is observed by the administration of the Act. Rates pay for
denominational teaching – not true and ‘ungenerous’. Ungenerous as the passive resisters have
had their style of education supported by the rates for 30 years xxx.
Revd. W. Thorpe Goodrich was one of the members of the first Education Committee for Great Yarmouth,
and was one of the seven members who were not councillors.

Some humorous comment was made of the idea of passive resistance within the local

Cartoons reproduced with the kind permission of the Yarmouth Mercury

By August 1903, the first court cases for the non-payment of the rates and the seizure of goods
had begun xxxi. Goods thus seized were then sold by auction. These continued to be carried out
throughout 1904 and into 1905. Although these cases often attracted much press attention to
begin with, reports of this form of passive resistance slowly received less prominence in the local
newspapers as time passed. There were suggestions that passive resistance by 1905 no longer
had as much support as it had when it first began. This was disputed by Mr. J. T. Goffin, who
stated that in the week up to 18th March 1905 2,000 summons had been issued, and that in
preceding week, 4,623 summonses had been issued xxxi.

During 1904, the emphasis moved towards a more overtly political and a less religious arena.
January 1904 saw the creation of a Central Liberal Association for the borough, which aimed to
co-ordinate Liberal Party activities within the various wards xxxii. Also in January 1904, there was
what was described as a Great Liberal Meeting, which was held at the Hippodrome. The meeting
attracted 4,000 people to hear Lloyd George, who was described as a rising hope of the Liberal
Party xxxiii , speak in support of Martin White, who had been selected to be the Liberal candidate in
the forthcoming 1906 General Election.

Lloyd George spoke of the 1902 Education Act as being a retrograde step and what was required
was an education system that was maintained and controlled by the people, which would be
managed upon liberal and religious equality, with children not being quizzed over their religious

beliefs. He condemned the system that had been created by the 1902 Education Act as being
segregated into creeds and that the majority were being denied a good education. Apart from a
few exceptions, schools were now being governed by the clergy, but paid for by the ratepayers.

Local political consequences

Within the local political arena it was noted by the Yarmouth Mercury that up to 1905 the Liberal
Party had been making gains at the expense of the Conservative Party. Up to 1904, both parties
were equally balanced, with the Conservatives having a slight majority, as they had more
Aldermen than the Liberals. However after the 1905 Municipal Elections, the Liberals had a small
majority of four xxxiv.

With national politics, the Conservative Party candidate for the 1900 General Election, Sir John
Colomb, was elected unopposed, as the Liberal Party was unable to decide upon a candidate.
This caused much merriment in the local newspapers. However, by 1905, the Liberal Party was
more prepared in Great Yarmouth. Its candidate for the General Election stated in an election
address that he supported, amongst other things, the continuation of Free Trade, Licensing
Reform, and Home Rule for Ireland. In regard to education he stated that: I am in favour of a
complete system of national education under popular control, and free from sectarian
tests. Greater provision, as in Scotland, should be made for cheap or free education up to and
including Higher Technical College and Universities xxxv.
The Conservative candidate, Sir Arthur Fell, was elected to Parliament, although with a much
reduced majority. This 1906 General Election in Great Yarmouth was highly controversial and
there were accusations of irregularities in the payment of election expenses. A legal challenge
was mounted, but this was dismissed by the High Court. The Conservatives were to retain the
seat in the two General Elections held in 1910, although they never received the size of majorities
they had prior to 1906 xxxvi4.


In conclusion, what can be drawn from the introduction of the 1902 Education Act within Great
Yarmouth? Certainly there was opposition to the Act that did have a measure of support. The
opposition party, the Liberal Party, did seem to become more unified between 1902 and 1905.
Whether this can be solely because of the reaction to the 1902 Education Act, or as it being part
of a range of issues, cannot be fully ascertained. Politically, the Liberal Party did make some
gains at the local level, but they never achieved a landslide majority as they had done at national
level. With national politics, they were not to gain the Parliamentary seat for Great Yarmouth until
well after the First World War.

In terms of implementation, the creation of the new Education Committee appears to have been
smooth. The major concern of those setting up the new system appears to have been that of
cost, rather than any other issue, as important as these other issues were.
The Liberal Party had won the seat in the 1892 General Election, lost it to the Conservatives in the 1895
election, and was not to win the seat back until 1922.

This could suggest that having an evenly balanced local authority politically meant that the middle
path policy-wise was followed, in order to keep what changes that were made were kept in place
after the next election, regardless of who won the majority of seats.
Indeed if you were to look at those who were elected to the Great Yarmouth School Board, and
those who were members of the Council's Technical Education Committee, and then look at the
membership of the first few post-1903 Education Committees, then there was a fairly high degree
of continuity.
i & ix
Roger Ottewill, Education, education, education, researching the 1902 Education Act, The
Local Historian, Vol 37 No. 4, pp 258 – 272, (Nov. 2007).
Ibid, p. 258.
Ibid, p. 258.
Ibid, p. 258.
Ibid, p. 262.
Minutes of the Parliamentary and Legal Committee of the County Borough of Great Yarmouth
held on 9th January 1903.
x & xii
Jack Bull MA, The Runham Vauxhall School Board, published in A Yarmouth Miscellany
compiled by A. W. Ecclestone, published by A. W. Ecclestone, pp. 173–175, (1974).
Frank Meeres, A History of Great Yarmouth, Phillimore, Chichester, (2007).
Minutes of the Finance Committee submitted to a special meeting of the Council held on 14th
January 1902, Minutes of the Great Yarmouth County Borough Council.
Report of the Technical Education Committee, Minutes of the Great Yarmouth County Borough
Council, 22nd July 1902 and 15th September 1902.
Report of the Education (Advisory) Committee, Minutes of the Great Yarmouth County Borough
Council, 30th March 1903.
Minutes of the Great Yarmouth County Borough Council, 7th May 1903.
Minutes of the Great Yarmouth County Borough Council, 12th April 1904.
Education Committee Minutes, (1st November 1904), Minutes of the Great Yarmouth County
Borough Council.
Yarmouth Mercury, (10th May 1902).
Agenda for the Council Meeting for 10th June 1902, Minutes of the Great Yarmouth County
Borough Council.
Minutes of the Council meeting held on 10th June 1902, Minutes of the Great Yarmouth
County Borough Council.
Yarmouth Mercury, (11th January 1902).
Yarmouth Mercury, (10th May 1902).
Yarmouth Mercury, (20th September 1902).
Yarmouth Independent, (26th April 1902).
Yarmouth Mercury, (28th February 1903).
Yarmouth Independent, (28th March 1903).
Yarmouth Mercury, (11th March 1905).
Yarmouth Mercury, (18th March 1905).
Yarmouth Independent, (30th January 1904).
Yarmouth Independent, (16th January 1904).
Yarmouth Mercury, (4th November 1905).
Yarmouth Mercury, (6th June 1905).
Britain Through Time website.
Photographs from Andrew Fakes’ Collection

The photos on this page were

provided by the daughter of the
late Arthur Lark, 1910-2002, who
was a member of the society for
many years.

The photographs are of interest to

the recent history of Great
Yarmouth. Arthur bought a 35mm
Halina camera for about £5 in the
early 1960s and took pictures of
the changing townscape.

I believe the photos of the

Callender Hamilton bridge (right)
and the White Swan public house
(below) were taken around 1965
from the building previously occupied by Great Yarmouth Grocers and Wholesale Supplies on
North Quay. The bridge replaced the one put up in about 1848, which was in turn built to replace
the one that collapsed in 1845 with great loss of life. The current four lane bridge was opened in

The picture on the left shows

the main A149 road running to
the west of the White Swan and
Northwest Tower.

This was the position until the

railway buildings were
demolished, when the current
road system came into use.

The picture on the right is of a

railway bridge over the River
Bure, which connected Beach
Railway Station to the
Lowestoft line by way of other
bridges over the A47, railway
line to Norwich, and over
Breydon Water by a viaduct.

The bridge pictured was

demolished circa 1980.

The following are some of the
late Jim Holmes’ pictures of the
herring fishery in Great

Jim was a market gardener in

Ormesby and had a stall on
Great Yarmouth market. He
took lots of photographic slides
of the town and his membership
of the National Trust took him all
over the country. He was
chairman of the society from
1980 to 1984.

above : herring girls

left : pony and trap outside Birds Eye Foods

below left : unloading fish

below right : quayside

bottom left : Miss Davidson’s Rest House

for Scottish Fisher Folk

bottom right : drifter crew

The Suspension Bridge Plaque
Paul Davies

On 25th October 2011 a plaque was unveiled on the

Swan Public House on North Quay by the curate of
the parish, Revd. James Stewart. The plaque was
sponsored by CSS Computers of North Quay. Three
years previously a plaque had been placed on the
flood wall at the site of the bridge by the society.
Unfortunately, the plaque was wrenched off in the
summer of 2011. The plaque was subsequently
found in the branches of a tree by the police. The
plaque was duly replaced, using the strongest glue
possible, but again it was vandalised and was lost.

The story of what is probably the biggest disaster that

Great Yarmouth has experienced is well-known and
does not warrant a full description here. Suffice to
say that the bridge, which was opened in 1829,
collapsed on 2nd May 1845 when Nelson, the clown,
was passing underneath it in a wash-tub pulled by
four geese. It was estimated that 400 people had crowded onto the bridge to view the spectacle.
Seventy-nine people were drowned of which nearly 40 were children under the age of 12 years.
The children came from the poorest houses in the town. A subsequent Corner’s Inquest blamed
the disaster on faulty workmanship when
the bridge was widened in 1844.

The Norwich Mercury report of the disaster

was graphic:

the children, poor little things, of whom

there were very many and they had
naturally gathered at the rail of the bridge,
were the first to sink and those behind were
hurled with terrific force into the water
crushing and annihilating those under them.
Oh! Who shall paint the one almighty
simultaneous death scream, which burst upon the affrighted multitude around, re-echoing from
earth to heaven. In one instance all was hushed, save the struggling of the few, whose lives it
pleased their Maker, in his mercy, to spare. The waters, we are told, with this swoop of death,
recoiled in the impetus of the fall and
boiled up at the back of the bridge,
which hung perpendicularly below the
surface of the river. Suddenly the
struggle for life was past to all but a
few. Then came a scene scarcely less
heart-rending. With an energy, activity
and stern determination of purpose,
which are among the wise and
merciful provisions of the Almighty, 27
children, all girls, were immediately
rescued alive on the west side of the
river and instantly put to bed at the
Vauxhall Gardens. As soon as they
were revived they were replaced by
others equally beneficently spared.
The White Swan public house

The fall of the Suspension Bridge

Many families, who had lost relatives and children, were unable to meet the cost of burial
because of their extreme poverty. Some of those, who were on parish relief could not obtain
coffins from the relieving officers, and even those who did, had no means of paying the church’s
fees. The Cory family placed a sum of money into the hands of the Ladies’ Visiting Society to
bury all those who could not
afford the burial and church fees.

In the south aisle of St. Nicholas’

Church the coffins were placed in
five rows. The church was still
divided into three parts at this
time by brick walls following the
Commonwealth period.

Twenty-seven victims were

buried in one afternoon, in
addition to those who had died
from natural causes. A muffled
peal was rung in the morning and
before the funerals.

The whole of the funeral service

was read over each corpse. The
incumbent, the Revd. Henry
MacKenzie was assisted by four
other clerics. The residents of
the town described the continual Funeral of the victims of the Suspension Bridge disaster in
passing of bodies to the church. St. Nicholas’ Church

The Revd. MacKenzie preached a series of sermons
on lessons to be learnt from the tragedy. He believed
that the disaster was a judgement on the sins of the
people of Great Yarmouth and asked for atonement
from the town.

One of the sermons, based on 2 Samuel chapter 14

verse 18, was printed for distribution. The local
populace were so enthused by the sermons that they
raised funds for the first large restoration of St.
Nicholas’ Church.

At the same time, in order to ease the sorrow in the

town, Mackenzie persuaded the Dean and Chapter of
Norwich to consent to the renovation of the disused
and dilapidated Priory to establish the Priory School.

There used to be
six gravestones in
St. Nicholas Revd. MacKenzie
Churchyard to the
victims, but only
one remains; that of George Beloe, which is now badly eroded.
The verse on George Beloe’s gravestone reads:

Farewell dear boy no more I press thy form born of light and
and those who gazed on thy sweet face knew it to be an angle’s
(sic) dwelling place
and if that realm where thou art now be filled with beings
such as thou from sin set aside and sorrow
freed then heaven must be a heaven indeed

Beloe’s gravestone in St.

Nicholas Churchyard

More recently a grave stone has been sighted in

Lound Churchyard in memory of Harriot Bussey, who
perished in the accident.


Palmer, C. J., The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth,


Norwich Mercury, (1845).

Illustrated London News, (1845).

Gravestone of Harriot Bussey in Lound
Part of Revd. Mackenzie’s sermon

Plaque Commemorating
Charles John Palmer
(Solicitor, Local Politician and Author)
Paul Davies

On the 18th August 2011 a

plaque was unveiled on 4 South
Quay, Great Yarmouth, (the
Elizabethan Museum) by the
Regional Director of the National
Trust, Richard Powell. The
building had been the home of
Charles John Palmer for many

Palmer was an influential figure

in Victorian Great Yarmouth. His
contribution was outstanding and
he spent much time in charitable
and voluntary work.

After his death there had been

considerable pressure to
establish a permanent memorial
to him, but this came to nothing. Therefore the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological
Society were pleased to rectify this 129 years after his death by erecting a blue plaque on the
house where he had lived.

Charles was born in 1805 and

was the only son of John Danby
Palmer and Anne, the daughter
of Charles Beart of Gorleston.
His father purchased 4 South
Quay, Great Yarmouth. Charles
Palmer admired the marble in the
hall, the spacious staircase, the
wainscoting and the carvings in
the rooms. As soon as he could
hold a pencil he made drawings
of these carvings. He drew them
time and time again until they
were perfect.

He had been taught drawing by

J. S. Cotman and J. B. Crome.
When Henry Shaw came for a
visit from London, he undertook
to engrave them. These were
published in a private publication
entitled Illustrations of Domestic
Architecture in England during
the Reign of Elizabeth in 1838.

The house was bequeathed to

Charles John Palmer the National Trust by the Misses
Aldred in 1948.

Charles Palmer was initially taught by a female governess and from the age of eight years he
attended a day school in Great Yarmouth. At one time an education at Eton College was
considered, but Charles Palmer never had the advantage of a public school or university

After leaving school he was articled for two years to Robert Cory F. S. A., a solicitor, the Registrar
of the Admiralty Court and a past Mayor of Great Yarmouth. Cory had a great interest in
archaeology, genealogy and heraldry. When he had completed his articles in 1827 Charles
Palmer travelled to London to be admitted to the Law Society.

In 1830 Charles Palmer was appointed the murager for the town (responsible for the town walls)
and for many years he was the Government’s appointee as the Receiver of Wrecks.

Charles Palmer was elected as an alderman of Great Yarmouth and was twice its mayor in 1854
and 1855. In addition to this public duty, he was Great Yarmouth’s chief magistrate in 1835, 1854
and 1855. He also served as Deputy Lieutenant for Suffolk.

Palmer was the instigator and solicitor for the Victoria Building Company, which was concerned
with turning waste ground into superior housing. The company built Kimberley Terrace, Brandon
Terrace, Camperdown and Albert Square.

He married Amelia Graham Lacon, the daughter of John Mortlock Lacon and they had no
children. Charles Palmer built himself a house in Albert Square, which he called Graham Villa
after his wife’s middle name, which happened to be her mother’s maiden name.

Palmer was the secretary for the Wellington Pier Company and was prominent in the building of
the Assembly Rooms. He avidly supported the amusement committee, which oversaw
entertainment for visitors to Great Yarmouth.

4 South Quay

Palmer gave valuable aid to the
parish church of St. Nicholas and was
very active in the establishment of its
restoration fund in the mid 19th
century, when the church was in a
very poor state. He acted as the
restoration fund’s secretary for over
30 years. He was instrumental in
saving the adjoining Priory Refectory
from demolition and establishing a
National School in the building.

He was also the secretary to the

Water Works Company and he was
connected with the Southtown Gas
The Service at Palmer’s Grave in 1973
Charles Palmer’s other interests
included sitting on committees involved with the Yarmouth Charity Trustees, the Public Library,
the Sailor’s Home and the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society.

In 1843 he certified that the whole of the capital of £150,000 had been raised for the Norwich and
Yarmouth Railway Company.

Palmer was clerk to the

trustees of the Southtown
Turnpike from 1846 until it was
taken over by Great Yarmouth
Corporation in 1875.

In 1830 Charles Palmer was

elected a Fellow of the Society
of Antiquarians. He was very
active in the preservation of
buildings in Great Yarmouth,
especially in saving the
Tolhouse from demolition. The
saving of the Tolhouse is often
credited to Frederick Danby
Palmer, who wrote the book,
Society members, Frankie Haire and David Tubby The Tolhouse Restored in
clear up Palmer’s vandalised grave in 2001 1887.

Charles Palmer achieved considerable success with his literary works and is remembered by
succeeding generations as the author of The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth (1874) and a
Continuation of Manship’s History of Yarmouth (1856). Both works entailed a great amount of
research and labour. At his death these works were described as having considerable merit and
he made a name for himself, which will not be forgotten. It is now said that the Perlustration is the
best town history written anywhere. In 1853 he published from the original manuscript, which
had just been discovered, a Book of the Foundation and Antiquitye of the Town of Great
Yarmouth by Henry Manship. The manuscript had been written in 1619.

He also published, for private circulation, the Memorials of the Family of Hurry of Great Yarmouth
and New York. (1873).

In 1872 he published, in the hope of attracting visitors to the town, Our Visit to Great Yarmouth in
1871, which was extracted from the journal of Miss Caroline Remlap.
Charles Palmer died on 24th September 1882 at his home Graham Villa, Great Yarmouth. He
had been ill and laid aside from active work for some time. He was 77 years old.

Charles Palmer and his wife

Amelia are buried in the same
vault as her sister who
married the son of Major
General Francis Montagu
Maxwell Ommanney. Major
General Ommanney was
enlisted in the Royal Artillery
and served in Malta and the
West Indies and was involved
in subduing the Indian Mutiny
in 1857.

In 1973 the Great Yarmouth

and District Archaeological
Society organised the
restoration of Charles
Palmer’s grave in the Old
Cemetery and on 3rd July
1973 members of the Society Palmer’s Grave in 2009
met with the family at the
grave, where prayers were
said by the Vicar of Great

In 2009 Palmer’s grave was again in a very poor state, hidden by dense vegetation. The crosses
on the grave had been overturned and broken in 2001 by vandals. The society paid for the grave
to be renovated and the crosses repaired in 2009. Unfortunately the Society was not able to
afford to replace the missing iron railings.

This was the Society’s

thirtieth plaque to be erected.
The first plaque erected 30
years ago was to
commemorate the Zeppelin
raid of 1915, when two people
were killed in St. Peter’s
Plain. This plaque is now
faded and will be replaced in
the near future.


Palmer, C.J., Perlustration of

Great Yarmouth, (1875).

Davies, Paul P., Stories

Behind the Stones, Davies,
Palmer’s Grave after the restoration in 2009
Great Yarmouth, (2008).

Solomon Allies – The Gaoler
Chris Wright

Solomon Allies is portrayed by society member, Les Cole, when he is showing people around the
Tolhouse. Who was Solomon Allies?

Solomon Allies was appointed pro tem gaoler at Great Yarmouth Gaol on 29th July 1864. The
previous gaoler, Joseph Giles, had resigned following a disagreement over the handling of a
complaint against his wife, who was the matron. Allies was a local police sergeant who was
conversant with the duties. He was to be paid the starting salary of the former gaoler: £80 per
annum. The position was reviewed in November when they would be able to judge his fitness for
the place. His appointment was confirmed on 27th November.

He originated from Andover in Hampshire and is shown in the 1841 census as aged 18 years old,
living with his mother, Hannah, and working as a printer. His father, Samuel, died in 1845, aged
c.49 years. He was the eldest of five, with
two brothers (Samuel and William) and two
sisters (Maria and Ellen).

In his letter of application in 1864, he gave

his age as 38 years. He had married Mary
Bland in 1856 when he was in Stoke
Newington, London, working as a print
compositor, but she died in 1861. In the
1861 census, he was 36 years old and
living in George Street with his daughter,
Ellen, aged 2 years, and a servant /nurse,
Eliza Rivett. A second child was born, and
died unnamed in 1861.

A condition of his appointment as gaoler

was that he should be married as the
gaoler’s wife would be required to act as
matron. In late 1864, he married Emma
Davy, aged 22 years, a dressmaker, of
Charlotte Street, Great Yarmouth. On 17th
May 1865, Emma was appointed matron at
a salary of £20 per annum.

During his period as gaoler, he was

involved in the discussions about how to
implement the Prison Act of 1865, which
required separate cells. This considered
improvements to the gaol and planning for
a new building and ultimately its closure in
1875. He also introduced mat-making as a
form of labour.

Two escapes occurred during Solomon

Allies’ service. On 18th May 1867, Henry
Newson obtained rope and escaped over
the wall into Row 106. He had been in gaol
ten times and never yet subdued and
Above: A news article on the appointment threatened to murder the gaoler.
of Solomon Allies
On 3rd November 1868, John Colby, a
notorious character, escaped into the rows.

The 1871 census shows Solomon as aged 46 years, Emma as 30 years, Ellen as 12 years and
William as 5 years. They continued to live at the gaol. Emma was no longer matron, as she had
to resign on 25th February 1870 following an anonymous letter from a ratepayer to the mayor (C.
Woolverton), reporting her drunk in Howard Street. It also emerged that there were many reports
of her irregularities and that it had been hoped some reformation would have taken place, but
unfortunately there had been none. The letter claimed the gaoler was constantly moving from
public house to public house, and could not be attending to his duties, and how can the matron be
when she is seen in a disgusting state....I was passing down Howard Street, my attention was
drawn to a crowd of people and boys and some woman laying in the gutter...Mrs Allies being in a
state of intoxication....P.C. Fish attended.”

Henrietta Allies was born in 1871. In 1873 Emma had another baby, Solomon Charles A. E., who
died within three months. In July 1874, Solomon Allies’ salary was increased to £110 per annum
from £100 per annum. In 1875, another son, Charles Albert E., also died within three months of
his birth.

An extract from Gaol Keepers Journal 25/1/68 which refers to inefficiency of the gaol

Solomon Allies was involved in the discussions to replace the gaol with new buildings that
conformed to national standards of separate cells. This was not progressed and, on 7th July
1875 the Gaol Committee agreed that the gaol should close, and after 24th June the present gaol
be used as lock-up for remand prisoners. Allies was appointed keeper of the lock-up on a salary
of £70 per annum, and provided with residence. The lock-up was closed in 1877.

Mr. Allies seems to have been a generally efficient gaoler, who enforced the regime of the gaol,
kept careful records, monitored the work of his staff and the activities of the prisoners. An article
in the Yarmouth Independent of March 1872 said that: in spite of the need for a new gaol, Mr.
Allies does his best and is entitled to the greatest credit for the manner he manages the many
obstreperous individuals placed in his care and not the man to shrink from making the refractory
prisoner feel the full weight of punishment, which his conduct has brought upon him. In 1873, a
staff uniform was introduced.

The 1881 census shows Solomon Allies as aged 58 years, living at 50 George Street and his
occupation is stated as keeper of the Tolhouse, which continued in use as a council chamber,
court and as a police station. It was also attracting visitors as a historic building. Frederick W.
was 15 years of age and working as a railway clerk and Henrietta was 10 years of age and a
scholar. Ellen had married in 1876. Emma had died in 1877. Solomon Allies supported the
campaign to save the Tolhouse from demolition.
The building was restored in 1882, and opened by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. In 1883, materials
from the old gaol were sold off and, in 1886, a Free Library was opened in the Tolhouse.

Solomon Allies died in Great Yarmouth in 1890 at the age of 67.

Job Description - Gaoler

The Prison Act 1865, and the records, provide details of the role of the gaoler. Regulations 68 to
79 show:
 The gaoler shall reside in the prison
 To strictly conform to the Law and Regulations of the Prison and be responsible for the
due observance of them by others. He shall observe the conduct of prison officers and
enforce on them the execution of their duties
 May suspend subordinate officers and report to the Visiting Justices
 To inspect the prison and prisoners daily (including once a week to go through the
prison at an uncertain hour of the night)
 To post up in cells abstract of certain regulations, including the treatment and conduct of
prisoners and prison dietaries
 Report to surgeon prisoners in disordered mind and to carry out the directions of the
 To notify the chaplain and surgeon of prisoners requiring their attention
 Give notice of death of prisoners to the Coroner, a visiting justice and a near relative
 To report to Visiting Justices insane prisoners
 To keep enumerated books and accounts showing religious persuasion, journal, record
of prisoners, punishment book, visitors book, record of articles taken from prisoners,
record of employment of prisoners, documents in his care, inventory of furniture and
moveable property of the prison and accounts
 To ensure safe custody of documents
 Not to be absent without leave

Other regulations required:

 To read daily prayers if chaplain is unavailable

 To punish for prison offences: disobedience, assaults, swearing, indecency, irreverence
in chapel and absence from chapel, insulting and threatening behaviour, idleness or
negligence and mismanagement at work. Serious and repeated breaches were to be
referred to the Visiting Justices
 Transmit lists of prisoners to Secretary of State after the Quarter Sessions. Failure to
do so could result in a fine of up to £20
 Attend and provide reports to gaol sessions and visiting justices on the condition of the
prison and prisoners, including their separation

Notes on the Gaolers of Great Yarmouth Gaol 1835-1875

Thomas King 1803-1838

 Served for 35 years, overseeing many changes of the 1823 and 1835 Prison Acts.
 By 1838, his salary was £63 per annum. His wife, Sarah, became Matron in 1829 and
was paid £10 per annum.
 Sarah Martin, the local prison visitor, did much of her work under his regime from 1819,
when she was 28 years old. A Mrs. Fry visited her on 22/11/32, and on 5/7/32 Miss A.
Sewell of Great Yarmouth and Mrs. Rowntree of York, two ladies of the Society of
Friends, visited and gave their approbations.

 Escape attempts on 10/11/27 by Edward Annison, 9/2/28 by Peter Iron, on 7/6/34 by
James Chapman and Robert Gayton, on 4/8/35 by Gayton and 13/1/37 by William Peck
and Charles Nicholls.
 9/1/37 : inquiry by Gaol Committee into inefficiencies of son who was working as Under
Gaoler and found guilty of misconduct and unfit for the post. It was decided that future
appointments were not to be a son or relative of the Gaoler.
 10/1/38 : A Miss Gurney accompanied Miss Martin and went through the prison and
admonished the female prisoners.
 15/10/38 : his advancement in years and an increase in infirmities incapacitated him for
his important duties. He retired on a pension of £80 per annum and died in 1839. His
wife received a £20 per annum pension.

William Shuckford 1838-1853

 15/10/38 : the Under Gaoler (from 25/3/37), aged 32 years, appears desirous of
succeeding to the situation now filled by Thomas King, was appointed and paid £50 per
annum, to increase on death of Mr. King. Mrs. Elizabeth Shuckford, aged 32 years,
became Matron on a salary of £10 per annum.
 11/7/39 : Gaoler’s salary increase to £80 per annum and the salary of the Matron was
increased to £20 per annum. They were able to employ a maid, Martha Major (aged 15
years in the 1841 census), and Rosanna Leech (aged 14 years in the 1851 census).
 Sarah Martin, the prisoner worker, praised him as most efficient and entirely happy with
changes to the system. The Chaplain found him to be kind and judicious. The visiting
justices were in appreciation of Mr. Shuckford’s management.
 1841 Charlotte Yaxley was awaiting trial for murder. In 1844 the Candler murder
suspects were held, and Samuel Yarham in 1846, who was convicted, was executed.
 4/4/42 William Boulter Ebbage, and 6/12/42, Gabriel Cook, held on suspicion of
 1/10/43 : escape of William Scotten (19), and 18/4/44 escape of John Cooper (19).
 1845 oversaw the introduction of the tread-wheel for hard labour.
 1851 Seamen’s Riot saw five male prisoners awaiting trial and extra help for security.
 21/1/53 : pay rise to £100 per annum and Matron to £25 per annum. The 1851 census
shows they had three children : Elizabeth (13), Mary (11), and Ellen (6).
 24/10/53 : resigned to be Keeper and Matron of the workhouse. The visiting justices
expressed deep regret for the loss of their valuable services and congratulated them on
their advancement.

Joseph Giles 1853-1864

 24/10/53 : aged 45 years, born in Great Yarmouth and a tailor living in St Peters Row,
was appointed Keeper on a temporary basis on a salary of £80 per annum. On 19/7/54
his position was confirmed. Pay rise applications were rejected in 1856 and 1859. His
wife, Elizabeth, was appointed Matron. They were able to employed a servant, Edward
Fulcher (aged 45), who seems to have assisted in the Gaol.
 20/3/56 : Sarah Hunniball set fire to a cell at 10.45pm, which was not extinguished until
11.20pm. The potential seriousness of the incident saw her sentenced to death
(although she was reprieved).
 17/5/57 : Emily Major escape attempt.
 21/6/82 : his wife, Elizabeth (aged 56), who was Matron, died after a lingering and
painful illness. On 16/1/63, he married a wife, Hannah, who became the Matron.
 11/10/62 : Hindle escape attempt.
 29/7/64 : resigned as cannot endure the Matron’s unjust degradation after the visiting
justices were felt to have not supported her over a complaint by a prisoner and
considered she had been careless. The Gaol Committee expressed regret and
satisfaction with his able and efficient work.

Solomon Allies 1864-1875/7 - see detailed article

The Report upon the Charities of Great Yarmouth 1876
Derek Leak

The report upon the Charities of Great Yarmouth, published in 1876, is an unprepossessing book.
However, its dull green cover hides a wealth of information about charitable monies associated
with the Borough of Great Yarmouth in Victorian times. It describes where the cash came from
and how it was used.

This story really begins with Great Yarmouth's achievement of a degree of independence from the
Crown, when King John granted the town a Charter in 1208. This was not a selfless act. Great
Yarmouth was freed from the necessity of attending the Shire and Hundred Courts and allowed to
govern itself, but the cost of this privilege was pretty steep at £55 a year. This Fee Farm, or rent,
had to be paid to the Exchequer to ensure that Yarmouth shall be a free borough forever.

The government of the town was then conducted exclusively by Freemen, who held a privileged
position. They were exempt from customs dues levied by the town. Only Freemen were legally
allowed to trade or to be professional craftsmen and only Freemen could vote in Parliamentary
Elections. For over 600 years, Great Yarmouth was governed in this manner.

However, it all changed when, in 1835, amid the great reforming frenzy. The Municipal
Corporations Act became law and democracy took a hesitant step forward.

Until 1836 all the public charities in Great Yarmouth were vested in, and administered by, the
Corporation of the Borough. The reformers thought it expedient to separate public money from
charitable bequests and their associated income. To enable this change, the Lord High
Chancellor, Lord Cottenham, appointed 15 local gentlemen to become the first Trustees of The
Great Yarmouth Charities. They were William Barth, John Brightwen, John Penrice, Simon Cobb,
Samuel Paget, George Danby Palmer, Edmund Preston, Charles Nichols, William Hammond,
Richard Sibbs Lonsdale, John Edward Lacon, Harry Verelst Worship, William Johnson and John
Freame Ranney. Their chairman was the Honourable and Reverend Edward Pellow.

The number of trustees was reduced by death and, by 1858, only five remained. Replacements
were found, this time by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Romilly. The new trustees passed a
resolution: that a committee be appointed to examine the accounts of the respective charities and
the nature of each distinct charity and to report, as they think expedient, to enable the new
trustees to fully understand their rights, powers and duties.

The grim reaper culled this group too, and only five were left in 1875. Application was then made
to the Board of Charity Commissioners for England and Wales, to whom the power of
appointment was now vested, for more replacements. The number of trustees was once more
restored to fifteen.

In 1876, the trustees resolved that a committee of four revise and reprint the report of 1858. This
revising committee contained more familiar names. They were the Reverend George Venables,
Vicar of the Parish, Charles John Palmer, Richard Harry Inglis Palgrave and Thomas Proctor

This report gives the history and financial position of the charities then extant, namely:

St. Mary's Hospital

The Grammar and Commercial School
The Children's Hospital
The Irish Estate
The Fisherman's Hospital
Wanes' Charity
The Money Lending Charities
and the Coal Charities

A great deal of historical detail is given in the report. Only a brief summary of each charity is
given here.

St. Mary's Hospital

This establishment was founded by Thomas Fastolf in the reign of Edward I. It was subsequently
enriched by many benefactions. The hospital maintained a warden, two priests (paid for by
William Gerbrigge), eight brethren and eight sisters. Originally it was under the control of the
Prior and Convent of the Cathedral Church of Norwich, but in 1398 the Bailiffs of Yarmouth
obtained a formal grant of the hospital and all its possessions from Richard II - quite a coup.
There were 18 houses, as well as the hospital ground itself.

At the Reformation, the establishment was suppressed with all the other religious houses, and in
1551, the chapel was despoiled and its contents sold and dispersed.

After the dissolution of St. Mary's Hospital its buildings were used for several purposes, including
the next charity in the list.

The Grammar (and later, the Commercial) School

After the Reformation, in the reign of Edward VI, the Corporation determined to establish a
grammar School, for all the inhabitants, and appropriated the Great Hall of St. Mary's Hospital for
that purpose.

Mr. Hall, a grammarian of Norwich, was employed in 1551 as schoolmaster, and part of the old
hospital was enlarged so as to make it an honest habitation for a learned man. The 24 Aldermen
of the town each paid 18d per annum towards the living of the schoolmaster. There are many
entries in the Assembly Books of the Corporation concerning the Grammar School, and its
progress can be followed in some detail to 1777.

Surprisingly, the 18th century had seen a gradual decline in the school, through want of scholars.

On 28th October 1757, the Reverend F. Turner resigned his office as schoolmaster and quitted
his possession of the school and the school house. No one else was appointed, and the school
was closed.

For over 100 years the Charity Commissioners of the school had nothing to do, except to
safeguard its assets.

In 1861, conscious of the great need, which had long been felt in the Borough for a Middle Class
School, the Charity Commissioners met on 16th July and passed the following resolution: that it is
expedient the school, which was formerly supported out of the funds arising from the property of
The Children's Hospital, be re-established upon such a system as will enable the commercial and
trading classes to give their sons a good sound commercial education at a reasonable cost.

This resolution was moved by Mr. C. Cory, and seconded by Mr. C. C. Aldred. It was passed,
and a committee of five was set up to prepare a scheme for regulation and management, and
then implement it. The new school was re-established in 1862. The regulations are set out in
great detail in this book and are of great interest to those with an interest in education. The
history of this later school was covered by Mr. Boon in his lecture to the society in 2011.

The Children's Hospital

The buildings formerly belonging to St. Mary's Hospital were used for other purposes besides
establishing the Grammar School.

In 1588, one of the rooms was used as a powder store as part of the town's defences against a
threatened attack by the Spanish Armada. It continued in use until 1724. Part of the old hospital
was used as a grain store against crop failure and famine. This continued until 1673, when it was
turned into a reception room for sick soldiers. In the orchard and garden of St, Mary's Hospital,
the corporation erected another hospital, or bridewell, for maintaining the poor and setting them to

This was the first attempt to establish a workhouse in connection with the then existing Poor Law,
but the building fell into disuse and was subsequently let to Mr. Edward Owner, an eminent and
opulent merchant of Great Yarmouth, who represented the Borough in the Long Parliament, for
£10 per annum. It was to be used for educating and maintaining therein poor children. This was
the beginning of the schools, afterwards known as the Children's Hospital Schools.

Mr. Owner was plainly keen on the scheme, for he donated £1,500 of his own money and was
instrumental in raising much more. He persuaded the corporation to donate money from the
Heyning Chamber (which was the town revenue) and to give interest on money belonging to the
town stock. A further £7,500 was raised by means of a tontine, a financial scheme under which
subscribers to a loan or common fund each receive an annuity for life.

About £2,000 of the total raised was used to establish the workhouse, with the remaining £8,200
to be used to purchase an annuity of £500 for running costs. However, the corporation changed
its plan and, instead of buying an annuity, settled property and land upon the trustees of the
workhouse, the rents from which would bring in the £500 per annum needed.

An important function of the institution was to educate the children in its care out of poverty. Each
child was given half a crown when it could read well, half a crown more when it could write well,
and another half a crown when it could cipher (presumably, the boys) or sew (presumably, the

This workhouse continued until 1838, when it moved to the site we all know in Northgate Street,
now a hospital.

The new Poor Laws rendered private benevolence unnecessary and so the whole income of the
charity became available for educational purposes. The parlour of the former Master's House
was used as a police court every Saturday.

The children's lot improved. At Christmas 1859, the system of lodging and boarding and clothing,
a peculiar dress had been imposed, was discontinued. The schools changed into something we
might recognise today. By 1876, the date of the report, 131 boys and 137 girls were being
educated in separate schools.

The rules for conducting the school were strict, but generally sensible. However, attendance at
school was required on Sundays, both in the morning and in the afternoon, to be examined in the
catechism and to attend church.

The land and property held by this Charity in 1876 was very substantial and the rent amounted to
£1,467 per annum.

There was about £700 left after outgoings, which was used to run the schools. Details of salaries
of the masters and mistresses are given and the schools were reported as efficient by Her
Majesty's Inspector acting under the Committee of Council on Education.

The boys were taught navigation and all the boys and girls were instructed in reading, writing,
arithmetic, geography, English history, grammar and drawing. The girls were additionally taught
sewing and housework.

The children were not retained after the age of fourteen.

The Irish Estate

In 1641, the English Parliament, in order to raise money for supplies to enable them to suppress a
rebellion in Ireland, offered estates there, that might be forfeited, to all who would contribute cash.

Mr. Owner recommended this scheme to the corporation. He offered to subscribe £100 if
members of the corporation would subscribe £500 more. They did, and for £600 Great Yarmouth
obtained 2,159 acres, 1 rod, and 13 poles (English measure, Irish measure was different) of
meadow, arable and profitable pasture, with all woods and bogs situate in the Barony of Iffa and
Offa in the county of Tipperary, for the term of 1,000 years at an annual rent of £100.

In 1863, the trustees sent their surveyor, Mr. W. A. Morant, to re-measure the estate. He found
that it was less substantial than first thought, amounting to only 1,600 acres and 12 poles. He
was unable to discover where the missing portion of the estate was situated.

The Irish Estate was settled in 1678 with other property of the corporation (in lieu of the fund
raised by the tontine) for the purpose of establishing the workhouse and in 1876 it still formed part
of the Children's Hospital Estate.

The Fishermen's Hospital

In 1668, King Charles II granted to the town an annual sum of £160 charged upon the excise on
beer, as an encouragement to the fisheries, and in compensation for the duty on the beer
consumed by the fishermen.

This sum was used by the Corporation for the benefit of decayed and disabled fishermen. It was
used to build the Fishermen's Hospital in 1702, at a cost of £621.

Many benefactions followed. On the repeal of duty on beer in 1831, the Government objected to
continuing the payment of £160 per annum, and it was discontinued. However several generous
legacies resulted in an investment of £1,403 in Government Consols, which was providing income
for the Fishermen's Hospital in 1876.

Warnes' Charity

The Reverend Edward Warnes left a remarkable will dated 28th February 1694, part of which is
reproduced below.

In the name of God; Amen, the last day of February in the year of our Lord 1694. I, Edward
Warnes, the unworthy servant of the Lord, Rector of Lamas with Little Hobbis (Hautbois), together
with Great Hobbis, in the Diocese of Norwich; being shortly to appear before the dreadful Tribunal
of Jesus Christ, my most sweet Redeemer; hoping for salvation by his merits; do make this my
last will and testament, in manner and form following.

I give and devise all and singular my houses lands and tenements, in Flegg Hundreds in the
county of Norfolk; with the appurtenances to remain, to the Bailiffs, Aldermen, Burgesses and
Commonality of Great Yarmouth and their successors: to the use of the Poor amongst them for
ever, all the annual rents and profits thereof for ever, one by one, to be distributed to the Poor,
especially to sick person's orphans and widows. and before others to widows of the clergy; yearly
in the weeks of Easter, and the Nativity of our Lord, in the presence of the pastor of the Church of
Great Yarmouth, aforesaid, for the time being, or of any deputed under his hand, and of six
Burgesses there.

And I will, that an extract of this devise, plainly written on parchment; in Latin and English, by my
Executors, within three months of my death, shall be made and delivered to the Bailiffs and
Commonalty of Great Yarmouth, aforesaid, in the Public Chest there, for ever to be kept.

And as extract of the said devise I will, shall by the Pastor aforesaid be publicly rehearsed, in
English, at the time of Divine Service, or immediately after, in the Church aforesaid, every year;
together with the Clause hereinafter mentioned, pertaining to this clause: in case default shall be
made of this gift in manner and form aforesaid. To which Pastor, out of the rents and profits
aforesaid, I give yearly Twenty Shillings to perform the same faithfully.

But nevertheless, if default shall be made in the premises, or if, at any time, the Bailiffs,
Alderman, Burgesses and Commonality shall demise the premises aforesaid; or shall otherwise
alien or dispose thereof to anyone; the said demise, alienation, or disposition to continue above
seven years; then the said premises above mentioned, to remain to the Mayor, Sheriffs, Citizens
and Commonality of the City of Norwich, and their successors, for ever, so that they pay, in
manner and form above, to the Poor of the City of Norwich, the rents and profits of the premises
aforesaid, in manner and form aforesaid, which clause above is that which, before, I willed to be

The estate is situated in and around the parish of Thrigby. It comprised a farm house and
outbuildings, together with about 224 acres of land. It was let, by tender, every seven years, and
had yielded rents varying from £80 per annum to £700 per annum up to the date of the report in

The trustees of the charity later received a legacy of £50 from the will of Mrs. Maria Sayers, the
income from which was added to the proceeds of the Warnes Legacy. By 1876, the net income
of the Warnes' Charity was divided amongst the poor widows of Great Yarmouth, recommended
by the trustees, in equal sums of £1 each; ten shillings in January and ten shillings in July.
Widows over 70 years of age had the money annually, but younger widows were so numerous
that they only received their cash every three years. In 1875, there were 459 widows on the list.
Their average age was 64 years and 160 of them were over 70 years of age.

The total number of widows relieved over three years exceeded 1,000.

Money Lending Charities

There were two:

Rogers' Charity

Catherine Rogers bequeathed £100 in her will in about the year 1556 to the merchants and other
inhabitants. This was to be lent for yearly terms in amounts of £5 or £10 at the discretion of
bailiffs and three justices. The charity was extinct by 1876, the money having all been lost by
failure in repayments before that date.

Davie's Charity

Henry Davie bequeathed £30 in his will, dated 10th March 1641, towards the relief and support of
three young beginners or others, being honest men and free burgesses, residing in the town of
Great Yarmouth. Not more than £10, for no longer than two years, was to be lent, with two

Davie left the same sum to the town of Gorleston for the use of the poor of that parish.

This money was all lent from time to time in one sum. It was lent in 1819 to William Dix Ayres, a
carpenter, with sureties, but it appears to have been lost.

Davie's giving extended further. He gave £100 to the churchwardens, so that two pounds per
annum could be given for the maintenance of St. Nicholas' Church, two pounds per annum
towards the maintenance of the Haven and two pounds per annum to be distributed to 40 poor
people of the parish on 24th December.
Not all this money was allocated, and eventually £46 accrued, which was invested in government
stock. The income from this was distributed to the inmates of the Fishermen's Hospital up to the
date of the report.

Coal Charities

There were four:

Paston's Charity

On 14th January 1608, Sir William Paston sold the late dissolved free chapel of Caister Holy
Trinity and gave this, together with the rent from the vicarage, to be used for the purchase of
coals for the poor of Great Yarmouth. By 1876, this amounted to £8 per year.

Packer's Charity

In her will, dated 2nd October 1711, Susan Packer bequeathed £30. She instructed that the
interest on this sum be distributed in coals, to poor widows and widowers not receiving any
collection from the parish, immediately before Christmas each year. By 1876 this amounted to
one pound ten shillings per annum.

Hall's Charity

Mrs. Ann Hall gave £200 to purchase the fish-houses of Mr. Honeywell, in order to raise £10
annually to distribute amongst the poor. In 1876, Hall's Charity was still worth £10 each year.

Colby's Charity

Dover Colby bequeathed £250 by his will dated 18th December 1752 to the Mayor, Burgesses
and Commonality of Great Yarmouth. He stated that £10 should be allocated to buy coals at the
cheapest time of the year to distribute among the poor necessitous housekeepers, being
parishioners of Great Yarmouth living within the first and second south wards of the town.

Each received two bushels of coal.

By 1876, the total income derived from the four Coal Charities amounted to £29. 10s. Each
trustee had the same number of tickets to distribute among the poor. In exchange for a ticket,
one hundredweight of coal was delivered in the early part of the year.

This summary of charitable activity in Great Yarmouth from the report upon the Charities of Great
Yarmouth, 1876, would seem to be typical of the country at large. Good, mainly wealthy people,
trying to help the poor and at the same time ease their way into heaven.

With acknowledgements to Percy Trett for the loan of his copy of the report, from which this
article was gleaned.


This article is based on, and is a summary of, The Report upon The Charities of Great Yarmouth,
published in 1876. The Report was commissioned by the Borough of Great Yarmouth, which
needed to know what its responsibilities were concerning the charitable monies that had accrued
to it over time. All the facts in the article were ascertained by the members of the Committee who
wrote the Report.

Great Yarmouth Archaeological and Local History Society Bulletins

The Society published a total of 56 Bulletins between 1968 and 1978 as a means of informing
members of forthcoming meetings, and to give a platform for short pieces of original research by
members to be published.

The Newsletter replaced the Bulletin in 1978 and in the following year the first edition of the annual
Journal was published. By the ephemeral nature of the Bulletins not many copies have survived and
consequently, much of this original research has been lost. A. W. Ecclestone, in his book Yarmouth
Miscellany (published in 1974), reprinted some of the earlier articles from the Bulletins, but those in
later years have not been republished. It has therefore been decided that occasionally articles from
the Bulletins will be published in the annual journal.

The following two articles are reproduced from GYAS Bulletins published between 1968 and 1978.

Yarmouth in the Early 19th Century

(This article was written and researched by Alec McEwen and first published in the GYAS Bulletin
number 37 in 1975)

In the breakdown of the Amiens Settlement and the declaration of war with France in May 1803,
there began a period of intense local activity in the town, as elsewhere, since invasion by
Napoleon was a distinct possibility. Arrangements were put in hand to evacuate the inhabitants
and livestock to prevent these falling into the hands of the enemy, should invasion take place.

A plan was drawn up to establish a system of communication throughout each county and
dividing these into specific areas according to size and placing each in the charge of the Deputy
Lieutenant. Likewise the hundreds were placed under the charge of a magistrate, thereinafter
called the inspector, and parishes such as Great Yarmouth in the care of a gentleman called the
superintendent; in Yarmouth it was Edmund Preston.

Such was the descending order of command and a further plan was prepared for the removal of
people and property if necessary. The superintendent was charged with producing an accurate
list of all families in the parish, the heads of each to be listed firstly, followed by the numbers
belonging to each, and noting the ambulant and the infirm. The owners of carriages, horses and
other sundries were also listed and tickets were prepared, one per family, indicating the method
of removal and the items necessary to carry.

The instructions to the superintendent were clearly laid down. In the maritime hundreds the
appearance of the enemy off the coast in force was to be signaled by a single ball by day, or a
single light at night, or two if the enemy had already landed. Throughout the neighbouring
parishes the church bell signaled the receipt of the above-mentioned warning from the coast. If
the landing was within 30 miles of the parish, the superintendent was ordered to expedite the
removal of all the families and their goods, in accordance with the pre-arranged plan.

For each sub-section of the parish, or leet, schedules were prepared from the lists of inhabitants
analysing various details, such as those civilians willing to serve with arms, those responsible for
removing livestock and, other sundry personal and details of stock-in-trade regarded as
potentially useful. From these lists we are able to get a cross section of the population of the
town and make some assessment of the size of families, occupations, and the numbers of elderly
and infirm, all of which reflect the social conditions of the time.1

In an area bounded by Rows 54/55 and 75/76, which include a portion of the Market Place, King Street
and Deneside, there existed 402 household and business premises and a few statistics of these people
are of interest.2 Female servants excepted, mariners figure as the leading occupation, as we would
expect, and this is reflected in the number of young widows in the area, 18 of whom had 42 children
between them and, although there were notable exceptions, e.g. Susanne Barnett, whose husband was
in the West Indies at the time of the census, had 8 children under the age of 10. The average family
was 3 children.

There were in all 71 servants, mainly female, in the 403 households with some of them described
as serving inmates. Twenty apprentices appear in the lists, which is not surprising since over 30
different trades were practiced in the area and the apprentices of this period were part of the
household; even the chimney sweep had two, who no doubt were very useful to him. On the
whole a fairly typical area; the schoolmistress had 15 boarders. One surgeon practised, two
members of the press gang lived here and, together with a 45-year-old Chelsea Pensioner, went
to make up the general picture of the inhabitants, 36 of whom were infirm or blind.

Record was made of personal possessions that ranged from shovels and axes, beer and spirits,
hay and straw, coaches and horses, pigs and poultry, and the voluntary group to which each
person was willing to serve. Hence 65 were recorded as Infantry, three pioneers (those who
owned the shovels), eight sea fencibles, two stock drovers and two drummers. Already serving
were nine in the Yarmouth Cavalry and three in the Norfolk Militia. The surgeon volunteered to
act as surgeon, but against Joseph Woodrow, a Quaker, it clearly states will not be anything. The
volunteer militia were embodied in the 6th Norfolk Battalion of Volunteers and they were
subsequently invited to become part of the local militia, which was an early version of the
Territorial Army and, having done so, each received two guineas on enrolment and an allowance
of one guinea for the first year of service.

No doubt many collected their guineas but happily, for well-known reasons, the invasion and
evacuation never took place. Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in 1805 eased the tension, but anxiety
was not relieved until Napoleon's defeat in 1814 when the famous Yarmouth Festival took place
on the 19th April to celebrate this event and the restoration of Louis XVIII. Later at a meeting of
the Mayor and magistrates, the proclamation of peace was made in the borough on 6th July, and
the inhabitants were recommended to illuminate in the evening. Very little remains of this
turbulent period, except a few documents giving us a glimpse of the people of the time and the
splendid Nelson memorial.
These statistics are taken from documents in the possession of Mr. G. Smith of Great Yarmouth.
Copies are held in Norfolk Record Office, Microfilm 103/3.
This area covered the second North Middle Ward and theoretically represented one eighth of
the inhabitants. In present day terms, a line from the Haven Bridge to Market Gates, and from
Theatre Gate (Regent Road) down the Arcade to the quay, south of the Town Hall.

Where was the White Friars?

(This article was written and researched by Paul Rutledge and first published in the GYAS
Bulletin number 51 in 1977)

Of the three friaries, which lay within the medieval borough of Great Yarmouth, that of the White
Friars or Carmelites has disappeared the most completely. The only attempt to map it, that of C.
J. Palmer in the map published in 1847 in his edition of the Foundacion 1, shows an impossibly
large site extending from the Market Place to North Quay and crossing both Howard Street and
George Street.

The friary was established in 1276, when the friars were granted a vacant site measuring 500 feet
x 400 feet called Le Denne to inhabit and build a church 2. The Denne was a description applied
at this time to the whole of the eastern side of the town, but it could well have meant a site facing
east on to the market place. Palmer records a tradition that the Half Moon tavern in the market
place (between Row 26 end Row 29) belonged to the friary 3. However, it seems probable that
the friary was relocated (a not uncommon occurrence in the early history of such foundations) and
that the name Whitefriars Quay given to North Quay indicates that in the later Middle Ages the
friary had a frontage on the Quay.

Palmer, in speaking of this area, says Fragments of stone mullions, and other carvings of an
ecclesiastical character have also been turned up here, which circumstances lead to a belief that
this locality is not far from the site of the church and convent of the White Friars, of which no
vestige above ground remains 4. It certainly seems to have lain 'in the Rows’ since, in 1378 a
southward extension of the site was permitted, with permission to enclose one lane and substitute
another 5; and when the friary was destroyed by fire in 1509, it was recorded The Church of the
Carmelites of Yarmouth was burnt on the 1st of April 1509, with the whole Convent and the
adjacent lane 6. The Latin word I used for lane is vicus, which in Great Yarmouth usually means a

The friary was granted after the Dissolution to Thomas Denton Esq. in 1544. The survey then
made by the government has disappointingly little detail 7. The site of the friary with yards,
orchards, gardens, land and soil was occupied by John Palmer and was valued at £6.13s.4d. A
tenement called the ancre house in the tenure of John Parke and a stable in the tenure of
Thomas Bettes were valued together at £5 2s.8d. The reference to an otherwise unrecorded
anchorite's cell is obviously of interest.

Deeds of 1588 and 1589 enrolled on the Yarmouth Borough Court Rolls 8 give some indication of
the friary buildings, though unfortunately they provide no clue as to their exact location.

By 1584 the site, or part of it, had been acquired by Thomas Mynors, gent., of London who
evidently sold it off in small pieces, no doubt for redevelopment.

One piece was, in 1588 called Mrs. Persyes garden, and had stone walls south and partly north;
another had been part of an orchard or garden and was in 1588 described as newly built; and the
third was described in 1589 as an orchard called the Cloyster yarde with stone walls on the east,
west and north sides, together with another piece lying at the south end called the bleechinge
plot, lately called the church and porch, now called the gatehouse or porch. This fairly intensive
development (plot dimensions of 72 ft. and 26 ft. are mentioned) no doubt explains why the
Whitefriars disappeared from view so completely.

C. J. Palmer, (ed), Booke of the Foundacion and Antiquitye of Greate Yarmouthe, fol.p.xvi,
Victoria County History of Norfolk, vol 2. (1906), p.437; Calendar of Letters Patent 1272-81
(1901), p.138.
C. J. Palmer, (ed), Manship’s History of Yarmouth (1854), p.425.
C. J. Palmer, Perlustration of Yarmouth, (1872-5), pp. 228-31.
Victoria County History of Norfolk, vol 2, p.437; Calendar of Letters Patent 1377-81 (1895),
C. J. Palmer, (ed), Manship’s History of Yarmouth, p.426. (Quoting a MS in the Sloane
Collection in the British Museum).
Public Record Office, E318/365
Norfolk Record Office, Great Yarmouth Borough Archives C4/282, m.34R and 4/284, 36R; see
also C4/300, m.24R

Summer Outing 2011
Paul Davies

On Friday 29th July 2011 forty-six members of the Society and their friends travelled by coach for
the summer outing to Suffolk.

We arrived at 10 am at Bury St. Edmunds where we had a conducted tour, in three small groups,
of St. Edmundsbury Cathedral. It has been a church for centuries, since the Abbey dedicated to
St. Edmund grew on this site from the time of King Cnut in the early 11th Century. From 1914 it
has been the cathedral church that serves Suffolk.

This church was largely rebuilt, starting in

1503, with more alterations in the 18th and
19th centuries.

The basic building is early 16th century.

The nave, begun in 1503, was completed
c1550. In the 19th century alterations
were made by Giles Gilbert Scott. These
were partly replaced by further extensions
of 1960-70 by Stephen E. Dykes Bower.

Dykes Bower was also the architect for the

restoration of St. Nicholas Church in Great
Yarmouth in the late 1950s. It is said that
he tried out ideas for the restoration of
Bury at St. Nicholas Church. It was
interesting to note the similarities between
the two churches. Of particular note in the
Cathedral is the sculpture of the crucified
Christ by Elisabeth Frink.

In the cathedral grounds a new choir

school and visitors’ centre were built,
which were opened in 1990. A Gothic
revival tower was built between 2000 and

Afterwards we visited nearby St. Mary’s, a

great medieval church. Here we had two
guides, one of whom had delayed his
holiday to tell us about the church. It is
one of the largest parish churches in the
St Edmundsbury Cathedral country. It was almost entirely rebuilt
during the course of the 15th century, as a
result of numerous bequests, and thus has
many features from the Decorated Period.

The nave has the longest, finest and highest arcades in Suffolk. The nave ceiling is thought to be
one of the finest in England. The roof is of single hammer-beam construction complete with
eleven pairs of life-sized angels. As well as the angels, there are figures representing the
hierarchy of the Catholic church, and the wall posts contain apostles, saints and prophets.

There are the remains of two chantry chapels and several memorial brasses. Mary Tudor, the
sister of Henry VIII and briefly Queen of France, is buried in the chancel. The ship, Mary Rose,
was named after her.

John Baret’s Cadaver Tomb

The church boasts a magnificent 15th century north porch.

Of further interest is the memorial to the soldiers of the
Suffolk Regiment, who drowned when HMS Birkenhead
HMS Birkenhead memorial sank of South Africa in 1852. The tradition of women and
children first originated with this incident.

John Baret (d.1467) carved out for himself a

chantry chapel at the east end of an aisle. In it he
placed a cadaver memorial, which is generally
considered the best in the country. The chapel has
England's finest surviving 15th century church ceiling.

The west window is believed to be the largest of any

church in England. The glass in it was given in
thanksgiving for the bumper harvest of 1854.

East of the rood screen are two grand memorials, both

topped by couples. To the south are the Drurys (of
Drury Lane fame) and to the north are the Carewes.

After lunch we continued by coach to Lavenham, Ceiling above Baret’s Chantry Chapel
where we had a guided tour of the village with two
guides. Lavenham is one of the best preserved
medieval villages in the country boasting some 320 listed timber-framed buildings, many of them
protected by English Heritage. Traders flocked to the village to take advantage of its thriving wool
trade and, by 1524 Lavenham was ranked
the 14th richest town in the country, thanks
to the famous Lavenham blue cloth. The
riches of Lavenham’s residents have left a
unique legacy in the shape of the stunning
timber-framed houses, that they built to
show off their wealth.

After tea we travelled back home arriving at

about 6.30pm. We were very fortunate to
be blessed with excellent guides at all the
sights. The cost of the tour was £18 a
head. The expensive part of organising
trips is the cost of the coach, which on this
occasion was £430. We were fortunate that
so many people came and thus we were
One of the groups at Lavenham
able to made a modest profit of £25.

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