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The Picture of Yarmouth

200 Years of Built Heritage

Education Resources with Guide

a project by
Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society
funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund
This booklet has been designed to support the study of the local history element within the National
Curriculm (England) for history, either at Key Stage 2 or 3. It is based on a Hertiage Funded project run by
the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society running from September 2019 to 2021.
Copyright © Great Yarmouth Local History and Archeological Society.

Introduction
In January 1820, John Preston, Comptroller of His Majesty’s Customs in Great Yarmouth published, The
Picture of Yarmouth, an illustrated account of the public establishments in the town. An unknown friend
had suggested that Preston, a prolific amateur sketcher, publish his collection of ‘drawings of Public
Buildings of the town’. To these he was to add, ‘sufficient local and historical matter for a publication’. In
his introduction he ‘presumes to hope that … this work may prove (as far as it goes) a plain and faithful
picture of my native town’.
This booklet provides help for teachers so that they can design meaningful activities based around
Preston’s Picture of Yarmouth. The original book can be downloaded from:
https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_Picture_of_Yarmouth/8vsHAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0
The Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society, as part of the project, produced a new
book: The Picture of Yarmouth: 200 Years of Built Heritage. It can be obtained here:
https://www.greatyarmouthlocalhistoryandarchaeology.com/about-3
An electronic version of this booklet can be downloaded from:
https://www.scribd.com/document/526196662/Picture-of-Yarmouth-Educational-Resources-and-Guide

Connecting to National Curriculum History Aims: KS2 /


KS3
You will find ways to connect these resources into the following aims for history:
• understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity,
difference and significance, and use them to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame
historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and
analyses
• understand the methods of historical enquiry, including how evidence is used rigorously to make
historical claims, and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have
been constructed
• gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding
the connections between local, regional, national and international history; between cultural,
economic, military, political, religious and social history; and between short- and long-term timescales.
John Preston and his book
John Preston would have been in his forties when he decided to write his book. The Prestons were an
established family in the town and members had held high office since at least the Civil War period.
John was the son of Jacob, a shipbuilder, and Mayor three times (1793, 1801 and 1813). John himself
was to become Mayor in 1828 and 1838. As Comptroller of Customs in Great Yarmouth he would have
acted as auditor in the Custom House on South Quay, one of the buildings he describes in great detail.
His role and status, as a member of the Corporation, meant he had the support of the civic elite in the
town, many of whom subscribed in advance to enable the book’s production. For them its timing was
important following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Peace had brought economic uncertainty in
a town that had played so much of a part in the victory against the French and a book, that proclaimed
that Great Yarmouth was still in business, would have done no harm to the town’s economic prospects.
While noting the loss of the use of such buildings as the Armoury and Naval Arsenal and the conversion of
the Naval Hospital into Barracks, Preston’s portrayals are positive and upbeat, and his descriptions of the
public buildings and their uses are intended to provide a prosperous and affirmative view of the town. He
describes many of the buildings and their history in detail drawing on previous works and sources, such
as Swinden’s history. Where he considers their architectural merit or heritage uninteresting, he describes
their present use and function. In this way we get a useful insight into the commercial activity and everyday
regulation of goods and trade at the time.

Activity design suggestion


Devise an activity that allows the children to consider which
buildings in Great Yarmouth are important today. Discuss the
criteria necessary to pick those buildings. For example, their
function, whether people have fond memories of them and
how they were used. Invite an older person in to talk about a
favourite building and why they remember it. Examples might
include:
• the Waterways
• the Marina centre
• one of the many cinemas—the Regal or the Empire
• the Winter Gardens
• the Wellington Pier
Explore what the children have learnt from the older person
about how life was different when they were young.
Venetian Waterways & Boating Lake
The Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake were originally built as a job creation scheme in the 1920s to
provide work for unemployed men and their families. The scheme, an idea that was largely the inspiration
of SP Thompson, the Borough Engineer, would provide a modern 20th century tourist attraction that
would expand the seafront northwards. They opened in 1928.
Closed during World War II, little damage was done during the war years and in 1946 the Waterways
reopened. In 1956, the five boats were given animal heads of a Fish, Elephant, Horse, Cow and Bird. They
were carved in mahogany wood, and then painted to bring them to life. The Waterways has proved to be
a much-loved attraction over the years, reaching its peak in the 1960s.
In 2016, the Great Yarmouth
Preservation Trust, in partnership
with the Borough Council, submitted
a successful bid for £1.7 million
to the Heritage Lottery Fund to
repair and restore the entire park.
The bid included a comprehensive
training programme for long-
term unemployed, youth and
local residents in horticulture
and traditional building skills, as
well providing a legacy for the
community. In 2019, the Venetian
Waterways and Boating Lake
reopened to the public so once
again to be enjoyed by residents and
visitors to the town.

Activity design suggestion


Examine the layout of the waterways from above using Digimaps for Schools (https://digimapforschools.
edina.ac.uk/) and draw a map comparing it with the original design. Which elements are still there and
which are no longer present?
Use old postcards to examine what visual features, eg. illuminations and tableaux, were present at the
height of the Waterways popularity. If students were responsible for designing new features to attract
tourists to the Waterways, what would they be?
The Tolhouse
The ancient building known to us today as
the Tolhouse Museum is believed to have
been built as the home of a rich merchant.
It appears that the building may date back
as far as the 12th century and that it was
significantly altered in the 13th century.
Little else is known of its early history, but
surviving records indicate that the Tolhouse
was a well-known building by 1362. The
Tolhouse was eventually put to official
use and was a gaol at the time that John
Preston published his Picture of Yarmouth
in 1819.
Preston’s illustration of the Tolhouse is
captioned, ‘The Goal’ [sic] or gaol. He
describes it in detail including the hold and
the four cells that can be seen and visited in the present-day museum.

Activity design suggestion


Compare Preston’s illustration of the Tolhouse with the present building’s frontage. Visit the building today
and take photos of the outside. What are the significant differences eg. windows, exterior surface etc.?
How did these changes come about? (A similar activity can be done using the Custom House.)
Ceremonies and elections
During Preston’s time The Guildhall, situated to the left of the entrance to St Nicholas’ Minister (now
demolished) was the administrative centre for the town. He describes it as ‘a building of rather modern
appearance’ having two apartments—the public assembly room and the private council room. The latter
was ‘fitted up with benches for the Mayor and Corporation’. He also states that the town chest is here,
known as the hutch, it housed all the charters of the Corporation. This is now on the landing of the present
town hall. He states there are two annual assemblies of the Corporation, the Friday two weeks before
Good Friday, where the Corporation annual accounts are presented in public, and 29th August, when the
Mayor was elected. He describes this process. 4 hats are presented to the present Mayor, each containing
6 names. A young child is chosen from the crowd to draw 3 names from each hat. These form a jury who
are now locked without ‘fire, candle, meat, nor drink’ until they decide on a new Mayor. The verdict given
when 9 of the 12 agree.

Activity design suggestion


Arrange to visit the town hall with your pupils—see the hutch while taking a tour of the Town Hall which
can be arranged with the Borough Council. Investigate with pupils how the Mayor is chosen today and
compare it with John Preston’s time.
John Preston’s Drawings
Preston’s drawings included people going about everyday activities: pupils in a crocodile outside the
Children’s Hospital, the passengers on the Norwich paddle-steamer on the Bure and an old woman with
a child sitting at a table on the Quay possibly selling wares, are all examples. They exude a certain charm
that continues to fascinate viewers. Although many engravings of Great Yarmouth by professional artists
were produced in the late 18th and 19th centuries and widely distributed, these drawings are unique
for their quality and naive simplicity from an amateur hand. It could be safe to assume that he had been
sketching over a considerable period of time perhaps recording buildings following their construction
or notable changes. For example, he includes drawings of the North and South Gates which had been
demolished some years before. In his caption for the North Gate he remarks that it is the old spire on St
Nicholas’ Church, which in his image of the church itself, he draws the new spire. We might also assume
there were other sketches that were not included, and he had made a specific decision to produce a book
of public buildings in order to promote the civic importance of the town and, by implication, his own
family.
The accuracy of a number of his
illustrations can also be questioned.
For example, his illustration of Nelson’s
Column includes a sarcophagus at the
base of the pillar—part of the original
design, it was never included. He may
have drawn on the model, now in the Tide
and Tide museum, which he mentions in
his book. He includes in his image of the
fishermen’s hospital, the wooden statues
on the gatepost, which had certainly
disappeared by the time he published the
book.

Activity design suggestion


Compare Preston’s image of Nelson’s
Monument with other 19th century
artists and note the differences. Which
include the sarcophagus and which do
not? What conclusions might you draw
from the appearance of the sarcophagus
in these drawings (are they derivatives
for example)? Visit the Time and Tide
Museum and view the model—what
similarities with the model can be found
with Preston’s drawing?
John Preston’s Map
Preston included a pull-out map of Great Yarmouth in his book. Dated 1819, it is an updated version of
Swinden’s map published in 1772 following his survey of 1753. It shows the densely packed rows, the
confinement of the town within its medieval wall and highlights some of the places mentioned in the book
(marked as black on the map).

Activity design suggestion


Consider the layout of Yarmouth in 1819. What conclusions can be drawn from this map about life in the
town at that time? Compare Preston’s maps with later maps to show how the town grew outside its town
walls and key changes, such as the effect of the railway coming to Yarmouth first in 1844.
Education
John Preston describes the two schools in the town—the Children’s Hospital and the Charity School. The
Children’s Hospital was founded in 1654 on the site of St Mary’s Hospital, a religious institution created
by Thomas Falstoff, in 1278, to house elderly men and women. The school was financed partly by rents
from land in Tipperary seized by Cromwell’s troops during the supression of the Catholic rebellion, along
with other endowments. It was to provide board, clothing and education for 20 boys and 10 girls from
poor families. At age 14 or 15 years, the pupils were apprenticed to local trades or placed as servants,
and they were given financial support for this. The management of the charity was by a committee formed
from members of the Corporation, and appointed annually by the Mayor, but acting independently of
the Corporation. It operated the Bell system (monitorial system) of education devised by Andrew Bell
in Preston’s time. The Charity School, Preston tells us, had been founded in 1713 and was financed by
donations from subscribers, being open to children whose parents earned less than £4 a year.

Activity design suggestion


Explore the educational systems used in schools in the 19th century and differences between them.
Compare these with the different types of schools available in Britain today.
Art Deco and Art Nouveau
The new Picture of Yarmouth: 200 Years of Built Heritage includes a number of buildings that adopted
the new architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in particular, Art Deco and Art
Nouveau. New materials and technologies, especially reinforced concrete, were key to the development
and appearance of Art Deco and J.W. Cockrill (known as ‘concrete’ Cockrill), the borough architect and
engineer, was keen to exploit it in the town. The Muncipal School of Art is perhaps his finest example
featuring elements of both styles. However, it was his son F.S. Cockrill that was to fully adopt Art Nouveau
for the frontages of the buildings he designed—The Hippodrome and Falsolff House. The first as a place
of entertainment (1902) for George Gilbert, and the second as an office building (1908) for the Williment
family. Both exhibit ornamentation in the form of flowers and plants, e.g. thistles, irises, cyclamens,
orchids, water lilies etc. and sculptural mascarons (faces) either in tile or red brick.

Activity design suggestion


Explore the history of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau as movements in the early 20th century. How does
the Muncipal School of Art, the Hippodrome and Falsolff House reflect these styles? Allow students to
produce their own designs based on these styles.
The Picture of Yarmouth
200 Years of Built Heritage

Education Resources
(can be reproduced for eductional purposes)
Map of buildings in the 2021 book
Preston’s Ground Plan of 1819
Great Yarmouth’s Old South Gate
Old North Gate & Original Spire of St Nicholas’ Church
Milmount, House of the Mayor, Edmund Preston
The Guild Hall
Yarmouth Jetty and Roads
The Fishermen’s Hospital
The Bridge
The Custom House
The Market Place
Nelson’s Column
The Royal Barracks
St George’s Chapel
The Children’s Hospital
The Theatre
The Church of St Nicholas
The Gaol
The Town Hall
Mr Woolsey’s Mill
Fort and Mouth of The Yare
The Haven Bridge, 2020
The Custom House, 2020
The Municipal School of Art, 2020
The Municipal School of Art, 2020
The Fishermen’s Hospital, 2020
St George’s Theatre, 2020
The Tolhouse, 2020
If you would like to join the society as an individual or institution
contact:
GYLHAS Membership Secretary
16 Main Road
Ormesby St. Michael
Great Yarmouth NR29 3LW
Tel: 01493 730407
jones.bookside@btinternet.com

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