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Great Yarmouth

Local History and



This year, 2020, has been unique in our lifetimes due to the coronavirus pandemic, however I am
pleased to report that the society has managed to produce its annual journal successfully with,
once again, many interesting articles about past faces and places relating to our town.
Unfortunately, our evening lectures planned from March onwards had to be postponed until a
future date, and all of our summer activities had to be cancelled. It follows, therefore, that this
edition of your journal does not contain reports of these much enjoyed events. Let us all hope
that next year brings better fortunes.

Our Chairman has written a highly topical health-related article, which you can read on page 28,
and there are several more articles from our members about various characters who were at one
time or another part of the Great Yarmouth community. We also have a very interesting piece
about the fast disappearing public clocks, an enormous variety of which once adorned the streets
of our town.

I do hope you enjoy reading this issue, and that it brings you some pleasure in a currently rather
uncertain world.

Back issues of some Journals published since 1993 are still in stock. If any are missing from your
collection and you would like them, please contact me and I will supply if copies remain.

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: Kevin Mace

Secretary Patricia Day

(e-mail :

Membership Secretary Peter Jones

Committee: Stuart Burgess

Gareth Davies

Ann Dunning

Alan Hunt
Glen Johnstone

Ben Milner

Patricia Nelson

John Smail

Michael Wadsworth

Honorary Members: Shirley Harris

Derek Leak

Judy Leak

John McBride

John Mobbs

Colin Tooke

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

Yarmouth Archaeology & Local History
Table of Contents

5 Bulletin 9 - An Early Theatre: The Game Place House (1539 - 1596)

13 Amazing Dates in Great Yarmouth from Down the Years

14 Alfred McEwen (19th June 1934 - 3rd December 2019) - Colin Tooke
Former Chairman, Vice Chairman and President
of Great Yarmouth & District Archaeological Society
16 The Augustinian Priory, Gorleston Colin Tooke

20 The Pastons and Great Yarmouth - Symposium Organised by the Andrew Fakes
Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society

28 Pestilence in Great Yarmouth - From the Black Death to Covid-19 Paul P. Davies

51 Memories of Elm House School in the 1930s Mary Edwards

52 Public Clocks Colin Tooke

62 Margaret Tryon c1732 - 1819 Trevor Nicholls

70 The Maria Somes - Great Yarmouth’s Largest Ship Gareth H. H.

74 Rev’d. Robert James Dundas (1833-1904) - Clergyman and Missionary. Paul P. Davies
Donor to the Great Yarmouth Museum of Tsimshian (an indigenous
people of British Columbia, Canada) artefacts

83 Dr. John Aikin MD (1747-1822) Physician, Unitarian and Author Paul P. Davies

87 Lucy Aikin (1781-1864) Writer, Biographer and Unitarian Paul P. Davies

90 Nall’s Stereoscopic Views of Great Yarmouth - photographed by William Paul Godfrey

Russell Sedgfield

99 Young History and Archaeology Club Patricia Day

100 Harry B. Johnson's ‘Yarmouth Yarns’ Michael

104 The Gorleston Lifeboat Disaster of 1888 Stewart Adams

112 Yarmouth’s British School Michael

118 The Great Yarmouth Pigeon Flying Club Paul P. Davies

120 Pictures from the Archive and Pictures also sent to the Society Website Paul P. Davies
An Early Theatre: The Game Place House (1539-1596)
Bulletin 9 : December 1969
Paul Rutledge

This article is a re-print of one of 56 bulletins written by members of the Society between 1968
and 1979 before the advent of the journal. All of these have been reprinted in book form and a
copy is available from the Society at a price of £10.

It is little known that Great Yarmouth can claim the first documented purpose-built theatre in
England, a building known as the Game Place House, which was in existence a full generation
before the first of the London playhouses was set up by James Burbage in 1577. The Game
Place is documented from 1492 to 1493. The name implies that it was an area where games or
plays were performed, no doubt in the open air. It is probably to be identified with Priory Plain.

The Game Place House is first mentioned in 1539 when it was leased by the town, together with
a small garden and the profit of the Game Place, to one Robert Copping, for a term of 30 years
beginning at Michaelmas 1538 at a rent of five shillings a year. The lessee promised to permit &
suffre all suche players as ther audiens to have the plesure and use of the seid hows and game
place at all suche tyme and tymes as eny interludes or playes ther shall be ministered or played
at eny time withought eny profight therof by hym or by his assign to be taken. He also promised
to fence the garden and the Game Place and to keep the Game Place House in repair during the
term of the lease.

The Game Place House may well have been recently built at this time; it does not seem to have
been let out by the town before this date. The lease describes the garden (and therefore the
whole complex) as lying south of the parsonage garden and wall, with the town wall to the east.
The only other reference to its location is an Assembly order of 1542 concerning noysome gutters
draining from Middlegate into the Game Place Dyke. Of the Game Place House, Professor
Wickham says, here then, astonishing as it may seem, we have a municipally subsidised theatre
legally established in a provincial city nearly 40 years before Burrage, with the aid of private
enterprise capital, erected his metropolitan house …..

A few later references to the building are known. In 1563/4, Reginald or Reynolde Turpyn was
lessee of the Game Place House at the old rent of five shillings a year. In 1594/5, it was in the
tenancy of the Widow Ketche at 16 shillings. The margin of the rental of 1594/5 has the word
Decaied near this entry so the building must by this time have been passing out of use.

The very next year, no doubt due to its growing puritanism, the Corporation took action to stifle
the theatrical tradition of the town. Hitherto, it seems to have been usual for the itinerant players
to give their first performance before the bailiffs of the town in the guildhall, which stood by the
church gate, hard by the Game Place.

On 11th March 1596, the Assembly ordered that forasmuche as the game players have been
heretofore licensed by Mr. Bayliffes to playe in the guyldehall to the great anneyauns and offens
of many that from hencefourth the Bayliffes for the tyme beinge shall not license or suffer the
game players to playe in the guyldehall here uppon payne of vIi (£5) for every suche offens to be
set of upon their (i.e. the bailiffs) allowauns when they are to clayme the same. That is to say, the
bailiffs were placed under a penaIty of £5 not to allow the players to appear in the guildhall.


Printed: Glynne Wickham, Early English Stages, vol. ii, pt. I (1963), pp.166-7.
Manuscript: Yarmouth Borough Archives, C4/152, C4/195, C4/233, C4/258, C4/267, C18/6, fos.1
V, 2R, 20 R, C19/1, fo.168 V, C19/2, fo. 63 R, C19/4, fo. 253 V, C25/3, C27/1, fo.172 R.

19th January The History of Lowestoft (with its Yarmouth Connections) - part 2
David Butcher - author and historian
15th February How Long Does it Take to get from Norwich to Yarmouth? - An Exploration of the
Broads Landscape
Andrew Farrell - Broads Authority
15th March The Lost City of Dunwich
Mark Mitchels M. A. - lecturer and author
12th April Hearth, Heath and Howe: Witchcraft in Medieval Breckland
Imogen Ashwin - artist, archaeologist and independent researcher
10th May The Hazards of the Journey: Pilgrimage and Travel in the Middle Ages
Imogen Corrigan B. A. - historian and retired army officer
17th May Bathing Beauties, Knobbly Knees and Music by the Seaside: Great Yarmouth
Marina 1937-1979
Colin Miller - local historian and author
20th September Norfolk in the Second World War
Neil Storey - historian and author
18th October The Lowestoft Witch Trial of 1662
Ivan Bunn - local historian
15th November Sir John Fastolf’s Estates around Great Yarmouth: their Building and
Dr. Anthony Smith M. A., D. Phil., FAHistS., - historian
20th December Christmas Meeting, including a history quiz and a buffet

Lecture Summaries 2019

January 2019

Our speaker at the January 2019 meeting was the well-known local historian and author David
Butcher, who returned to give part 2 of his talk on ‘The History of Lowestoft with its Yarmouth
Connections’, part 1 having been presented to the society in January 2018.

Mr. Butcher gave a wonderfully detailed and well-argued description of events from the earliest
times to the middle of the 17th century. He subsequently very kindly provided a written summary
of his talk, which was published in the 2019 journal of the society.

February 2019

Andrew Farrell, from the Broads Authority, gave an illustrated talk entitled ‘How long does it take
to get from Norwich to Yarmouth? - An Exploration of the Broadland Landscape.’ Although
Andrew was born in Los Alamos in New Mexico, U.S.A., he confessed to having a grandparent
from Norfolk and felt that living in Norwich with its surrounding countryside was the best place he
had ever lived.

Established in 1989, the Broads Authority manages 303 square kilometres of land and water. Its
purpose is to manage navigation, landscape and nature.

In Roman times, ships were able to sail as far inland as Venta Iconorem (modern Caister St.
Edmunds), but the water levels and rivers changed over the years. Enormous amounts of peat
for cooking and heating were dug, creating large holes that later flooded to become the Broads.
The two important population centres of Norwich and Great Yarmouth are divided by extensive
wetlands. The rivers flowing between them provided a useful but meandering route for people
and goods to travel. Evidence of this can be gleaned from a disaster reported by W.F. Crisp: in
1353, a passenger boat from Great Yarmouth to Norwich sank near Cantley, and 38 people

The first land route was probably to the south, via Loddon, which was 27 miles in length, but it
required crossing the River Yare at Great Yarmouth. Another route was via Acle and Caister,
which was slightly shorter. Various schemes to improve navigation on the rivers were pursued
and, in 1829, a cut between the North Sea and Lake Lothing at Lowestoft was made, allowing the
bypassing of the Port of Yarmouth, which lost its monopoly. However, the ‘Acle Straight’ was built
in 1831, lessening the distance between the two towns, and the roads and railways between
Norwich, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth changed the speed of travel out of all recognition.

The Broads Authority is maintaining the mills, which were instrumental in draining the marshes.
Its remit is also to manage the needs of tourism, the natural environment and commerce, so that
a compromise may be reached for the benefit of the area as a whole.
March 2019

Dr. Tom Licence of the University of East Anglia was due to speak at the society’s March
meeting, but he suffered a bereavement so was unable to attend. With two days to spare, an old
friend of the Society, Mark Mitchels, was able to leap into the breach. His subject was ‘The Lost
City of Dunwich’.

Dunwich, with its river and protected haven, had been a port since before Roman times. It was
possibly known as Cetes Major. In Saxon times it was the Seat of Bishop Felix, and therefore
could be argued to be the first city in East Anglia, and originally called ‘Dunnock’. It was
reinstated as a bishopric in 1934. The Danes or Vikings would have used Dunwich as a haven
from North Sea storms, and for raiding and settlement. A shingle spit began to form from the
north, which provided more protection for their long ships.

In the Domesday Book of 1086, Dunwich was listed as one of the ten great cities of England and
the port had a population of about 3,000. However, it noted that about 100 acres had been lost to
the sea since 1066: 120 burgesses were recorded with one church (later three).

Around 1200, the burghers of Dunwich were smug and had no idea of what would happen to their
town. They built a leper hospital on the western side of the parish as far from the centre of the
town as they could. Ironically this is the only remaining medieval building left in Dunwich. In fact,
the men of Dunwich were keen to stop people from the surrounding villages operating the town as
a port, and gained charters from King John and Henry III preventing the landing of fish and other
trades near Dunwich in exchange for payments to the royal coffers.

Around 1225 was the ‘golden age’ of Dunwich, the sand spit moved further south giving the
harbour further protection. In 1231, Lady de Cossey of Blythburgh challenged Dunwich’s right to
be the sole port in that area of Suffolk, but she lost the case. However a rider to the judgement
stated that other places would be permitted to trade if the geography of the Dunwich River
changed. The document stating this was found in 1408, when Dunwich had suffered the ravages
of the North Sea and the harbour was often unusable. The town on its 40-foot clifftop was falling
into the sea and there was no goodwill towards the men of Dunwich. Matters became worse for
Dunwich with no income, and some men took to piracy. Ten men of the town were hanged for
this offence. High tides destroyed much of Dunwich and Daniel Defoe wrote that this was
judgement of God. Ironically, in the 19th century, J. M. W. Turner painted Dunwich and several
literary figures visited the ruins of Dunwich, when it became a tourist resort.

Mr. Mitchels dismissed rumours that the church bells of Dunwich could be heard tolling under the
North Sea, saying that they would have been removed well before they were in danger and that
no tower or belfry would have remained intact if it fell off the cliff. As usual, Mr. Mitchels provided
a fascinating and memorable talk.

April 2019

The speaker was Imogen Ashwin, archaeologist, folklorist and researcher and her topic was
‘Hearth, Heath and Howe: Witchcraft and Magic in Breckland.’

Mrs. Ashwin began by saying that Breckland was in the south-west corner of Norfolk, where the
soil is less fertile than in much of the county. She explained that ‘howe’ meant a small hill,
possibly a burial mound, and was usually associated with life and death. She thought that the
perceptions of witchcraft and magic in Breckland would be the same in the rest of the county.

Grimes Graves are the particularly deep flint mines near Thetford. There have been significant
archaeological finds at the bottom of the pits, such as flint brought from the north-west of England
and placed between two antler picks for no apparent reason. It was assumed that this was an
offering to propitiate the Gods.

Mrs. Ashwin said that coins and dishes dating back to the Iceni show patterns and horse
symbolism, which may be religious. The site of fresh water springs are associated with the

Various hordes of precious metal objects have been discovered, which might have been for later
collection, or as sacrifice to a divinity. The so called ‘Rudham Dirk’ was discovered in the area.
This was one of six enormous bronze daggers of high status found in Europe, clearly deposited
for no apparent practical reason, suggesting a religious motive.

The Christian church was very much opposed to ‘black magic’ and worship of pagan gods.
However, wise or cunning women or men still practised an early form of medicine by collecting
herbs etc. to administer as remedies. Mrs. Ashwin said that in order to placate the church, it was
necessary to recite the Lord’s Prayer when gathering plants.

Many Christian churches have apparently pagan symbols carved into the stonework, including the
famous ‘Green Man’, but such items were tolerated or ignored by the clergy.

Witch bottles and mummified cats and rats are often found when old buildings are being altered; it
was felt that these would keep evil spirits at bay.

Famously, witches were persecuted all over Europe, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries,
because it was felt that they gained malign powers from the Anti-Christ to do harm to other
people, their animals and property. The fact that Satan’s agents were largely poor, friendless old
women did not occur as ironic to their persecutors. Mass hysteria took over and Mrs. Ashwin
pointed out that Great Yarmouth invited the famous ‘Witchfinder General’, Matthew Hopkins, to
the town and a dozen people were prosecuted for being in league with the Devil. Some were
found to be not guilty, but five were hanged.

The last recorded execution for witchcraft in England was in 1685, and the last known trial of a
witch was in 1712. Laws against witches were abolished 1736. Witchcraft continued to be
practiced throughout the centuries and the concept of a ‘white witch’ revived in the 20th century.

May 2019 (additional meeting)

The speaker at an extra meeting of the society on 10th May was Imogen Corrigan. Her talk was
entitled ‘The Hazards of the Journey: Pilgrimage and Travel in the Middle Ages’. She said that
she had served in the army for 22 years and had retired with the rank of major. Her degree was
in Anglo Saxon and Medieval history, and she now lives in Folkstone.

Mrs. Corrigan began by saying much of the travel in the middle ages in Europe was by Christian
pilgrims, who were keen to reach a heavenly paradise by doing acts that would please their God.

The teaching of the Roman church at that time said that few would go straight to heaven on their
death, but those not deemed to go the place of eternal damnation would spend time in purgatory
‘to clean up their souls’. Purgatory was not a comfortable place to be in, so, if it was possible to
shorten a person’s time there, so much the better. This could be achieved by prayer, good works
or pilgrimage.
In England, the journey to Canterbury to the tomb of Thomas Becket was well-known. He was
quickly made a saint after his murder and miracles and cures were widely reported from there.
Canterbury Cathedral gained a great income from the supplicants who visited Becket’s tomb.

Santiago de Compostela on the north-west coast of Spain was popular with pilgrims as it was
said to house the bones of St. James, one of the 12 disciples. However, the bishop was so
displeased with the vast numbers of visitors to his church that he attacked them with his crook,
killing two of them, and ‘a one-way system’ of passing around the shrine was introduced.

Should a leading man of his community be unwilling to serve as a magistrate, alderman, etc., he
could be excused by going on pilgrimage. Pilgrims were treated largely with respect and
kindness as it was believed they were under God’s protection. Churches and monasteries
provided accommodation and food, but they were sometimes robbed by opportunist thieves and
exploited by innkeepers along the way.

The pilgrimage to Tours in central France to the tomb of St. Martin, the patron saint of soldiers,
was so popular that visitors there were known as ‘Tourists’. In Chartres Cathedral, the floor was
sloped so the dirt from pilgrims’ feet could be flushed out with water. Jerusalem and places
associated with Christ were the ultimate place of pilgrimage, but should this be too difficult and
expensive, visits to Rome were acceptable. In Norfolk, there were the two shrines, in Bromholm
and in Walsingham, which counted as a pilgrimage. There are also records of people who
wandered for the love of God, hoping to find a geographical location on earth as it is in Heaven.
Others pursued the the seven acts of mercy as their penance.

Although travel was difficult and dangerous in the Middle Ages, traders, ambassadors, soldiers,
masons and craftsmen were often in transit on the roads although it could be much quicker and
easier to travel by ship. However, Henry II, probably England’s most successful medieval
monarch, kept his kingdom together from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees by a fierce will and
hard riding. Visits from the King and his court, although a great honour, could be ruinously
expensive to local lords.
Dissatisfaction with the excesses of profiteering by the Roman Catholic church, and its worldly
concentration on amassing treasure on earth, burst on Europe when Martin Luther said that all
attempts to get into heaven by purchase of indulgences and visiting shrines were a lie, and he
rejected much dogma laid down by Popes as being at odds with the teaching of Jesus. Luther
argued that men should have a direct relationship and did not need the intervention of the
priesthood. He said that it was only possible to get into heaven by the grace of God. This gave
rise to the Reformation of the western church and religious wars. Protestants felt they could find
their God in local churches, and pilgrimages declined in Northern Europe, but remained popular in
Catholic countries. However, pilgrimage has undergone a boom in recent years, even among
committed Protestants.
The President thanked Mrs. Corrigan for an interesting and comprehensive talk on the attitudes to
religion of our ancestors in the Middle Ages.

May 2019

The speaker at the meeting following our AGM on 17th May was Mr. Colin Miller, who now lives in
Norwich. His talk was entitled ‘Bathing Beauties, Knobbly Knees and Music by the Seaside:
Great Yarmouth Marina 1937-1979’. Colin described himself as a country boy, the son of the
village carpenter, who was born in Rollesby in 1940 during an air raid. He attended the village
primary school and went on to Great Yarmouth Grammar School before attending Leicester
University, where he became a lecturer in mathematics.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council officially opened the Marina on the sea front on 1st July 1937 at
a cost of £42,000 with a seating capacity of 3,000. Its aim was to provide inexpensive
entertainment for local people and holidaymakers by supplying live music and other diversions.
The attractions are now seen as naive and not politically correct, but went down well at the time.
Although the Marina was largely open to the elements, it was popular with locals and

Following World War II, the wireless was the only accessible form of entertainment for people
who lived away from the larger towns. During his youth, his mother often took the young Colin
from Rollesby to Great Yarmouth and to the Marina, this being a great attraction as it brought
both colour and music into post-war Britain. One of its last attractions at the Marina was the ‘Wild
West Shows’, before its demolition in February 1979.
September 2019

Our speaker was a long-standing friend of the society, Neil Storey, who has become a respected
historian and author, and who is consulted by television and film companies on the subject of
Norfolk. Neil began by reminding members that when he was a student at Great Yarmouth
College of Further Education he was researching the Home Guard in Great Yarmouth. His essay
was published in Yarmouth Archaeology at the suggestion of Patricia Ashbourne, who was
working in the college library at the time.

Having covered the First World War in previous talks to the society, Neil spoke about ‘Norfolk in
the Second World War’. War was finally declared on 3rd September 1939, when German forces
failed to withdraw its troops from Poland.

Attempts to placate the Nazi Regime in Germany only bought time for Britain and the rest of
Europe to re-arm, but Germany had been building up its war plans secretly for many years.

Britain’s great worry was aerial bombing with the possible use of toxic gas. Gas masks were
issued and bomb shelters were built in many places. Anti-aircraft guns, searchlights and airfields
were set up. The Territorial Army was put on standby and air raid precaution squads were
trained. Blackout of lighting after dark was thought to be important, but resulted in many more
road accidents. Children were evacuated to rural Norfolk from the big cities with varying results.

From September 1939 to May 1940, very little happened and it was dubbed the Phoney War in
America. Children drifted back to the big cities and theatres and cinemas reopened.

There was some military action in the North Sea prior to April 1940, but the German blitzkrieg on
Belgium, Holland and France was the start of the ‘real war’. The surprising successes of the
Wehrmacht are well known. Norfolk boats were involved in the Dunkirk evacuation and, when it
was realised that Britain was standing alone against a powerful enemy, the mood changed.
Anthony Eden made an appeal by radio for a force of local volunteers to defend the country,
expecting a few thousand but, as is well-known, a quarter of a million men volunteered to join the
Local Defence Volunteers, which later became the Home Guard, immortalised as Dad’s Army.

Men were called up to the forces and women were recruited to work on farms, drive buses and
work in factories. Rationing of almost everything was brought in and scrap metal was collected.
Boy Scouts and Girl Guides were recruited as messengers.

The east coast was thought to be particularly vulnerable, so the beaches were mined and pill
boxes and gun emplacements were built at great speed. Piers were purposely damaged so they
could be of no use to the enemy. Some 3,700 Norfolk children and their teachers were
evacuated to the Midlands.

There was no invasion of Britain, but there was much action in the air above Norfolk when
Goering tried to put the Royal Air Force out of action prior to a seaborne attack. The Auxiliary
Fire Service was rushed to wherever it was needed and fire-watchers were recruited.
The Royal Observer Corps was formed to monitor enemy aircraft. It is generally thought that the
Royal Air Force beat the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, but the Baedeker raids did huge
damage to British cities and Great Yarmouth suffered severely, losing St. Nicholas Church and
217 dead from bombing.

Neil Storey said that Nazi Germany overextended its resources and made too many enemies to
be able to win the war. Britain was able to hold out against the Third Reich, Italy and Japan to be
on the ‘winning side’ in 1945 and, although at a great cost, a much better result for humanity with
the Axis Powers defeated.

October 2019

Mr. Ivan Bunn of Lowestoft gave a talk entitled ‘The Lowestoft Witch Trial of 1662’. He began by
saying that Lowestoft was a long ‘ville’ with an extensive fishing fleet, but where all cargoes were
landed and sent out from the beach.

A dispute arose when Rose Cullender, a widow who owned property in Lowestoft, tried to buy
herring from Samuel Pacy, a local fisherman. He refused to sell them to her, which may have
been because he thought he could get a better price elsewhere. Amy Denny, the widow of a
labourer, also tried to buy herring from Pacy, but was turned away three times.

Pacy’s daughters became ill and were reported as vomiting nails. Others came forward to say
that they had fallen foul of the two women and suffered illness and disasters, which they put down
to being bewitched by Cullender and Denny. Various incidents were described, such as pigs
dying and a toad appearing in bedding. The two were arraigned before a ‘grand jury’ of local
people and they were intimately searched for witch marks by local women and, of course,
blemishes were found and taken as satanic.

It was decided that there was a case to answer and they were sent to the assizes at Bury St.
Edmunds to be tried under the Witchcraft Act (1603) under one of England’s most eminent judges
of the time, Sir Matthew Hale. They were found guilty on 13 charges of ‘malevolent witchcraft’
and sentenced to death. They were hanged on 17th March 1662. Ivan Bunn said that capital
punishment in those days was particularly brutal in that the hangman carried the victim up to the
gibbet, placed the noose around the neck and let the victim fall. They died of asphyxiation, but
the shock of being dropped resulted in the loss of control of most bodily functions.

Dr. Thomas Browne of Norwich, who, in spite of the fact that he was an eminent physician and
philosopher and recognised as a progressive thinker at the time, testified at the trial saying that
the young girls had been bewitched.

The Lowestoft trial was unusual as prosecution for witchcraft declined after the restoration of
Charles II in 1660 and the last known execution for witchcraft was in Devon in 1685. The last trial
for witchcraft was in 1712 and statutes against witchcraft were repealed in 1736.
November 2019

Dr. Anthony Smith spoke to the society on 16th November 2019 on Sir John Fastolf and his
estates around Great Yarmouth. Dr. Smith has intensively researched the archives relating to
John Fastolf, translating them from Latin into contemporary English and monetary values, saying
that £1 then is roughly the equivalent of £500 today.

John Fastolf amassed a large fortune fighting in France from ransoms and plunder, and he was
able to leave that country before a series of English defeats.

Already a rich man, Sir John continued to expand his property portfolio in Norfolk, Suffolk and
London. He was involved in the wool trade, grain and malt trades, as well as shipping and
shipbuilding. He was not universally popular in England for his success and some thought he
was guilty of sharp practice.
His great achievement was the building of Caister Castle but, as he died without issue and the
Pastons gained it by will, which some disputed, his legacy resulted in much disputation. He was
buried at St. Benet’s Abbey.

December 2019

At our Christmas meeting, Ann Dunning, the society’s excursions organiser, provided a 50-
question quiz based largely on local history. Various questions were suggested by other
members, with Ann editing and selecting the questions for the quiz. Teams mostly of four people
were set up on an ad hoc basis. The highest score, 43 out of 50, was won by a team comprising
Graham and Jean Brown, Andrew Fakes and Trevor Nicholls, who were each awarded a prize of
a copy of the book Maritime Norfolk, provided by Poppyland Publishing.

Ann was born in Northrepps, near Cromer, and attended the local village school before going to
North Walsham High School. She then went to teacher training college in Lincoln. After
graduating, she returned to teach at the Hospital School on Great Yarmouth Market Place and
then to the Herman School in Gorleston.

On her retirement, she joined a course to become a Great Yarmouth Town Guide. She also
enrolled on an Open University course in history, where she gained a B. A. Honours degree.

At the end of the meeting, Trevor Nicholls gave a short speech, thanking members of the
committee of the society for the work they have done in providing education and entertainment to
members over the past year.

A buffet was provided by Mrs. Jean Smith, widow of our former Chairman, and her colleague
Suzanne Ludbrook, which was well received and amply paid for by a raffle.

(Lecture summaries provided by Andrew Fakes)

Recent publications by members of the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society

Caister-on-Sea: 2000 Years a Village, Colin Tooke, re-published by Poppyland 2020,

ISBN 9781909796768
Great Yarmouth Witch Trials and Witchery Concerning the Town, Roger Silver, 2020

Recent publications by the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society
Monograph 20 - Great Yarmouth Archaeological Bulletins Numbers 1-56 (1968-1979)
Great Yarmouth Notables, Paul P. Davies

Amazing Dates in Great Yarmouth from Down the Years
Peggotty Column in November 2019 reprinted with permission from the Great Yarmouth Mercury:
Because this weekly column often delves into Great Yarmouth and Gorleston’s past, dates are all
important. Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint when something happened, but I want to read the
original. Archant library colleagues require basic information to search for me, but turning the
pages of umpteen old Mercurys is not always successful. So, I have been grateful to local
researchers, Bill Ecclestone and John McBride, whose published diaries of events save time and
frustration, the former listing 1886-1936 and the latter AD43 to 1997. Now a third volume is
available, which will not only facilitate research, but will also interest everybody who enjoys Great
Yarmouth’s colourful history. None is staid and dull: anything but!

The book, Great Yarmouth 1937 to 1969, assembled by our Local History and Archaeological
Society members, is a collection of snippets in chronological order. Their subject matter is all-
encompassing and ranges from pre-war, through the hostilities until the so-called ‘Swinging
Sixties’ were nearly exhausted. The most headline-making and the humdrum, the sad and smile-
provoking, are all treated equally: about 50 or fewer words, with few exceptions. All are in the
date order of their publication. Probably there are 2,000 or even more covering all aspects of the
borough's life and activities. As each one is little more than a headline or introductory paragraph,
the publication is impossible to review. For example, in 1939, when the council discussed the
possible provision of a tunnel under the river, members were allowed to smoke after three hours!
As we are well aware, many more hours were wasted on this topic over the decades, but no
tunnel ever resulted. On a lighter theme: in December 1939, a suggestion that beer may be
rationed was thought to be unlikely, although it may have to be diluted. I have plucked a selection
of the entries almost at random to provide examples, although they may not be a balanced cross-
section of the content. But be prepared for some memory-jerking inclusions, and a few surprises.

1937: A faulty two inch spring in the Haven Bridge lifting mechanism resulted in the greatest
traffic hold-up in Great Yarmouth's history while the ferry reported record business.
1938: The council accepted tenders of £64,243 to build 148 houses on the North Denes estate.
1939: Palmer’s department store offered free estimates for the preservation, repair and storage of
customers’ fur coats.
1940: The Vicar of Yarmouth, Canon Aubrey Aitken, was fined 10 shillings (50p) by magistrates
for a blackout violation.
1941: Drapers anticipated a boom in sales of white fabric so people could be seen in the
blackout. There had been a 40% rise in road deaths since the blackout.
1942: A Gorleston dairyman was fined £1 for selling milk 10% deficient in milk fat.
1943: A lad aged 15 years living in Chaucer Road was killed playing with a mortar bomb; two
other lads were badly injured.
1944: A woman was fined £10 or two months imprisonment for sketching in a prohibited area
without a permit.
1945: A man running a Pleasure Beach hoopla stall for betting was fined £10 or jailed for a
1946: The first bananas since pre-war arrived: the 2,200 bunches were for those under-18 years
of age.
1947: Great Yarmouth led East Anglia by completing 685 prefabs.
1952: East Suffolk County Council agreed to add ‘on-Sea’ to Hopton’s name.
1955: Iron-Age gold bracelets were found in a garden on Ormesby Road, Caister.
1958: One-man-operated buses were introduced to serve Cobholm and Vauxhall Station.
1960: The Tour of Britain cycle race ended a leg on the sea-front.
1966: The ill-fated Caister lifeboat, Beauchamp, unused since the 1901 disaster when she
capsized with the loss of nine crewmen, was broken up.
1969: Proposals were published to demolish the Windmill and Empire Theatres, replacing them
with shops and an amusement arcade, with cinema and theatre accommodation above them.

The downside is that only a limited number of the new publication were printed.

Alfred McEwen (19th June 1934 - 3rd December 2019)
Former Chairman, Vice Chairman and President
of Great Yarmouth & District Archaeological Society
Colin Tooke

Alfred McEwen (known to most people as Alec or Mac) was born and brought up in Great
Yarmouth and attended the Great Yarmouth Grammar School. On leaving school he joined the
Post Office Engineering Department, as it was then known, as a telephone engineer. After a
period of National Service, he continued with his Post Office and later British Telecom career until
retirement in the 1990s.

In the 1960s, Alec became interested in local history, leading him to join the town’s
Archaeological Society, at that time a small society whose members were mainly professional
and business people. Alec was by far the youngest member of a society where an audience of
over 20 people at a meeting was considered good and the bank balance never reached three
figures. In the 1960s, the local council were considering the demolition of large sections of the
town wall, conservation and preservation not being a high priority for a town still in a post-war
recovery period. To increase public awareness and the historic importance of the medieval wall,
the society organised public walks every Tuesday evening during the summer months. Alec took
on the job of organising a group of guides to do this, a task he carried out until 1980. These free
tours by the society continued until the 1990s, when the Tourism department of the council took

Alec was mainly interested in the medieval history of the town, particularly the monastic aspect,
and the early development and geology of the sand spit. His other interest was in industrial
archaeology and he was an active member for many years of the Norfolk Industrial
Archaeological Society, surveying and researching industrial sites in many parts of the county.
He researched the Cobholm Island Saltworks, publishing his findings in the society’s bulletin in
1969. This was followed by research into the early development and topography of Cobholm
Island, which was published in 1971 and 1972, and Yarmouth in the early 19th century in 1975.

As well as local history, Alec took a keen interest in archaeology, encouraged by a long standing
member of the society and amateur archaeologist, George Rye. George had, for many years,
assisted on a variety of professional digs with people such as Sir Mortimer Wheeler. In 1974, a
field group was formed to investigate a site off Burnt Lane at Gorleston in an attempt to establish
the site of the Augustinian Priory. In 1977, the third season of the dig, Alec took over as leader of
the group and the discovery of the foundations of the chapter house led, for the first time, to an
accurate location of the church. At this time amateur excavations were acceptable and help and
advice was always available from professionals in the Norfolk Archaeological Unit and Norwich
Castle Museum. Alec continued to lead the field group and organised digs, which included a site
off Rampart Road in 1978, Caister Saxon cemetery in 1979, and on Priory Plain in 1982 before
Temple Road was built. Each dig was planned and written up in meticulous detail, with the final
report being published in the society Journal.

In 1978, he was one of the original society representatives on the newly formed Preservation
Trust and throughout the 1970s and 1980s Alec was active in almost every aspect of the society’s
activities, including helping with the Junior Section, attending conferences at the University of
East Anglia and assisting with a publicity stand that attended many functions in an attempt to
attract new members. His interest in industrial history led to research into local coke production
and iron foundries in 1986 and 1987. Alec’s research into the Gorleston Augustinian priory
continued for many years, the results of which are now published elsewhere in this Journal.

Alec’s other interests were many and varied including the study of early Christian art, illuminated
medieval manuscripts (psalters), geology, photography, classical music, maps and surveying,
military field communications, amateur radio and family history. He collected military field

Alec McEwen was Chairman of the Society from 1978 until 1993 and then Vice Chairman until
1995. Alec was President from 1996 until 1999, after which he was made an honorary member.

In recent years Alec was not an active member of the society, but continued his researches. A
quiet and highly personal man, Alec was a member of the society for over 50 years. He died on
3rd December 2019.

Alec supervising an excavation at Caister in

1979, where five Saxon skeletons were
discovered in the front garden of a private

December 1979. Alec and Ted Goate in

David Ferrow’s book shop in Howard Street.
This was a regular Saturday afternoon
meeting place for many society members

Hyde Park, London, August 1981.

Alec with members of the junior
section on one of their summer

The Augustinian Priory, Gorleston

The following article was researched by the late Alec McEwen over a period of several years. He
attempted to produce a layout of the buildings of the Augustinian Priory and to re-evaluate two
long held theories of earlier historians that the priory had a large library and that many important
people had been buried there. Illness prevented Alec from completing and publishing his
research. From Alec’s draft notes I have prepared his work for publication as a tribute to his
many years’ research into the subject. I have added the notes and photograph, the remainder is
Alec’s original work - Colin Tooke


For a great many years the exact location and extent of the Augustinian Priory at Gorleston has
been the subject of much speculation. The naming of Priory Street has led to the assumption that
the precincts were in that area, whereas the Ordnance Survey indicates the presence of some
remains in the Burnt Lane / Beccles Road area. This has led to the conclusion that the total area
extended from Priory Street to Beccles Road, making it one of the larger monastic
establishments. It has been described as an abbey with the finest library in the land, and a place
where many important people were buried.

This matter was resolved by an archaeological excavation in the mid-1970s,1 which revealed the
chapter house of the priory, just to the east of the Wheelwrights Arms public house on Beccles
Road. This firmly-based location indicated that the other buildings associated with the priory were
close at hand and that the church and cloister were in the same area. 2 In reality, however, it was
only a small monastic institution and the dissolution document, below, shows that the total area of
the precinct was one and a half acres.

Public Record Office – particulars of grants of Crown lands E318/422

House of Augustinian Friars within the town of Gorleston. Site with one close of land
containing one and a half acres, leased for a term of 21 years to Richard Gonvyle on
6th Dec 1539 save buildings and great timber. Tenure of house, lands and walls within
the precinct called le Farmorye [infirmary] le Wynterhall [warming room] le Brode
chamber, le Osterye [? guesthouse] with their buildings called Bockardes [latrines]
together with all adjoining buildings from the chamber lately of the Prior there to the north-
west part of the buildings there, with all lands to the east side of the said buildings –
leased for a term of 99 years to Gonville on 3rd Dec 1536.
Request to purchase by John Eyre 10th Nov 1544.

The layout of the buildings is, of course, dependent upon the size and shape of the plot of land
and on certain conventions which apply to the placement of the sacred and domestic offices that
surround them. In Figure 1 an attempt has been made to illustrate a plan of the precinct using
certain points discovered by excavation and using the conventions of layout that are common to
other religious sites.

Until the 1970s, the fragment of priory wall (Figure 2) designated by the Ordnance Survey was
just a remnant of an unknown part of the precinct. However, the discovery of the chapter house
(‘B’, figure 1), just to the north of this wall gives the location of other associated buildings. The
chapter house conventionally exists on to the cloister (‘E’, figure 1) which, in this case, is to the
west. The cloister always abuts the nave of the church (‘A’, figure 1) and therefore the section of
standing wall shown by the Ordnance Survey is the north wall of the church. The dimensions of
the church are known from the visit by William Worcester in 1479, 3 when he recorded its length
and breadth. The chapter house size is known from the excavation. Also discovered were a pair
of interconnected cesspits (‘K’, figure 1) outside the north-west corner of the chapter house, which
was itself a stand alone building with buttresses at the north-east and south-east corners. The
easternmost pit was fed by a brick chute with an angled exit, which gave the impression that it
was fed from a first floor building on its north side. This by convention should be the
‘dorter’ (dormitory), running south-north with the reredorter (toilet facility) at the south end of it. A
small section of contemporary wall was discovered indicating the eastern limit of that range. The
northern edge of the cloister would house the refectory and kitchen (‘F’, figure 1) although on
which floor is not known. Again a much larger section of contemporary walling was uncovered,
which indicated the northern extremity of that range. No further buildings were found to the north
of this point.

No doubt a further range existed on the western edge of the cloister, which would include the gate
(‘G’, figure 1), but no evidence for this was forthcoming. From inside the church, i.e. to the south
of the standing wall, there was evidence for a doorway (‘J’, figure 1) leading from the cloister into
the body of the church. At the east end of this wall were grave slots (‘L’, figure 1) cut into the floor
and close to the wall in what was the chancel end. These only contained a few shroud pins and
no human remains or other grave goods. At intervals along the wall were found fragments of
medieval painted glass and lead, indicating the position of former windows above the level of the
present standing wall.

During foundation trenching for the new Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the area (‘H’, figure 1)
a small amount of human remains, albeit fragmentary, were uncovered. During construction of
WW2 air raid shelters many more remains were found. A stone coffin and cross were found on
this site in 1806. All the indications are that this was, at the south-east end of the church building,
the monastic burial ground.

New Hall

At some point, after the dissolution, a complex of buildings called variously New Hall or North Hall
was constructed from what remained of the priory buildings, using the priory foundations. This is
described in the account of the beating of the bounds in 1729 and is shown on a map of 1739.

Figure 2 (above)
This small section of
wall was part of the
north wall of the
Augustinian church.
It exists today in the
car park at the rear
of the Seventh-Day
Adventist Church,
Burnt Lane

Figure 1 (above) - The 1½ acre priory precinct and the probable layout of the
buildings, superimposed on a 1927 Ordnance Survey map

This shows a courtyard complex with buildings on all sides and a gate to the west, and a further
range extending north to south along Beccles Road. This illustrates clearly the footprint of the
priory buildings that included the courtyard (cloister) and all the buildings surrounding it. The
malthouse (refectory) occupies the northern range and the kitchen (chapter house) at the south-
east corner through which the boundary passed into an alleyway to Burnt Lane, which still exists
to the present day. The New Hall chapel barn, extending along Beccles Road and which was
turned into cottages in 1826, now numbers 83 to 97 Beccles Road, was on the site of the priory
infirmary (‘C’, figure 1). This barn contained a chapel, or the remains of one. Its location was
separate from the other domestic offices, and had a garden (medicinal?) called the ‘chapel barn
garden’, with the burial ground to the east.

The Priory Library

There has been much speculation about the size of this library and it was quoted as being much
admired by John Leland and William Lambarde. Leland wrote a perambulation of Kent, which he
proposed to extend to the rest of the country, until he found that Lambarde had pre-empted him.
Leland, however, was but an infant at the dissolution and was therefore not in a position to see or
admire the Gorleston library. William Lambarde never visited Gorleston and was therefore in the
same position. John Bale, who saw many post-dissolution monastic libraries, does not mention
Gorleston in his itinerary. His oft quoted remark that libraries were being sold for scrap to
grocers, soap sellers etc. was no doubt true, but this statement was made when he visited
Norwich Cathedral library at its destruction.

There has been a certain amount of cross-referencing between Gorleston and Bury St. Edmunds
as far as libraries are concerned. Bury most certainly had an enormous library, which was
confirmed by M. R. James, who, by using the shelf marks of the volumes still extant, calculated
that it had in the region of about 2,400 volumes, of which 240 are identifiable in various libraries in
Britain. N. R. Ker, the leading authority on surviving manuscripts, has been unable so far to find
one book identifiable with Gorleston priory. In general, the larger monastic libraries have about a
10% survival rate.

William Worcester, who visited the priory in 1479 and recorded the dimensions of the church, saw
only some chronicles compiled by one Brother John Mason and does not mention any other
books of note. No doubt the priory possessed a quantity of books, as the friars were noted for
their educational studies and would have had service books for their use. However, the
description of the largest library in the land is not a viable scenario here, although it could well
apply to Bury, as a good sized library would be around 500 books.

Henry de Stanton, a native of Gorleston, was said to have founded St. Michael’s College at
Cambridge and supposedly donated books to the library at Gorleston. In reality, it was Harvey de
Staunton, a native of Nottinghamshire, who founded the Cambridge College three years before
his death, and it would be reasonable to conjecture that he left his books to his new college. As
far as can be ascertained, Harvey de Staunton had no connection with Gorleston.
Burials in the Priory Church

John Weever, in his book, Ancient Funeral Monuments, published in 1631, gives an impressive
list of 24 internments of highly placed members of society in the Gorleston priory church. These
include three Earls of Suffolk, the Earl of Clare, a member of the Fastolf family and William and
Margaret Woderowe, said to be the founders of priory. However, when William Worcester visited,
he gave a smaller list of eight internments, only five of which were in Weever’s list. As Worcester
actually visited the working church pre-dissolution, it would be extremely unlikely that he would
have ignored the splendid tombs of the Earls of Suffolk, had they been there, while meticulously
recording those of the local gentry. It is reasonable to assume that the names that appear on
both lists, i.e. Lady Sybil Mortimer, d.1385, John Hankyn, d.1385, John Belhouse, d.1399, John
Pulham, d.1461 and Alexander Fastolf are likely to be a true record of the burials therein. The
tomb of the second Earl of Suffolk, Michael de la Pole, with that of his wife, can be seen in
Wingfield church, and the third Earl is interred at Ewelme in Oxfordshire.
The Influence of W. E. Randall

In the 1850s, W. E. Randall of Gorleston 4 wrote a somewhat fanciful history of Gorleston and
Little Yarmouth. At his demise in 1855, his wife, Dorcas Randall, deposited his writings in the
British Museum and these were catalogued as the Egerton Manuscripts, MS 2129-2131. These
documents have been consulted by a number of eminent scholars since, with quite devastating

One example of this is when Cockerill wrote his masterly analysis of the Gorleston Psalter and
used the manuscripts to illustrate his work. He wrote: Gorleston was remarkable for its religious
institutions, remarkable being the operative word, for he listed no fewer than 16 separate
institutions, including the Augustinian Priory, which was one of the most important in England on
account of its valuable library, and a Franciscan priory in the parish of St. Andrew: distinguished
by a series of royal and noble benefactors. Its church was magnificent, exceeding in size any
church in Suffolk, even the church of Yarmouth. The list also included six medieval hospitals,
three chapels and five churches. Cockerill was so convinced of the manuscripts authenticity that
he conjectured that the Gorleston Psalter and its sister volume, the Douai Psalter (destroyed in
the Great War), were possibly produced there as both books have a proprietary connection with
Gorleston. Thomas, vicar of Gorleston, gave to Abbot Brinkley of Bury St. Edmunds, the Douai

Of Cockerill’s list of 16 religious institutions, we have concrete evidence of only five. St. Andrew’s
church, the Augustinian Priory, the hospital of St. James, the church of St. Nicholas and St. Mary
West Town. All the remainder derive their existence from Randall and have no basis in historical
or archaeological fact.

A second example is provided by Rotha Mary Clay, a leading authority on medieval hospitals in
England. She published her catalogue in 1909 and included four sites in Gorleston, all taken from
the Egerton Manuscripts. These scholars were not of course local to this area and were therefore
not aware of C. J. Palmer’s monumental local history. Palmer himself, in his 19th century work,
regarded these documents as extremely doubtful. 5 He wrote: The late Mr. W. E. Randall of
Gorleston, who died in 1855, left numerous papers relating to, and drawings of, antiquities, which
he asserted had existed in Gorleston; and if they could be relied on would be highly interesting;
but as many of his statements are certainly imaginary so much doubt has been thrown upon his
collection as to make it prudent not to use or quote from them unless supported by corroborative
evidence. His papers are now in the British Museum and are well calculated to mislead those
unacquainted with the circumstances.

The Cell at Yarmouth Magna

It has long been mooted that the building currently called the Friends’ Meeting House, in Howard
Street, Great Yarmouth, was a cell of Gorleston priory. If this were true, Gorleston would be the
only one of 40 Augustinian houses in the land to have a separate cell. According to the Valor
Ecclesiasticus, Gorleston owned no property outside its precinct. It is therefore unlikely that the
Howard Street building at Great Yarmouth was a cell of the Gorleston friars.
The excavations, at TG 524053, were carried out between 1974 and 1977. The excavation reports
were published in Yarmouth Archaeology 1979 and 1986
The priory site stood at the western end of a triangular piece of land bounded by Beccles Road,
High Road and Burnt Lane. The site stood across the Southtown / Gorleston boundary
Harvey, J. Ed., Itineraries of William Worcester, 1969, p177
Randall was also the editor of The Gorleston and Southtown Magazine, also known as The
Pantheon of Literature, Science and the Arts, issued monthly from 1st Jan 1831 until 21st July 1831
Palmer, C.J., The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, Vol 3, p307

The Pastons and Great Yarmouth
Symposium Organised by the Great Yarmouth Local History
and Archaeological Society
Andrew Fakes

The year 2019 was chosen to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Paston dynasty and an
organisation was set up called Paston Footsteps 600. This concentrated on the villages in north
Norfolk particularly connected to the family.

The Pastons are associated in many

people’s minds with the Paston Letters and The exhibition in the Minster
the villages of Paston and Oxnead. Courtesy of Derek Leak
However, our chairman, Paul Davies, felt
that the Pastons had definite connections with Great Yarmouth and these had not been covered
by the celebrations. Two of the Pastons had been appointed High Stewards of Great Yarmouth.
Robert Paston, the First Earl of Yarmouth, was appointed the 13th High Steward from 1674-1683.
He was followed by William Paston, the Second Earl
of Yarmouth. The Paston’s association with Great
Yarmouth is little known, although the nearby Caister
Castle was their most notable residence. The port of
Great Yarmouth played a key part in the prosperity of
the Pastons and their immediate family. At one time
they owned a large area of Southtown across the
river from the town. The bulk of the Paston letters
and papers were found in about 1735 by the
antiquary, Francis Blomefield, at Oxnead Hall, which
had been the main seat of the Paston family since
the 1480s. Some of the letters came into the
possession of the antiquary, Peter Le Neve, a
merchant and alderman residing in Great Yarmouth.
Paul Davies
Courtesy of Derek Leak
On Le Neve's death in 1729 they came into the
possession of Thomas Martin of Palgrave, who had
married his widow; and upon Martin's death in 1771
some were purchased by John Worth, a chemist at Diss, and some letters passed into the hands
of John Ives, an antiquarian of Great Yarmouth. Worth’s executors sold them three years later to
Sir John Fenn of East Dereham.

Dr. Robert Knee of the Paston Society and Matthew Champion of the University of East Anglia
were contacted and a symposium on the Pastons and Great Yarmouth was arranged at the
Imperial Hotel on 19th October 2019 and an exhibition on the Pastons and Great Yarmouth was
placed in the Minster.

The symposium was introduced by Henry Cator, the present High Steward of Great Yarmouth,
who pointed out that much of the extensive legal records and official documents around 600
years ago were either written in Latin or Norman French and the Paston letters were among the
few surviving documents written in English from around that time.
Following the first outbreak of the Black Death, which reached
Norfolk in 1349, Clement Paston, the founder of the dynasty from
the village of that name, was able to buy up manors and land
around Norfolk which added to the family’s wealth. He carried his
farm produce to Somerton where his son, William, was able to
make an advantageous marriage to the sister of Geoffrey de
Somerton, the Lord of the Manor. Geoffrey, being childless, was
able give his nephew, John, a good education and he became a
successful lawyer. Dr. Davies thanked Henry Cator for his
introduction and pointed out that three of the previous High
Stewards of Great Yarmouth had been beheaded.
Henry Cator
Courtesy of Derek Leak

The symposium began with a talk by Dr. Rosemary Horrox, BA., MA., PhD., Fellow of Fitzwilliam
College Cambridge and the Director of Studies in History. She has written extensively on the late
medieval period. Her talk was entitled The Usefulness of the Pastons.

She began by saying that the survival of about a thousand of the Paston letters was most useful
in giving a picture of the lives of a rising gentry family during the 15th century in the turbulent
times following the Black Death, the end of the Hundred Years War with France and the Wars of
the Roses in England. Unusually, Margaret Paston’s, née Mautby, (1422-1484) letters gave a
woman’s perspective on events, which was lacking from many other sources. The style of the
letters was informal, but many began with the salutation of Most Worshipful Husband and in many
cases seem to have been written for pleasure. She said that the only similar correspondence
surviving, but on a much lesser scale, was from the Barclay family in the West Country.
A problem for historians was that several of the males, even in the
same generation, were called John so later chroniclers refer to John I
(1421-1466), John II (1442-1479) and John III (1444-1504). Family
events take up a large part of the letters and the record of Margery
Brewes not providing sufficient dowry is noted. The Paston’s agent,
Richard Calle, and Margery Paston (1448-1480) fell in love and
underwent a verbal plighting of troth, which counted as marriage in
those times. However, the Paston family felt that Calle was too lowly
born to marry into the family. The Bishop of Norwich was asked to
give a decision.

Dr. Horrox pointed out that Agnes Paston (d. 1479) became a Rosemary Horrox
cantankerous old woman, who beat her daughter with a stick, which
caused the family some concern.

The death of William de la Pole, the First Duke of Suffolk (1396-1450), was recounted, as he was
widely perceived to be an enemy of the Paston family’s favouring the Heydon family’s claims.
Suffolk was thought to be responsible for the English defeats in
France and was beheaded with a rusty sword by sailors and
dumped on Dover beach.

It is not certain whether John Paston III went to fight with the Duke
of Norfolk at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, when he would have
been on the losing side, but he seems to have survived, whereas
Norfolk and Richard III were killed.

The Paston family were very similar to modern families in many

ways in that they were at times young and foolish, but some
became more mature with time. However, they were living in
dangerous and lawless times when it was necessary to form
alliances to survive and prosper. They had no recourse to modern
medicine and it was unusual to live to an old age.

The Paston Letters are still studied and interpreted by academics

today and give rise to lively debate.

The second speaker of the morning session was

Professor Tom Williamson BA., MA., PhD., a landscape
historian and archaeologist at the University of East
Anglia. He began by saying that early records of gardens
and estates were rare so researchers had to rely on the
archaeology of sites rather than pictures or maps. This
was the case with the early developments at Oxnead Hall,
which was built by Sir Clement Paston (1523-1598), a
successful soldier, admiral and courtier in the 1590s. It
was placed on a gentle slope facing the valley of the River
Bure. It was an ‘E’ shaped brick building with around 80
rooms and became the main residence of the family when
Sir William Paston filled it with treasures, some of which Tom Williamson
came from his grand tour in the 17th century. Courtesy of Derek Leak

The Pastons backed the Royalists in the Civil War and lost out but, after the Restoration, Charles
II was entertained there. The family’s fortunes declined and by the 18th century the building was
ruinous, so the estate was sold to Lord Anson, who had the hall demolished.

The gardens and hall were improved by John Adey Repton, and Professor Williamson spoke
eloquently on later developments to the estate.
When asked if the River Bure was navigable at Oxnead for the delivery of building materials,
Professor Williamson said it depended on what was meant by ‘navigable’. He said that flat-
bottomed barges could carry heavy loads far more efficiently in even small streams than horse
and carts could on rutted roads and the Bure would almost certainly have been used to carry
building materials.

Sir Clement Paston, (c1523-98)

Oxnead Church Painting of the Paston Treasure, Dutch School
Courtesy of Norfolk Museum Service

Oxnead Hall in its heyday and in 2018

The speaker after lunch was James Wright MA., FSA., a buildings archaeologist at the University
of Nottingham. He was a former Senior Buildings Archaeologist with the Museum of London
Archaeology. James Wright is currently completing his doctorate at the University of Nottingham,
where he is specialising in the brick-built castles of the late medieval period. He has published
extensively, and is the author of Castles of Nottinghamshire (2008).

He began by saying that early English palaces and great houses were large, rambling, unplanned
and inconvenient places to live, most of which only survive as ruins. Around the time Caister
Castle was built a more considered architecture was becoming fashionable. Sir John Fastolf
(1378-1453) began to build the castle at Caister in the early
1430s with booty and ransom money he had gained from the
Hundred Years War. He and his friend and fellow soldier, Ralph
(the third Lord) Cromwell, who became the Royal Treasurer,
planned castles based on the German Wasserburg model with
moats and high towers. Cromwell built in Lincolnshire and
Fastolf in Caister.

Their castles were innovative in that they were built largely of

brick, the first since Roman times, with distinctive diaper
pattens, high towers and chimneys. Caister was built of
1,172,000 bricks made from local clay, possibly baked in peat
fuelled kilns and the stone was brought to the site by a canal
from the River Bure. However, the windows featured a great James Wright
deal of tracery which was not fashionable at the time. He felt it Courtesy of Derek Leak
Caister Castle

was more a comfortable residence than a strong castle. When

questioned about the security of Caister Castle, James Wright
said that it was not particularly defensible and the fact that the
Duke of Norfolk took six weeks to besiege it in 1469 was
probably because he wanted it intact. He was also asked why the castle was built in such a
remote place, to which he replied that it was not remote in the middle ages. It guarded the road
to Norwich and would have aided the defence of Great Yarmouth, which was one of the great
ports of England at that time. After a protracted legal and power battle, John Paston gained
Caister Castle after Fastolf’s death in 1459.

James Wright also gave many details of the military and political situation around the time of the
building of Caister Castle and in the Wars of the Roses, which were lawless and many of the
people did not behave well.

Dr. Robert Knee, B.Ed., M.A., Ed.D., is a Co-director

of the Paston Footprints Project, Chair of the Paston
Heritage Society, and has written extensively on
many aspects of the Paston family and their world.
His talk completed the series of lectures and was
entitled The Pastons and Great Yarmouth.

His talk could have been the basis of a Sunday night

television series involving the aristocracy; a
dysfunctional family, great houses, love, money,
royalty and war, and all in the Great Yarmouth area.
Robert Knee
He began by saying that East Norfolk was a very Courtesy of Derek Leak
prosperous area in the thick of English economic
activity during the 15th century and he listed the natural advantages of the east of the county with
its good agricultural land, its rivers and the two ports of Great Yarmouth and Norwich which, in
turn, held the Staple (a monopoly) for wool export. As the Pastons were well in with Robert
Toppes of Dragon Hall in Norwich and Sir John Fastolf at Caister, this put the family in a good
position to exploit their advantages.

Following the Black Death in 1349 and subsequent plagues, land became cheap and labour
expensive. The powers of previous landholders, such as John of Gaunt and the Prior of St.
Benet’s Abbey, were in decline as they were unable to find labour to farm their land.

Dr. Knee surprised the meeting by saying that Professor Carenza Lewis estimated that the
population of east Norfolk may have dropped by 90% during the plagues. This figure was based
on the lack of pottery in the architectural finds for that period in this area.
Clement Paston (d. 1419) was a farmer, mill owner and ploughman of a modest scale in the
village of Paston and a document exists attempting to denigrate his nobility, but this was clearly
written by one of his rivals. He was prosecuted by the Prior of St. Benet’s Abbey for being
involved with the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 and was charged with beating up the Abbot’s agent,
but this seems to have come to nothing. However, Clement Paston married well to Beatrice, the
sister of Geoffrey of Somerton, a lawyer and a Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth, who
had wide contacts in the town. Geoffrey was related to the Clare family of Ormesby, who were of
noble stock. Having no children of his own, Geoffrey was keen to advance the career of his
nephew, William (1378-1444), who was Clement’s only known child. William became a lawyer
and worked for the Bishop of Norwich and the Duke of Norfolk. He was eventually appointed a
judge. Geoffrey left William, among other properties, his lands in Southtown in his will.

The Paston family was advancing in dangerous times as the Hundred Years War was coming to
an ignominious end as France had become united against the English invaders. After the Battle
of Castillon in 1453, only Calais and the Channel Islands remained in English hands. King Henry
VI was not a warlike king and was easily overawed by quarrelling nobles. The Duke of Suffolk, an
enemy of the Pastons, was blamed for the defeats and was beheaded with a rusty sword in 1450,
which is recorded in the Paston letters. Also, in 1450, Jack Cade’s Rebellion took over London
briefly before being driven out. Various factions recruited armies to fight for them and law and
order in the country depended on who was the strongest. Large scale warfare began in 1455 at
the Battle of St. Albans and did not end until the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487.

William arranged a very advantageous

marriage for his son, known as John I
(1421-1466), to the heiress Margaret de
Mautby, thus bringing much of the land in
East and West Flegg and further
properties in adjacent hundreds into
Paston ownership. However, when
William died, he left a complicated will with
numerous bequests to various churches
and relatives. John I and Margaret
grabbed all the cash and movable property
they could to frustrate the will and John I
spent much time in London challenging
this will leaving Margaret to look after their
estates. It was at this time that their house
at Gresham was seized by Lord Molynes’
men. Margaret wrote the famous letter
asking John I to send poleaxes, almonds
and sugar. A Paston letter

Dr. Knee said that the silting up of Grubb’s Haven, the River Bure’s outlet to the North Sea at
Caister, made a road passable between Great Yarmouth and Norwich, which passed the door of
Caister Castle. A date of 1347 is given for the sealing of Grubb’s Haven, but this event cannot
be confirmed and the road would have been open in dry weather before that date and would have
probably been impassable afterwards during wet winters.

After he retired from the French wars, Sir John Fastolf set about consolidating his considerable
estates in Norfolk. John Paston I became his lawyer and was given the task of collecting the
rents from his manor at Hellesdon, which were long in arrears. Fastolf also asked John I to find
out what scornful things were said about him in Great Yarmouth. The old knight had inherited a
fleet of ships in Great Yarmouth, which he was disposing of, to fund the building of Caister Castle.
Even the famous soldier, Sir John Erpingham, said that John I was a very clever speaker.

Around this time Margaret reports that various pirates had landed on the Norfolk coast and they
had kidnapped people from Cromer for ransom.
Fastolf advised people not to invest any money in Great Yarmouth as the
people were greedy and proud. John Fastolf died in 1459 and is reputed
to have changed his will on his death bed leaving everything to his lawyer,
John I. This will was widely disputed over several years.

Richard Calle was second son of a Framlingham family with little prospect
of advancement, but he was recommended to the Pastons by the Duke of
Norfolk to work for them. He had a good grasp of business and by 1450
he had become the manager of all their estates in Norfolk. He was able
to get better prices for selling the Paston estate’s produce (malting barley,
fish and salt) in London rather than locally. Dr. Knee said that goods were
exported through the port of Winterton as well as Great Yarmouth. Sir John Fastolf
Winterton could only have been a port operating from the beach, with ships
loading and unloading at low tide and floated off at high tide.

The Duke of Norfolk cast envious eyes on Caister Castle and he wanted it
for himself and, having amassed an army of 3,000 men, he besieged it on
22nd August 1469. The castle was defended by Margaret, John III and 28
others, although the castle was reputed to have no arms. The siege
lasted for some six weeks and the Pastons were running out of
gunpowder and food. Two of their retainers, Daubeney and Berney, were
killed and the castle was surrendered on not too harsh terms. The Duke
of Norfolk said if he knew how poorly it was defended, he would have
taken it more quickly. The Duke enjoyed his time at Caister putting on
plays there. He wrote that he was not pleased when one of his servants
left, as he was particularly good at playing Robin Hood.
John Howard, First
A further problem for the Pastons was, as Dr. Horrox had mentioned, that Duke of Norfolk
John I’s daughter, Margery, fell in love with Richard Calle and underwent a (c1425-1485 )
verbal marriage with him. Like many of the nouveax riche, the Pastons
were not keen on their daughter marrying beneath her, as Margery’s marriage did not advance
the family’s properties or finances. The Bishop of Norwich was asked to intervene, but Calle lost
his position of steward of their estates. However, he continued to act for them. The marriage
was eventually accepted and Calle and his children were accepted as members of the gentry.

John Paston II was in London during the above troubles trying to influence the courts of the
legitimacy of his family’s claims to their properties in Norfolk, but he died of the plague in 1479.
His brother, John III, was not a promising young man. The family recommended him to be the
captain of the warship, Barge of Yarmouth, but he was turned down. Although he did not succeed
in the law, he became popular at the court in the service of the Duke of Norfolk and was a noted
jouster. John III married Margery Brewes in what was said to be a love match. He fought at the
Battle of Barnet, where he took an arrow in the arm when serving under John De Vere. Wisely he
did not go to the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, where he would have been on the losing side. Henry
VII appointed him Admiral of the North and East and he was awarded the honour of being a
Knight Baronet after the Battle of Stoke Field, following which the Wars of the Roses ceased.

John III, being a Bailiff of Great Yarmouth, had to supervise the cutting up of a whale that had
beached itself near the town. Its meat was thought be a great delicacy.

John III’s son, William, married Bridget Heydon of Baconsthorpe, whose family were enemies of
the Pastons earlier in the century and was part of Henry VIII’s entourage at the Field of the Cloth
of Gold in 1520.

The Pastons were involved in a dispute between the men of Great Yarmouth and the men of
Caister, over the border between the two. The previous demarcation was Grubb’s Haven, which
had dried up and there was cattle rustling and disputes over grazing rights, but chiefly over
shipwrecks and other things that the North Sea would throw up on the beaches. The Duke of
Norfolk arbitrated and a rail was erected and a ditch dug to fix the border.
When Queen Elizabeth I was due to visit Great Yarmouth, the Pastons had the road between
Caister and the town levelled to give the monarch a smooth ride, as this area would have been
wind-blown sand. All was in vain however as the Queen cancelled her visit because of the threat
of plague in Great Yarmouth.

The Pastons were able to retrieve Caister Castle by legal means in around 1475, but it was in a
ruinous state by 1659 and it was sold to discharge a debt to William Crowe, who was recorded as
a London merchant. The Pastons’ main residence was then at Oxnead Hall.

The family rose from relative obscurity in the late Middle Ages, until their decline in the early 18th
century, after they had joined the ranks of the aristocracy as the Earls of Yarmouth. By the time
Robert Paston became the High Steward of Great Yarmouth in 1674, he was heavily in debt,
chiefly because the family supported the Crown during the Civil War. As a result they were
heavily fined by Parliament and were obliged to sell much of their
lands. He was knighted at the Restoration of the Monarchy and
created a baronet in 1673 as the first Earl of Yarmouth. After his
appointment as High Steward, Robert Paston travelled to Great
Yarmouth in September 1675 with an entourage of 40 horsemen.
On reaching Caister a welcoming committee of 300 horsemen
appeared. Guns were fired and people cheered and two days of
festivities and feasting followed. Paston was given the Freedom
of the Borough.

On his death in 1683, Robert Paston was succeeded by his son

William, the Second Earl, as the High Steward. In 1671, he
married Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, the illegitimate daughter of
Charles II. A Roman Catholic at heart, he converted during the
Robert Paston
reign of the pro-catholic, James II. However, with the accession
of the strongly Protestant William and Mary, he converted back to
the Anglican faith, but refused to swear loyalty to the Crown and thus lost all his offices and
positions and the money they generated. He twice spent time in prison for suspected treason.
He became fat, ill and poor. He recanted in 1696 and took the Oath of Allegiance to the monarch.
The Paston estates were heavily mortgaged when William Paston died in 1732 with very large
debts. All his children and brothers had died before him and there were no surviving male heirs.
The family line, once amongst the most famous and wealthiest
in England, became extinct. Oxnead Hall, now partly ruined,
was bought by George, afterwards Lord Anson, the admiral,
who pulled down the old mansion. Anson also purchased the
Southtown, Great Yarmouth estate.

The family’s matriarch Margaret Paston (née Mautby) had

been buried in the south aisle of Mautby Church. The aisle
and her tomb were demolished in the 17th century. In 2017,
an inscribed marble monument was placed in Mautby
churchyard near her original resting place.

The conference was deemed to have been a great success Memorial stone to
from all the reports received, and delegates who did not come Margaret Paston
from Great Yarmouth were greatly impressed by Great
Yarmouth’s North Beach and the Venetian Waterways. We
assume that our visitors left Great Yarmouth with a better opinion of the town than they came

The full lectures, This Is Paston: The Pastons and Great Yarmouth, can be viewed on-line at

The Society is grateful for the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Paston Footprints.
Pestilence in Great Yarmouth
From the Black Death to Covid-19
Paul P. Davies

With the arrival of the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the dangers to life from infectious
diseases in Great Yarmouth in times past can now be fully appreciated. During the 18th and 19th
centuries, the country got to grips with these problems with advances in medicine and public
health, with the result that the health of the population improved with an increasing age
expectancy. So, the population today is taken aback when it is suddenly confronted with a
disease that is highly contagious and can be lethal, for which no cure or vaccine is available, just
like our predecessors were.

It seems appropriate, at this time, to review the infectious diseases that afflicted, caused misery
and often killed the inhabitants of Great Yarmouth. Before we examine the infectious diseases
themselves, it is important to consider the state of public health.
The poor hygiene conditions in Great Yarmouth and poverty
were responsible for the high rate of mortality and disease. One
of those concerned was Dr. Charles Lockhart Robertson, the
assistant army surgeon at the Great Yarmouth Military Asylum
(later the Royal Naval Hospital). He gave a lecture on sanitation
in Great Yarmouth to the Young Men’s Institute in 1847. The
lecture was subsequently printed, at the audience’s request. He
was very critical of the lack of ventilation, the overcrowding, the
gas from open drains, the accumulation of decaying matter,
overcrowded churchyards with decomposing bodies, smoke and
the presence of the dirty slaughterhouses in the centre of town.
He ended his lecture by recommending that: the houses of the
poor should be made more habitable, the ground should be well
drained, the sewers completed, the air must have space to
circulate freely around the buildings, each house should be
supplied constantly with pure water and sufficient light, every
room should be efficiently ventilated, all premises ought to be
Charles Lockhart Robertson whitewashed yearly and all refuse should be collected daily.

In 1848, the Public Health Act was passed. This Act was designed to improve the provision of
pure water, hygiene, sanitation and housing, but it had little effect. Later came the Sanitary Act of
1866, which gave greater authority to the public bodies for the supply of water, the control of
infectious diseases and brought within the scope of the law a variety of, what were called,
‘unhealthy nuisances’ both in the home and the factory. An Act of 1872 made compulsory the
appointment of local Medical Officers of Health and Inspectors of Public Nuisances. The Local
Government Act of 1888 required that Medical Officers of Health, overseeing a population of over
50,000 people, should hold the qualification of the Diploma in Public Health (DPH). These public
health measures improved the health of the population more than anything medicine had offered
(except for smallpox vaccination). In the 1870s, notification of some of the infectious diseases
became compulsory.

After the passing of the Public Health Act of 1848, in November 1849, a Superintending Inspector
of the General Board of Health, called William Lee, set up an inquiry under the Health of Towns
Act, section 8, to study the sanitary condition of the Borough of Great Yarmouth. In that year, the
deaths of infants under the age of one year were 23 per cent of all the deaths in the borough and
the deaths under the age of 20 years were 47 per cent of all the deaths in the borough. Life
expectancy was 33 years in Great Yarmouth. However, there was a protest, which was signed by
758 ratepayers, stating that the inquiry was unnecessary, as a plan of drainage prepared by the
town surveyor and approved by a public meeting was about to be carried out and that the inquiry
opposed the wishes of the majority. Lee refused to accept the protest and the inquiry went

Lee reported: that there was excessive mortality and disease in Great Yarmouth. The deaths
from epidemic disease in Yarmouth was 1 in 298, the highest in the county. On his tour of the
town with his inquiry team, Lee noted some of the defects: Green’s Alley off Fuller’s Hill, no
ventilation in the houses, five cottages to one pump, the water contaminated, privies under the
sleeping rooms, has been visited by smallpox and cholera, six or eight deaths from the latter;
Row 31, South Quay, many cesspools sunk below the surface; Ferry Boat Row, the pump has
been out of repair for six months; Garrison Walk, muck holes; town manure is brought here and
mixed with sand to be taken up the river, a horrible stench, quite sufficient bad gas to cause
disease for a considerable distance; Churchyard, in the last ten years 4,958 bodies had been
buried in the churchyard, a ditch running through it is
coloured with blood, Jonas Thompson, living nearby, stated
that he had lived near it for 13 years, in which time he had
lost six children, three had died from a sore throat
(diphtheria) and one was lying dead at the moment; Jay’s
Buildings in St. Nicholas’ Road, five cottages to a court
measuring four feet five inches wide, there are no drains,
privies five foot six inches by one foot eight inches just
under the bedrooms; Market Road, the slaughterhouses, no
drainage, pools of blood and refuge and open dung pits;
Swirles’ Properties, water containing floating matter with a
very perceptible colour and taste; St. George’s Road, a
large pool draining Harrison’s fish offices and 30 houses
and stench very bad; Kemp’s Buildings, a Mrs. Mudditt
complained that the cesspit gas draws up into the house
and that the stench is very bad and she had lived there ten
years and had lost three children; Julier’s Alley, a wretched
place, thirteen families with a great number of children
residing in a court 72 feet by 9 feet and three entirely
dilapidated privies without doors and one without a seat,
rental one shilling and sixpence a week; Mrs. Pearson’s
accommodation was a room 12 feet by 12 feet and 8 feet
high with four beds in it, one containing two families (five
people) sleeping head to foot; and Caister Road Moat
(called Mother’s Milk), dead animals are thrown in. The
saga continued with descriptions of filthy overcrowded
dwellings, absent drainage and contaminated wells.

A medical officer, Dr. J. Bayly, was well acquainted with the

environment of the poorer inhabitants and described to the inquiry team the conditions in the
vicinity of Julier’s Alley. Here, he said, there were about 50 to 60 inhabitants, generally of the
worst description of character, and they had one privy for all of them and it was always kept in a
horrible condition. There was one water pump, which has on occasions, been dry for up to a
week. Over the years this place had not been free of sickness for more than a month. It would
be impossible for the inhabitants to observe the common decencies of life, even if they were to
The Mayor of Great Yarmouth admitted to the squalid conditions, but he was in difficulty when
asked why the Corporation had not remedied the situation. He was asked whether he knew of
any town of even half the size of Great Yarmouth, that had to rely on wells and pumps. He could
The representatives of the town fought hard to avoid the necessity of complying with the 1848
Public Health Act. Lee’s report was published in 1850 and the town’s establishment was not
happy with it. They said it would inflict a great burden upon the population, it would destroy a
large portion of the value of property, ruin whole families who were living on the surplus income of
mortgaged property, drive shipping companies from the town to seek accommodation where the
local taxation was less oppressive, and hundreds would be thrown out of employment and
become a charge on the Poor Law.
However, Parliament confirmed orders under the Public Health Act of 1848 on various towns,
including Great Yarmouth, early in 1851. In August 1851, the Corporation finally accepted Mr.
Lee’s recommendation and the inhabitants of Yarmouth are to be congratulated on the speedy
prospect of their town being well-drained and made clean and healthy in spite of the town’s rulers.
Not until the end of the 19th century, was a dedicated system of dealing with infectious disease
developed. From then onwards we have statistics of the number of cases of infectious diseases
and the general management of sanitation and other public health issues. Great Yarmouth
Corporation in January 1875, on reading the requirements of the proposed new Public Health Act,
appointed a Medical Officer of Health for Yarmouth at a salary of £150 a year. It was decided that
the Medical Officer of Health would work part-time, as a medical man could not be expected to
devote his whole time to the post at the suggested salary. The duties of the office were
numerous and the powers extensive. They related to the supervision of drainage, the food and
water supply, the supervision of offensive trades and of lodging houses and anything that was or
might become a nuisance. The officer also supervised infectious diseases, their notification and
control, and the fever hospitals.
In 1875, the Great Yarmouth Health Board requested Dr. Hubert Airey, from the Board of Health,
to visit the town to inquire into the cause of infectious disease, which was prevalent at the time.
He reported: Yarmouth has the reputation of being a healthy place, and certainly, from its natural
position, it ought to be so. However, the average death rate from all causes for the last eight
years has been in the whole parish 23 per 1,000. These rates exclude the death rate from the
large Royal Naval Asylum, which are running at 21 per year. The mortality stands unfavourably in
comparison with other towns close by. In the Lowestoft district of Mutford Union the average
death rate for the last five years was 19.0 per 1,000.
Airey continued: between the Rows the space is utilised to the utmost. Houses that cannot be
entered directly from the Row are entered from narrow courts reached by archways; the backs of
the dwellings crowd close upon one another; some, though not many, are built back to back; the
backyard space is retrenched to the very utmost and is generally choked with many cross walls
and various structures, which interfere with the movement of air. The inhabitants consider that
the east-west direction of the Rows ensures ample ventilation by sea breezes, but the wind may
sweep through the Rows without disturbing the stagnant atmosphere in the well-like recesses
between them. Many of the houses are old and ruinous and many are too densely inhabited. In
the newer quarters of the town there is the same want of space at the back and the same
shameful crowding of habitations into the smallest area that can be made to hold them.
Many houses have been built on unwholesome soil, especially those built on the old moat outside
the town wall in which, over the years, much filth has been deposited. Wells are dug and the
water has percolated through successive layers of filth. The tenants of one area near Blackfriars
Road complain of the offensive smell that rises through the floor and the water is unfit to drink. I
am glad to say that some of the wells have been closed by the sanitary authority and a
wholesome supply from the Great Yarmouth Waterworks enforced. I saw a drain in Blackfriars
Road where rats had made a large hole and a sickening smell emanated from it.
The drainage of the old town is effected by small pipes and they pass straight into the river. They
are not more than 50 to 60 feet long. Their mouths are covered at high water and the air is driven
back. There is no provision for ventilation.
Privies of the ordinary type are universal, having a single seat, without provision for children, over
a small shallow pit of porous brick, without cement. They are emptied, when full, by a trap in the
floor or by an outside door about 12 inches square, opening into a back yard or public path. They
are so placed that any leakage or overflow trickles into an open gutter. The privies are commonly
placed against the wall of the kitchen and their contents are gently warmed by the oven fire on the
inner side. Dustbins are seldom found. A thorough reform of the privy system is urgently
demanded. Either the pits must be constructed that are perfectly watertight or a moveable bucket
be installed.
The places of temporary deposit of waste into pits are too close to the town. The matter is turned
into manure and transported by barge to farms up the rivers.
The ten or twelve slaughterhouses occupy a stretch of ground outside the wall to the east of the
Market Place. The town has now grown to enclose them. The worst feature of them is the
accumulation of offal and dung (except that which is given to the hogs kept on the premises) in
huge high walled pits. These are ordered to be emptied thrice weekly, but the order is frequently
evaded. A public abattoir would be the best remedy for this evil.
Many wells are used and are found, in many cases, to be in dangerous proximity to privies. One
at least, between King Street and Deneside, is below a leaking privy, and the filth has been seen
trickling down the well wall into the water. The well water generally must be condemned. The
waterworks pumps water from Ormesby Broad and now supplies just under 50 per cent of the
houses in the borough.
I recommend that attention be paid to improving the dwellings of the poor, ample ventilation of the
sewers, and the reform of the privy system. There are numerous lodging houses in the town that
are over-crowded, and disease is engendered in them amidst filth and wretchedness.
Evils arise from the detention of the dead in houses, not sufficiently commodious for their safe
keeping, until internment. Interments take place in the town in ground where it ought not to be
permitted and cannot be continued without endangering public health.
Airey concluded that the health of the town could be much improved by: a constant supply of pure
water in every house and sufficient for sanitary purposes, a system of drainage, the abolition of all
privies and the substitution of soil-pan apparatus with water laid on so that the waste mater can
be conveyed into underground drains, improving paving of the streets, and Rows and courts,
removal of all accumulations of decomposing rubbish and systematic cleaning of the streets,
provision of public baths and washhouses for the poor, most burial grounds should be closed, for
new dwellings a proper yard space is given to each dwelling, those houses built on marshland, as
in Cobholm, the floors should be raised several inches above the ground to form a space for
ventilation, where water closets cannot be conveniently introduced a pail system should be
adopted and regularly emptied, the nuisance arising from the slaughterhouses should be abated,
an inspection of wells should be carried out and those which are in danger of pollution should be
Also, the town is a convenient place of call for coasting vessels that are frequently driven by
rough weather and contrary winds to anchor together for days, in Yarmouth Roads. On one day
during my visit I estimated the number of vessels anchored in the Roads at about three hundred.
These would contain a population of between one and two thousand, among whom there might
be a case or two of infectious disease contracted at some distant port. Such cases would be
brought ashore, under proper supervision, no doubt, but still be a danger to the town, and there
was a need to increase the sanitary vigilance.

With public health improvements and advances in medicine, especially vaccination, the following
diseases, which often caused death and epidemics, have been relegated to the past.

The Black Death (Bubonic Plague)

It was thought that the Black Death, which was prevalent in the Middle Ages, was a bacterial
disease spread by rats and their fleas. More recently, it has been considered that it might be due
to an Ebola type virus, transmitted from person to person. It was called the Black Death because
of the swellings that appeared on the skin, which gradually turned into black spots. The first
documented outbreak of the plague occurred in the Roman Empire.

The plague visited Great Yarmouth on several occasions and was chronicled in various
documents. An outbreak of the disease occurred in Asia in 1346 and reached Messina in Sicily
in 1347. On the 1st August 1348, it appeared at Weymouth, Dorset, and then spread throughout
Great Britain. This haemorrhagic disease caused a high fever, generalised aches and pains,
bleeding from the internal organs, red blotches on the skin (God’s tokens), enlarged lymph glands
(buboes), which were very painful, and death. It was quickly discovered that quarantine helped to
control its spread.
It was estimated that this
outbreak killed one quarter of the
population of Europe
(approximately 20 million people).
Manship, a local Great Yarmouth
historian, wrote in the 19th century
that, in 1348, God Almighty visited
mankind with a deadly plague,
which began in the south parts of
the world and went through even
the northern parts thereof,
attacking all nations; this plague
equally destroyed Christians,
Jews, and Saracens, killing the
Black Death confessor and the confessed. In
many places, the plague did not
leave the fifth part of the people alive; it struck the world with great fear, so great was the
pestilence, that the like was never seen, heard, nor read of before. In Yarmouth, this plague, very
near in such wise depopulated the same, that scarcely the
number living sufficed to bury the dead. In Great Yarmouth, Black Death
over 7,000 people (now thought to be an over estimate)
died out of a population of 10,000 and the town did not
recover its prosperity for years.

In 1550, there was another outbreak of the plague affecting

the town.

Manship wrote, about the end of the reign of Queen Mary in

1558, there was a great plague and mortality in Yarmouth,
and so was the like in 1534. In 1579, a grievous plague at Yarmouth, which carried off here,
between May and Michaelmas, about 2,000 people. Forty-three people died on one day. It was
necessary to build a special graveyard near the town wall to bury the dead. In the St. Nicholas’
burial registers the number of people buried was 1,704 during the months of June to September
1579. During normal times the average monthly burial rate was 34 people.

In the 1580s and 1590s, there appeared to be a fear of the plague’s return, and public health
issues were implemented. The streets were cleaned, and women were employed to view all the
dead bodies and to certify whether any of them had died of the plague. Quarantine was
introduced and bedding etc. were disinfected.

In 1602, the plague returned to Great Yarmouth, as it did in 1664. In 1664, the St. Nicholas’
Church burial register tells us that during September and October, 607 inhabitants died of the
plague, this being 83% of the total burials.

In 1665, the year of the Great Plague, Great Yarmouth Corporation decreed that all ships on their
arrival from Holland were to be made to lie on the west side of the haven, and not to be boarded
for three days after their arrival for fear of bringing the plague into Great Yarmouth. The
infection, which was thought to be airborne through smells and bad air, the so called miasmatic
theory, was counteracted by using fragrant herbs attached to a face mask. The Royal College of
Physicians suggested a method to break down the enlarged lymph glands, which the plague
caused. Take an onion, hollow it out, place inside a fig and treacle, roast it and apply it to the
area hot. Other treatments advised by the College for those suffering from the plague were
divided into medication for the rich and for the poor. For the rich, 24 grams of unicorn horn or
three drams of laudanum (opium in brandy) and for the poor, arsenic amulets wrapped around the
chest or the armpits, were recommended. Smoking was thought to help. It was rumoured that
syphilis cured the plague by driving out one poison with another. Likewise, applying an animal to
the legs would suck out the poison through the skin pores. Towards the end of the epidemic
fumigation was tried using saltpetre, brimstone
and amber, which was ineffective and caused
nothing but a stench. Finally, it was the onset
of winter and the cold temperatures, which
brought the epidemic to an end.

Whilst digging electricity cables in Heigham

Place (built in 1840) in St. Nicholas’ Road,
Great Yarmouth in 1932, workmen discovered
several human skulls and bones. None of the
bones formed a complete skeleton, but from
the size of the six skulls found, three were from
children. Other bones found were five pelvic bones, four leg bones and several arm bones. They
were examined by Dr. Basil Adlington, the police surgeon, who thought that the workmen had
stumbled upon the remains of those who had died from the plague. Decayed wood, that might
have indicated coffins, was not found.

Outbreaks of the plague recurred at various locations around the world until the early 20th century
and there are still sporadic outbreaks. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease, but the plague
bacillus is beginning to show resistance.

Sweating Sickness

Sweating sickness was a mysterious and

contagious disease that struck England and
later continental Europe in a series of
epidemics, beginning in 1485. It was often
fatal and was thought to be caused by a virus.
The last outbreak occurred in 1551, after which
the disease apparently vanished.

The onset of symptoms was sudden, with

death often occurring within hours. Its cause
remains unknown. It began with a sense of
apprehension, followed by cold shivers,
giddiness, headache, and severe pains in the
neck, shoulders, and limbs, with great
exhaustion. The cold shivers might last from
half an hour to three hours, after which the hot
and sweating stage began. The characteristic
sweat broke out suddenly. A sense of heat,
headache, delirium, rapid pulse, chest pain and
intense thirst accompanied the sweat. In the
final stages, there was either general Edward and Elizabet Whyte died of sweating
exhaustion and collapse, or an irresistible urge sickness 1528. Shotesham St. Mary Church
to sleep.


Typhus is infectious and caused by a bacteria. It is spread by body lice and it occurred
sporadically in Great Yarmouth. For example, in Great Yarmouth in 1890, there were 152 cases
of typhus fever with 18 deaths. Common symptoms include fever, headache and a rash. Often
meningoencephalitis develops. Without treatment, death may occur in 10% to 60% of people with
typhus, with people over 60 years of age having the highest risk of death. In the antibiotic era,
death is uncommon. No vaccine is available. Robertson in 1849, during his lecture, stated that
Dr. Guy calculated that throughout the country 12,000 people died of this illness every year and
about 150,000 were affected. It particularly affected armies and sailors on ships.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, streptococcus A. The signs and
symptoms include a sore throat, a strawberry tongue, a fever, headaches, peeling skin, swollen
lymph glands and a rash. It most commonly affects children between the age of five and 15
years. The toxins produced by the bacterium may cause heart valve problems, arthritis and
kidney disease and eventually death. A full understanding of the disease was not achieved until
the 20th century.

There were many epidemics caused by this disease. Around 1900,

the mortality rate reached 25% and it was a leading cause of death in
children in the early 20th century.

The occurrence of scarlet fever in Great Yarmouth was sporadic with

epidemics occurring regularly. In 1875, Dr. Batley, the Medical Officer
of Health, noted that the population of the borough was approximately
45,000. This year opened with an epidemic of scarlet fever and there
were 41 deaths from this disease. He thought that visitors to Great
Yarmouth were bringing scarlet fever into the town and reported; many
scarlet fever cases come to the town in their most infectious condition
when the skin is peeling and then they are far more dangerous than
when the fever is starting.

A few statistics can be

Strawberry tongue gleaned from the annual
Great Yarmouth Medical
Officer of Health’s report. From 1870 to 1875 there
were 226 deaths from scarlet fever. Eight occurred in
babies under one year of age, 135 were children of
between the age of one and five years, 66 were
between five and ten years of age and 17 were over ten
years old. The poorest, who were in the dirtiest and
most crowded parts of the town, suffered most. The
houses of those suffering from scarlet fever were
fumigated with sulphur. In 1879, 17 died from scarlet Scarlet fever
fever. In 1897, 435 people contracted scarlet fever with
eleven dying. In 1923, the average length of stay for scarlet fever patients in the isolation hospital
was 46 days and there were 202 cases resulting in two deaths. In 1928, there was an increased
rate of scarlet fever at 2.13 per 1,000 people. A countrywide epidemic of scarlet fever, which
commenced in 1933, reached Great Yarmouth in the autumn of 1934 and continued into 1935. In
1943, 55 cases of scarlet fever and in 1949, 93 cases and in 1950, 91 cases were admitted to the
isolation hospital. By 1972, the number of cases had fallen to eight.

The discovery of penicillin in the mid-1940s and its subsequent widespread use and improved
living conditions significantly reduced the mortality of this once feared disease. It is now called
scarlatina and causes a mild infection with a sore throat and a rash.


Cholera causes violent vomiting, severe abdominal colic and profuse diarrhoea with the stools
turning to a grey liquid described as rice water. It quickly results in dehydration, with an extreme
thirst, and death can result in a few hours. Cholera is caused by the ingestion of food or water
contaminated with the bacterium. It is estimated that each year there are 1.3 million to 4.0 million
cases of cholera with 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide. During the 19th century, cholera
spread across the world from its original reservoir in the Ganges Delta in India. Seven
subsequent pandemics killed millions of people across all continents.

Sartorial comment on the different treatments Water pump

of cholera © Wellcome collection

A major contributor to fighting cholera was made by the anaesthetist, John Snow (1813-1858),
who in 1854 found a link between cholera and contaminated drinking water from the Broad Street
water pump in London. Dr. Snow proposed a microbial origin for epidemic cholera in 1849.
However, his theory was not accepted for many years.

Up to 80% of cases can be successfully treated with rehydration and antibiotics. Provision of safe
water and sanitation is critical to control the transmission of cholera. Surprisingly, in 1858, the
Times newspaper leader stated: we prefer to take our chance with cholera and the rest rather
than to be bullied into health. Safe oral cholera vaccines became available in the 1990s. Prior to
this they were given by injection.

Great Yarmouth, being a port, was subjected to episodic cholera and, on occasion, epidemics.
During the 1832 cholera pandemic, Great Yarmouth had only a few cases, but it killed 7,000
Londoners. At the end of the nationwide cholera epidemic, the Vicar of Great Yarmouth, Rev’d.
Edward Pellow, held a service of thanksgiving to God for preservation from the sickness, which
had prevailed through so large a portion of the kingdom. Later, in the 1848 cholera outbreak,
there were many deaths in Norfolk.

The last large epidemic of cholera in Great Yarmouth in 1849 was brought to the town by the
landing of a sick member of a ship’s crew. Ships filled their drinking water casks from the Pool of
London, which was nothing but a sewer at the time. Great Yarmouth was the only port between
London and Wells in Norfolk, where cases needing
medical assistance could be landed. Cases were also
landed from the London steamers. The sick sailor, who
was brought ashore, lodged in Fuller’s Hill. He died
within six days from cholera. One of his shipmates had
died on the voyage. The landlady contracted the disease
and died within ten hours. From there it spread quickly
into the adjacent Rows. Between July and October of
that year, at least 69 local inhabitants and 44 sailors died
from cholera in Great Yarmouth.

Experience at this time suggested that the best form of

medicine for an adult was 10 to 20 grains of opium mixed
with two tablespoons of peppermint water or with a little
weak brandy, or a draught of one ounce of chalk mixture
with 10 or 15 grains of an aromatic mixture, or from five
to 10 drops of laudanum (opium), or half a drachm to a
drachm of tincture of catechu. Rest in a warm bed was
necessary and the body heated with hot flannels, hot
water bottles or bags of heated camomile flowers applied
to the feet and along the spine. It was suggested that
the extremities should be diligently rubbed and a large
poultice of mustard and vinegar applied over the
stomach region. A teaspoon of sal volatile in a little hot
water or a desert spoonful of brandy in a little hot water should be taken every half-hour. By
1875, cholera was now treated with a small dose of castor oil and laudanum in mild cases. When
the illness progressed, stimulants were
given. The best stimulant was thought to be
champagne, followed by brandy and then
soda water. If the patient recovered, then
milk with champagne was considered to be

In 1892, once again there was a threat of

cholera being imported in ships from the
Continent and a hospital ship, a schooner
named Traveller, which had been used in the
coal trade, was moored half a mile off
Gorleston Pier and ships were quarantined
A patient with cholera for ten days off the town.

Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection due to a specific type of salmonella that causes symptoms,
which may vary from mild to severe with a gradual onset of a high fever over several days. This
is commonly accompanied by weakness, abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, and mild
vomiting. Some people develop a skin rash with rose coloured spots. In severe cases, people
may experience confusion. Complications can occur including; intestinal haemorrhage and
perforation, encephalitis, pneumonia and delirium.

Typhoid is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected
person. Risk factors include poor sanitation and poor hygiene. Prevention includes providing
clean drinking water, good sanitation and hand washing. Today the disease is treated with
antibiotics. A vaccine was introduced in 1896 and used successfully by the British during the
Boer War. At that time, typhoid often killed more soldiers during war than were lost due to enemy

In Great Yarmouth typhoid occurred sporadically. In
1875, there were 20 deaths from typhoid. There
would have been more deaths, but it was noted that
the fever followed the track of a milkman, who had
just recovered from typhoid fever. On analysis of the
water used by the milkman, it was found to be
contaminated with sewage and quite unfit for drinking.
In 1897, there were 131 cases of typhoid with 19
deaths. During 1900, there were 74 cases and there
was a recommendation for an improvement in the
sewer system.

In 1903, the public were warned about eating mussels

dredged out of the river at the harbour’s mouth, which
were polluted and causing typhoid. In 1907, out of 45
cases of typhoid, 17 had eaten these mussels.

Improvements in public health, the chlorination of

drinking water and the invention of the car contributed
greatly to the elimination of typhoid fever, as it
eliminated the public-health hazards associated with
having horse manure in public streets, which led to
large numbers of flies, which are known as being
vectors. In 1903, two cases of typhoid emanated
from the port. Thousands of discarded blankets used by the troops in South Africa were bought
by a third party and distributed throughout the country. A proportion of these blankets were found
to be infected with typhoid. The Medical Officer of Health was able to prevent the blankets
(except for 25) reaching Great Yarmouth.


Diphtheria is a bacterial infection of the throat that produces enlarged glands in the neck (bull
neck) and a characteristic grey membrane covering the throat, which may cause obstruction of
the airway. The disease produces toxins, which may affect the heart, the kidneys and the
nervous system and result in death. A tracheotomy is sometimes needed to open the airway in
severe cases. Antibiotics can be helpful in treatment. Diphtheria is usually spread between
people by direct contact or through the air. It may also be spread by contaminated objects.

It is now controlled by immunisation after a vaccine was

developed in the 1920s and today is contained within the Triple
Vaccine alongside tetanus and whooping cough.

Over the years, Great Yarmouth has suffered with several

epidemics. In 1896, all the houses invaded by diphtheria were
disinfected. In addition to sulphur fumigation, the walls, ceiling
and floor of the room used by the patient were washed with the
recommended solution of corrosive sublimate. All the contents of
the rooms were treated by the disinfection apparatus, except the
furniture, which was wiped with the corrosive. For those patients
who had privies, their excreta was treated with disinfectant,
removed and buried in the ground.

During 1900, There were 175 cases of diphtheria in the isolation

hospital. A year later, 265 cases resulted in 35 deaths. In 1921,
65 cases of diphtheria were reported.
Membrane developing in the
throat in diphtheria

With immunisation, the number of Cases of diphtheria 1920-1951 from Medical Officer of
cases fell from the 1930s although Health’s notebook showing the effects of vaccination
in 1943 the number of children
1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927
presenting for diphtheria
78 65 28 30 32 19 29 32
immunisation fell during the year.
1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935
Three years later only 60.5% of
45 107 78 77 74 89 224 97
children under the age of five years
1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943
had been immunised against
56 94 224 178 54 65 18 26
diphtheria in the borough. From
1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951
1953 to 1956 no cases of
45 28 32 2 0 4 2 1
diphtheria were notified. However,
in 1958, a report noted again an alarming decrease in the number of children being immunised
against diphtheria.

Smallpox is infectious and is spread through droplets from the lungs. It was called smallpox to
differentiate it from greatpox (syphilis). The victim has a ‘flu-like illness with fever, aches and
pains and a headache. About three days later a rash (vesicles) appears which spreads over the
whole body. The vesicles then form blisters and finally scab over. Smallpox has a fatality rate of
30%, but may be as high as 60% in an epidemic. In its time it was the biggest killer amongst the
infectious diseases. Death was caused by involvement of the lungs, heart or brain. Blindness
was the result of corneal scarring by the vesicles. In the late 18th century smallpox killed 10% of
the children in Sweden and France and every seventh Russian child. To control the disease
direct inoculation of a case of mild smallpox to another was widely practised in Norfolk from the
early part of the 18th century. This procedure was not without risk as in some cases it caused a
severe attack of smallpox. There is in Buxton, Norfolk, a church memorial warning against
vaccination: In memory of Mary Kent who died under inoculation on the 16th March 1773 in the
fourth year of her life. This most lamented child was in the highest state of health and her mental
powers began to open and promise fairest fruit when her parents deluded by prevalent custom
suffered the rough officious hand of art to wound the flourishing root of nature and rob the little
innocence of the gracious gift of life. Let this unhappy event teach distrustful mortals that there is
no safety but in the hand of almighty God.

In 1798, Edward Jenner introduced a safer

method by vaccinating people with lymph
infected by cowpox, a related virus. In the early
1950s there were an estimated 50 million cases
of smallpox worldwide and through vaccination
this fell to 15 million by 1967. The last outbreak
was in Somalia in 1977. It has now been
eradicated from the world through vaccination. Smallpox

The Vaccination Act of 1853 made it compulsory for all children born after 1st August 1853 to be
vaccinated against smallpox during their first three months of life. Parents who failed to get their
children vaccinated would be subjected to a fine. The Act was met with opposition from people
who demanded the right to control their bodies and those of their children. This opposition was
seen in Great Yarmouth and, for example, in 1900 several parents were summoned for not
having their children vaccinated for smallpox and were fined. Due to popular pressure, a new
law, the Vaccination Act of 1907, was passed. Under this law the parent escaped penalties for
the non-vaccination of the child if, within four months from the birth, a statutory declaration was
made that it was confidently believed that vaccination would be prejudicial to the health of the
child, and within seven days thereafter delivered, or sent by post, the declaration to the
Vaccination Officer of the district.

In Great Yarmouth in 1872, in the eight weeks ending 15th May 1872, there were 481 cases of
smallpox with 122 deaths. During the next few years there were several outbreaks of smallpox in
the town. In 1892, there were 40 cases of smallpox.
In 1899, there was an
outbreak of smallpox in
Hull and all the ships from
the Humber were
anchored in the Roads
and visited and kept under
daily observation.

The quarantining of ships

was a regular occurrence.
In 1931, only 290 primary
smallpox vaccinations
were performed out of 844
births in the borough,
which was an index of the
growing unvaccinated
state of the community.
This was surprising, as
smallpox was prevalent in
England and was present
in a neighbouring town,
and there was a risk of the
summer visitors bringing
the infection into the town. Smallpox vaccination with cows appearing on the body
By 1948, there had been
no cases of smallpox for
over 20 years in Great

Of the 730 children in the

borough under the age of
one year in 1951, only
254 received t h e Yarmouth Independent December 1872
smallpox vaccination.
The poor uptake was thought to be due to the apathy of their
parents and, in 1958, it was reported that most parents in the
borough did not have their children vaccinated against smallpox.
In 1970, only 53% of the children between the ages of one and
two years were vaccinated against smallpox in Great Yarmouth.

There are several causes of infectious diarrhoea, which can
involve infection by viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and food
poisoning. Apart from diarrhoea, symptoms include bloating,
fever, stomach cramps and dehydration. The main cause is
poverty, which is associated with poor housing, crowding, dirt
floors, lack of access to clean water and to unsanitary disposal of faecal waste leading to
contamination of groundwater and wells. The impact is exacerbated by the lack of adequate,
available and affordable medical care.

Diarrhoea was endemic in Great Yarmouth and was a leading cause of death amongst children.
For example, in 1876, there were 118 deaths from diarrhoea. This provoked the Registrar
General to comment that the death rate from diarrhoea in Brighton was 3.0/1,000, in London
2.5/1,000, whereas in Great Yarmouth it was 7.3/1,000. Of the 118 deaths, 100 occurred in
children under the age of one year. The Great Yarmouth Medical Officer of Health commented; in
many instances their homes were dirty, dark and overcrowded and they were fed with dirty
feeding bottles with sour milk often diluted with water little better than sewage.
The number of a few documented cases of diarrhoea in Great Yarmouth, when the population
was about 25,000, were: in 1845, (799); in 1847, (600); in 1848, (740) and in 1849, (973).

In 1873, there were 75 deaths from diarrhoea. Dr. Bayly, the Registrar of Deaths, made inquiries
in the areas where the deaths had occurred. There had been complaints about the state of the
water and the difficulty in getting the soil (excreta) removed from their houses. He found that it
was impossible to get men to remove the soil, as the scavengers would only come when they
thought it was necessary, and demanded more money than the residents could afford.

In 1878, in his annual report the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Bately, wrote that diarrhoea in
Great Yarmouth has in recent years been notorious again. It led the list of infectious diseases
with 32 deaths in that year. However, this was not as many as we have been accustomed to; but
yet are far too many.

Diarrhoea can be prevented by improved sanitation, clean drinking water and hand washing with
soap. With the improvement in public health in the town with piped water and improved
sanitation, diarrhoea became less of a threat.

Spanish Influenza

The post First World War Spanish Influenza global pandemic of 1918 was very virulent and 60
million people, worldwide, died from it. It was an airborne virus. The epidemic killed more people
in 18 months than the First World War did in four years. It is thought that in the United Kingdom,
the virus was spread by soldiers returning home from the trenches in northern France.

Young adults between 20 and 30

years of age were particularly
affected and the disease struck and
progressed quickly in these cases.

Onset was devastatingly quick.

Those well and healthy at breakfast
could be dead by tea-time. Within
hours of feeling the first symptoms
of fatigue, fever and headache,
some victims would rapidly develop
pneumonia and start turning blue,
signalling a shortage of oxygen.
They would then struggle for air
until they suffocated to death.
Hospitals were overwhelmed and
there were no treatments for the
influenza and no antibiotics to treat
the pneumonia. The death toll was
228,000 in Britain.

In Great Yarmouth there were two

peaks of the epidemic, one in July
and the other in October. As there
was a shortage of nurses, little
could be offered to help the
sufferers apart from the distribution
of 5,000 leaflets offering advice. In
October, the schools were closed,
and children were barred from
going to the cinemas because of
the epidemic.
Seasonal Influenza

Influenza is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It is

spread through the air and by touching surfaces that may
harbour the virus. Symptoms can be mild to severe and
include: high fever, sore throat, muscle pain, headache,
coughing and lethargy. Complications of influenza may
include pneumonia, sinusitis and the worsening of pre-existing
health problems.

Influenza spreads around the world in yearly outbreaks

resulting in about three to five million cases of severe illness
and about 290,000 to 650,000 deaths. Apart from the Spanish
influenza in the 20th century, there were three pandemics:
Asian Flu in 1957 (two million deaths), Hong Kong Flu in 1968
(one million deaths) and in 2009. Antibiotics are now available
to control secondary infections, and this helps to reduce
mortality. A yearly vaccine has been available since the
1930s. Due to the high mutation rate of the virus it has to be
given yearly.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium and is spread through the air. It
generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not
have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. Scrofula (known as the King’s
Evil in medieval times) is a condition in which the tubercle bacteria causes inflamed and irritated
lymph nodes in the neck. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left
untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic
cough with blood-stained sputum, fever, night sweats and weight loss. It was historically called
consumption. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

As of 2018, one-quarter of the world's population is thought to be infected with TB. New
infections occur in about 1% of the population each year. In 2018, there were more than 10
million cases of active TB in the world, which resulted in 1.5 million deaths and TB is the number
one cause of death today from an infectious disease.

Tuberculosis caused widespread public concern in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it
became common among the urban poor. In 1815, one in four deaths in England was due to
consumption. In 1918, it became a notifiable disease in Britain and campaigns started to stop
people from spitting in public places and the infected poor were encouraged to enter sanatoria. In
1916, 50% of those who entered sanatoria died within five years.

In 1946, the development of the antibiotic, streptomycin, became an effective treatment and a
cure of TB became a reality. Prior to the introduction of this medication, the only treatment was
surgical intervention, including the pneumothorax technique, which involved collapsing an
infected lung to rest it and to allow the tuberculous lesions to heal. Prevention of TB involves
vaccination with the BCG vaccine, which was first used in 1921.

In Great Yarmouth, TB was ever present. It was responsible for one in nine deaths in the town in
1903. In the year 1904, deaths due to pulmonary tuberculosis were 57 with a further 35 deaths
caused by latent tuberculosis. In the following year, in the interests of public safety, ‘no spitting’
notices were erected on the Jetty shelters. In 1907, there were 90 deaths from tuberculosis. In
1912, seventy-six people in the borough died of tuberculosis. It was agreed that the Kelling
Sanatorium, where tuberculosis patients were now sent, would charge one shilling a head to
supply rugs and coats to patients, who went there without these articles. Four months of
treatment was given at the sanatorium.
In 1927, tuberculosis was still rife and carried a high mortality. Figures were collated as to how
many cases of TB were dead at the end of the year compared with the year of diagnosis. Of
those diagnosed in 1921, 74% were dead; diagnosed 1922, 71%; diagnosed 1923, 57%;
diagnosed 1924, 59%; diagnosed 1925, 59%; and diagnosed 1926, 33%.

In Great Yarmouth during 1942, there were 67 new cases of tuberculosis. In 1953, fifteen people
died of tuberculosis in the borough. In the following year the death rate had declined to five.

In the three months from November 1953 to January 1954, 8,957 people were examined by mass
chest radiography and 14 were found to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. This improved
position was the result of the deliberate policy of pursuing, with vigour, the known methods of
prevention. The tuberculosis health visitor had traced all known contacts and persuaded them to
attend the chest clinic. The Medical Officer of Health thought that tuberculosis, as an important
disease in the country, was on the way out. One of his predecessors, in the early part of the
century, had recognised that the disease was largely preventable and had recommended a
system of notification. He wrote, anything like isolation of all infectious persons was out of the
question, because of the number of patients and the length of the infectivity. Nothing was being
done to limit the ravages of the disease, except for disinfection when requested. The only
provision of treatment for patients with tuberculosis was a tent situated in the grounds of the

The First World War put a temporary halt to the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis and
mortality increased steadily. After the war ended, the Town Council launched a scheme for the
treatment and prevention of tuberculosis. In 1921, the Medical Officer of Health was appointed
tuberculosis officer and his office at the Town Hall was used as a dispensary and reservations for
beds were made for men at Kelling Sanatorium and for women at Bramblewood. In 1927, a
tuberculosis clinic was opened in Deneside.

The number of cases of tuberculosis on the Great Yarmouth register in 1952 was 351. In 1972,
tuberculosis caused four deaths.
Hopes of eliminating TB ended with the rise of drug-resistant strains in the 1980s. The
subsequent resurgence of tuberculosis resulted in the declaration of a global health emergency
by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1993.

Occurrence of infectious disease 1909-1910 in Great Yarmouth

Illness Dec Jan Feb Mar Apl May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Diphtheria 15 11 11 5 5 4 7 19 11 3 5 8
Scarlet fever 11 17 15 5 3 5 3 3 1 3 2 2
Diarrhoea 1 1 1 0 1 1 5 9 5 1 1 1
Measles 0 3 359 595 274 116 45 9 5 1 0 0
Tuberculosis 4 9 10 11 16 7 10 11 10 3 5 7


Measles is a highly contagious

serious disease caused by a
virus. Its symptoms include a
runny nose, sneezing, a cough,
sore red eyes that may be
sensitive to light, a very high
fever, small greyish-white spots
(Koplik’s spots) on the inside of
the cheeks and a few days later,
a red-brown blotchy rash
appears. Measles can lead to
serious and potentially life-
threatening complications,
including pneumonia, middle ear
infections and encephalitis. It is
spread by droplets.

Before the introduction of the

measles vaccine in 1963 and
widespread vaccination, major
epidemics occurred
approximately every two to
three years (called measle
years) and measles caused an
estimated 2.6 million deaths
each year in the world.

In Great Yarmouth in 1910,

there were 1,407 cases of
measles. In May 1916, it
appeared that the measles
epidemic was over in Great
Yarmouth, but was still active in
Gorleston. There had been
1,361 cases, of which 18 had
died, giving a 1.3% death rate.
Measles was responsible for
16,445 deaths in the country
during this widespread epidemic
and it became compulsory to
notify to the Medical Officer of
Health all cases of measles.
The following figures give an indication of measles in
Great Yarmouth: 1943, (362); 1954, (an epidemic with
643 cases and 500,000 cases in the United Kingdom);
and 1962, (231). In 1952, there was another measles
epidemic with 1,565 cases, the highest number since
notification started in 1916.

In May 1968, measles vaccination commenced in

Great Yarmouth, but there was a poor uptake. It had
been licensed for use since 1963. In 1970, there were
493 cases and in 1972, 158 in the town. Measles

Incidence of measles in Great Yarmouth 1951-1970

1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960
26 1565 76 643 177 8 1276 228 435 222
1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970
386 539 232 214 1007 159 152 358 299 493

Measles can now be prevented by giving the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
vaccine. Since 2016, there has been a rise in cases of measles in the United Kingdom as the
take-up of the MMR vaccine has fallen. It means that the United Kingdom has now lost its
measles-free status. More than 140,000 people died from measles in the world in 2018; mostly
children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. From
2000 to 2018, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 23.2 million deaths and global
measles deaths decreased by 73%.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis or the 100-day cough, is a

highly contagious bacterial disease. It is an airborne disease that
spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.
It causes weeks of severe coughing fits. Following a fit of coughing, a
high-pitched whoop sound or gasp may occur as the person breathes
in. The coughing may last for ten or more weeks. A person may
cough so hard that they vomit and may break their ribs.

Deaths from whooping cough in Outbreaks of the

Great Yarmouth disease were first
1875 1885 1888 1903 1910 1912 described in the 16th
20 19 11 16 32 24 century. About 50% of
infected children less
than a year old require hospitalisation and nearly 1 in 200 may die. Whooping cough
Antibiotics may help in treatment. Prevention is mainly by vaccination,
which was developed in 1942. It was introduced in the 1950s. Prior to that, the average annual
number of whooping cough notifications exceeded 120,000 annually in the United Kingdom. By
1972, vaccine uptake was approximately 80% and notifications had fallen to 2,069. Coverage
fell to about 60% in 1975 and further to 30% by 1978 because of professional and public anxiety
concerning the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Major epidemics occurred in the country in 1977 and 1981; 1978 saw over 68,000 notifications
and 12 deaths. In Great Yarmouth in 1928, the periodic epidemic of whooping cough prevailed
and in 1955, 187 cases of whooping cough were notified.

An estimated 16.3 million people worldwide were infected in 2015. Most cases occur in the third
world and in 2015, pertussis resulted in 58,700 deaths; down from 138,000 deaths in 1990.
Incidence of whooping cough in Great Yarmouth 1952-1970 showing the effect of
1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961
151 157 76 187 12 204 21 2 9 19
1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970
9 18 14 0 3 1 6 0 0


Poliomyelitis is an infectious disease caused by a virus and has existed for thousands of years.
In about 0.5% of cases, there is a weakness of the muscles, which may involve the diaphragm,
which inhibits breathing. In the past, breathing may have had to be assisted by the use of an iron
lung, which may have had to be used for one to two weeks, but now ventilators are used. In
those with muscle weakness, about 2% to 5% of children and 15% to 30% of adults die.
However, 25% of people have minor symptoms such as a fever and a sore throat. Complications
may include muscle paralysis, which can sometimes result in skeletal deformities, tightening of
the joints, paralysis and difficulty in mobility. There is no cure for poliomyelitis.

Poliovirus is usually spread by ingestion of infected faecal matter. The incubation period may be
as long as six weeks. Major outbreaks started to occur in the late 19th century in Europe and the
United States. In the 20th century it became one of the most worrying childhood diseases in
these areas.

The disease is preventable with the polio vaccine. The first polio vaccine was developed in the
1950s by Jonas Salk. Subsequently, Albert Sabin developed another polio vaccine, which was
delivered orally, usually on a sugar lump. Europe was declared polio-free in 2002.

In Great Yarmouth in 1949, there was a poliomyelitis epidemic and a considerable number of the
victims were admitted to the local isolation hospital, where it was necessary to have three iron
lungs in constant use. The staff were overworked and two trained nurses were sent over from the
Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to help. Visitors to the infectious patients in the hospital were
required to stay behind a glass
window in the corridor.

In 1950, the Ministry of Health

stated that, in the event of another
local poliomyelitis epidemic, the
Isolation Hospital in Great
Yarmouth would be restricted to
cases of poliomyelitis. Other
infectious diseases would have to
be treated at East Dereham and
King’s Lynn Hospitals, as the East
Anglian Regional Hospital Board
designated the town’s Isolation
Hospital as the poliomyelitis
treatment centre for East Anglia.

It was not until 1956 that

poliomyelitis vaccine was Iron lung
introduced into Great Yarmouth. In
1959, the town’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Grant, wrote: while the public are acutely
interested in existing diseases and its treatment they are apathetic about its prevention. In Great
Yarmouth there has been a big effort to get people vaccinated against poliomyelitis, but there are
thousands in the town who are too apathetic to have themselves protected against this disease.
However, by 1960, the town had been free of poliomyelitis for three years.
But, in the 1970s, there was a poliomyelitis scare after a woman from Hemsby, Norfolk was
isolated in Northgate Hospital with symptoms of the disease. A steady stream of men, women
and children attended special poliomyelitis immunisation clinics. By the end of the scare, when
the Hemsby woman’s tests proved negative, over 20,000 people, representative of nearly half the
population of the borough, had received the sugar lump poliomyelitis vaccine.

Queue at the
Greyfriars’ Clinic
for polio
during the 1970s

Other infectious diseases: Mumps, Rubella and Chickenpox

These three viral infectious diseases are not so dangerous to health. Mumps may cause sterility
and pancreatitis; chicken pox is more severe in adults; and rubella (German measles) may cause
foetal abnormalities. All now have a vaccine to prevent them.

Infectious Diseases Hospitals in Great Yarmouth

In the Victorian era, when improvements in sanitation and the understanding of disease became
known, several hospitals were created to cater for the infectious diseases in Great Yarmouth.

The Isolation Hospital (Escourt) (1875-c1980)

This was built in 1875 with two wards, a mortuary, a disinfecting house, an ambulance shed, a
laundry and administrative accommodation. In 1894, two blocks ‘A’ and ‘B’ were erected creating
80 beds. An extension was built and a destructor was added in 1896. In 1900, a bacteriological
laboratory, a steam laundry and a porter’s lodge were erected. An extension to provide an extra
ward and improved nurses’ accommodation was added in 1907. It is now closed.

South Denes Hospital alternating Smallpox and Cholera (1871-1893)

A hospital was constructed on the site of the old magazine on South Denes, near the Militia Depot
in about 1871. This hospital is mentioned in an epidemic of smallpox in 1872, when a temporary
smallpox hospital was used on South Denes and 98 cases were admitted, of which 10 to 11
patients died. In January 1872, a convalescent ward was erected contiguous to the hospital,
which contained accommodation for six people. Dr. Airey, who visited Great Yarmouth to
investigate the high incidence of infectious disease in the town, mentioned the smallpox hospital
in 1875 writing; in the course of an epidemic of smallpox in 1872, a small building beyond the
south end of town was used as a hospital with 16 beds and the ground on which it stands is now
being purchased by the War Office for military purposes and the building will no longer be
available. However, the hospital survived. On one occasion in 1893, a high tide encroached on
the building when it was called a cholera hospital, and it was ordered that it be locked and the
caretaker discharged. Further tides caused damage and the hospital was demolished in 1895.

North Denes Hospital alternating Smallpox and Cholera Hospital (1868-?1893)

The Guardians of the Poor had previously purchased a disused wooden beachmen’s lookout on
the North Denes at Caister in 1868 for £30, for the use of paupers who were ill with smallpox. It
was situated between the workhouse and Mr. Daniel’s house at Caister. Nurses were sent from
the workhouse to staff the smallpox hospital if any cases were admitted there. There was some
concern about the undesirability of nurses going backwards and forwards between the smallpox
hospital and the workhouse. There was accommodation for 14 patients. Staff went daily from the
workhouse to air the building and to keep it ready to receive patients. Earlier, in 1849, the
Guardians had erected a separate building 25 yards from the workhouse for the reception of
cholera patients.

In August 1871, Mr. J. Radcliffe, an inspector and an official of the Privy Council, visited Great
Yarmouth and pointed out that the local authorities had the power to keep out of the line of the
population any case of cholera, which might arrive in the district, to provide proper moorings for
infected vessels, to make a place for the sick, to take steps to disinfect a vessel and to appoint a
medical officer.

He had originally suggested a site for the hospital on a spit of land at the harbour’s mouth, as he
felt that the site on North Denes was out of the way. The Town Council felt that the inspector
knew little of local matters and thought that the site at the harbour’s mouth would do a great injury
to the town, cholera would be brought into great proximity of the vessels lying in the river and
visitors going passed such a pest house would be frightened. Whereas, the site on the North
Denes was isolated and patients with infectious disease who arrived by sea could be landed on
the north beach by boat, without the public’s knowledge.

In 1871, the Council came to an arrangement with the Guardians to convert their smallpox
hospital into a place for the reception of any cases of infectious disease in Gorleston or Great
Yarmouth, whether they were paupers or not. In December 1871, the Town Council passed the
following resolution; a permanent building with the necessary offices to be erected on the North
Denes for the reception of receiving patients with smallpox and other infectious and contagious
diseases as laid down by powers in the Disease Prevention and Sanitary Acts. The total cost is
not to exceed £1,500 and this money is to be borrowed upon the security of the district rates. It
would have accommodation for 12 patients. It was mooted at the time that cottages could be
hired to house the infectious and, in particular, the Alma Tavern on Caister Road was a

J. W. Peacock described the hospital in 1929: It was a brick and tiled building and contained four
beds. The dining apartment at the west end was six inches higher than the sleeping apartment,
although no partition divided. It was situated on the North Denes when no golf club house existed
or railway lines dreamt of. The site is now covered with railway lines due west of the old rifle butts
site. The old door and wooden shutters before demolition were riddled with shot from sporting
guns. The brothers, Sharman, chair menders, were the last patients in the hospital. It was closed
in about 1893 when the Gorleston Smallpox Hospital opened to cater for the needs of the

Gorleston Smallpox Hospital (c1893-1952)

There are burial records of patients dying in this hospital from smallpox in the cemetery records.
One of the deaths is dated 1893, which is mentioned in the reports of the Medical Officer of
Health, who was responsible for the hospital. In 1893, the Council considered it dangerous to
have smallpox cases in the town. A hulk on Breydon Water was suggested. A site on North
Denes was considered, but it was felt that the ground was too damp. The borough surveyor was
requested, in 1893, to prepare plans for a smallpox hospital on land leased from Gorleston Poor
Lands. The Council proposed to move some of the buildings at the Isolation Hospital to the new

In 1900, Dr. Bately, the Medical Officer of Health, strongly recommended that the hospital should
be further developed to prepare for a future epidemic. He urged that the following should be
erected. Near the public road, a caretaker’s cottage. Adjoining this a waiting room connected to
the hospital by a telephone. Near the cottage, a set of rooms for discharging patients, with a
stable, an ambulance shed, a hearse shed and a disinfecting chamber. Another building should
be erected consisting of two wards with a nurses’ room between them. Inside the present
hospital a proper larder and pantry should be inserted. Bately also recommended that the nurses’
quarters should be enlarged and a telephone connected to the Isolation Hospital in Great
Yarmouth and also to the medical officer’s residence.

The hospital was rarely used. It was re-

opened in November 1906 for a family
of four whose mother and father were
suffering with smallpox. The hospital
was closed again in December.

In 1925, the chimney shaft of the

hospital and one of the buildings
received a direct hit by lightning. The
local newspaper at that time described
the hospital as: standing away from the
road near the Gorleston Cemetery. It
consists of a series of buildings of the
hut or bungalow type, separated from
each other, and one storey high, about
50 feet long by 20 feet wide, built of
wood on brick foundations, with slate
roofs. Each is furnished with cots and
other equipment so as to be ready for
an emergency requiring isolation. The
hospital last sheltered a patient in 1912
and is looked after by a non-resident

In 1948, the responsibility for the hospital was transferred from the local authority to the new
Regional Hospital Board at the advent of the National Health Service. In the following year they
recommended closure of the hospital, as soon as alternative arrangements for the reception of
smallpox cases could be made. There had been no cases of smallpox in the borough for over 20
years and it was decided
that there was no need
to continue to maintain
the 25-bedded hutted

In 1952, the hospital was

Gorleston closed and deliberately
smallpox destroyed by fire (the
hospital after p r a ct i ce t he n f or
being struck smallpox hospitals). It
by lightning in had had 25 beds. The
site was opposite the
Oriel School on the
Magdalen Estate and
n e ar the pr es e nt
Cambridge and Oxford

The Workhouse

There was a ward for infectious paupers of ten to 12 beds. During the smallpox epidemic of 1872
more than 70 patients were received there. Attached to the ward was a disinfection room. In
1849, the Guardians of the Poor appealed to the Mayor to make arrangements to obtain buildings
where cases of the Asiatic cholera could be treated. However, they failed to procure any houses
for the cholera patients, as landlords were vehemently opposed to the use of their property for
such a disease. Finally, the Guardians erected a separate building 25 yards away from the
workhouse for the reception of cholera cases. The new building was capable of accommodating
14 patients.

There is an entry in the records for the 10th November 1849; in the vicinity of Union House
(workhouse), Caister Road, a cholera hospital was built two months ago. It contains 13 cases,
but there not being any cholera now, it is used as a general hospital. There is a house of
recovery now being erected 60 feet long by 20 feet wide. In the medical relief book it appears
that in the quarter ending the 22nd September 1849, 33 cholera patients were admitted, of whom
15 were cured and 18 died. The cholera hospital’s wards were very clean and well ventilated by
means of two-inch pipes (five in each room) that passed along the ceiling from one end of the
building to the other, and the ceilings were pierced with numerous holes.

In 1853, the workhouse’s cholera hospital was full with seamen, who had been landed in the town
from their ships. The Guardians complained that their hospital was not being used for the
townspeople it was intended for and pleas were made for a hospital ship to be found. It is not
known how long the building was used as an infectious unit.

A visit to St. Nicholas’ Churchyard and the Kitchener Road cemeteries and a casual look at a few
of the gravestones reveals the tragedy of many children’s lives lost, many from infectious disease,
etched onto the stones. A few are detailed here: Henry Brand died 1875 aged 2 days, Howard
Brand died 1876 aged 4 months and Henry Brand died 1877 aged 8 months; Alice Bee died
1860 aged 18 months, Eileen Bee died March 1860 aged 6 years and Arthur Bee died October
1866 aged 9 years; Vincent Veates died 1891 aged 7 weeks, Hilda Veates died January 8th 1895
aged 9 months and Grace Veates died January 24th 1895 aged 2 years; Violet Brighton died
1884 aged 4 months, W. Brighton died 1977 an infant and G. Brighton died 1885 an infant;
Frederick Stone born June 1883 died August 1884 aged 14 months and Frederick Stone born
September 1884 died September 1885 aged 11 months and poignantly, Beneath this stone rests
two babes that brought happiness to their parents although they are dead.

Having defeated all these infectious disease, the population is faced with a new threat in the form
of Covid-19. As of the end of April 2020, 80 people have died of the infection in the James Paget
Hospital and people are practising social distancing and isolation. As in the past we eagerly await
a treatment and a vaccine.


Davies, Paul P., History of Medicine in Great Yarmouth; Hospitals and Doctors, ISBN
0954450906, 2003.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Medical Officer of Health’s Annual Reports,1875-1972.
Robertson, C. L., 1847, The Sanitary Condition of Great Yarmouth: A Lecture.
Yarmouth Independent, various.
Yarmouth Mercury, various.

Memories of Elm House School in the 1930s
Mary Edwards (Granddaughter of the Incumbent of St. George’s Church 1899-1936)

Who, now, remembers Elm House School? There are a few relics left, of whom I am one. I
expect that somewhere there are all sorts of records and reliable information available on a
computer, but I prefer to meander on in my memory.
Elm House School was on Crown Road opposite the park and was bombed during the Second
World War. The pupils' entrance was from a plain at the back of the school and, as I remember,
we entered a passage with the boys'
cloakroom and a small yard to the left; our
pegs were a little further on. The back
downstairs room was our assembly hall,
where we all met each day and had prayers,
singing, I remember, Jesus wants me for a
sunbeam, I will make you fishers of men,
Jesus bids us shine with a pure, clear light;
all the words of which I still remember. I
think we had playtime there on wet days and
singing with Miss Cordy.
The front room was used by the little people,
a description of the five-year-olds, which
Elm House School 1936
rather affronted me. We had small tables
and tiny chairs and learnt to read. I can remember the cloth books and reading from the
blackboard. Upstairs in the front was the Transition Form, from the window of which we watched
the Armistice Memorial Service every year. We knew there had been the Great War and most of
our fathers had been in it, but we were told nothing about it.
In the upstairs back room, two year groups were taught. Many of the boys left at seven or eight
years of age and went to the Grammar Preparatory School, but the girls stayed until we were
nine. The top year was known as the First Form and if one progressed to the High School, as I
did, we went into the Second Form. Then we went into the
Lower Third, then Upper Third, where we were joined by the
scholarship girls at the age of 11 years. We had dark green
uniforms and our school badge was of an elm tree in full leaf.
I remember green jerseys, my dark green blazer and
patterned summer dresses.
The school was owned and run by Miss Doris Palmer, later
known as Hope Palmer. She was one of the department store
Palmers and had been at the High School with my mother,
who was friendly with the whole family including Kathleen,
Joyce (who became Mrs. MacFarlane) and all the others. I
liked and respected her very much, but didn't expect to feel
anything else. Miss Cordy taught the older children, Miss Yarmouth Independent 1933
Barker the transition and Miss Clarke the kindergarten. Miss
Clark later married Jomo Kenyatta, by whom she had a son, Peter. My two older brothers, Tom
and Ken Fielding, had preceded me at the school before going on to the Grammar Preparatory
School. At that time one of the teachers was Margery Dyson, my father's second cousin.
I can't remember much of what we actually did. We had a good formal education, behaved
ourselves, had fun, played stool-ball at the Beaconsfield. My memories of those four years are
entirely pleasant. Other pupils at the time included: Jean and Daphne MacFarlane, Beryl
Beezor, Rhoda Baines, John and Margaret Astell, Richard Kerridge, Pamela King, Arthur, Gordon
and Norman Bailey, John Ecclestone, Constance Chapman, Michael Way, Jane Cawston, David
Ashford, June Bedford, Rene Howlett and Philip Dodd. Doctors’ children included: Ruth Smellie,
Wendy Filmer, Henry and Sylvia Blake, Tony, Peter and Christopher Adlington.

Public Clocks
Colin Tooke

Public clocks are disappearing fast and of those that remain only a few are working or reliable.
The public clock was once an essential item when many households did not possess a clock and
only a few people were fortunate enough to own a watch. In this digital age, accurate time is
easily available and public clocks have become more decorative than practical. Any device that
tells the time is classed as a timepiece, but if it has a striking mechanism, it is a clock. For the
purposes of this article, however, the term ‘clock’ is used throughout.

It is only within the last 200 years that it has been necessary for the general public to know the
accurate time. For hundreds of years, time was determined by observing the movements of the
sun, the moon and the stars or simply by night and day. The only person in a community who
needed more accurate divisions of the day was the priest, to enable him to summon his
worshipers with reasonable regularity.

From Saxon times, this had been done with scratch-dials, sometimes called ‘mass dials’ or ‘time-
dials’. These consisted of a circle, up to 14 inches across and about six feet from ground level,
incised on a south wall of a religious building with lines, up to 24, radiating from a central hole. A
short stick or metal spike placed in the hole allowed the sun to cast a shadow along one of the
lines and from c608 the Pope ordered that such a dial be set up on all churches. Many of these
scratch-dials survive; one local example is on the south wall of St. Mary’s Church at Burgh St.
Peter, at the side of the priest’s door. It is not apparent how the priest determined his times
during periods of prolonged bad weather, but probably it was by calculated guesswork. Sand
clocks, also known as hourglasses, were first recorded in Europe in the eighth century and by the
14th century these were being used aboard ships and in private homes. Sermon glasses,
another name for hourglasses, were used in churches to give the preacher an indication when his
sermon had either been too short or had overrun. A fine 18th century example of one of these
can be seen today on the pulpit in the church of St. Edmund, South Burlingham.

From the middle of the 15th century, the more accurate sundial was replacing the scratch dials.
An early sundial still exists in the town, on St. George’s, built in 1714. According to the historian
Druery, in 1826, there were four public sundials in the town. One was on the Dutch Chapel on
South Quay, one on the south porch of St. Nicholas church and two on St. George’s chapel, one
over the porch and the other over the window of the south-east bay of the chancel. The one over
the porch was restored in 2010 and is now the only public sundial in the town.

Mechanical timekeeping developed in the 13th century and was used mainly in monastic
institutions and churches as a replacement for the earlier weather dependent devices. It is known
that Exeter cathedral had a mechanical clock by 1284, St. Paul’s, London by 1286, Norwich by
1290 and Canterbury had a new large clock constructed in 1292. The oldest surviving public
clock is in Salisbury cathedral, first recorded in 1386, although only the mechanism has survived.
These clocks had internal dials, often with only an hour hand, and it was not until later that
external dials, allowing the time to be read from outside a building, were introduced. By the 16th
century more reliable clocks began to be imported from Germany. The early clocks were weight-
driven, but in the 17th century the pendulum was introduced, greatly improving their accuracy.

In 1683, a Kings Lynn clockmaker, Thomas Tue, built an unusual moon dial, which can still be
seen today on the south-west tower of St. Margaret’s Church in Kings Lynn. The face on this
clockwork mechanism enabled ships in the nearby river to see the phases of the moon and thus
calculate accurate tide times.

The earliest reference to a public clock in Great Yarmouth comes in 1583, when John Giles, who
had been bailiff of the town in 1579, set up a clock and dial in the tower of his house on South
Quay, at the corner of Row 142. In 1593, a clock was placed on the Dutch Chapel, a building
later to become the Town House, on South Quay.

From the mid-18th century, clocks with large dials, two to five feet across, began to appear in inns
and taverns. These were known as ‘tavern clocks’, provided for the benefit of the many people
who did not have a watch or clock of their own. In 1797, an Act of Parliament levied a tax on all
clocks and watches, even those in private houses, and the taverns and pubs then became the
preferred, sometimes the only, location for obtaining the correct time. Tavern owners were happy
to pay the tax, as the clocks drew in customers. In the inns along coaching routes these clocks
were essential for timing the coaches. The Act was repealed after nine months and the tavern
clock became known as the ‘parliament clock’. As industrialisation increased throughout the 19th
century it became more essential to have accurate time and, with the introduction of the railway
network, a standardised time throughout the whole country became essential. Until then, time
had differed greatly in different towns and cities but, in 1880, the Definition of Time Bill finally
abolished local time throughout the country.

One of the earliest forms of a public time signal was the time ball. Initially installed at major ports,
a time ball consisted of a large wooden or metal ball on a post, which dropped at 1pm each day to
enable ships to set their chronometers. The first one was erected at Portsmouth in 1829 and one
still exists on the Greenwich Observatory, London, erected in 1833. They were not, however,
restricted to seaports as, in 1853, the Norwich Chronicle announced that on 17th November a
time ball, connected by electric telegraph with Greenwich Observatory, was to be placed in the
Market Place, in consequence of the irregularities of the public clocks. In 1858, a similar time ball
was proposed for Great Yarmouth, to be erected on the new Sailors Home, due to open in 1860,
but for unknown reasons it was never installed. In August 1900, a time ball was erected on the
battlements of Norwich Castle, used to announce Greenwich Time every day at 10am.

More public clocks appeared towards the end of the 19th century, and the invention of the electric
clock in the 1890s allowed smaller ones to be provided on shops and other buildings. Personal
watches and household clocks were still unaffordable for many people and the public clock was
essential. For many years, people living in the south part of the town relied on the clock on St.
Peter’s church and, when a clock was placed on the tower of the new Grammar School in
Salisbury Road in 1911, it was placed on the south side so that people in that part of the town
could see it.

The following is a list of public clocks that have existed in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. Those
underlined still existed when this list was compiled, but may not have been working.

Great Yarmouth

Aldred’s, 56 George Street. Aldred & Son was

established in 1795 and made and installed several
of the public clocks to be found in the town,
including the clock for the Town Hall. An
advertisement dated 1890 stated their shop in
George Street was: extensively patronised by the
upper classes of the town. The shop also received
Greenwich time at ten o’clock every morning. A
clock was placed outside the shop in 1904.

Arcade, King Street. Now called the Victoria

Arcade, but originally the Central Arcade when built One of the two electric clocks that hung from
in 1926. Two double sided clocks, installed by the glass roof in the Arcade. These clocks
Aldred & Sons, hung on ornate brackets in the were provided by Aldred’s when the Arcade
Arcade until the 1980s. An electric clock was opened in 1926
provided above the King Street entrance to the
Arcade when it changed to the Victoria Arcade in
1987. This was later changed to a digital clock, which was removed in the 1990s when the
entrance was redesigned, possibly the only public digital clock that has been installed in the town.

Barracks, South Denes. The military barracks were built in 1855 and the building incorporated
an eight-day turret clock. When the building was demolished in 1925 the clock was moved to one
of the towers on the Wellington Pier pavilion. The houses of the Barrack Estate now stand on the
site of the military barracks.

Britannia Pier. There has been a clock, facing west, on all four pavilions that have existed on
the pier since 1902. The present pavilion, and clock, dates from 1958.

Bus Depot, Caister Road. Built in 1902 as the Tram Depot, the office building was enlarged in
1907 with an upper storey. In April 1914 a clock, which had originally been on the Gorleston
horse-tram depot, was placed on the front of the Caister Road depot. In 1947, the depot was
reconstructed and a brick façade added to the original sheds. At this time a large bracket clock
was placed on the corner of the office block, which remained there for many years before being

Central Cinema, Market Place. The Central Cinema opened in 1914. The Corporation
approved the placing of a public clock, projecting so it can be seen at both ends of the Market
Place. However, there is no evidence that this clock was ever provided. The cinema was
demolished in 1958 and Poundland now occupies the site.

Co-op, 28-31 Middle Market Road. The Co-op General Store opened in 1921 and was also
known as the Co-operative Hall. A large clock on the front of the building came from premises in
South Market Road known as ‘Frog’s Hall’. The shop closed in 1968 and the building, on the
corner with Cobb’s Place, was demolished.

Left: Frog’s Hall, 25 South

Market Road, and

Right: the Co-op, 28-31

Middle Market Road.

The large clock was

moved from Frog’s Hall to
the Co-op c1921

Co-op, Market Place. The Co-op store in the Market Place opened in 1935 and a square faced
electric clock was provided on the southern end of the building. The clock had been removed by
1980 and the store closed in 2010.

Dutch Chapel or Town House, South Quay. In 1593, it is recorded that a fair turret would be
erected on the roof of the building with a horologue [sic] of great beauty. This is the earliest
public clock in the town of which any detail is known. In 1604, the town’s Dutch congregation was
allowed to use the building for worship and, in 1618, William Farley was the bell ringer and clock
keeper. In 1689, two additional dials were added to the clock when the chamberlains were
directed to: build out a hand at the Dutch church westwards, with two dials one north and one
south. This became known as the Dutch Clock. In 1705, the clock was renewed with a clock
which: shall go thirty hours at a winding up and a
fit prop or con [sic] to direct the dial without.
Nicholas Howard was paid £15 to provide the
clock and receive the old clock. He was also paid
£1 per year to look after the clock. In 1726, the
sundial and the clock were repaired. A bell from
this clock was later hung at the back of the police
court in the town hall, and was used as an alarm

Floral Clock, Marine Parade. To mark the

Queen’s Coronation in 1953, a floral clock was
set into the gardens in front of Kimberley Terrace. Floral Clock, Marine Parade
The clock was replanted in a new design each
year by the Corporation gardeners until eventually
removed c2000 due to vandalism.

Frog’s Hall, 25 South Market Road. Established in the 1870s, this fish shop and curing works
in South Market Road was known as Frog’s Hall. There was a large clock on the front of the
building and on the dial was an unusual inscription: The moment past, laid many fast. The fish
shop had been demolished by 1921, and the clock moved to the new Co-op premises in Middle
Market Road.

Far East Prisoners of War Clock Tower, Marine Parade. An electric four-dial clock, made by
the English Clock Systems Ltd, London, was an integral part of this memorial, erected in May
1958 by the Far East Prisoners of War Association.

Guinness Festival Clock, Marine Parade. The original clock

was made for the 1951 Festival of Britain and copies of the clock
later toured various seaside resorts. In 1955, one came to Great
Yarmouth and was placed on the Marine Parade, in front of the
fountain in the Marina Gardens, for the summer season. The
clock returned in 1956/7 and stood on the car park opposite the
Empire. In 1958, a Guinness Clock, with a miniature zoo of
animals associated with Guinness advertisements, was sited in
the Wellington Pier south gardens on a site that had previously
been Pixieland. The clock and zoo remained for the 1959 and
1960 seasons and the following year the Merrivale Model Village
opened on the site.

Halfway House, Southtown Road. In 1926, a clock, which was

originally on the Gorleston electric tram depot, was placed on a
tram shelter outside the Halfway House pub on Southtown Road.
When the shelter was removed, the clock was placed on the
façade of the pub in 1938. This was a Steward & Patteson pub,
which was closed and demolished in 1968. Guinness Festival Clock in the
Marina Gardens, 1955
Haylett’s Garage, 175 Northgate Street. A large square,
double-sided, clock hung outside the southern part of the garage. Above and below the clock
face were the letters ‘K.L.G’, an advertisement for a company that made spark plugs. This
advertising clock was common on many garages across the country. The site is now part of
Newtown Motors.

High School, Salisbury Road. Built as the town’s Grammar School in 1910, the clock on the
south side of the tower was installed in June 1911 to commemorate the coronation of George V.
The tower is known as ‘Raven’s Tower’ after the Rev’d. John Raven, headmaster from 1866 to
1885. The clock was restored in 2010 as it had not worked for several years, as part of the
school’s 100th anniversary. The clock was made by Gillett & Co. of London and installed by
Aldred & Son of Great Yarmouth. It was restored by
Michlmayr & Co. of Norwich at a cost of £3,950. The
face was restored, the hands re-gilded, and an electric
winding system installed. The clock was re-started on
22nd July 2010, exactly 100 years after the school had
H. Samuel, 11 King Street. The shop opened in 1956
with a large two-sided clock outside. It was replaced by
a smaller, more modern, clock when the premises were
modernised in the 1990s. The shop closed in February
2019, but the clock had been removed a few years
Jetty, Marine Parade. A clock, given by Mayor
Alderman F. W. Lawn, was placed on the west gable of The large double sided clock on H.
the Jetty shelters in 1927. The shelters were Samuel’s shop in King Street and, inset,
demolished following damage caused by the 1953 the smaller clock which replaced it when
floods and the clock was later put on the North Drive the shop was refurbished in the 1990s
shelter in 1959.

Aldred & Son, 172 King Street.

There had been a clock on this

shop since 1848, when it was
owned by William Last, jeweller.
The Jetty shelter was J. W. Lamb,
damaged in the 1953 floods Shop demolished in 1926, now
136 Mill Road south east corner of Victoria
and then demolished. The
clock was placed on the North Arcade.
Drive shelter in 1959

Lacon’s Brewery, Church Plain. A clock existed on the east wall of the buildings in the brewery
yard. Although provided more for the workers than the general public, the clock could be seen
from Church Plain.

J. W. Lamb, 136 Mill Road. A two-faced clock was fixed to the exterior of the building in the
1970s. The building was built in the mid-1920s for J.W. Lamb, who were electrical engineers and
plumbers. The name ‘LAMB’ was written under the face of the clock, which was made by
Nedlock, a firm of clockmakers established in 1974 in Amsterdam. The clock was removed in
2010 and the building later demolished.

William Last, 172 King Street. In April 1848, William Last placed a clock on his jewellery shop,
illuminated by gas. This was possibly the first illuminated public clock in the town. By 1896, it
was Lewis & Bourne, jewellers and silversmiths, and by 1904 it was the second shop of Aldred &
Sons. The clock, mounted centrally over the façade of the shop, was removed when the shop
was rebuilt in 1926 to become the south-east corner of the new Central Arcade.
Leach’s Hardware, 20-21 Market Place. A
large rectangular two-faced clock hung from a
bracket over the shop front of Leach’s hardware
shop. It was said that this was the only public
clock in the town that did not stop throughout the
Second World War. The shop closed in 1995
and the clock was removed.

Marine Arcade, Marine Parade. A clock was

included on the terracotta façade above the
entrance to the 1902 arcade. A second arcade
was built in 1904. It is not known when the clock
was removed. These arcades contained the first
retail shops to appear on Marine Parade. Both
arcades now form Leisureland Amusements.

Market Place, Number 8. The clock on the

south facing wall of the shop on the corner of the
Conge came from the Central Arcade. The
original name on the clock face, Aldred & Son,
was overpainted with the name of the shop.

Marsh, 164 King Street. The shop of Frederick

Marsh, jeweller, pawnbroker and antiquity
dealer, had a bracket clock mounted at third
Leach’s hardware shop, 20-21 Market Place.
The shop closed in 1995

The clock on the 1902 Marine Arcade. With the

adjacent 1904 Arcade these were the first shops to
appear on the Marine Parade. Today they form the F. Marsh, 164 King Street
Leisureland Amusement Arcade

floor level on this, the highest building in King Street. The clock had an ornate ironwork bracket,
with the name ‘MARSH’ in large letters above it. The double-sided clock was visible along almost
the whole length of King Street until removed in the 1920s. The building was destroyed in the
Second World War.

Methodist Church, Caister Road. The eight-day striking bracket turret clock, made by Bensons
of London, was supplied by Aldred & Sons in 1907. Given to the church by Mr. Henry Blyth, a
notice in the Eastern Daily Press in 1907 said: The movement, hands, etc. of the turret clock
presented to the United Methodist Free Church, Newtown, is now on display at Aldred’s, George
Street. The clock stopped working in 2008 and was later restored by the Norwich clockmakers,
S. Michlmayr & Co. It was replaced on the building in 2012.

Nelson Garage, Southgates Road. The Nelson Garage, on the corner of Queen’s Road and
Southgates Road, was for many years owned by Pertwee & Back, engineers. On the corner of
the building was a two-faced bracket clock, visible from both Queen’s Road and along the quay.
The clock was removed c2006.

Nelson Gardens, Marine Parade. Two electric self-starting synchronous movement clocks,
provided by English Clock Systems Ltd., London, were provided on the shelter in 1951. The
Nelson Gardens and boating lake now form part of the Pleasure Beach.

North Drive Shelter. The clock from the

demolished Jetty shelter was placed on the North
Drive shelter in September 1959. The shelter,
opposite Beaconsfield Road, was demolished in

Northgate’s Agency, 50 Northgate Street. On the

shop of Northgate’s Letting Agency was an unusual
bronze clock in the form of a large pocket watch.
The clock was stolen in December 2008.

Parish Church. Inside the church there was a

clock on the north side of the south transept. This
clock chimed the hours and quarters and on the
hour it played the 23rd Psalm. A carved figure of a
man in armour holding a hammer in one hand and a
battle-axe in the other struck a bell on the hours and
quarters. In 1807, the clock was sold and replaced
by one costing £170-15s (£170.75) over the west
door. In the same year another clock was provided
on the outside of the tower when a new spire was
built. In 1903, the Council arranged to paint and The pocket watch clock which hung outside
guild the face of the clock on the tower, in a more the shop of the Northgate’s Letting Agency,
distinct manner than at present. In 1905, the clock 50 Northgate Street
was repaired at a cost of £4.

On 19th April 1919 a new clock, built by Gillet & Johnson, of Croydon, was fixed to the tower,
celebrating the victory in the First World War. The clock had a Westminster chime and was
provided by local pawnbroker Mr. Fredrick Marsh at a cost of £350. The church authorities
refused to allow the clock to be illuminated as it would be out of keeping with the Norman tower.
The clock stopped at 2.35am on 25th June 1942, when the church was burnt out by incendiary

In 1959, a new clock was fitted to the tower, started by the Mayor on Saturday 31st October at
2.35pm as part of the town’s 750th Charter celebrations. The clock is a chime turret clock with a
gravity escapement and electric winding, made by G. & F. Cope & Co. of Nottingham. Instead of
the Westminster chimes used for the previous clock it was decided that the chime should be
unique to Great Yarmouth and a chime adapted from two themes from Dona Nobis Pacem - Give
us Peace, by Bach, was installed. The clock is automatically wound by an electric motor and the
quarter chimes and hour strike can be programmed electronically. The hour strikes the tenor bell,
which weighs 60 lbs. The full chime strikes nine of the tower bells, unusual as turret clocks
usually strike only six bells. The full chime occurs on the hour each day.

In 2007, the clock movement and hands were removed for a £10,000 restoration by Simon
Michlmayr of Norwich. The clock was restarted at 12 noon on 1st February 2009. The clock was
restored again in 2019 after a long period of inactivity.

Pertwee & Back, Gapton Hall Road. A large electric clock was placed on the car sales building
in 2014 to replace a smaller clock. This is the most recent public clock to be erected in the town.

Post Office, Hall Quay. A small round-faced clock was mounted on the wall of the Head Post
Office, facing Hall Quay. This was a slave clock driven by a master pulse-clock within the
building, which also controlled all the internal clocks in the Post Office and Telephone Exchange.

St. Andrew’s School, North Quay. St. Andrew’s Church stood on the south corner of Fullers
Hill and North Quay. There was a clock on the west gable of the adjacent school building, facing
North Quay. The church and the school closed in 1961 and the buildings were demolished three
years later.

St. George’s Chapel, King Street. A clock was not included in the original design of the
building, but one was added soon after its consecration in December 1715. In 1891, the clock
face was repaired and in 1898 the hands were re-gilded. This turret clock cost £32 - 5s (£32.25)
and worked until 1930 when it was beyond repair. The two dials measured five feet six inches in
diameter, the dial on the north side made of wood, that on the south side of metal. In 1935, a
new synchronous motor clock was installed at a cost of £85-7s-6d (£85.37½), supplied by the
Synchronome Co. Ltd., Westminster, London. The clock’s hour striking mechanism was silent
between midnight and 6am so as not to disturb patients in the nearby hospital. The new clock
was specially designed to retain the old dials by F. Hope-Jones, an electro-horologist, who had
been the originator of the Greenwich Time Signal pips broadcast by the BBC. The clock was
restored in 2010.

St. Nicholas’ Hospital, Queen’s Road. The building was erected in 1809 and in 1822 a clock
tower was added with a turret clock provided by Thwaites and Reed of London. The clock was a
hand wound striking clock, with a single ¾ hundredweight bell. The clock was restored in 1982,
the hands were re-gilded in gold leaf and the mechanism converted to run by electricity. This is
now the oldest, still working, public clock in the town.

St. Peter’s Church, St. Peter’s Road. An eight-day striking turret clock was placed in the tower
in 1876, 43 years after the church was built. It was made by Tucker’s of Theobald’s Road, Gray’s
Inn, London. It is one of only two four-dial clocks in the town, the other one being on the Far East
Prisoners of War clock on Marine Parade. The clock faces are stone and of an unusual design;
the Roman numeral for 12 is replaced by a symbol. After a long period of neglect, the clock was
restored at a cost of £9,000, fitted with a new automatic mechanism, and restarted in November

Sailors’ Home, Marine Parade. The Sailors’ Home was completed in 1860. In November 1858,
it was proposed that the new building should have a clock tower with a time ball connected to
Greenwich by electric telegraph, and an illuminated clock. This clock tower and time ball were
not provided but, in December 1860, an illuminated clock was ordered for the building, to be
provided by a Mr. Greenhow at a cost of £39. The clock was illuminated by gas and installed at
the top of the east front in 1861. In 1959, the original clock was replaced by a heavy-duty
synchronous electric clock, made by Synchronome Co. Ltd., London. The building later became
the Maritime Museum and is now the Tourist Information office.

South Town Station, Southtown Road. A round clock with a black face and gold Roman
numerals was mounted centrally on the façade of the station building which opened in 1859. The
station was demolished in 1970 and today Pasteur Road runs through the site.

Town Hall, Hall Quay. The first town hall opened in 1716 and a few years later a clock was
provided above the north façade. This was replaced in 1862 with a new illuminated clock. After
the building was demolished in 1879, the clock was eventually sold in 1889 for £1-16s (£1.80). A
new town hall opened in 1882 with a chime turret clock, with gravity escapement, made by Aldred
& Son of George Street. The clock has two dials, each 5ft in diameter, and four bells, one
inscribed: John Brend made me 1654. This bell came from the old town hall and probably
originated from the Town House. The other three bells were new and chime the Cambridge
chimes. In 1905, an external light was fitted to illuminate the clock and, in 1914, the corporation
approved an expenditure of £4 to provide a new light for the north face of the clock. During a
£19,000 restoration, which began in July 2008, Norwich clock repairer Simon Michlmayr added an
automatic winding mechanism and completely restored the clock movement. The illuminated
glass faces of the clock were replaced with acrylic panels and the clock began working again
early in 2009.

Savings Bank, Market Place. Built in 1939 as the Trustee Saving Bank, a round-faced clock
was incorporated in the design, facing the Market Place. The bank closed in 2012.

Wellesley Recreation Ground. The wooden grandstand, claimed to be the oldest such structure
in the country, was built in 1892. In 1896, a small eight-day turret clock, made by E. H. Green, a
watchmaker and jeweller of 3 Howard Street South, was placed on the stand.

Wellington Pier, Marine Parade. The pavilion was built in 1902 and, in 1925, a clock was
placed on the west side of the north dome. This was an eight-day turret clock, said to have been
recovered from the South Denes Barracks when they were demolished in 1925. The pavilion was
rebuilt as a bowling alley in 2004 but the clock was not replaced.

Workhouse, Market Place. A clock was placed on the building in 1664 by John Gayford, who
was requested to: furnish a substantial clock with a figure without and a bell as big as could swing
in the turret, and fix and place the same in the turret upon the workhouse and keep the same
clock, bell and dial in good condition during his life. John Gayford died in 1703, but it is not
known how long the clock survived. The St. Nicholas Priory School today stands on the site of
the workhouse.


Gorleston Holiday Camp. The camp, which opened in May 1937, had a clock high on the front
of the main building. In 1953, the camp was used as a reception centre for people evacuated
from flooded houses in the town. The camp finally closed in 1973, later demolished, and the
houses of Elmhurst Court now stand on the site.

Jary’s, 43 High Street. A double-sided bracket clock hangs outside the office of Arthur Jary &
Sons, undertakers. The first clock was placed here in the early 1960s, but this was damaged and
replaced c2004 by the present clock.

Library, Lowestoft Road. The Carnegie Free Library was built in 1905 on the site of the old
horse tram depot at a cost of £110. A large eight-day strike bracket clock, with Roman numerals,
was fitted on the corner of the building in 1908 at a cost of £110. This clock was removed in 1972
when the library was demolished and stored at the Corporation Depot. The clock was offered to
St. Mary Magdalen church and to Priory Gardens, but neither offer was accepted and the clock
remains in store. A new library opened on the site in 1976 with a two-faced bracket clock, costing
£2,770, mounted on the corner of the building in such a way that it can be seen from four different
directions. (editor’s note - it is hoped that this clock will be re-erected on the Palace Cinema in
Gorleston High Street at some time in the future).

The Gorleston Carnegie library clock 1908-1972

Mariners Compass, Middleton Road. Originally called the ‘Middleton Arms’ this mock-Tudor
building was erected by Steward & Patteson in 1934. In November 2008, it was renamed the
‘Mariners Compass’ and the square electric clock on the west-facing gable, after not working for
several years, was restored to working order in July 2009.

Mills, 2 Burgh Road. A two-faced square clock hung on a bracket outside Percy Mills’ grocers
shop at the junction of Burgh Road and Suffolk Road. The building was demolished in the 1960s
for road improvements and the construction of a roundabout.

Pavilion Theatre. An eight-day turret clock was installed on the west tower in 1909, nine years
after the theatre opened. The clock was set in motion by the Mayor on 27th May that year.

Palmer’s Folly, Riverside Road. This curiosity was built by Salmon Palmer in 1853 and known,
for several reasons, as ‘Palmer’s Folly’. The three-storey building had one room on each floor
and no staircase. A clock face with no hands was fixed on the west gable and a sundial was built
into the north wall. It is recorded that Palmer had recovered a gate from the old fort on the South
Denes when it was demolished in 1836 and it is possible the clock face also came from the fort.
The building, which was inhabited for several years, was demolished c1947.

St. Andrew’s Church. A clock, with faces on the east and west sides of the tower, was provided
as a memorial to the Rev’d. Tony Clemens, a popular vicar of St. Andrew’s from 1966 until 1977.
The clock faces are black with gilded brass figures and hands.

Tram Depot, Feathers Plain. A clock was provided on the horse tram depot and stables when it
was built in 1882 on the corner of Baker Street and Lowestoft Road. In 1905, the building was
demolished and the new Carnegie library was built on the corner of the site, with a depot for the
new electric trams on its east side. An illuminated clock was provided on the new tram depot. In
1926, the council decided that the tram depot clock was surplus to requirements as there was
also a public clock on the corner of the adjoining library. The clock was moved to the tram shelter
outside the Halfway House public house on Southtown Road.

Veterinary Hospital, 1 Magdalen Way. This was built by Lacons Brewery in November 1954 as
the Magdalen Arms public house, with a round-face electric clock on the front of the building. It
was closed in 2013 and, in 2015, the building was converted into a veterinary hospital.

Margaret Tryon c1732 - 1819
Trevor Nicholls

Although it does achieve it, this essay has been written not to record the presence in Great
Yarmouth, 200 years ago, of a member of what to use the terminology of the time would have
been called ‘the Quality’. Rather, it places here an intriguing woman who, 40 years earlier, had
been a witness at the centre of a pivotal moment in world history, the founding of the United
States of America. Following is an extract from C. J. Palmer’s magisterial Perlustration of Great
Yarmouth (1874) Vol II, page 268, reproduced at length firstly because it constitutes part of the
author’s authority for challenging online sources, which place the subject in Yarmouth, Isle of
Wight at the time of her death, and secondly because it throws light on a family tragedy to which
those sources do not allude. (The author’s insertions are those words not in italics).

In the north-east corner of Row 107 is an old house (1)

which, in 1668, was in the possession of Robert
Harward……….In the latter half of the last century, it
became a lodging house resorted to by many county
families who were, at that time, accustomed to make
Yarmouth a place of annual resort before railways and
steamers afforded facilities for going elsewhere. In the
early part of the present century, Armstrong’s Lodgings
were occupied by Mrs. Margaret Tryon, usually called
‘Lady Tryon’. She was the widow of Lt-Gen. Tryon, who
died in 1788 and was a daughter of Governor Wake. She
died in Yarmouth, but was buried in the family vault at
Twickenham beside her husband…… her will, (dated
30th May 1818), she left numerous legacies to the families
of Batchelor of Horsford, Ficklin and Elwin…….. (She also
thereby disposed of a town-house in Sloane Street,
Chelsea). A portrait of the general’s widow was also in Mr.
Batchelor’s possession and was one of the family pictures
in his King Street house……In 1781, (Lt-Gen. Tryon) was
appointed to command the fortifications at Yarmouth and Portrait in oils of Margaret Tryon,
Lowestoft and also of the camp on Hopton Common,(2) née Wake, displayed at the
holding his head-quarters at Somerleyton Hall. (3) In that Strangers’ Hall Museum, Norwich
capacity, in that year, he accompanied Lord Amherst, Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service
Commander-in-Chief, when he inspected the coast

In every house there is a skeleton and it was so with this successful general. He had an only
child, (Margaret) a small and delicate but pretty girl if we are to judge by her portrait in the
possession of the Rev’d. T. J. Batchelor which long hung in his house in King Street. This young
lady, who was one of the maids of honour to Queen Caroline, was expected by her proud parents
to make some distinguished marriage; but she fell in love with an officer in the Life Guards and
determined to have him in spite of all opposition. She agreed to elope from her father’s town
residence and for this purpose got out of her chamber window to descend to her lover who stood
below, but by some mis-management, missed her footing on the rope ladder, and falling on the
iron palisadoes, was impaled, and received such severe injuries death ensued…(4)(5)

The last occupant of this house (at Row 107) was John Lomas Cufaude, Clerk of the Peace and
Clerk to the Board of Guardians, who died here in 1872 aged 61.

During October 1988, the Tryon family Bible was put up for sale at Christie’s, New York. A few
days earlier, the manuscript notes at the front were carefully transcribed. The record begins: on
the first verso of the front fly-leaf. The reference to Margaret Tryon is at the foot of page 2: Feb
16, 1819 Mrs. Margaret Tryon Widdow (sic) of Gen Tryon died in Yarmouth and was buried in a
Vault in Twickenham Churchyard Aged 86 years. (5)
King Street, Great Yarmouth, looking west. Centre: St. George’s Rooms (derelict).
Extreme right: St. George’s Chapel (1715), now in secular use as a theatre.
Post - World War II Yarmouth Way is to the right.
The narrow alley to the left of St. George’s Rooms is all that is left of Row 107,
which was a ‘half-row’, ie. it only ran from King Street to Middlegate Street
and did not continue to South Quay

The register of burials for St. Mary’s Parish Church,

Twickenham, Middlesex, entry 552, records: Mrs.
Margaret Tryon buried 27th February 1819, Abode,
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, Charles Proby, Vicar.

This was one of the few interments at which the

incumbent himself officiated. Wikipedia takes the
Yarmouth reference as ‘probably’ being to Yarmouth,
Isle of Wight, Geni and Wikitree assert it as fact.

But who was Margaret Tryon? Born about 1732, she

was the daughter of an extremely wealthy East India
Company merchant, William Wake, Governor of Bombay
from 1742 to 1750, and who died on passage home in
1751. Her mother was Elizabeth Elwin, who came from
an old Norfolk family. Her family’s ancestral home was
at Booton, Norfolk, their London house at Hanover
Street, Mayfair.(6) On 26th December 1757, Margaret
married William Tryon, a Captain in the First Foot
Guards. Tryon had been born at Norbury Park, Surrey in
1729 to Charles Tryon, landowner, and the Hon. Mary
Tryon, née Shirley, daughter of Robert Shirley, First Earl
Ferrers. William was descended through his mother,
from Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and the Row 107 looking east towards King
Plantagenet dynasty. Street. The building on the left is St.
George’s Rooms, latterly David Howkins’
furniture business. C. J. Palmer’s
Margaret brought to the marriage a dowry of £30,000 description places the former Armstrong’s
(about £3m today). She also brought family connections lodgings close to this site. By Palmer’s
especially consequential being that to Wills Hill, Earl of account, that building was still extant in
Hillsborough, President of the Board of Trade from 1763 1872. The buildings on the right are
to 1769 and Secretary for the Colonies (1766-1772). much older, possibly 17th century.
Following her husband’s being injured in the Army during a raid on Cherbourg, it was probably
family preferment that led to his appointment, in 1764, to the Lieutenant Governorship of North
Carolina. The following year, following the death of the Governor, he was promoted to the
vacancy, a post he held until 1771. He was the eighth Governor under British rule. For two
years, his private secretary was Margaret’s first cousin, Fountain Elwin (a case of a family
surname given as a Christian name) (1737-1833), who had a family connection to Thirning, and
who on return to England, practised law. It would be he who, many years later, would draw up
Margaret’s will. He lived to be 96. He was descended from the Rolfes, one of whom, John Rolfe,
married Pocahontas. (7)

Unknown is Margaret Tryon’s view of the fact that her husband supported a woman named Mary
Stanton, who had borne his child prior to his marriage to Margaret. The daughter, Elizabeth
(married name Saunders), would be a beneficiary under his will.

This essay does not set out to discuss, beyond brief references, the causes or course of the
American War of Independence, which occurred during Tryon’s second Governorship, that of
New York, nor how he discharged his duties; the focus here is largely on Margaret. The
bibliography will lead to contrasting assessments of William Tryon and the way he carried out his
duties before and during the conflict. Suffice to say here that the Cherokee referred to him as
‘The Wolf’ in their dealings with him over the western boundary of North Carolina. In New York,
the background against which he and Margaret lived for the greater part of a decade, was one of
armed insurrection.
Tryon determined to build a new governor’s residence and seat of government at New Bern,
North Carolina. He had brought an architect, John Hawks, from England for the purpose. (8) The
latter designed a mansion that was criticised by the populace, who had to pay for it and who
dubbed it Tryon’s Palace: as a self-aggrandizing extravagance, a haughty expression of the
opulence of England at a time when there were grievances in the province over the Stamp Act
and the corrupt conduct of officials. The subsequent riot, which led to the execution, with Tryon’s
consent, of six men, is seen by some as a precursor to the Revolution. Seen from a British point
of view, the house itself was typical of the perfectly proportioned, handsome Georgian mansions
being erected at the time, within easy reach of London by gentlemen of means. Here, Margaret
Tryon was chatelaine and hostess as the wife of the Governor, the King’s representative. It is
tempting to say that the surroundings were what she would have expected at home. Here, in
North Carolina, she buried one of her two children, a son who died in infancy. An enduring legacy
was the conferring of her family name, Wake, upon a county within the province. Today, Wake
County contains the State capital, Raleigh, and has a population in excess of one million. It
seems that the conferring of the name ‘Wake’ upon the county was a sop to Margaret’s husband
in exchange for his signing into law a bill recently passed by the provincial council.
In 1771, William Tryon was transferred to the military and civilian governorship of New York, the
39th under colonial administration. Here, in a fire on 29th December 1773, the Tryons lost all
their personal possessions and an extensive library. It is from this period that we have the closest
sketch of Margaret Tryon. She had the social graces of a woman of her class in that age, being
described as: a finely accomplished lady with a talent for playing the organ and the spinet. She
was said to be sensible and indeed, learned. Yet, she was thought by others to be a little odd,
certainly, eccentric, even mad, a possessor of a masculine mind. An observer of her in
Williamsburg, Virginia had said that she ruled the roost. Bored by the social chit-chat of women
of her own class, she sought the company and conversation of men. Is it not the case, seen from
a present-day perspective, that here was a woman out of her time, indeed far ahead of it,
entrapped in a straitjacket of 18th century conformity and expectation? Margaret Tryon desired
people to address her as Your Excellency, her husband’s title. The appellation Lady appears to
have been, the author suspects, not so much a consequence of public esteem, as self-regard. It
does not appear to have been an honorific applicable either, unlike her mother-in-law, in her own
right, or by marriage, and as is implicit in Palmer’s reference (ante) and in the burial register. If
there was a delusion of grandeur here, it seems to have continued to the last.

At New York, Margaret Tryon must have had ample opportunity to indulge her interest in military
fortifications, about which she was given to both speaking and writing. She and her husband had
come back to England in 1774 but returned to America in 1775, arriving at New York on 25th
June, the same day as George Washington’s Continental Army. She would live in a city under
martial law, presided over by her husband as both military and civil Governor.

On 6th July 1776, news of the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia reached
New York. The King’s statue, only yards from Fort George,(9) was pulled down by a mob,
smashed to smithereens and melted down for bullets to kill British soldiers.

Margaret had already seen her husband seek refuge on a warship in the Bay from October 1775
until August 1776; where was she accommodated during this time? Then, during the summer of
1776, ten ships-of-the line, 20 frigates and a total of 400 vessels of the Royal Navy, or
requisitioned, arrived bringing 32,000 troops, including men from the King’s German Legion. The
presence of these ‘foreign mercenaries’ was a particular grievance among those recited in the
Declaration of Independence.(10)

At the end of August 1776, Washington’s army was defeated at the Battle of Long Island (also
known as the Battle of Brooklyn Heights). The British attempted conciliation, the second time
they had done so that summer.(11) Margaret Tryon is likely to have heard her husband say, on
returning home, something along the lines of, We got nowhere, for he is likely to have attended
the conference that took place on 11th September (exactly 225 years to the day before another
event that would be seared into the history of America). The British, represented by General Lord
William Howe, offered only a pardon to men who faced the rope for making war upon the King in
his Realm if they would return to the allegiance. The Americans, represented by John Adams,
Benjamin Franklin and Edward Rutledge, would settle for nothing short of independence; the
rebellion went on for another five years.

Soon after the failed conference, five warships of the Royal Navy, led by HMS Renown, 50-guns,
opened up a point-blank bombardment on the American defences on Manhattan, so terrible, so
incessant a roar of guns few men in the army or navy had ever heard, wrote one British naval
officer. Earthworks and entrenchments were, in an instant, blasted to dust while the American
troops fled in terror. Margaret Tryon would have heard and followed this, as on 16th November
that year, she heard too, of the British victory at the northern end of Manhattan in the Battle of
Fort Washington.(12) Thereafter, the city remained under British control until cessation of
hostilities in 1781 although during the intervening years, American spies and sympathisers would
have been everywhere. It is thought that a third of Americans supported the Revolution, a third
remained loyal to the Crown, and a third were indifferent.

In September 1780, with his health failing, William and Margaret Tryon returned to London to live
at Upper Grosvenor Street.(6) It has been suggested that he had become convinced that the
American rebellion was a war which Great Britain could not win. Whether he had been
successful, as Palmer says, must be a matter of definition and opinion. William Tryon might have
hoped for royal rewards such as a knighthood, but none came. He continued to have Army
responsibilities. He directed the duties of the 30th Regt. of Foot, still in America and, in 1784, he
was Colonel of the 29th Regt. of Foot in Canada. As Palmer notes, in 1781, he was on the
Norfolk and Suffolk coast. Yet, all this must have been tame indeed, a great reduction in duties
and status that he had held in the most valuable colonies ever possessed by this or any country,
even though he now had a higher Army rank, Lt. General.
The author wonders whether, once back at their London house, during the 1780s, the Tryons
encountered John Adams (ante), who lived in the vicinity.(13) William Tryon died in London on
27th January 1788 and was buried in the family vault at St. Mary’s Church, Twickenham on 4th
February. The register of burials notes his having been, late Governor of New York, NC. He left
an estate of over £30,000 (£3m today), (8.Will, 21st November 1787 - correspondence of Wm.
Tryon ed. Powell 2-888-92). Three years later, the Tryons’ only daughter, Margaret, died.

And there, the written record of Margaret Tryon ends until the entries in the family Bible and the
register of burials in 1819. Pending further research, it must remain a matter of conjecture as to
the course of her life during the more than 30 years of her widowhood, where she spent it, and
how. It is undoubtedly an enigma as to how, in venerable old age, this wealthy, aristocratic, and
independent-minded woman came to be living in a Great Yarmouth row. (It was Dickens who said
that if you want to live a long life, take out an annuity, go to live in Great Yarmouth and wait until
the company asks whether your name is Methuselah).

It is the armchair pleasure of the ‘counter-factual’ historian to muse on what might have been,
had, in the epic drama which was the American Revolution, one of the many opportunities for
conciliation with the rebellious colonies, been taken. Or, if, on many an occasion, given the
aleatory character of war, things had turned out slightly differently. No other person who would
live in Great Yarmouth could have had a better vantage point from which to have viewed what in
fact happened than Margaret Tryon.

Row 107 - St. George’s Row East, Post Office Row, Post House Row is today nothing more
than a short, dark, public alley truncated by the Council’s post-war housing development in
Yarmouth Way and Middlegate. Row 107 was a ‘half-row’, that is, it ran only between King
Street and Middlegate, its way blocked by the Tolhouse. Consequently, the row numbering
on South Quay goes from No. 106 to No. 108. In reliance upon Palmer’s description,
Armstrong’s boarding house must have stood on or just to the west of the site subsequently
occupied by St. George’s Rooms, latterly the late Peter Howkins’ furniture business at 145
King Street. The Row thus narrowly escaped being obliterated when Yarmouth Way was
driven through the vicinity following the devastation of the rows area during World War II.
Still presiding over this spot on its eminence, is St. George’s Chapel (consecrated 1715, but
now in secular use), which would have been a little over a century old when Margaret
Tryon’s death occurred in 1819. Row 134, Wake’s Row, lies entirely beneath the Middlegate
Council scheme of the early 1950s. Any possible connection with the subject of this essay
remains unestablished. For all that the rows were to become a thorn in the flesh of the
sanitary authorities, Margaret Tryon’s presence in Row 107 in 1819, and Cufaude’s as late
as 1872, are a reminder that there were once quite grand houses, and indeed, grand people
residing in the cramped, fetid warrens of the old walled town, not only before, but for years
after its expansion onto the airy spaces of the denes and into Southtown, a process that
began towards the end of the 18th century. This cheek-by-jowl co-existence of poverty and
wealth was, in many towns, common until that time and in some cases, for long after it.
Nevertheless, a person who, today, embarked upon a tour entitled ‘Locales of Margaret
Tryon’, would be disappointed by the Great Yarmouth site.
The reference by Palmer to the presence of troops in the area is a reminder that during the
American, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, large numbers of soldiers were
stationed all over East Anglia. Palmer says (Vol. 3 pp 375, pub. 1875): Gorleston is now
bounded on the south by Hopton Heath formerly an extensive common where troops were
frequently encamped during the great continental wars of the last and beginning of the
present centuries. In 1779, the Huntingdon Regiment of Militia was encamped here under
the command of the Duke of Manchester, and the East Essex Regt. of Militia under the
command of Col. Bullard. The Lincoln and West Kent Regts. of Militia were encamped on
Hopton Heath in 1794 and in 1795, the third, 53rd and 88th Regts. of the Line with the North
Lincolnshire Regt. of Militia. It is thus apparent that this locality was not enclosed until quite
late during the long period of Enclosures. Hodskinson’s Map of Suffolk, 1783, shows Hopton
Common with Warren Lane in situ (the name being a clue as to the earlier character of the
area) and as covering the land now occupied by most of the present-day golf course and
reaching through to the Lowestoft road. The southern limit of the Common appears to have
been some distance short of the current northern extent of 20th century housing in Hopton
village. Palmer (ibid) notes that Sir Astley Cooper (1768-1841), travelling in old age to visit

the town, remarked upon how changed Hopton was compared with the days of his youth and
likewise the town itself, spreading out across the denes, that he felt he scarcely recognized it.
This was the Yarmouth Margaret Tryon would have known.
This would be the Jacobean house built by John Wentworth between 1604 and 1610, not the
Italianate mansion erected on the same spot by the railway contractor, Sir Samuel Morton
Peto, MP (1809-1889) during the 1840s and extant. It is the latter’s biography (Brooks) that
notes the arrival of John Adams at Lowestoft in 1784. (see note 13).
The entry in the register of burials for St. Mary’s Church, Twickenham, reads simply: Miss
Margaret Tryon 6th August 1791 from Hounslow. To the author’s mind, this introduces a
slight note of caution with regard to Palmer’s account of the accident at the London house
some three years after her father’s death. Legally, Margaret Tryon would have needed
nobody’s consent to her marriage although one wonders about family pressure. Here,
nevertheless, according to Palmer, is a 30 year-old woman climbing out of an upstairs
window into the arms of her soldier lover. The reference to Hounslow might be significant.
Hounslow Heath on the Great West Road out of London had, since Roman times, been used
for military encampments, and was being used for that purpose at the material time.
C. J. Palmer (ibid) notes that this branch of the Tryon family was not the first to be associated
with Great Yarmouth. He states that Sir Samuel Tryon, who was knighted by King James at
Newmarket in 1615, and created a baronet in 1620, gave a contribution for the repair of the
pier and desired that his arms might be displayed in the parish church. This was done and a
plaque mounted beneath the shield reading: Sir Samuel Tryon’s arms are placed here / a
kind well-wisher to our Yarmouth Peere / In memoriam benefactoris munifici.

The Tryon family vault, raised and railed, is extant in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Twickenham.
Hanover Street and Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair are still busy streets in the West End.
The former is lined largely with late 19th and early 20th century office buildings, the latter
retains much of its 18th century appearance including the iron railings (or replicas) upon
which the daughter of William and Margaret Tryon is reported to have been fatally injured.
America’s diplomats remained in the area for a very long time; the United States embassy
occupied the large modern building at the corner Grosvenor Square and Upper Grosvenor
Street until the transfer to Nine Elms in 2018.
The painting of Pocahontas, reported to have been long in the Rolfe family of Norfolk, is now
in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
After the transfer of the capitol of North Carolina to Raleigh in 1788, ‘Tryon’s Palace’ was
appropriated for various uses and eventually fell into decay. In 1959, it was painstakingly
restored with a vigilant eye to historical accuracy. The application of the term, ‘Palace’ at the
time of its construction, was mocking. It should however, be noted that this would in other
circumstances have been a suitable name for such buildings, and as was, and is the case at
Williamsburg in the adjoining state, Virginia, where the former colonial Governor’s residence
is called ‘The Governor’s Palace’. Of all the places in this narrative, their former house at
New Bern is the one William and Margaret Tryon would be most likely to recognize today,
together with, perhaps, Upper Grosvenor Street.

Fort George, at the southern tip of Manhattan, the principal British emplacement in the area,
would doubtless have been of interest to Margaret Tryon with its 90 guns. Intended as the
site of the President’s house, and damaged during the Revolution, it was demolished in 1790
following the removal of the new Government to Philadelphia. Today, the site is occupied by
the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, itself a listed building. It should not be confused
with another former Fort George at the north end of Manhattan and which stood roughly
where, today, Audubon Avenue crosses West 192nd Street.

There was similar resentment in this country when, on 17th March 1815, the Brunswick
Hussars were used to quell a Corn Laws riot at Norwich. As in America, German soldiers had
been set upon British subjects on British soil. A clause in the Bill of Rights, 1689, still in
force, bars the use of British arms in any conflict in which the occupant of the British Throne is
engaged in his or her capacity as sovereign of another State. The reverse does not apply
however, hence the presence of the King’s German Legion both in the American colonies and
in the UK. The soldiers would have come from King George III’s possessions in Hanover,
and from the service of other German princes as in the reference to Brunswick (above).
Washington’s Continental Army gained a famous victory over the German Legion at the Battle
of Trenton on Christmas Day, 1776.
The meeting between the two sides took place at a 17th century farmhouse, the Billop House,
the residence of a Loyalist and former Royal Naval officer, Christopher Billop. Situated at the
southern tip of Staten Island, it remains a listed, historic building called appropriately ‘The
Conference House’.
Fort Washington at the north end of Manhattan was subsequently named ‘Fort Tryon’ and it
was the latter name that was transferred to the nearby Fort Tryon Park (see also footnote
below), today a pleasant public park of 67 acres, a scenic landmark of the City of New York,
having views of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers. In the Tryons’ time, the area was occupied
by farms and country estates formerly belonging to the early Dutch colonists.
John Adams (1735-1826), (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, second
President of the United States, 1797-1801), was the first American Minister to the court of St.
James’s. A note of local interest is that on 6th August 1784, he landed at Lowestoft from the
Netherlands on the way to take up that appointment. His official residence was in Mayfair.

Tryon County, North Carolina and Tryon County New York have both been re-named. However,
a considerable number of places in both states bear the name including neighbourhoods, streets
and parks. Also, in Chelsea, London SW3, is a short, narrow street of small houses, probably
built around 1800, named ‘Tryon Street’.


C. J. Palmer concludes his Perlustration with a Final Note at the end of Vol III, page 381: The task
which the Editor desired to accomplish is now completed, and while engaged upon it, he has
attained the scriptural age of man. He claims for the foregoing pages no more than that they may
serve as subsidiaries to local history, preserving the memory of persons and events which might
otherwise pass into oblivion, but which are not without interest to those engaged in similar
studies, and especially those who are in any manner connected with the town of Great Yarmouth.

It would surely have been gratifying to Charles Palmer, as he laid down his pen in 1875, to have
known that, 145 years after he completed his seminal work, and a full 200 years after one of his
subject’s sojourn in the town, Margaret Tryon’s presence here, would, as a sole consequence of
his thoroughness and scholarship, not pass into oblivion, but would be written up in the 21st
century in the essay attempted above.
‘ad unguem factus’ – ‘finished to the last detail’.
In 1973, the Society, with the support of members of the Palmer family, restored C. J. Palmer’s
grave in Great Yarmouth Cemetery.
Editor’s Note: The author advised that he received an appreciative letter from the New-York
Historical Society Museum & Library (founded in 1804 and still using the hyphenated form of ‘New
York’) following his own letter to that society in which he enclosed details about Margaret Tryon.
The letter stated that their collections include quite a lot of documentation about her husband but
nothing on his wife, so the biographical and genealogical details were most welcome. The New-
York Historical Society Museum & Library also confirmed that they hold a copy of C. J. Palmer’s
‘Perlustration’, he having been an honorary member of that society.

Ordnance Survey map 1885, King Street, Great Yarmouth and vicinity of Row 107
Brooks, Rev’d. Dr. E. C., Sir Samuel Morton Peto, Bt, 1809-1889, Bury Clerical Society, 1996
Nelson. P. D., William Tryon: The Course of Empire: a life in British Imperial Service, University of
North Carolina Press, 1990
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol 55 pp 481, P. D. Nelson, contrib., OUP
Haywell, Marshall Delaney, Governor William Tryon and his administration of the Province of New
York, 1765-1771, 1903
Cowley, Robert, What If? - America, Macmillan, 2004, Putnams, NY, 2003: McCullough, David
(contrib), What the Fog Wrought - The Revolution’s Dunkirk Aug 29th 1776, a counterfactual
Palmer, Charles John, F.S.A., Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, three vols., 1872-75, George Nall
of Great Yarmouth, printer and publisher
Dymond, D. P., Hodskinson’s Map of Suffolk 1783, Larks Press, 2003
Foynes, Julian, East Anglia Against the Tricolor, 1789-1815 - an English Region against
Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, Poppyland, 2016
American National Biography, Vol. 16, Oxford University Press, New York
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 16, NC University Press
Tooke, Colin, Yarmouth Rows, Poppyland, 1989

The Maria Somes
Great Yarmouth’s Largest Ship
Gareth H. H. Davies

In May 1841, Great Yarmouth’s largest ship was launched from Frederick Preston’s Southtown
shipyard. An Indiaman, its registered weight was 821 tons1 and cost some £20,000 (over £2m
today) to build. It was commissioned by Joseph Somes, owner of the largest shipping company
in the world at the time. The Norfolk Chronicle reported:

The day was ushered in by the ringing bells and the firing of cannon, and at an early hour the
note of preparation was sounded.… the Chief Magistrate's guests then proceeded.…to the Town
Hall, from the windows of which they could obtain an advantageous view of the River, teeming
with animation.…Every window which could command a view was filled with ladies while the
quays on both sides of the river, the bridge, and every vessel from stem to stern, and from deck
to topmast, were crowded with anxious gazers wondering how so unwieldy looking a mass could
be safely consigned to her native element, or anxiously wishing for the moment which should test
the skill of the experienced architect. The hour arrived, and the signal having been given, every
eye was bent with eager gaze centering on the one object before them, and loud were the shouts
of the crew on board the ‘Maria Somes’ as she proudly dipped her maiden keel in the waters of
the Yare. Near to the vessel was erected a commodious stand, from which the beautiful daughter
of the worthy owner flung the accustomed bottle and announced her name. The precautions
adopted to prevent accident to the vessel on the opposite quay, from the narrowness of river,
were so admirably arranged that not the slightest accident occurred. The magnificent vessel was
brought up before she reached the opposite shore and lay upon the bosom of the wave, proudly
over topping every other. The brass band, Smith's band, and that belonging to the Cavalry, all
lent their aid to heighten the festivities, and upwards of 10,000 joyous, jocund, frolic-loving
countenances, seemed on all sides to reflect back the irradiations of the bright god of day. It is
generally believed that the number of strangers in Yarmouth on Monday exceeded that of any
former occasion of whatever kind.2

While the common belief is that

clippers carried tea to Britain before
the age of steam, it was these much
larger Indiamen that were the bulk
carriers. They were the tankers of
their day and plied their trade back
and forth to India, Australia and the
other colonies carrying all sorts of
goods and, in many cases, people.

Joseph Somes was the son of

Samuel Somes, an east London
waterman, coal merchant and
eventually a ship-owner. Apprenticed
to his father as a lighterman,3 he was
sent to sea at the age of fifteen.

At 21, he became a captain of one of

his father's ships and remained at sea
until 1818, acquiring a worldwide
knowledge of shipping and navigation.
The death of Somes's father in 1816
and then of his elder brother, also
named Samuel, in 1829, left him sole
owner of a prosperous shipping firm
Plate 1: Joseph Somes chartering ships to the East India
Image courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand. Company.
In the 1830s, Somes seized the opportunity
offered by the breakup of the East India
Company fleet to purchase a number of its
best ships operating primarily to the East
Indies. He took advantage of the emerging
Australasia trade from the late 1830s as
colonisation increased in the southern seas.
By the time the Maria Somes, named after
his second wife, was built, the Somes
shipping empire consisted of 40 ships
registered at Lloyd's. It was already the
world’s largest private shipping company,
specialising in chartering ships to the UK
government for the transport of convicts,
stores, and troops.

In March 1846, while transporting part of the

Plate 2: House flag of Joseph Somes
90th Regiment on their return from duty, the A white ensign with an anchor on the inner canton.
Maria Somes encountered a terrible The adaptation of the white ensign was supposedly
hurricane: awarded to Joseph Somes as a reward for services to
the UK Government in time of need.
… shortly after leaving Ceylon, she Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum
encountered a most terrific hurricane in ref. AAA1077.
latitude 15S., longitude 78E., on the 27th,
28th, 29th, and 30th of March. During the whole of this period, the sea made most fearful havoc
with the vessel; the topmasts, yards, spars, and boats were carried away, and eventually she was
thrown on her beam-ends. In this perilous position she continued for a considerable time, and the
crew failing in righting her by the usual means, resolved on cutting away the mainmast. On that
being accomplished, the rudder was found to have been torn away, thereby rendering her
situation still more hazardous. The ship suffering still severely, and the surf making a complete
breach over her decks, it was deemed indispensable for the safety of the troops to order them
below, and to batten down the hatches. For days afterwards the storm raged with apparently
unabated fury, and the awful sufferings of those below may be easily conceived. The vessel
rolled fearfully, and their cries were distressing in the extreme, while the falling spars every now
and then maimed those on deck, including the master, agent, and chief officer. On the hurricane
somewhat moderating, no time was lost in removing the hatches, when a most appalling sight
was presented. A sergeant, seven men, one woman, and five children were found dead on the
under decks, whether from suffocation or fright cannot be stated; the supposition is the former.
The heat is described to have been overpowering, and it is matter of considerable surprise that a
greater sacrifice of life was not the result.4

On two occasions (1844 and 1850) the ship was also used to transport convicts to Tasmania
(Van Diemen’s Land). While no Great Yarmouth resident was transported on either of these
voyages, a number of Norfolk men were part of the contingent in 1850. Their crimes might seem
petty today, but were serious offences at the time.

 Reuben Berry: sentenced to 10 years transportation for ‘stealing 2/6d from a widower of
Wyndham’ (Wymondham).
 Allan Matthew Williamson: sentenced to 7 years transportation for ‘forging a cheque for 30
pounds from Messrs. Potter and Farrier at Birmingham’.
 William Shearing: sentenced to 7 years transportation for ‘stealing a waistcoat from Mr.
Williams at Swaffham’.
 George Bloomfield: sentenced to 7 years transportation for ‘house robbery stealing a pair of
trousers and a waistcoat from Mr. Whitton at Diss’.
 Robert Sydney Smith: sentenced to 7 years transportation for ‘stealing half a peck (5 pounds)
of potatoes from Mr. Walcott’.

Plate 3: The Convict Transportation Register for the Maria Somes, 1850
The left-hand page shows the convicted Norfolk criminals transferred to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on
the Maria Somes in 1850.
On the right-hand page is Frederick Durrant, aged 24, from Northampton, who was one of three that died
on the five-month voyage to Australia. The surgeon’s report noted, “taken ill at sea; sick or hurt, dysenteria,
this patient was before in the sick list very much troubled with worm, he again complained of colic pain in
the bowels with cold shivering; put on sick list 13 July 1850, died 2 August 1850.”
Image courtesy of National Archives, ref. H0 11/16.
Records held in the Tasmanian Government archives and now online provide a fascinating
glimpse into their subsequent lives. On arrival in Tasmania prisoners’ details were taken down.
This included distinguishing features, e.g. tattoos, plus whether they could read or write. They
were also required to ‘confess’ the nature of the offence they had been convicted of and any other
previous crimes. These books were circulated to district magistrates for the purposes of
identification and convict management. Offences while fulfilling their sentence were also
recorded in the same book (which could lead to extension of their sentence), as well as general
remarks concerning character. While many reformed and went on to become model colonists,
others did not. For example, Allan Williamson’s entry shows that he continued to forge
documents, whether they be statements of good character to gain employment, or to obtain
money by false pretences. Initially gaining an extension of 15 years to his original conviction, and
then further prison sentences on the island, he eventually died in Hobart prison in November
1893, having spent nearly 40 years in custody.

Australasia also provided entrepreneurs with the opportunity to make money from buying land
cheaply from the indigenous people and selling it at a profit to investors. Among those willing to
take advantage of this was Joseph Somes, who took an active role in the New Zealand Company,
becoming its ‘governor’ in 1840 and selling his first ship, the Tory,5 to the company as part of his
Plate 4:
Memorial to Joseph Somes in St. Dunstan Church, Stepney
It reads: Joseph Somes Esquire Member of Parliament for
Dartmouth [ended] this life June XXV MDCCCXLV in the LVII
year of his age [through] arduous application of a powerful mind
[he] raised himself to the position [of the] most extensive ship
owner [of this] great commercial country. [an] unexpected internal
malady [brought on] by over exertion in his many duties removed
him from this world in a few hours. Maria Somes [his unfortunate]
widow has erected this tablet in memory of him so dearly loved
and valued Annery North Devon July XXVI MCMXI ‘Teach us to
number our days that we apply our heart unto wisdom. Psalm XX
verse xii.’
Image courtesy of Royal Museums, Greenwich,
Memorial M4246.

introduction of capital. The company indulged in many

questionable land purchases from the Māori, in many cases
reselling land it did not own, and launched elaborate,
grandiose and sometimes fraudulent advertising campaigns.
As governor, Somes was the figurehead for this aggressive
and ruthless campaign aimed at securing government
recognition for the New Zealand Company as the main protagonist for colonisation. The concept
was to create a new-model English society in the southern hemisphere. The business plan
involved the colony attracting capitalist investors, who would purchase land cheaply and import
migrant labourers who might not initially afford to be property owners, but would have the
expectation of one day buying their land with their savings. Following Joseph’s death, the family
connection with New Zealand was to live on with his wife, Maria. She purchased land in the new
colony of Canterbury for ‘religious and useful learning’. This was the start of Christ’s College,
Canterbury. The Somes company flag was also adopted by the early settlers of Canterbury.

Somes also had political aspirations. One month after the launch of his ship, he was proposed
by Edmund Preston, Frederick’s cousin, as one of the Tory Parliamentary candidates for Great
Yarmouth. However, on this occasion, both the Whig candidates were elected. He was
eventually elected as MP for Dartmouth in December 1844. He was to die the following year.

The ship, the Maria Somes, continued to transport goods until she was lost off Whitby on 10th
May 1865 with a cargo of coal and coke bound for Alexandria. At the Board of Trade enquiry, it
was stated: she struck about 400 yards from Whitby pier, and she became a total wreck. The
crew were saved by the lifeboat of the National Lifeboat Institution, excepting one, who was
brought ashore in a coble.6
Palmer in his History of Great Yarmouth (pub. 1856) states its tonnage as 598¼. In 1841,
the Maria Somes would have been registered by its ‘measured tonnage’ determined by its
overall dimensions. In 1854, a new Merchant Shipping Act required ships to be measured by
their ‘gross registered tonnage’. This was defined as the total volume of its enclosed spaces,
100 cubic feet being one ton. Hence the difference in the two numbers.
Norfolk Chronicle, 29th May 1841, p.3
A lighterman was a worker who operates a lighter, a type of flat-bottomed barge carrying
goods from ships anchored in the middle of the Thames or near bridge arches. It was an
extremely skilled job, requiring an intimate knowledge of the river's currents and tides.
The Evening Chronicle, 24th July 1846
The Tory was sent to New Zealand in 1839 with a shipload of settlers without government
Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 26th May 1865
Rev’d. Robert James Dundas (1833-1904)
Clergyman and Missionary. Donor to the Great Yarmouth Museum
of Tsimshian (an indigenous people of British Columbia, Canada) artefacts
Paul P. Davies

On wandering around the corridors and rooms in the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth
Life, amongst the local artefacts and exhibits there is, surprisingly, a small section of Tsimshian
ethnic pieces from British Columbia. The question that has to be asked is; why are they in a
Great Yarmouth museum? The answer is that they were donations from Rev’d. Robert James
Dundas and the Misses Penrice.

Robert James Dundas was one of five children born in 1832 in

Edinburgh, at 8 Atholl Crescent, 1 a large three-storey Georgian
terrace house with a basement which, at the census of 1841,
boasted employing ten servants. His father, William Pitt Dundas,
was an advocate who became the Registrar General of Scotland.
William Pitt Dundas’ mother, the Hon. Elizabeth, was the daughter
of Henry Dundas, 1st Lord Melville, who was a friend of William Pitt
the Younger (the Prime Minster in 1783-1801 and 1804-1806).
Robert James Dundas’s grandfather was the Solicitor General for
Scotland and a Member of Parliament for Edinburgh. Robert
James Dundas was educated at Charterhouse School, then in the
City of London, and at Exeter College, Oxford University.

From 1848 to 1859, the Rev’d. George Hills was the Vicar of Great
Yarmouth. In 1858, Hills was offered, and took, the position of the
first Bishop of British Columbia in Canada. The new diocese was
in area bigger than Great Britain, Ireland and France together.
Rev’d. Robert James Dundas
In the 1850s, the first of many
shiploads of gold seekers had arrived in Victoria in British Columbia
en route to the gold fields of the Fraser River and the next few
years saw a great growth in the population of Victoria.

The Colony of British Columbia was a crown colony in British North

America from 1858 until 1866. It was founded by the British Crown,
who appointed James Douglas, then the Governor of the
neighbouring colony of Vancouver Island (established in 1849), as
the colony's first Governor. It was amalgamated in 1866 with the
Colony of Vancouver Island to form a new colony of British

The Hudson’s Bay Company was incorporated in England in 1670

to seek a northwest passage to the Pacific, to occupy the lands
adjacent to Hudson Bay and to carry on any commerce, mainly furs,
with these lands that might prove profitable. By 1825, the company
had established itself at Fort Vancouver on the Fraser River.
Previously, the company had been persuaded by its committee in
Rev’d. George Hills London to include the teaching of Christianity of the Church of
England persuasion as well as their usual trading with the
indigenous population and the settlers. However, no great effort in missionary work was made for
many years but, in 1836, the first Anglican priest arrived in Victoria.

In the 1850s, the chaplain for the Hudson’s Bay Company requested additional help from the
Colonial Church Society. Instead of appointing an extra priest, the company offered a bishop and
four missionaries. Angela Burdett-Coutts, the heiress to Coutts’ Bank, endowed the bishopric

British Columbia, Gold Country 1860

with £25,000 (circa £1½ million today). She was a great philanthropist and also endowed the
Bishoprics of Capetown and Adelaide. Before the newly appointed Hills left Great Yarmouth,
money was collected from the townsfolk for a testimonial and over £300 (circa £18,000 today)
was collected. He was consecrated the Bishop of British Columbia in Westminster Abbey on 24th
February 1859. During the rest of that year Hills undertook a tour of Great Britain to raise funds
for his new diocese.

He attended 177 meetings and gave 114 sermons on behalf of his new work. The tour raised
£23,000 (circa £1.3 million pounds today) for the newly established British Columbia Mission.
While speaking in Edinburgh in 1859, Hills stated that: in Columbia there lived Europeans,
Africans, Sandwich Islanders, Chinese, Canadians, Americans, half caste Indians and 75,000
native Indians. Then there was
the character of the population, Travel route to Columbia as suggested in newspapers
full of the gambling spirit, which
tainted all gold-seeking England to Montreal…..13 days
populations and with other vices Montreal to St. Paul’s, Alberta….. 4 days
brought more miseries and crimes St. Paul’s to Red River colony in Manitoba with
in its train. The case was two days stoppage…..10 days
therefore strong for the planting of Red River to Edmonton on the River Saskatchewan with
the institutions of the Christian loaded carts and wagons…..35 days
church, by which alone men’s Edmonton to the gold diggings…..25 days
hearts could be corrected, and Total 87 days
respect for one another and the
law could be inculcated. 2 At least 4 days should be allowed for bad weather and
other delays
In 1859, there was a suggestion
that the people of Great Yarmouth
should raise sufficient funds to establish, in the diocese of Columbia, a permanent memorial as a
testimony of the affection of the people of Great Yarmouth, for Hills. The establishment of a
school, or something similar to it, was considered. Mrs. G. Penrice offered to contribute £50
(circa £3,000). Whether this came about is uncertain. 3

On 16th November 1859, George Hills set sail on board the La Plata from Southampton to
Canada and he arrived on 6th January 1860. For over 30 years, Hills worked unceasingly in
Columbia and was transported around by Great Yarmouth fishermen in a Great Yarmouth vessel.
He won the confidence of the settlers and was a pioneer of civilisation with a Christian ethos.
Interestingly, Rev’d. John Sheepshanks, a future Bishop of Norwich, worked under the direction
of Hills in Columbia, where he lived a rugged life in charge of a church situated in little more than
a forest clearing on the banks of the Fraser River. Sheepshanks had been a curate at Leeds
Parish Church, where a fellow curate was George Hills.

On his retirement in 1892, Hills returned to England and was

appointed the Rector of Parham in Suffolk, by Sheepshanks.
Hills was said to be a man of sound judgement and a good all-
rounder. Hills said that: if the heart is right, I can pardon
mistakes and the stupidity in the use of the hands. He added:
though in the colonies a man will soon find that he has to use
his fists. 4 Hills died in 1895.

Robert Dundas had proceeded to Columbia by the quicker

overland route. He reached Columbia a few weeks before Hills
to prepare the way for him and was appointed his chaplain.
Dundas had been sent out
by the Society of the
Propagation of the Gospel in
Rev’d. John Sheepshanks
Foreign Parts. 5

After an appeal by Hills, two sisters, Miss Catherine Penrice

and Miss Ann Penrice, arrived in Columbia in about August
1859 as female missionaries and teachers, under the special
patronage of Angela Burdett Coutts. They had worked under
Hills as District Visitors during the ten years of his incumbency
of Great Yarmouth. 6 The District Visitors visited the sick and
poor of Great Yarmouth. The Penrice sisters taught at the
ladies’ collegiate school, Angela College. The subjects they
covered were
English, the use
of globes, music
and singing,
Angela Burdett-Coutts
dr awing and
painting, needle
fancy work, and of course, religious and moral
training. 7 They were the daughters of George
Penrice, a physician, of 146 King Street, where they
resided. They had been born at Fritton Hall and
moved to Somerleyton in their later life. In January
1859, the District Visitors presented Hills with an
elegant and chaste silver communion service for his
cathedral church in Columbia. The service was
suitably inscribed, and valued at £42 and was
supplied by Mr. E. R. Aldred, a local silversmith. 8

While in Columbia, Dundas wrote in his diary: What

I have seen and heard in the last two months only
serves to press home more strongly the conviction
that the sins and evils that are amongst the men of
this world, be they savages or be they civilised,
Daily Colonist 21st September 1860 there is but one effectual remedy, that is the life
giving Gospel of Jesus Christ. 9
Gold prospecting on the Fraser River, British Columbia

After his return to England in 1865, Dundas gave a talk in Great Yarmouth about his missionary
work in Columbia carried out amongst the miners. He described a journey starting on foot from
Fort Vale, the head of river navigation, 116 miles up the Fraser River. Walking with another
clergymen, they had a pack horse to carry their tent, blanket, frying-pan, bag of flour, beans, tea,
sugar and a tin pot. These, with an axe and hatchet, formed the kit. Each night, at about sunset,
they camped, sometimes close to a road construction party, sometimes by a bar for miners and
sometimes in a village of Indian hunters. He described the services held on such occasions and
the gladness with which such ministrations were for the most part received. He next described
the difficulties and real hardship of up country travel in the early days before roads had been
made and he drew an appalling picture of Columbian mud holes and trails, whose great
recommendation seemed to be that they had a bottom, if you went down enough, which was
usually over knee deep. He then went on to describe the work done in the mining creeks by
missionaries and his own first Sunday service at Antler Creek. His companion, the Rev’d. J.
Sheepshanks, went up and down the valley to give notice at the mining claims, while he went
about in the mining villages looking for a room in which to hold the service. First, he tried to
borrow a drinking saloon, but on Sundays it could not be spared. Then he was directed to a
newly built log room, which could perhaps be borrowed, but it turned out to be a gambling saloon
in full blast. At length an apartment was secured. Then, he rang the bell for the church service,
which was done by beating a triangle, walking up and down the narrow street of the village.
Dundas then went on to speak of the work, mentioning more particularly his visit to the Christian
village of Matlakatla, in autumn 1863. This had been formed by Mr. W. Duncan of the Church
Missionary Society three years
previously with Indians belonging to
the great Tsimshian tribe at Fort
Simpson, in the north-west of British
Columbia. He drew the contrast
between the heathen villages at Fort
Simpson and this Christian settlement
16 miles south of it, where all was
peace and order. He narrated a story
about the young daughter of a chief,
whom he first saw being initiated with
the horrible rites of the medicine work,
but who is now a modest, well-
instructed girl; one of the best in the
mission school. He concluded by
asking those present to help the
cause of the foreign missions by
donating money for the Columbian Native Indians converted to Christianity, in Matlakatla, 1860s
Mission. 10 Norfolk Museums Service
In 1970, Dundas at another talk addressed the religion of the Indians. He said that they did not
seem to have any idea of God. All their religion seemed to consist of a belief in ghosts and the
spirits of the dead, who were influential in some way upon the affairs of man. They seemed to
have no idea of a Superior Being.

In the surprising belief that there would be a shortage of timber in Columbia, Angela Burdett
Counts arranged for a prefabricated iron church to be shipped out. The clipper barque, Athelstan,
was engaged to bring from England the church building and its furnishings, which arrived in
Columbia on 28th February 1860. Hills wrote: the captain and the crew, being mostly Great
Yarmouth men, came bodily up to the church, like a school, headed by my worthy servant,
Bridgman, who went down to show them the way, and who said it was the proudest day of his life.
We had hoped to have a special service on board, as was the case when she sailed from Great
Yarmouth. 6 The Athelstan of 500 tons burthen, had been launched from H. Fellows and Son of
Great Yarmouth in April 1859. The Norfolk Chronicle reported that she is a perfect model of a
barque and reflects the highest credit, not only on the builder, but also on the port of Great
Yarmouth, from which she will sail. Her maiden voyage was to Columbia under charter to Hills. 11
In July 1867, Athelstan, was lost off the island of Chiloe, South America. In a gale the vessel
sprang a leak and the crew spent eight days in an open boat before reaching land. 12

The church was erected on Douglas Street and was consecrated as the Church of St. John the
Divine, named after the fishermen’s church in Great Yarmouth, and Dundas was appointed its
rector. It had a capacity for 600 people. The existing church, Christchurch, had been built in
1856, which was half a mile south of St. John’s. In 1865, Hills chose Christchurch as his
cathedral after it had been enlarged. 5 Apparently, when it rained or the wind blew it became
difficult in St. John’s iron church to hear the preacher. 13

The Columbia Mission gradually grew and, by 1863, there were no less than 14 clergymen
working under Hills’ supervision along with three Bible teachers and two parish visitors/teachers
(Ann and Catherine Penrice, who were doing an incalculable amount of good). By 1868, there
were 25 churches and mission chapels, 22 clergy houses, 12 schools, ten mission stations, 15
clergy and 13 Bible teachers. 5

Dundas left Columbia in March 1865 and returned to

England via the United States and South America.
Next, he became a curate at Chelmsford. In 1868, he
was appointed by the then Vicar of Great Yarmouth,
Rev’d. Henry Ralph Nevill, to be in charge of St.
John's Church, the fishermen’s church in the south of
the town. He lived at 1 St. John’s Terrace, which at
the time was the clergy house. Here he lived with a
cook, a nursemaid and a parlourmaid as servants.

In 1866, while at Chelmsford, Dundas married Annie

Martha Jeffreys, the eldest daughter of J. Gwyn
Jefferies of 25 Devonshire Place, Westminster, at
Marylebone Parish Church. The Vicar of Great
Yarmouth, Henry Nevill, who was the uncle of the St. John's Church, Great Yarmouth
bride, officiated. 14

The bride’s father was born in Swansea and became a successful solicitor there. He was called
to the bar in 1856, when he moved to London and practiced in the Court of Chancery. On his
retirement in 1866, he moved to Ware Priory in Hertfordshire. He was a magistrate for
Glamorgan, Brecon and Hertfordshire. Also, he was a Deputy Lieutenant for Hertfordshire and, in
1877, its Sheriff. In 1829, he was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society and, in 1840, a Fellow
of the Royal Society. Jeffreys is well-known as a conchologist (the study and collection of
mollusc shells) and spent time deep sea diving and dredging in shallower waters. He wrote over
100 scientific papers and the book, British Conchology, illustrated in five volumes. His
magnificent collection of European sea shells was purchased two years before his death by the
American Government. He died from a stroke in 1885 and left £51,308 (circa £3½ million today).
After the death of his wife in 1881, he moved to Kensington. 15

In October 1871, Dundas left Great Yarmouth to take up his

appointment as the rector of Albury, near Guildford, Surrey,
which he held for 32 years until his death. On leaving Great
Yarmouth he was presented with a silver salver and a clock.
At the rectory in Albury his household included a
parlourmaid, a cook, a housemaid, a laundress and a nurse
attendant. Dundas was appointed an honorary canon of
Winchester Cathedral in 1889. In 1904, he died suddenly,
while talking to a friend. 16 He left £27,351 5s. 1d. (circa
£2.2 million in today’s value).
The grave of Robert Dundas
At his funeral, the Rural Dean spoke of Dundas: as a close at Albury
personal friend of well-nigh a lifetime, he was one of the
truest, purest, most unselfish souls that he ever knew. In the wilds of British Columbia among the
rough miners, the native Indians, after hard travel by day, and with hard earth for his bed at night,
he worked with grand energy as a pioneer for his Master. In the seaport town of Great Yarmouth
among the fisher folk, day and night at their call, he did wherever he could to help and cheer and
comfort them. And then in Albury he never was weary of ministering to the sick and dying and he
worked while strength was given him. 17

Concerning the Tsimshian artefacts in the Time and Tide Museum, Dundas had visited the
Tsimshian village of Old Metlakatla in October 1863. The village had been re-established in 1862
as a Christian settlement by William Duncan (1832-1918), an Anglican lay missionary. Duncan
had outlawed the spiritual practices of his Tsimshian converts, but he recognised that the rattles,
amulets and soul catchers etc. used by spirit doctors held great fascination and monetary value
for white settlers. Dundas was anxious to obtain some of the medicine men’s implements and
tools and succeeded in obtaining 77 small items from Duncan. It is not clear whether Dundas
paid for the items. Before leaving British Columbia in 1865, Dundas had amassed a significant
collection of carved wooden, stone and horn artefacts. For example, Dundas wrote in October
1863, that he purchased two wooden spoons for a bar of soap. 9, 7 The Penrice sisters meanwhile
collected local needlework.

Dundas and the Penrice sisters returned to England in 1865 and an exhibition of curiosities,
including their collections, was held at the Great Yarmouth Town Hall in 1866.

Earlier in January 1864, a Loan Exhibition was held at the Great Yarmouth Priory. There were
upwards of 700 contributions from private collections supplied by about 50 ladies and gentlemen.
Mrs. G. Penrice (the mother of Catherine and Ann Penrice) exhibited various articles from British
Columbia, including an Indian mat or hearthrug and Indian baskets of native workmanship, etc. 18

Later, the Misses Penrice and Rev’d. Dundas donated around 55 of their Canadian Northwest
Coast objects to the Shipwrecked Sailors’ Home (established in 1859), which had a small
museum of objects donated by Great Yarmouth people and sailors. The objects that came from
the Penrice sisters were textile objects (moccasins, embroidered bags etc.) whereas the objects
from Dundas were mostly wooden objects (rattles, amulets, masks etc). The Sailors’ Home
closed in 1964, before re-opening as the Maritime Museum of East Anglia in 1967. This
collection came into the care of the Time and Tide Museum in 2004. 7

On his return to Great Britain, Dundas took the rest of his collection to Scotland, and it remained
in the family for generations until his great-grandson, Simon Carey, decided to auction it at
Sotheby’s in New York in October 2006. They were sold amid urgent negotiations by Canadian
private collectors, public museums and galleries, art dealers, the federal government, Tsimshian
leaders and cultural representatives, who collectively struggled to secure funds to repatriate the
works to Canada. The Dundas Collection fetched over
seven million United States dollars and set a new
auction record for historical Canadian Northwest Coast
artefacts. They were purchased by a group of seven
private buyers and three institutions who were keen to
see the collection return to Canada. 9 Thirty-nine items
from the Dundas Collection were shown in an
exhibition, the Treasures of the Tsimshian, at the Art
Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in 2007. It was billed as:
among the most important collections of North
American first-nations art in existence.

Interestingly, Rev’d. Robert James Dundas’ great

grandfather was Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville
(1742-1811). Henry Dundas was a Scottish advocate
and a Tory politician. He was the first Secretary of
State for War and became, in 1806, the last person to
be impeached in the United Kingdom for
misappropriation of public money. Although acquitted,
he never held public office again. Henry Dundas was
instrumental in the prosecution of the war against Sotheby’s auction catalogue
New York 2006
France, in the expansion of British influence in India
and he dominated the affairs of the East India Company. His almost total control of Scottish
politics led to him being nicknamed King Harry the Ninth and the Grand Manager of Scotland, the
Great Tyrant and the Uncrowned King of Scotland. Some historians say that he was responsible
for delaying the abolition of slavery in 1792, resulting in another 15 years of suffering for many
slaves as he amended the anti-slavery bill to make outlawing the practice, gradual. He also
argued that the West Indian trade was so profitable and important to Britain, particularly in a time
of war, that it could not be abolished. The move forced around 630,000 slaves to wait more than
a decade for their freedom.

Selection of native Indian artefacts from the Dundas and Penrice collections in the Time and Tide Museum

Painted and carved bird-shaped rattle with a split

Carved wooden bowl, in the form of a beaver
head and bound handle. The rattle itself is a globular
Time and Tide Museum GRYEH: 1968.353
shell carved of hardwood, usually maple, and modified
to bird form by the inclusion of wings and a tail. The
head arches upwards, giving the rattle an overall olive
shape and the wings sweep back along the sides.
The head is cleaved into two pieces from the beak to
the nape of the neck. Details of the bird's head are a
relief design, which covers the body of the rattle.
The sound of rattles is a conduit to the supernatural
world. Everywhere on the Columbian coast shamans
used rattles in curing the sick and in seeking
assistance from spirit helpers.
Carved horn spoon with totemic ornamentation; A shaman is an intermediary between this world and
handle decorated with unknown mammal. the spirit world
Time and Tide Museum GRYEH: 1968.357 Time and Tide Museum
GRYEH: 1968.360

Transformation mask depicting an unknown Octopus bag; abstract beadwork in opaque
creature such as a bear or a character called a black, white, mustard, translucent green
hammer child; balene (filter-feeding system inside seed beads; trimmed in black cloth and
the mouths of whales) plate hinges at the top and bound in thread; mid 19th century.
bottom hold the two sections together; black and It is usually called an octopus bag because
red painted details include mica fragments; masks of the eight tabs, in four pairs.
with large toothy mouths are related to a deformed
creature called a hammer child; the large mouth Time and Tide Museum
indicated that the creature may eat people who GRYEH: 2003.63
broke taboos; the mask shows a human face with
red lips and a set of white teeth; it has slit eyes, a
large nose and is painted red, white, yellow and
Time and Tide Museum GRYEH: 2003.73

Henry Dundas
1st Lord Melville
and his

Carved and painted beaver face mask with hide

eyebrows and movable eyes (one missing);
nose painted red and large gaping mouth with
carefully depicted incisor teeth (top and bottom)
with red whiskers painted splaying out from
beneath the nose.
The beaver was an important totemic emblem
as well as being an important source of food for
indigenous people. Their pelts formed one of
the main trade items that were exchanged with
Europeans during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Time and Tide Museum GRYEH: 1967.438

Robert Dundas, 2nd Lord
Melville and his statue

Henry Dundas is commemorated by one of the most prominent memorials in Edinburgh, the 150-
foot high, listed Melville Monument in St. Andrew Square.
His son, Robert, 2nd Lord Melville (1771-1851), also has a statue in Edinburgh. Both have been
the subject of graffiti during the Black Lives Matter campaign of 2020. On the plinth of Robert
Dundas’ statue was scrawled son of slaver, colonialist, profiteer.
Aberdeen Press and Journal, 1832
Edinburgh Evening Courant, 19th May 1859
Norfolk Chronicle, 8th January 1859
Davies, Paul P., St. Nicholas’ Church, Great Yarmouth, Second Edition, 2018, ISBN:
Caradus, Sel, A Temple not made with Hands. Victoria, British Columbia, Printorium
Bookworks, 2004, ISBN: 0973606509
Hills, George, An Occasional Paper on the Columbia Mission, with letters from the Bishop,
Lowndes, Sarah, Migration, Heritage and Belonging Project, Norfolk Museum Services, 2020
Norfolk Chronicle, 8th January 1859
Ellis Donald, Tsimshian Treasures: The Remarkable Journey of the Dundas Collection, 2007,
ISBN: 9781553653325
Norfolk Chronicle, 25th November 1865
Norfolk Chronicle,19th April 1859
Norfolk Chronicle, 5th December 1868
Daily Colonist, 17th March 1863
Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, 21st April 1866
Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
Evening News, 20th February 1904
West Surrey Times, 5th March 1904
Norfolk Chronicle, 9th January 1864
With thanks to the Time and Tide Museum Great Yarmouth

Dr. John Aikin MD (1747-1822) Physician, Unitarian and Author
Paul P. Davies

Dr. John Aikin lived in Row 94 (from King Street to Deneside), Great Yarmouth, on the northwest
corner in what, C. J. Palmer called, a stately house. He had purchased the house in about 1786.
He was born in 1747 in Kibworth, Leicestershire. His father,
Rev'd. John Aikin was a dissenting minister of religion who
taught at Kibworth Academy. When Aikin was ten years old, his
father was called to Warrington to become one of the founders
and the classical tutor at the Presbyterian Warrington Academy.
Rev'd. John Aikin had developed a disease of the lungs that
permanently incapacitated his role as a preacher. The
Warrington Academy was for the liberal and virtuous education
of the young, whether intended for commercial life or the learned
professions, and was a type of non-conformist university. Private
academies had been formed after the restoration of Charles II in
1660 to overcome moves made by the Church and the
Government to restrict worship and to prevent the education of
non-conformist ministers. Over the 26 years it was in existence,
over 400 students were taught at the academy.

John Aikin, although only 12 years of age, was so advanced in John Aikin
his education that he was entered into the Warrington Academy
alongside the older students. It was intended that he should enter the ministry, but the weakness
of his voice and the liveliness of his temper caused a change in the direction of his career and he
opted for the medical profession.
At 15 years of age, he was apprenticed to
Mr. Garthshore, a surgeon and apothecary
with a considerable practice, in
Uppingham, Rutland. His three years
spent there, he found irksome and
uninstructive. He later wrote, what can you
possibly do worse with a youth than send
him from the comfort of a lettered and
civilised home to a master, probably of
sordid habits, in a place where he can find
none but gross and vulgar company, if he
seeks for any, and where drinking and low
Warrington Academy
vice will be
the only pastimes offered him. At Uppingham he did not form a
single friendship. Nothing but his love of literature and the
superiority with which it inspired in him, prevented him from
sinking into a state of listless melancholia. Aikin wrote: the
restraints of morality and religion held him from rushing into
degradation and ruin. In spite of this, he applied himself with
diligence and fulfilled his period of probation creditably, if not
happily. He often visited his father’s friend in Leicester, Richard
Pulteney, FRS, FLS, FRCS, an apothecary. Pulteney was a
highly cultivated and philosophical man, and he sometimes
borrowed Garthshore's pupil for emergency work. Near the end
of Aikin's pupillage, Garthshore made over his practice to a
successor and Aikin took charge of the patients for three months.
He was released from his apprenticeship two to three years
earlier than was usual at that time. He was then sent to study
medicine at Edinburgh. He was happy at Edinburgh and never
had found study so agreeable. Richard Pulteney
In 1766, he became a pupil, for three years, of Mr. Charles White,
a skilful surgeon and obstetrician in Manchester, and found
himself treated as a gentleman by his family. White was one of
the co-founders of the Manchester Infirmary, the Manchester
Literary and Philosophical Society, and the Manchester Lying-in
Hospital. White was widely known for his successful operations
on removing bladder stones and was the first person to describe
accurately white leg (deep vein thrombosis) in postpartum
women. White accumulated material for his celebrated book The
Management of Pregnant and Lying-in Women, which was
published in 1783. To complete his preparation for a medical
career, Aikin spent a few months attending lectures at the London

In 1770, Aikin attempted to settle in Chester as a physician, but

found that there was little space for a newcomer in medicine. He Charles White
moved back to Warrington and worked as a physician and a part-
time tutor teaching anatomy, physics and chemistry at the
academy. He remained a tutor until the academy closed in 1783.
His daughter, Lucy, wrote, neither Oxford nor Cambridge could
boast higher names in literature or science than several of the
dissenting tutors at Warrington.

Aikin ultimately took a physician's degree (Doctor of Medicine) in Leiden, Holland in 1784 and
wrote a thesis de Lactis Secretione in Puerperis (Milk Secretion in Childbirth). He came to Great
Yarmouth in 1784 and was given a friendly reception. He found that the comparatively superior
education of the local clergy made them agreeable company and he became friendly with them.

Aikin found that the other physician in Great Yarmouth was already well established and that the
town was not big enough to support two physicians (as opposed to surgeons) and friends
suggested that he set up practice in London, which he did the following year. Scarcely had he
started practice there when the physician in Great Yarmouth retired, and Aikin accepted an
invitation, signed by the leading inhabitants of Great Yarmouth, to return to the town. It was then
that he purchased the house at the end of Row 94, which he described as a very good and
pleasant one. Charles Palmer said that: the invitation was proof that his professional skill,
combined with his scientific and literary accomplishments, and his amiable and cultivated
manners, had secured him a large circle of friends. Aikin wrote: the invitation was drawn up and
signed by almost everybody of all parties in the town, promising their upmost support. Such a
testimony of respect and attachment could not but move me. I was compelled, therefore, to
accept and return.

When the French Revolution came Aikin supported it, along with many of the most enlightened
community, as it would establish liberty, equality and fraternity. However, the atrocities in France
upset many people and they became worried less similar scenes might be enacted in England.

In the 1780s, Great Yarmouth society was hostile to dissenters. In 1790, Aikin supported the
repeal of the Corporation and Tests Acts, which were under discussion in Parliament. The
Corporation Act of 1661 excluded from public office those who refused to take Holy Communion
in the Church of England. The Test Act of 1673 was designed to exclude non-conformists from
civil and military office. Office holders had to receive the Anglican Communion and to affirm the
monarch's supremacy as the head of the Church of England and to repudiate the Roman Catholic
doctrine of transubstantiation (the conversion of the bread and wine at the mass into the actual
body and blood of Christ at their consecration). These acts were not repealed until 1829. On this
subject, Aikin, whose political and religious views were those of the dissenters, published two
pamphlets against the Acts and, therefore, lost the support of most of his more orthodox friends
and patients. The pamphlets were published anonymously, but Aikin was soon identified as their
author. His professional prospects in Great Yarmouth were virtually ruined.
In a letter to a friend he wrote: I had no idea of becoming a hero of the cause, but at my age it
would be trifling not to have character and cowardly not to avow and stick to it. His position,
ruined by his pen, in Great Yarmouth became more and more intolerable and, in 1792, he moved
back to London. There, he was in easy reach of Hackney, then the stronghold of dissenters,
where he found his literary and medical work was more accepted. Aikin's daughter, Lucy,
described the migration from Great Yarmouth to London as a blessed change from Yarmouth.
Lucy also wrote at the time: I have sat for the whole evening at children's parties in Yarmouth
while others were dancing. Nobody would dance with me, as I was a Presbyterian. I have been
pushed, hunted and even struck, as I stood silent and helpless to the cry of Presbyterianism.

In 1771, Aikin recognised the spread of infection and the connection with poor ventilation. It was
observed that inflammation and gangrene were more prevalent in the crowded London hospitals
than in the private practices and the country infirmaries. Aikin advocated cleanliness, fresh air,
space between the beds and the disposal of contaminated clothing and dressings. In 1784, Aikin
wrote: Yarmouth is recommended by a striking air of cheerfulness and neatness. The manners of
the lower classes are remarkably decent and civilised. Much literature and refinement prevailed
among the richer part of the community as could be reasonably expected in a commercial town of
the second rank, occupying a remote comer of the island. The cry of the night watchman, ‘NNE
is the wind’, became very familiar.

In one of his letters Aikin stated: the grand sight of 500 ships at anchor in Yarmouth Roads
waiting for a southern breeze had lost its effect upon him from its familiarity.

Aikin is better known as a man of letters rather than a physician. His stylish scholarship gave a
natural polish to his works.

His varied attainments, as well as his moral uprightness, earned him many friends, including
Darwin, Southey, Walter Scott, Charles Lamb, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Sidney Smith and Josiah
Wedgwood. Aikin had a long personal association with John Howard (1726-90), who was born in
Hackney. Howard was a philanthropist and a penal reformer, whose notes, collected during his
many journeys, were given to Aikin. Howard resided in Great Yarmouth for a period of time.
Aikin wrote reports on prisons and advised John Howard on hygienic measures to reduce
disease in them and assisted Howard with his book The State of Prisons and on other works on
hospitals and leper houses. Aikin later published The Life of Howard.

Aikin felt he owed his inspiration to Joseph Priestly, one of the discoverers of oxygen, who taught
at the Warrington Academy. His old master, Charles White FRS of Manchester, also influenced
him. Aikin was also greatly interested in chemistry and natural philosophy and also assisted
William Wilberforce in the abolition of the slave trade.

Aikin was the younger brother of the poet and the children's author, Anna Letitia Barbauld. She
could read easily by the age of three years and at a very early age was acquainted with many of
the best English authors. She was encouraged by her brother to publish her many works. After
her husband's death she undertook an edition in 50 volumes of the best English novelists. She
died insane in London in 1808.

Lord Chedworth, who for some time resided in Great Yarmouth, met Aikin regularly and found
him a most elegant scholar and a very high literary authority.

Aikin's career as a physician was cut short by a stroke. He gave up his house and practice in
London to his son, retired to a country house and eventually to Stoke Newington in London.
There he spent the last 24 years of his life in study and died in 1822, aged 74 years, having
outlived his mental faculties. A contemporary of the time described him as a man of talent and of
the highest personal worth, one of the salt of the earth.

It was commented that Aikin, on his death, received six columns in the Annual Register, whilst the
poet, Shelley, only merited a few lines.
Aikin was buried in Stoke Newington
Churchyard where his epitaph reads: A Aikin wrote the following books
strenuous and consistent assertor of civil and England Delineated
religious liberty and the free exercise of reason
in the investigation of truth. He was in which he demonstrated the discriminating
characterised in his profession by skill and character of each county in England
humanity, in his writings by candour, good Materia Medica: a new edition
sense and a refined taste.
Political pamphlets
Dr. Aikin, to quote his daughter's description,
was of middle stature and well-proportioned An Address to the Dissenters of England on their
though spare; his carriage was erect, his step Late Defeat
light and active. His eyes were grey and lively,
his skin naturally fair, but in his face he was Poems
much pitted with the small-pox. The expression Essays on Song Writing
of his countenance was mild, intelligent, and
cheerful; and its effect was aided in A Translation of the Germania and the Agricola
conversation by the tones of a voice clear and of Tacitus
agreeable, though not powerful.
Selected Works of the British Poets
Aikin's house was subsequently converted into Journal of a Tour through Surrey
two residences and became 26 and 27 King
Street. Observations on the External Use of
Preparations of Lead with some Remarks on
Topical Medicines
Woodland Companion
An Account of British Forest Trees
A Journal of a Tour through Holland written
when he travelled to Leiden to receive his degree
Annals of the Reign of George III
Evenings at Home, which ran to several editions
and was translated into almost every European
The Life of John Selden
General Biography Lives, Critical and
Historical, of the Most Eminent Persons of All
Ages, Countries, and Professions
(10 volumes)
Biographical Memoirs of Medicine in Great
The Life of Archbishop Usher

Letters from a Father to his Son


The Monthly Magazine

Dodsley's Annual Register

Lucy Aikin (1781-1864) Writer, Biographer and Unitarian
Paul P. Davies

Lucy Aikin was the fourth child of the Great Yarmouth

physician, John Aikin. She was born at Warrington
and moved to Great Yarmouth at the age of three
years. She moved with her parents to Stoke
Newington when she was eleven years of age, where
she lived until the death of her father in 1822, when
she moved to Hampstead where, apart from a short
interval in Wimbledon, she spent the remainder of her

Lucy Aikin was educated by her father and her aunt

and, in her early life, she was a diligent student of
French, Italian and Latin. At the age of 17 years she
began to contribute articles to magazines and reviews
and assist her father as an editor of his writings. Her
aunt, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, was a well-known writer
of poetry, essays and children’s books. Lucy Aikin

When she was 29 years old, Lucy Aikin published her first
significant work, Epistles on Women, Exemplifying their
Character and Condition in Various Ages and Nations with
Miscellaneous Poems. She gained her reputation by
writing historical works published between the years 1818
and 1843. Her Life of Addison in 1843 contained many
letters written by Addison, which had never been published
before. Joseph Addison (1672-1719) was an essayist,
playwright, poet and politician.

Lucy Aikin’s Memoirs of the Court of Charles I was the

subject of an essay by Thomas Babington Macaulay,
(politician, essayist, poet and historian) who, while praising
Aikin's other works, and especially her Memoirs of the
Court of James I, observed that: Lucy Aikin was far more at
home among the ruffs and peaked beards of Theobalds (an
estate in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, which was the favourite
country seat of King James I) than among the steenkirks (a
type of cravat worn in a loose or disorderly manner) and
Anna Laetitia Barbauld flowing periwigs (made of long hair, often with curls on the
sides, and drawn back on the nape of the neck) which
surrounded Queen Anne's tea table at Hampton.

Lucy Aikin wrote on completing her Memoirs of the Court of Charles I that: I am resolved against
proceeding farther with English sovereigns. Charles II is no theme for me: it would make me
condemn my species.

Lucy Aikin was interested in early education, and as such published several works to assist young
readers by using words of one syllable. She also published under the pseudonyms: Mary
Godolphin, I. F. M. and J. F. W.

She was, like other members of her family, a staunch Unitarian. She maintained a strong
recollection of the hardships and persecutions endured by herself, as child, and her father at
Great Yarmouth because of her non-conformist faith.

While living in Hampstead she began corresponding over a period of
16 years with William Ellery Channing, a fiery Boston Unitarian
preacher, who was known for giving eloquent and passionate
sermons. Channing was the foremost Unitarian preacher in the
United States in the early 19th century and one of Unitarianism's
leading theologians.

Lucy related her recollections of the journey from Warrington to Great

Yarmouth in 1784: I had just completed my third year when my father
decided on a removal from Warrington to Yarmouth. My
grandmother, her maid, my little brother, and myself were packed into
a post chaise; my father accompanied us on horseback. It was
Christmas week, the snow deep on the ground; the whole distance
was 240 miles across country, and we were six days in accomplishing
it. The last night we arrived at my aunt's, Mrs. Barbauld's house at
Palgrave, where my grandmother remained behind with manifest
symptoms of decay. She died a few days later of cold and fatigue. William Ellery Channing

Later Lucy Aikin wrote, the arrival of a new physician in Yarmouth, already a writer of some
distinction, of polished unaffected manners and endowed with powers and tact that rendered his
conversations attractive and acceptable to all, was an event of no small importance in the town.
His speedy popularity was reflected upon all members of his family. I was soon in danger of
being totally spoiled by flattery. My excellent mother taught me what flattery was and strongly
warned me against being led away by it. My first view of the ocean from Yarmouth Jetty filled my
little bosom with sentiments too big for utterances and the sea was my never failing source of
wonder and delight. The flat sandy land extending to the beach was our daily walk, but so much
keener was my delight, when we accompanied my father in his professional drives through the
shady lanes of rural villages on the Suffolk side of the town. My father was an admirable
observer of nature; not a plant, not a bird, not a wild animal escaped him, and he knew them all
and taught his children to know them too.

Lucy Aikin died at the age of 83 years in January 1864. She was buried in the churchyard at

Three of Lucy Aikin's siblings were also eminent and lived in Great Yarmouth in their childhood.

Arthur Aikin FLS, FGS (1773-1854) was a chemist, mineralogist and scientific writer, and was a
founding member of the Chemical Society (now the Royal Society of Chemistry). He studied
chemistry under Joseph Priestly. In his early life he was a Unitarian minster. He lectured on
chemistry at Guy's Hospital for 32 years. He became the President of the British Mineralogical

Charles Rochemont Aikin (1775-1847) from an early age devoted himself to science, and aided
his eldest brother, Arthur, with his public lectures and in his first published work, A Dictionary of
Chemistry and Mineralogy. Subsequently he applied himself to medicine and became a member
of the Royal College of Surgeons and was the secretary of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of

Edmund Aikin (1780-1820), an architect, wrote influential works about architecture. Two early
designs were for non-conformist chapels in London. In 1806, he was a founder member of the
London Architectural Society. In 1810, he published a set of designs for villas, preceded by a
long introduction in which he criticised the use of the Gothic style in domestic architecture,
proposing instead the use of a kind of eastern or Islamic style. He was engaged on works at the
Royal Navy's dockyards at Sheerness and Portsmouth. He wrote articles about architecture for
Cyclopedia and a section on architecture for his sister, Lucy Aikin's book, Memoirs of the Court of
Queen Elizabeth. He exhibited designs at the Royal Academy. He spent the last years of his life
in Liverpool, where he designed the Wellington Rooms.
In June 2020, blue plaques were erected commemorating John and Lucy Aikin near the house
where they lived in King Street.

Other Selected Works by Lucy Aikin

Poetry for Children: Consisting of Short Pieces to be

Committed to Memory

The Travels of Rolando by Louis Francois Jauffret

(translated from the French)

Juvenile Correspondence or Letters, Designed as

Examples of the Epistolary Style, for Children of
Both Sexes

Jean Gaspard Hess's The Life of Ulrich Zwingli

(translated from the French)
Lorimer, a Tale (her only novel)
Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth, published
in several editions
Memoirs of the Court of James I
Memoir of John Aikin, MD
The Works of Anna Laetita Barbauld
The Life of Anne Boleyn
The Acts of Life: of Providing Food, of Providing
Clothing, of Providing Shelter
Holiday Stories for Young Readers

Works attributed to her as Mary Godolphin

Robinson Crusoe: In Words of One Syllable

Sandford and Merton: In Words of One Syllable

An Evening at Home: In Words of One Syllable

Aesop's Fables: In Words of One Syllable

The Pilgrim's Progress: In Words of One Syllable

The Swiss Family Robinson: In Words of One

The One Syllable Sunday Book

Nall’s Stereoscopic Views of Great Yarmouth
photographed by William Russell Sedgfield
Paul Godfrey

In the Yarmouth Independent of 22nd August 1863, the Great Yarmouth letterpress printer and
stationer George Nall advertised his Nall’s Series of Stereoscopic Views of Yarmouth, 46 sorts,
1s. each or 10s per Dozen. ‘These have not been equalled for beauty or finish.’ Sold only at
Nall’s Library, 182, King-St, Yarmouth. Later that year in the Yarmouth columns of the Norfolk
Chronicle dated Saturday 31st October 1863, George Nall was advertising: Nall's Sixpenny
Album Views of Yarmouth. Photographed by Sedgfield. Nearly 40 sorts. To be had only at Nall's
Library, Great Yarmouth. These advertisements indicate that George Nall had commissioned a
photographer called Sedgfield to take a selection of views of Great Yarmouth for him that were
marketed as Nall’s Sixpenny Album Views and were supplied in ‘carte de visite’ and
‘stereoscopic’ formats. Sedgfield was William Russell Sedgfield, 1826-1902, who was at that time
a member of the Norwich Photographic Society and had shown a selection of his views of Great
Yarmouth in several of the Society’s exhibitions. These views of Great Yarmouth were also
exhibited at the 1862 International Exhibition that was held in South Kensington, London.

A photographer visiting Great Yarmouth in the 1860s, who would probably have arrived by the
railway and found the town to be rich, with many interesting architectural subjects and scenes to
take photographs of, including the town wall and its towers, the interiors and exteriors of
churches, municipal buildings including the Tolhouse, two piers and a jetty, a magnificent column
erected in 1819 on the South Denes in honour of Admiral Lord Nelson, and of course the 140 plus
Rows and their inhabitants.

Sedgfield (who preferred to be known as Russell Sedgfield) was born on the 21st March 1826 at
Devizes, Wiltshire, the son of Edward and Sarah Sedgefield. In 1842, when he was 16, he had
already been experimenting with photography and was making prints using Mungo Ponton’s
bichromate process. 1 In that same year, Sedgfield had written to William Henry Fox Talbot of
Lacock Abbey, asking if he could use his calotype process as an amateur. In reply, he received a
letter from Talbot’s solicitor demanding the payment of £20 for a licence to use the process.
Sedgfield appears to have decided to take a risk, and did not apply for one of Talbot’s licences.

By the time he was 18 he had travelled to London and had become a wood engraver working for
Punch magazine but, by 1851, he had changed direction in his career and became a professional
photographer. In 1854, Samuel Highley, a London publisher, was selling folios of Sedgfield’s
Photographic Delineations of the Scenery, Architecture and Antiquities of Great Britain and
Ireland. The first two parts of the four-part set were of East Anglian architecture taken at Norwich,
Bury St. Edmunds, Binham Priory and Walsingham Abbey. 2

In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer announced the invention of his wet collodion process that was not
restricted by patents or licences like Talbot’s process and was available for all to use. This
process was revolutionary as it enabled light sensitive material to be coated on to glass, creating
a negative that produced clearer and sharper paper prints than the previous paper negative
processes. Prior to this, Sedgfield and many other photographers had been using a variation of
Talbot’s process that used waxed paper to produce semi-translucent negatives that paper prints
could then be made from.

Also, in 1851, the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London had showcased stereoscopic
photographs and viewers, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had been greatly impressed by
these. A new type of stereoscopic viewer had been designed by the Scottish physicist David
Brewster and teams of photographers then began travelling the length and breadth of the United
Kingdom, taking stereoscopic photographs to feed the public appetite for this new collecting
craze. Sedgfield joined the ranks of these photographers and he had, by the mid-1850s, adopted
Archer’s wet collodion process and was probably using a twin lens stereoscopic camera to take
his architectural stereoscopic views that were published and marketed by Alfred W. Bennett of 5
Bishopsgate Without, London, and the London Stereoscopic Company.
William Russell Sedgfield married
Elizabeth Knight in 1857. They had a
daughter, Ada, born 1859 and a son,
William Herbert (known as Bertie), born
1864. Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1872.
Sedgfield continued to be a professional
photographer until 1891, where the
census for that year describes him as a
retired photographer living with his
daughter Ada and his mother Sarah at
Park Road, Kingston-upon-Thames. He
had been deaf since childhood 3 and died
on 12th July 1902 at 53 Richmond Park
Road, Kingston. His daughter had left The front and back of a carte de visite by Russell Sedgfield
the house at 3.40pm on that day to visit showing the monument to Admiral Lord Nelson that was
friends and returned at around 10.00pm erected on the South Denes at Great Yarmouth in 1819.
to find the house in darkness. She went This photograph was in the Sedgfield’s English Scenery
series and was published by A. W. Bennett of
to her father’s room and found him lying 5 Bishopsgate Street Without, London EC.
on the floor near a gas stove. There
were some tools on the floor and his
daughter thought he had been trying to
repair some tubing that connected the
stove to the gas. There was a faint smell
of gas in the room. However, at the
Coroner’s inquest (as reported by the
Surrey Comet of 19th July 1902), the Jury
returned a verdict that the cause of death
was syncope and that the gas escape
had not caused his death.

The Great Yarmouth printer and stationer Ely Cathedral by Russell Sedgfield. One of his English
Scenery series. Notice again the plain coloured mount, the
George Nall was born on the 21st July
stick-on label and the rounded top corners of the two
1829 at Leek in Staffordshire, the son of
photographs, a similar style to early prints in the Nall’s series.
George and Catherine Nall. The 1851
census records George Nall senior, aged
52, as a stationer employing 3 men, living at Leek and his son George Nall junior, aged 21, as an
assistant. The Norfolk News of the 10th October 1857 carried an advertisement announcing that
the printing, advertising and library business of Mr. C. Sloman of King Street, Great Yarmouth had
been taken over by George Nall junior upon the retirement of Mr. Sloman after 40 years of trading
in the town. Nall had acquired the business but not the property, and was paying a rent of £76
per year for 182 King Street to Charles Sloman. Sloman died in 1866 and, in 1878, the
auctioneer Samuel Aldred, under the instructions of the executors of Mr. Sloman’s will, offered
182 King Street for sale by auction. An advertisement for the auction in the Norwich Mercury of
the 22nd June 1878 reveals that Nall’s lease had a further seven years to run and would have
expired in 1885.

Sloman’s printing office and works had been in Row 56, but George Nall acquired the use of a
Row property as his printing office that was nearer to 182 King Street, at number 1, Row 63. This
Row was on the north side of 182 King Street and was, according to Colin Tooke’s book, The
Rows of Great Yarmouth, known as Sloman’s Row in the 1830s and Nall’s Row in the 1860s.
From 1865 George Nall was proudly advertising that his printing works was now Steam Powered.

George Nall junior married Alice Cocker on the 17th June 1858 at St. Sepulchre’s Church in
London. Their children were born in Great Yarmouth; Alice Magdeline in 1859, George Herbert in
1860, John Frederick in 1863, and Ethel Mary in 1867. The census of 1871 records the family
residing on Beccles Road, Gorleston, along with Charlotte Clarke, their general domestic servant,
Elizabeth Clarke, a nursemaid, and William Howes, an apprentice.
Prints of the 40 plus Yarmouth views taken by Russell Sedgfield in 1860 for George Nall were
available in both ‘carte de visite’ and ‘stereoscopic’ form. The Nall’s series of views were
sequentially numbered and the same negatives and series numbers were used to make both the
carte de visite and the stereoscopic versions. However there was an exception to the numbering
convention, with a set of scenes of “Great Yarmouth Beach” that were given letters rather than
numbers to identify the view. The author has compiled the following incomplete catalogue of the
Nall’s Series of Yarmouth Views from examples held in his archive and those of other collectors.
View Subject View Subject
No. No.
1 St. Nicholas South View. Parsonage on the right 81 St. Nicholas’ Church, Nave looking East, 1867
2 St. Nicholas North West View 82 St. Nicholas’ Church Sedilia, 1867
3 St. Nicholas South West View 88 St. Andrew’s (Wherrymen’s) Church & Schools,1867
7 St. Peter’s Church 91 St. John’s (Beachmen’s) Church, 1867
10a Independent Chapel 93 St. Mary’s (Roman Catholic) Church, Nave and High
Altar, 1867
11 St. Peter’s Schools and Church 95 Iron Church
13 The Friars' Tower Viewed within the Walls, 1860 97 Gaol Street
17 The Priory Hall, 1860 100 Row 1 (Ramp Row)
18a King Street, West Side, looking South 101 Row 3
20 Regent Street 103 Row 117 Gallon Can Row (from the Quay)
22 The Quay (No. 1) 105 Row 28 Conge Row
23 The Quay (No. 2) 106 Row 28 Conge Row, looking East
24 The Quay (No. 3), 1860 109 Row 35 Globe Row, Charlotte Street
25 The Quay (No. 4) 113 Row 50 1867
26 The Quay (No. 5) 114 Row 142
28 The Quay (No. 7), 1860 115 Row 132, 1867
30 Sailors' Home 116 Yarmouth Haven from the South
35 Suspension Bridge 119 Gorleston Church, Suffolk
38 Draining Mill, Great Yarmouth (Caister Marshes) 121 Martham Church, Pulpit and Altar Tomb
41 The Jetty 123 Martham Church, Chancel and Nave
45 Burgh Castle No.1 125 Martham Church, East End
50 Britannia Terrace, 1864 131 Caister Castle Inner View, looking North West, 1867
56 South Quay, 1864 135 St. George’s Chapel, Interior
61 Sailors' Home and Norfolk Hotel, 1864 140 Broad Row, 1867
72 St. Nicholas' Church from North East, 1867 D Great Yarmouth Beach
73 Parish Church, East End Exterior, 1867 F Great Yarmouth Beach
78 Parish Church, Chancel from North East, 1867

There were at least 140 views in the Nall’s Series, and they were taken in batches during three
distinct years. The initial batch of 40 plus views were taken in 1860. A smaller set of around 30
views were taken in 1864 and a further set of 70 or more during 1867. From the evidence of
George Nall’s advertising campaign in the Norfolk Chronicle during 1864 it seems that Russell
Sedgfield did take the first 40 views in the series. It is possible that he returned to Great
Yarmouth in 1864 and again in 1867 to take the other 100 views, but no evidence has been found
to substantiate this theory.

Nall’s stereoscopic views of Yarmouth were usually mounted on to yellow cards with square
corners, the two photographic prints were trimmed with rounded left and right top corners, with a
caption letterpress printed onto the card. However, some very early examples were mounted on
to a light brown card with a stick-on label to identify the scene and again, the top corners of the
two prints were rounded in an identical style to Sedgfield’s own English Scenery series. The
1863 and the 1867 Nall’s series of stereoscopic photographs were still mounted on to a yellow
card, but the prints were now trimmed with all four corners square. Identification of the scene was
still printed onto the cards using letterpress printing methods. However, some later batches of
Nall’s stereoscopic views that were mounted on a yellow card have no printed identification
information on them at all. Some of the captions on the views have dates, others do not. A few
cards in the later batches of the stereoscopic views were printed with the price of one shilling,
however the views of Martham Church that were taken in 1867 were priced at one shilling and

Since the early 1860s, George Nall had, on the upper floors of 182 King Street, the facilities to
produce his own photographic prints for his series of Yarmouth views. The prints would have
been made from the original glass negatives by contact printing methods, using light sensitive
albumen coated paper held in printing frames and were exposed to daylight that would have
come from the glass roof light on the second floor of 182 King Street. The length of printing
exposure time would have varied according to the level of daylight available, bright sunny weather
was desirable.

The Nall’s series of Yarmouth views were often very well composed and sometimes included
adults and children in the view, who would have been placed by the photographer and instructed
to keep still, as the camera exposure would have been for several seconds. The inclusion of
people enhanced the pictorial composition and the sales appeal of the photographs, as well as
greatly aiding the 3D effect in the stereoscopic versions of the cards. When these are viewed
with a suitable stereoscopic viewer, the images really come to life and the viewer is transported
back to the buildings and streets of Great Yarmouth of the 1860s.

As well as directing the people, the photographer would also have faced the technical challenges
of Frederick Scott Archer’s wet collodion process, using a portable dark tent or a suitably
equipped handcart to coat, sensitise and develop the glass plates into negatives that could be
printed later.

The interest in the collecting of stereoscopic views by the general public had begun to fade in the
late 1860s and George Nall must have realised this and began to consider how to get a better
return on his investment of his adaptation, for photographic purposes, of the upper floors. On
Saturday 27th June 1868, the Norfolk Chronicle carried this advertisement:
To be let the FIRST and SECOND FLOORS of No. 182, King Street, with bay windows,
overlooking the Market-place. The Second-Floor large roof light and is well adapted for a
Photographer. Separate entrances to each Floor. Gas and Water laid on - For terms apply
at Nall's Library beneath.

A suitable tenant was found, and George Nall sub-let the upper floors of his King Street shop to
John Robert Mather Sawyer, an established Norwich photographer, who had been running a
photographic studio in London Street, Norwich since 1856. Sawyer took over the upper floors of
Nall’s library. The Norfolk News of 6th August 1870 advertised:


182, King Street, Great Yarmouth (Over Mr. Nall's Library.)

Sawyer went into partnership with Walter Strickland Bird around 1871 and the business then
traded as Sawyer and Bird. Their Great Yarmouth studio was managed by Wallace Miller, who
had been trained in the art of photography at Norwich by John Sawyer. The main part of the
studio’s business was in portraiture, but Sawyer and Bird also offered their own range of
Yarmouth views in carte de visite, stereoscopic and other sizes and formats.

This view of St. Nicholas’
taken in 1860 is
Number 1 in the Nall’s
Believed to be an early
print in the same style
used by Sedgfield for his
own English Scenery
series of views. Notice
the plain coloured mount,
the stick-on label and the
rounded top corners of
the two photographs

St. Peter’s Schools and

Church in 1860.
Number 11 in the Nall’s
Series. The stereoscopic
effect is greatly
enhanced by the
inclusion of children in
the scene

Regent Street,
Number 20 in
the Nall’s series,
looking west.

Row 28, Conge

Row, looking east.
Number 105 in the
Nall’s series and
taken in 1867.
Notice the sign on
the right-hand
property that reads

The Suspension Bridge, Great Yarmouth in 1860. Number 35 in the Nall’s series.
The inclusion of people along with horse droppings on the road surface really helps with the
stereoscopic effect. This bridge replaced a previous suspension bridge that had collapsed
in 1845 killing over 70 people. Many of them were children, who were watching a clown
from a visiting circus travelling along the river in a tub pulled by four geese.

Row 1 (Ramp Row) in 1867. Number 100 in the Nall’s series. These houses were
considered to be hovels in the 1860s and were demolished by Great Yarmouth
Corporation, according to Colin Tooke’s ‘The Rows of Great Yarmouth’. Despite this the
photographer has recorded a nicely composed almost idyllic scene with the usual
inclusion of humans to enhance the stereoscopic effect.
Photograph from the collection of Paula Fleming.

A carte de visite
version of the
interior of St.
Mary’s Roman
Catholic Church
taken in 1867.
Nall’s series
number 93

A carte de visite version of a view published by

George Nall showing The Quay at Great Yarmouth.
This was number 26 in the Nall’s series. There were
several different Nall views of the Quay taken in
1860 and these were given an additional separate
number in brackets, in this case number 5.
Photographers and Photo-Dynamic Printers,



For Album, Cabinet, Portfolio and Stereoscope,
97 Guard of Honour at Railway Station Carte de Visite & Stereo
98 Group of 7th Dragoon Guards, Southtown Road C. de V. & Stereo
99 Procession entering Railway Station C. de V. & Stereo
100 Procession leaving - ditto C. de V. & Stereo
101 Triumphal Arch, Southtown Station C. de V. & Stereo
20 Mess tent, Southtown Barracks C. de V. & Stereo
26 Shaddingfield Lodge from the Drive 8in. by 6in.
24 & 25 - ditto Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
22 Drawing-room, Shadingfield Lodge, A & B 8in. by 6in.
21 - ditto C. de V. & Stereo
23 - Dining-room - ditto Cabinet
30 Caister Castle 9 ½ in. by 7 ½ in.
31 & 32 - ditto Carte, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
70 & 67 St. Nicholas' Church, North-west View 8 in. by 6 in. & 9 ½ in. by 7 ½ in.
34 - ditto Cabinet
94 - ditto, East view C. de V. & Stereo
71 & 69 - ditto, Interior, looking North-West 8 in. by 6 in. & 9 ½ in. by 7 ½ in.
72 & 68 - ditto, looking North-east 8 in. by 6 in. & 9 ½ in. by 7 ½ in.
93 - ditto, South-front and Market Pump C. de V. & Stereo
65 St. John's Church, York Road C. de V. & Stereo
66 St. Andrew's Church, North Quay C. de V. & Stereo
46 St. George's Chapel, King Street C. de V. & Stereo
39 St. Peter's Church, St. Peter's Road C. de V. & Stereo
62 & 53 Roman Catholic Church, Regent Road Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
45 Independent Chapel, King Street Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
35 Primitive Methodist Chapel, Queen's Road Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
54 - ditto Cabinet
36 Royal Hotel, South Beach C. de V. & Stereo
37 Victoria Hotel, Esplanade C. de V. & Stereo
62 Queen's Hotel, Regent Road C. de V. & Stereo
63 Bath Hotel, Marine Drive C. de V. & Stereo
64 Norfolk Hotel, - ditto C. de V. & Stereo
38 Kimberley Terrace, Esplanade C. de V. & Stereo
58 Brandon Terrace, - ditto C. de V. & Stereo
59 Britannia Terrace, looking North C. de V. & Stereo
60 - ditto, looking South C. de V. & Stereo
61 Trafalgar Terrace, Trafalgar Road C. de V. & Stereo
47 St. George's Park, - ditto C. de V. & Stereo
73 Victoria Esplanade 9 ½ in. by 7 ½ in.
74 & 75 - ditto Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
86 Marine Drive, looking North Cabinet
79 Yarmouth Beach from the Jetty Cabinet
82 General View of Beach 8in. by 6in.
80 Yarmouth Beach and Britannia Pier 8in. by 6in.
76 “ “ Group of Children C. de V. & Stereo
77 “ “ Group of Goat Carriages C. de V. & Stereo
78 “ “ Group of Donkeys C. de V. & Stereo
81 Beach and Jetty 8in. by 6in.
83 & 33 - ditto Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
84 Britannia Pier 8in. by 6in.
85 Wellington Pier 8in. by 6in.
87 Sailors’ Home, Marine Drive 8in. by 6in.
88 & 89 Lifeboat House, Marine Drive C. de V., Stereoscope & Cabinet
56 & 57 Nelson’s Column, South Denes C. de V., Cabinet & Stereo
55 Assembly Rooms, Esplanade C. de V. & Stereoscope
90 Royal Naval Hospital, Queen's Road C. de V. & Stereoscope
43 & 92 Yarmouth Hospital, Deneside Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
44 Post Office, Regent Street C. de V. & Stereoscope
48 & 49 Hall Quay, looking North Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
50 & 61 South Quay, looking South Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
42 Borough Gaol, Middlegate Street Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
40 South-East Tower, Tower Road Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
41 Friars' Tower, - ditto Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
91 North-West Tower, near Suspension Bridge Album, Cabinet, and Stereoscope
96 Grammar School, Trafalgar Road 9 ½ in. by 7 ½ in.
95 - ditto - Cabinet
And many others

The author has yet to find a stereoscopic view taken at Great Yarmouth that can be attributed to
Sawyer and Bird although he has several possible unattributed stereo cards in his collection.

An advertisement in the Norfolk Chronicle of Saturday 3rd February 1877, placed by George Nall,
tells of forthcoming changes in the occupation of the upper floors of 182 King Street:
To be Let, at Lady Day next, THE Upper Portion of the PREMISES, 182, King Street, Great
Yarmouth, with large Bay Windows in front, commanding an unrivalled view of the Market
Place; and 5 back Bed-rooms; occupied for several years by Messrs. Sawyer & Bird. A new
Roof Light was put on 5 years ago, expressly for the Photographic Trade. Front entrance
from King Street, the principal thoroughfare of the town. - For terms apply at Nall's Library,
on the Ground Floor.

During April 1877, Sawyer and Bird had moved to larger premises on the other side of King Street
at number 14, and Wallace Miller continued to manage their studio. By 1878, the vacant upper
floor rooms at 182 King Street had been taken over by the photographer Frederick Treble. The
author believes that Treble & Co. did not produce any stereoscopic views of Great Yarmouth.

Following the departure of Treble around 1880, Wallace Miller (having left the employment of
Sawyer and Bird) took over the upper floors of 182 King Street and began trading as a
photographer in opposition to Sawyer and Bird. Miller died suddenly in February 1882, leaving
his widow Elizabeth to run the business. Elizabeth Miller quickly engaged the services of a
London Artist of 17 years West End experience in 1882. This was John Lockwood, who married
Elizabeth Miller in 1885. Earlier that same year Sawyer and Bird had vacated 14 King Street and
the Miller studio took over those premises. Miller’s Studio occupied both 182 and 14 King Street
during 1885 and mounted an advertising campaign in the Yarmouth Independent, still trading as
W. R. Miller. The Saturday 25th July edition carried this advertisement:

W. R. MILLER, Photographer, Picture Frame Maker, and Artists’ Colorman, 14 & 182, King
Street, Great Yarmouth. A large and varied assortment of VIEWS of Yarmouth and
neighbourhood, mounted and unmounted. PICTURE FRAMES from carte to any size in stock
or made to order. Every requisite in DRAWING and ARTISTS’ MATERIALS by the best
Makers only. Out-door Photography at short notice.

The author has not found any examples of stereoscopic views that can be attributed to the Miller
studio and concludes that they did not produce any. By the 1880s, stereoviews had lost their
appeal as a collecting craze with the public. The Miller studio had vacated 182 King Street by
1888 as Kelly’s Norfolk of that year lists the London Photographic Co, a portrait studio managed
by Charles Green, as the occupier of the upper floors of 182 King Street.
King Street, west side looking
south. This view is number
18a in the Nall’s series and
shows George Nall’s shop at
182 King Street in 1860.
Notice the entrance to
Row 63 (also known as Nall’s
Row and Sloman’s Row) just
to the right of the shop that
has an advertisement for
‘Nall’s Views’ on the wall.
On the left-hand side of the
shop is a door leading to the
upper floors that became the
entrance to Sawyer and
Bird’s photographic studio
around 1870.

The Eastern Daily Press of 4th May 1888 published a letter from George Nall advising his many
friends and customers that he had disposed of his Great Yarmouth business (that had been
established by Charles Sloman in 1813) to Jarrold and Sons of Norwich. The 1891 census
records show George Nall, his wife Alice, along with daughters Alice and Ethel, now residing at
Paignton in Devon.

Following the takeover of Nall’s business by the Jarrold family, yet another photographer, Louis
Urbinsky, was occupying the upper floors of 182 King Street. Urbinsky was born in Poland in
1866 and he opened a studio at Norwich in 1888. He had opened his Great Yarmouth studio
over Jarrold’s shop by 1893 but, by 1900, he had left Norfolk and was trading as a photographer
at Leigh in Lancashire. Urbinsky appears to have been the last photographer to have traded from
the upper floors of 182 King Street and again no stereoscopic views of Great Yarmouth have
been discovered that can be attributed to him.

George Nall died at Christchurch in Hampshire during 1910 and his wife Alice died at
Christchurch a few years later, in 1917. George Nall is probably best remembered as the printer
and publisher of Charles John Palmer’s Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, but his legacy must also
lay in the mass production and publication of his carte de visite and stereoscopic views of Great
Yarmouth that offer a unique view of the buildings and architecture of the ancient town of Great
Yarmouth and its inhabitants during the 1860s.

The author would like to thank Colin Tooke, Paula Fleming, Peter Jones, Peter Allard, Malcolm
Ferrow and Julie Gibb for the help they gave him while researching this article.

If any readers of this journal have any stereoscopic or carte de visite views of Great Yarmouth by
Nall, Sawyer and Bird, or any other photographer in their collections, the author would appreciate
a scan and/or the details printed on the card to help him compile a list. You can email Paul
Godfrey at:

Approved biography for William Russell Sedgfield, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York USA.
Benjafield, John, Early Norfolk Photographs,
Young History and Archaeology Club
Patricia Day

Although our programme for this year was abruptly foreshortened, we still managed to enjoy
several interesting and fun sessions with our young members.

In September 2019, we continued to research the people and places surrounding Great
Yarmouth’s South East Tower, the site of our summer test pit, and a visit to the town’s library
proved most beneficial. With the help of library staff and volunteers, we interrogated lots of
primary sources and our members enjoyed handling real documents, including residential
directories, council minutes, maps and parish registers, rather than just searching online. We
discovered that WW2 played an important role in shaping the landscape around the test pit so we
invited Neil Storey to our December session to explain how the war might have impacted the
people and places in that area. Our young people were fascinated to find out about the Home
Guard and were thrilled to try out guns and a uniform for size. Our members made another
confident appearance on Radio Norfolk to report their findings and a full report on the excavation
can be found on our website:

Continuing the military theme, our visit to the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum at Neatishead
uncovered the vital role that our region played in communications. The group were amazed to
find out about the secret listening stations along the Norfolk coast and, while some took up the
invitation to sit in a Jaguar cockpit, others were happier in the comfort of the rejected ejector seat!
Many thanks to society’s members, in particular Ann Dunning, Glenda Wells and Una Watson,
who volunteer their time to support the young people and make our regular sessions and
expeditions possible.

Members at the control panel at RAF Air Defence Neil Storey shares his knowledge with
Radar Museum, Neatishead the group at the December session

The Young History and Archaeological Club is affiliated to the Council for British Archaeology and
this year I was lucky enough to participate in their leaders’ training sessions. During a visit to
Creswell Crags in Lincolnshire, a group of us were shown how to interpret sites of early human
settlements. I did feel at an advantage here as of course Norfolk has yielded evidence of the
earliest human habitation in Britain in the form of the Happisburgh hand-axe and footprints, and
our links with Norfolk Museum Service mean that the group has experienced both of these
precious artefacts. Early this year an osteoarchaeology course (in a very cold church hall in
Barton on Humber) taught me how to safely excavate human remains, although my attempt to
rearticulate an 18th century child’s skeleton suggested that I might need to improve my basic
knowledge of human anatomy! Nevertheless, both training weekends offered a unique
opportunity for leaders from across the UK to develop ideas and best practice, and I look forward
to sharing this knowledge with our group in the near future.

Harry B. Johnson's ‘Yarmouth Yarns’
Michael Wadsworth

Yarmouth Yarns is a small pamphlet written by Harry B. Johnson, which aimed to provide the
reader a guide to: the important objects of interest i that were to be seen in Great Yarmouth. It
was published by Jarrold & Sons Ltd. as the first part of an intended series of guides to Great
Yarmouth. The pamphlet was written in the 1920s
before any of the pre-war redevelopment of the
town had started, and before the destruction that
took place during the Second World War and the
redevelopment that took place afterwards. As
such, it is a record of some things that have
remained and of those that have been lost. A
large part of what is described is based around the
area then called Middlegate Street, and which is
now mainly Greyfriars’ Way.

Harry B. Johnson died in 1932 at the age of 43

years. Prior to the First World War, he had worked
for a baker and confectioner in King Street. After
the war, having served in the Army, he was unable
to return to his former place of employment, like so
many others, however, he was able to purchase
what had been a laundry just off Northgate Street,
which he converted into the ‘Johnson Rooms’.
This became the hub for many local clubs and
societies and many social functions were held
there. He also built some cottages at the rear as
well as buying St. George's Hall in King Street,
which was then sold as offices. He converted an
old cottage near Great Yarmouth Minster, which
became ‘Sewell House’ (now a restaurant), where
he stored memorabilia connected with Anna
Sewell, the writer of Black Beauty.
Illustration 1:
Largely self-taught, he learnt much about the The front cover of 'Yarmouth Yarns'
history of Great Yarmouth and, as a result of this,
he wrote a regular column in the Yarmouth Mercury. He had planned to write a history of Great
Yarmouth and Yarmouth Yarns is the nearest publication on this subject that was produced. He
did write a book on the history of St. Peter’s Church, which is now the Greek Orthodox Church of
St. Spyridon, as well as being a member of the Great Yarmouth branch of the Norfolk and
Norwich Archaeological Society, and of
the Yarmouth Naturalists’ Society. His
collection of books, papers and cuttings
relating to Great Yarmouth was donated
to the town’s public library and was
described by ‘Chel’ in the local press as
being: an amazing collection, showing
the most indefatigable industry, and that:
there has never been anything like it,
locally at any rate. The forward of
Yarmouth Yarns was written by George
Platten, who was the Mayor of Great
Yarmouth in 1927/28, and who lived in
Albany Road, Southtown, Great
Illustration 2: The Tolhouse prior to WW2
To start with what has remained, if only in a slightly reduced form, or in a form that is more
exposed than that of the 1920s. The Tolhouse is described as: (p)robably this is the most
interesting of the oldest buildings in the town. It occupies the space at the east entrance of Rows
106 and 108, and possesses an exterior most picturesque. As one views the figure of Justice,
the town arms, the old-time staircase, and the unglazed two-light Early English window, one might
be reminded of the troublesome times when the Bailiffs of the Cinque Ports during the herring
fishing season had disputes with the Yarmouth bailiffs;
or the trails of Pirates here at the Admiralty Courts, or
the Debtors' cry, ‘Remember the poor debtors! ii

Between the Tolhouse and the Town Hall, and

between South Quay and the then Middlegate Street,
are the Greyfriars' Cloisters. In the pamphlet these
are described as:

 For the antiquarian and visitors who delight to

remember their visit by ’treading where monks of
old trod,’ the Cloisters make a strong appeal.…The
remaining relic of the Grey Friars is noteworthy for
an elegant groined ceiling. This fortunately was,
prior to 1888, covered by a low, flat plaster ceiling
that served two cottages. Particular attention is
directed to the centre ‘boss’ said to represent the
‘Lord's Supper’.

 Other portions of the monastery may be located in

Rows 92 and 96.

 Arches still exist in the cellars of the Turk's Head

Tavern. iii
Illustration 3:
Greyfriars’ Cloisters

After the Reformation, the Greyfriars’

monastery had been divided up into dwellings.
It was not until after the destruction, brought
about by the bombing of the Second World
War, that the present extent of the cloisters
was exposed.

Some features described in the pamphlet that

do not appear to have survived the destruction
of the Second World War, or the subsequent
redevelopment of the town, were four ancient
doorways. The first was an example of an
Early English doorway that was located on
Row 105 and had been incorporated in the
factory building of Johnson & Sons.

Illustration 4:
Early English doorway in
Row 105

The second and third doorways were part of the Tolhouse. The fourth was located at the
southern end of Middlegate Street near Friars’ Lane and was described as being much damaged.
Harry Johnson states that nothing definite was known about the fourth doorway, but in the
surrounding area stonework and carvings had been found that were thought to be related to the
Blackfriars’ monastery, which was located nearby.

Illustration 5: Illustration 6: Illustration 7:

An Early English doorway, An Early English doorway, Doorway, which was at the
which was located on the which was in the west wall south end of Middlegate Street,
external staircase landing of the Tolhouse Hall near to Friars’ Lane
of the Tolhouse

There is also a description of what remains of the medieval town wall and towers. A suggested
walk was recommended to take in the ten towers that were still in existence at the time of
publication. The suggested starting point for this walk was the North West Tower by the River
Bure, then to the North East Tower near Northgate Street. The last of the ten towers was located
near the ‘First and Last Tavern’ on Southgates Road. It was stated in the pamphlet that the wall
was originally 2,190 yards long and had ten gates and 16 towers, and a moat along the northern
part of the town. The right to construct the wall was granted in a charter issued by Henry III in
1260. Interestingly, the date it provides for the granting of the town's first Charter is 18th March,

Illustration 8:
Part of the
Town Wall

Kitty Witches Row is described in some detail. The narrowness at its
western entrance is given as well as an explanation of how it got its
name. It is claimed that the reason for its name was a local legend
that witches resided in the Row. It was also claimed that the term a
Kitty Witch was given to women who, on certain days of the year, were
fantastically dressed and demanded money. Such activities not only
took place in Kitty Witches Row, but also in other Rows.

Towards the end of the pamphlet is an illustration of St. Nicholas’

Church (now Great Yarmouth Minster) as it looked prior to the Second
World War. The most notable difference with today's church is the
presence of a spire on top of the tower. After providing the dimensions
of the church it is stated that: ...But for the ravages of the Black Death
(1348) we should have possessed even a larger church. At the west
front may be seen ruins of the ‘Bachelors' Aisle’, which was nearing
completion when the town suffered by the death of 7,000 out of 10,000
population. iv

In the churchyard, two notable gravestones are mentioned. The first is

that of Mary Hurnard (née Osborne) whose father was described as Illustration 9:
being cruel and disapproved of her choice of husband, so much so that Kitty Witches Row
he arranged for the husband to be press-ganged shortly after the
wedding. The second notable grave is that of Matthew Champion, who died at the age of 111
years and was said to be the oldest person buried in the churchyard.

Whilst the pamphlet is very brief, it does have an

importance in that it provides illustrations of either
what has now been lost, or that has survived, if no
longer complete, and has been adapted to current
needs, emphasising the need to keep a record of how
the town appears today for future generations. This is
where the Society’s ‘Preston Book’ project is
important as well as keeping records of all sorts. A
final thought; whilst the Rows may look quaint from a
modern perspective, I suspect that not all could be
renovated to make them suitable to live in. This is not
Illustration 10: a justification for wholesale destruction of the
St. Nicholas’ Church (now Yarmouth Minster)
buildings built in the past, and whilst a mixture of
architectural styles from different time periods makes a place interesting to live in, not all buildings
can be preserved or are suitable for preservation. Of importance is good design and thought
given to function, and the meeting of need as well as a recognition of the past.

As a digression, in Dr. Mark Rumble's book, The New Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, it is stated
that Middlegate Street started at Hall Plain and ended at Friars’ Lane. It neither contained any
gates nor ran to or from a gate and was, as such, the central street of Great Yarmouth. In old
Danish, the suffix ‘gate’ denoted a street or road, so 'Middlegate' could simply mean the middle
street and that maybe the word ‘Street’ was added to ‘Middlegate’ at a later date? Also, in The
New Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, it is stated that the Turk's Head Tavern was located at 170
Middlegate Street, next to Row 96, which was roughly located where Yarmouth Way is today.
However, Charles Palmer's Perlustration of Great Yarmouth locates it at 171 Middlegate Street,
and was on the corner of Middlegate Street and Row 96.
Johnson, Harry B., Yarmouth Yarns, Forward by George Platten, Jarrold & Sons Ltd., c1920
Johnson, Harry B., Yarmouth Yarns, p.8, Jarrold & Sons Ltd., c1920
Johnson, Harry B., Yarmouth Yarns, p.4, Jarrold & Sons Ltd., c1920
Johnson, Harry B., Yarmouth Yarns, p.11, Jarrold & Sons Ltd., c1920
The Gorleston Lifeboat Disaster of 1888
Stewart Adams
In Poole, Dorset, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) memorial honours those who have
lost their lives whilst endeavouring to save the lives of others at sea. The sculpture, unveiled in
2009 and envisaged as a beacon of hope, now contains the names of over 800 people.1 It is
important to point out that the memorial doesn’t only honour lives lost whilst in the service of the
RNLI. A number of the names honoured are of those who lost their lives whilst in the service of
privately funded independent lifeboats. In relation to the Borough of Great Yarmouth, the
following names are recorded on the memorial:2

1885: J. Burton, F. Haylett, J. Haylett, G. Hodds, J. King, W. Knowles, J. Riches and J. Sutton
1897: S. Brown
1901: C. Brown, W. Brown, C. George, A. W. Haylett, J. Haylett Jr., G. King, H. Knights, J. Smith
and W. Wilson
1919: J. Haylett
1991: R. W. Read

1866: W. Dawkins, J. Fleming, B. Harris, W. Manthorpe, A. Newson, C. Parker, R. Spillings, E.
Welton, C. Whiley, C. Woods, E. Woods Sr. and J. Woods Jr.
1867: C. Hannent, J. Leggett, T. Morley, W. Moss, J. Sheen and N. Spurgeon
1888: A. George, S. George, W. Whiley and A. Woods
1894: J. Adams

Great Yarmouth:
1824: W. Brown, J. Church, J. Page, S. Woods and W. Woods
1845: G. Barney, J. Boulton, J. George, G. Hilling, J. Shreeve, W. Warner and A. Wetherall
1881: C. Beckett, J. Ditcham, W. Green, H. Masterson, J. Sherwood and R. Symonds

The maritime disasters, which claimed the lives of so many of these brave local men, are each
worthy of an article in their own right. However, my particular focus for this article is the 1888
disaster involving the Gorleston volunteer lifeboat, Refuge. I hope that through this article I can
convey that there is a story to be told behind each carefully inscribed name on the memorial.

The Refuge was 43 feet 11 inches in length

and 4 feet 2 inches in depth and, in 1882,
was described by Coxswain Edward West
‘Laddie’ Woods as one of the finest boats on
the coast.3 She had originally belonged to
the Storm Company of Gorleston but, in
1881, she was sold to the Gorleston
Voluntary Lifeboat Association, who chose
the Ranger company to man her.4

On 10th November 1888, the Refuge was

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution memorial in launched in order to assist a steamer, the
Poole, Dorset Akaba, which was in difficulties on
Hammond’s Knoll. The Akaba was on a
voyage from Calcutta to Dundee loaded with a large cargo of jute. Edward Drane, of the
Gorleston lifeboat Refuge, later wrote the following account of the circumstances of the events
that led to the disaster: In reply to signals sent from the Newarp and St. Nicholas Lightships, we
proceeded to sea in tow of a tug, on the morning of November 10th 1888 and there found the
Akaba at anchor near Hammond’s Knoll, with her rudder gone and otherwise disabled. The
weather being very bad the captain had signalled for assistance. He accepted our services to
assist the vessel, either into the Wold or Hull, from her then perilous position. With the assistance
of the Mark Lane lifeboat’s crew, who had subsequently arrived, and two tugs, she was taken in
tow and endeavours made to get her into the Wold, the water still being very bad and the wind
about S.E., strong, with a tremendous sea. During the time these endeavours were being carried
out, a heavy sea caught the lifeboat Refuge, nearly setting her on the Akaba’s decks, and
disabling her so that she had to be towed home.5

Six of the Refuge crew members remained aboard the Akaba and the Gorleston RNLI lifeboat,
the Mark Lane, also remained to stand by the steamer. The Refuge, with her rudder broken and
seven crew aboard, was taken under tow by a tug, the United Service, to be returned to port.
Whilst entering Great Yarmouth harbour the rope between the United Service and the Refuge
became disengaged.6 A stiff south-easterly wind drove the helpless lifeboat towards the North
Sands. The crew got out the oars and started to raise sail, hoping they could sail in using an oar
to steer her, but they were too late.7 The Refuge was now hit by a heavy sea which capsized her.
These tragic events ultimately resulted in the death of four of the crew of the Refuge.

Henry Smith, chief boatman of the coastguard, was on shore and witnessed the tragedy as it
unfolded. Smith saw the Refuge become detached from the United Service and observed as the
sail was hoisted but then lowered. Smith watched aghast as the Refuge disappeared from view
after being struck by a heavy sea that turned her over. Realising that the crew members who had
been thrown clear of the Refuge would have great difficulty in getting to shore, Smith ran down to
the beach and waded into the sea until the water was up to his armpits.8 The sea was so rough
that he was knocked down several times, but with considerable determination he picked himself
up and continued. Smith found Henry Bonney swimming in the water and managed to grab him
and bring him safely to shore. Without hesitation Henry Smith went back into the water and saw
three men floating together. Smith managed to grab hold of one of the men and then he also got
a grip on another man. Smith valiantly attempted to keep hold of both men as he tried to drag
them towards the beach. He almost succeeded in this but in sheer panic and desperation one of
the men grabbed him by the thigh and this swept Smith off his feet. With the assistance of some
bystanders on the beach an exhausted Henry Smith managed to drag one of the men, an
unconscious Robert Woods, to shore. With no thought for his own wellbeing Henry Smith went
back into the water in search of others and was now joined in the water by his colleague,
boatman Henry Norton. Smith and Norton noticed somebody clinging to the stern post of the
lifeboat. Henry Norton reached the man, who turned out to be a very exhausted George Jacobs,
and managed to bring him safely ashore. As there appeared to be nobody else in the water,
Henry Smith returned to the beach and successfully performed artificial respiration on Robert

In the meantime, Dr. Godfrey Bately had arrived at the beach and had given instructions for a
hole to be cut in the bottom of the now cast up lifeboat. Dr. Bately believed that there was a
chance that a body might be found trapped underneath.6 It was at about this time that Henry
Norton noticed a body floating in the water. Several men assisted Norton in getting the body to
shore. The body turned out to be that of crew member Aaron George, but sadly all efforts to
revive him proved futile.8

On the following morning, the life boat was raised by means of screw jacks and the body of crew
member Samuel George was found inside her. His body had been found entangled in the mizzen
sheet. On the Sunday evening the body of William Whiley was found washed ashore on the
beach just north of the North Battery.6 Sadly, it would appear that the body of crew member
Alfred Woods was never recovered.9 I can find no record of a death certificate issued for Alfred
Woods yet death certificates were issued for Aaron George, Samuel George and William

Unsurprisingly, news of the Refuge disaster was widely reported throughout the country. Reports
of the disaster eventually reached an international audience with countries including Australia11
and New Zealand12 covering the tragedy in their own newspapers.

The inquest on the bodies of Aaron George, Samuel George and William Whiley was held at the
Anchor and Hope, Gorleston, on Tuesday 13th December 1888. This was the public house that
once stood upon the site that has been
occupied by the Pier Hotel since 1897. The
most likely reason that the inquest was held
at the Anchor and Hope would be due to the
fact that an adjoining outbuilding appears to
have been used as something of a
makeshift mortuary for drowned seamen. It
appears that the licensee of the Anchor and
Hope had the responsibility of holding the
key to this makeshift mortuary. The
Borough Coroner, Mr. J. T. Waters, had a
special jury of Gorleston men sworn in for
the inquest. These Gorleston men were
chosen as they had been acquainted with
boats all their lives. The Coroner explained
that the purpose of the inquest was to
determine how the men had come to their
deaths and whether any blame or neglect
was attributable to any persons. At the
commencement of the proceedings, the
Coroner read out a telegram from the
committee of the RNLI. Despite the fact
that the Refuge was not a RNLI lifeboat, the
committee wished to donate £400 to the
relief fund to be established in aid of the

On the afternoon of Thursday 15th

November 1888, the last Christian rites
were performed upon the bodies of the
A beautifully hand written and drawn page from the
three brave lifeboatmen, Aaron George, RNLI Lifeboat Service Memorial Book, which includes
Samuel George and William Whiley, when the names of the four crew members who lost their
they were interred in Gorleston cemetery… lives in the 1888 disaster
amid every manifestation of sorrow, and
every possible tribute of respect. Although in humble circumstances in life, these men were
buried with all the honourable habiliments accorded to heroes, which indeed they were, if saving
life frequently at the risk of their own lives is required of heroes…Popular feeling in Gorleston
found expression in a general aspect of solemnity, enhanced by the closing of business
establishments, or the shading thereof, while on all sides were to be seen flags hoisted half-mast
high, conspicuous among the latter being ensigns flying from the South Pier and its immediate
neighbourhood. Some of the vessels in the harbour paid a similar tribute of respect to the
departed...A small crowd of persons waited respectfully close to Marina Terrace and Bath Place -
where the deceased men had resided - and watched the mournful procession of coaches which
drew up in the road. The funeral cortege consisted of three hearses and seven mourning
coaches, the latter containing the relatives of the deceased boatmen. When the coffins laden
with beautiful wreaths and immortelles were placed in the hearses, the sensation among many of
those present was a painful one, and many were visibly affected.13
The funeral procession started from the residence of the deceased men, with the hearse
containing the body of Aaron George being the first on account of his seniority of age, and at the
churchyard the coffin was borne by Oddfellows belonging to deceased’s club. The hearse,
bearing the body of Samuel George, followed and that containing the mortal remains of William
Whiley next, each coffin being covered with the Union Jack, and covered in wreaths. Pilots and
boatmen bore the last two bodies to the grave, where the spectacle was a most affecting one,
especially at the conclusion of the funeral service, when the relatives and friends of the men
looked for the last time upon the coffins containing the remains of their shipmates and fellow

The Anchor and Hope is
captured well in this
splendid watercolour by
John Brett (1831-1902)
titled ‘Entrance to
Yarmouth Harbour’
(September 1868)

I recently discovered an interesting entry within the log book of the Stradbroke School, Gorleston.
On 15th November 1888, the entry reads: The funeral of four men who were capsized in the
lifeboat at the mouth of the harbour took place this afternoon and many children were absent to
witness the scene.14 In fact the headmaster who wrote this entry was mistaken in his belief that
all four men were being buried because, as I have already explained, it would appear that the
body of Alfred Woods was never recovered.

On 16th November 1888, the inquiry into the circumstances of the disaster was reopened at the
Anchor and Hope by the Borough Coroner, Mr. J. T. Waters. Four members of the crew of the
United Service, the tug that had been towing the Refuge immediately prior to the disaster, gave
evidence. It seems that the tow rope was not cut by anybody on board the United Service, but
that it was slipped because the crew of the United Service believed that the crew of the Refuge
had shouted out to be let go so that they could sail in. The Coroner, in summing up the case,
said: the only question was whether the deaths of the men were accidental or not, and on that
point there could be very little doubt. He referred to the fact that it was usual to let go of the
lifeboats outside the harbour and to let them sail in. Unfortunately, in this case, there was no
rudder to the boat, which was no doubt the cause of the accident. The jury returned a verdict of
accidental death.15

As for the fate of the Akaba, on 17th November 1888, the Norwich Mercury published a telegram
from Hull which read: The steamer Akaba has arrived in Alexandra Dock, Hull in tow of three
tugs. It is reported that 27 of the Akaba’s crew, after the disaster off Yarmouth, took to the ship’s
lifeboat, and are supposed to have landed at Winterton. The chief engineer, a seaman and a
North Sea pilot subsequently attempted to leave the vessel in a smaller boat, which, however,
capsized, and all three were drowned. The Akaba drove to the northward and was fallen in with
by tugs and was brought into Hull.13

In 1867, the Illustrated London News had said of Gorleston: the place is entirely inhabited by
fishermen, boatman and other seafaring people.16 By 1888, Gorleston remained a reasonably
small fishing village and so an event as catastrophic as this would have sent shockwaves
throughout the entire community. Almost immediately after the disaster thoughts turned to the
welfare of the widows and orphans left behind. Samuel George (39) had left a widow, Sarah, and
several young children. The Refuge disaster had a devasting effect on Sarah George as not only
had she lost her husband, but most of her children were put into the care of others. Aaron
George (64) had left a widow, but his children were already grown up and William Whiley (34) had
left a widow only. Alfred Woods was a single man of 27 and had been in the habit of contributing
towards the support of his father, who was over 70, and an unmarried sister.17
On 19th November 1888, a public meeting was convened by the Mayor (F. Danby Palmer) at the
Town Hall, in which a fund was established for the relief of the widows and children of the four
men who had perished in the disaster.17 The following poem was penned by R. Salmon,
Phrenologist, of Gorleston, with the proceeds from the sale of copies of the poem to be given to
the relief fund:18

‘Twas Saturday evening, November the Tenth,

So near Yarmouth harbour, ‘twas but a rope’s length
The sea on the bar like some boiling pot,
When sudden destruction became their sad lot.

A south-east gale blowing, a terrible sight,

The Lifeboat was towing, half dark and half light,
When Four gallant Lifeboat-men met with their doom
Which filled all our village with sadness and gloom.

The rope is cast off ere crossing the bar,

No help from the steamtug, the distance too far;
They hoist up their foresail amidst boiling froth,
While trying their oars, they drift to the north.

Their rudder was gone, we pity the brave,

Who became easy sport to the boisterous waves,
The Lifeboat disabled, men tired and wet,
The billows came breaking, and the boat upset.

Seven brave Lifeboat-men are struggling for life,

Swimming and fighting with storms, din and strife,
While Three are successful in reaching the shore,
Four others are drowned beneath billow’s roar.

Heroic Henry Smith, and Norton so brave,

Who rescued Three Lifeboat-men from watery graves,
Thanks also to those who gathering round,
Rescued and helped the saved and the drowned.

Great praise to the doctors who did what they could,

By rubbing and circulating their blood,
They stood to their post though so cold was the night,
Till danger was past and the men were all right.

We lift up our voices, O Lord unto Thee,

To save and to bless all those on the sea;
May widows and orphans have Thy special care,
And learning to love Thee, for Heaven prepare.

Kind friends we now ask you all to unite,

In helping their windows by giving your mite;
Let us show our sympathy to the bereaved,
The smallest donation thankfully received.

An evening of entertainment took place on 27th November 1888 at the Royal Aquarium, Marine
Parade, Great Yarmouth, for the benefit of the widows and orphans left destitute by the upsetting
of the lifeboat Refuge. The Eastern Daily Press on that date stated that: The Hearty’s Snowflake
Minstrels will, by the kind permission of Commander Chichester, of her Majesty’s ship Hearty,
give their entertainment at the Royal Aquarium this evening…the entertainment will be under
distinguished patronage and the band of the Naval Volunteers will, by the kind permission of Sub-
Lieutenant H. Harvey George, perform a selection of music during the evening. The object of the
entertainment is a good one, and we hope the building
will be well filled.19

On 6th December 1888, an evening of excellent

miscellaneous entertainment took place at the Town Hall
on behalf of the Gorleston Lifeboat Fund.20 A benefit
concert was also held in Reedham on the same date,
where further funds were raised for the benefit of the
widows and orphans of the Gorleston lifeboatmen.21

The Akaba salvage case was heard in the Admiralty

Division on 13th December 1888. Mr. Justice Butt
disposed of the actions by the owners, masters, and
crews of the smack Try Again, the tugs Yare, United
Service, Meteor, and Columbia, the lifeboats Refuge and
Mark Lane of Gorleston, and the S.S. Ouse and Richard
Moxon of Hull to recover remuneration for services
rendered to the Akaba on the 7th November and
following days. It was stated that the Akaba had run
aground on the sands off Great Yarmouth and that she
was assisted by a number of Great Yarmouth and
Gorleston boats and afterwards towed to Hull by two Hull
steamers. His lordship awarded the several plaintiffs
£5000, of which the tugs Yare and United Service and Remarkably an original poster for the
the lifeboats Refuge and Mark Lane shared a total of benefit evening still exists. It is a
fascinating item and one which I am
£2000. It was stated in court that the representatives of
indebted to my friend Graham
the deceased will take their proportionate shares of the Hodgkinson for kindly allowing me to
award.20 reproduce here.

The heroism of Chief

Boatman Henry Smith and of
Boatman Henry Norton of
the Gorleston Coastguard
was acknowledged publicly
on Tuesday 18th December
1888 in a ceremony at the
Great Yarmouth Police
Court. The Mayor presented
each of the two men with a
cheque for five guineas in
recognition of the bravery
they had displayed in
rescuing three of the crew of
the ill-fated lifeboat Refuge.22

The Refuge had been so

badly damaged by the
events of 10th November
1888 that it was totally
impractical to attempt to
repair her. The Refuge was
replaced with a new lifeboat,
the Elizabeth Simpson, and
she was officially launched
on 23rd October 1889.23

A memorial was subsequently erected in the
Gorleston cemetery in memory of the four
deceased lifeboatmen of the Refuge. It takes the
form of a four-sided sandstone base carved with
rocks with a carved scroll on each of the four sides.
It appears that originally a stone cross would have
sat atop of the memorial but this cross is now
placed on the ground to the left hand side.
Examining the memorial from an easterly direction
are to be found inscribed on the base beneath a
border of rope twist. Above this a carved scroll
bears the words: AARON GEORGE Aged 64 Years
Looking at the memorial in a northerly direction, a
carved scroll bears the words: WILLIAM WHILEY
Aged 34 Years. On the most easterly side is a
carved scroll bearing the words: ALFRED WOODS
Aged 27 Years. Finally, looking at the memorial in
a southerly direction, the fourth carved scroll bears the words: SAMUEL GEORGE Aged 39
Years. On the ground to the right hand side of this memorial is a stone plaque bearing the words:

In December 1909, a special service took place at St. Andrew’s Church, Gorleston, in which its
restored ancient tower was dedicated by the Bishop of Thetford. The restoration of the tower was
undertaken as a memorial to those Gorleston lifeboatmen who had lost their lives whilst on
service. A tablet, installed on the south-east buttress of the tower inside the church, was
unveiled. This marble tablet bears the inscription: To the greater glory of God and in memory of
lifeboatmen of this parish who have met death while responding to the call of duty the tower of
this church was restored 1907-9, and solemnly re-dedicated on the eve of St. Andrew, A.D.

Over the past few years I have kept an eye out for a photograph, painting or illustration of the
Refuge but sadly, despite my best efforts, nothing as yet has come to light. However, I have
been successful in having the memorial added to the database of maritime memorials held by the
National Maritime Museum.25 The memorial is a poignant reminder of the disaster and is its story
set in stone. I am pleased to
write that it received some
much needed attention in
2019. The credit for this is due
to Brian Jackson of Gorleston
and Terry Sorrell of Bradwell,
who restored the memorial at
their own expense.26

Thanks to their time and effort,

the memorial remains a most
fitting tribute to these four
brave Gorleston men.

Left: the memorial prior

to its restoration
(Courtesy of Dominic Austrin)

The beautifully
restored memorial

Yarmouth Independent, 23rd December 1882, page 6
Higgins, David, The Beachmen, Terence Dalton Limited, 1987, page 254
Lloyd's List, 24th January 1889, page 7
Lowestoft Journal, 17th November 1888, page 8
Malster, Robert, Maritime Norfolk – Part Two, Poppyland Publishing, 2013, page 207
Lowestoft Journal, 24th November 1888, page 6
Lloyd's List, 14th November 1888, page 7
The Telegraph (Brisbane, Australia), 28th December 1888, page 5
Wairarapa Daily Times (New Zealand), 7th January 1889, page 3
Norwich Mercury, 17th November 1888, page 6
This passage is from a pamphlet titled Extracts from the log books of Stradbroke School. The
pamphlet is 10 pages long and features selected log book entries from the formal opening of the
school on 9th November 1875 through to 1st April 1956.
Lloyd's List, 19th November 1888, page 3
Illustrated London News, 14th December 1867, page 16
Norfolk News, 24th November 1888, page 2
A photograph of an original copy of the poem can be found on page 204 of Malster, Robert,
Maritime Norfolk – Part Two, Poppyland Publishing, 2013
Eastern Daily Press, 27th November 1888, page 3
Eastern Daily Press, 14th December 1888, page 3
Eastern Evening News, 13th December 1888, page 3
Norwich Mercury, 22nd December 1888, page 6
Lowestoft Journal, 26th October 1889, page 5
Yarmouth Independent, 4th December 1909, page 7
St. Andrew’s Church - Gorleston Community Magazine, Issue 19, December 2019, page 11
Great Yarmouth’s British School
Michael Wadsworth

Up to and beyond 1870, a wide range of organisations provided education at various different
levels. In many cases, what was provided depended on the locality. Prior to 1870, education at
elementary level was provided by a variety of voluntary organisations and associations that
included dame schools and church or chapel based organisations. At that time, there were some
who doubted whether there was a need to educate the ‘labouring classes’. In rural areas,
education fitted around the agricultural calendar with the summer holiday being called the ‘harvest
holiday’. This holiday was often moved forwards or delayed, according to whether the locally
grown crops were ready to be harvested. In industrial areas, children were seen as an important
source of labour for the employers and an important source of income for their family. i

There was a fear that education would make the labouring classes unhappy with their position in
society and destroy the trust between master and servant. It was also felt that it would transform
people from hard working labourers to an insubordinate and effeminate class, which disdained
the type of work that they were suited to, and to seek employment above their station. Some
questioned the need for state provided education, and that education provided by voluntary
means was more valued by those being educated. It was also felt that education provided by non
- state means was more economically provided and that a state administered system would be ill-
managed and inefficient. Also, opposition to free education was based upon the view that the
provision of education was the duty of the parents and this duty was part of the glue that kept
society together. ii This article is about a particular school in Great Yarmouth and is an attempt to
give a local example of the issues raised about education during the time it was open.

Closure of the School

On 31st March 1924, the Daniel Tomkins’ School (which had been opened as the Yarmouth
British School) closed after 111 years. iii The closure was marked by a dinner held at the Goode’s
Assembly Rooms and organised by the school’s former pupils (an Old Boys Club had been
formed in 1906 iv). Amongst those attending was Alderman Arthur Harbord, who was the Member
of Parliament for Great Yarmouth at the time, and who was himself a former pupil of the school.
In his after dinner speech, Alderman Harbord argued that the school had: contributed many
distinguished sons to the public and business life of the town, and indeed to the country. v The
school, now demolished, was on the corner of Nelson Road Central and St. George’s Road.

Foundation of the School

On 13th February 1812, a numerously and respectably attended meeting was convened by the
Friends of the Lancasterian System of Education to establish a school in Great Yarmouth based
upon the Lancasterian System. During this meeting, with Mr. Dawson Turner as the meeting’s
chairman, a fund was established to raise money for the building and the running of the school,
with Mr. E. K. Lacon agreeing to be the fund’s treasurer. The following five points were then
adopted by the meeting:

 That the education of poor children is an object of the highest degree worthy of the patronage
of the benevolent, and that the state of this town is such as calls loudly for their exertions.
 That the persons present at this meeting do form themselves into a society for establishing a
school in Great Yarmouth, for the gratuitous instructions of not more than 300 boys, the
children of parents of every religious denomination, to be conducted strictly upon the plan of
Mr. Joseph Lancaster.
 That the piece of ground upon the Denes, which has been the selected situation proper for the
school, be immediately purchased, and a suitable room erected upon it.
 That donations for the purpose of erecting the building, subscriptions for the maintenance of
the establishment (be) immediately solicited; and that two banks be requested to receive the
 That the Resolutions be published in the Norwich, Ipswich, and Bury Papers. vi
Arising out of this meeting, The Society for Lancasterian Education of Great Yarmouth and its
Vicinity vii came into being (this was later to be referred to as The British School Trust and was
closely linked to the British and Foreign Schools Society). At this time, its trustees included
Edward Knowles Lacon, William Fisher, Dawson Turner, William Danby Palmer, Thomas Jewery,
James Harvey, William John Harvey, John Shelly, George Evington, George Danby Palmer,
William Barth, William Sewell, Thomas Hammond, Samuel Clayton, Samuel Barber, Samuel
Robinson, John Frenie Ramsey, William Roberts and John Steward. viii

The school opened in 1813 and the cost of its construction and equipping it with slates and
stationary materials came to £655-12s-5d. ix The land that the school was built on was owned by
the Council and had been leased in 1807 to Mr. Samuel
Polver. The land was then leased to Mr. Timothy Fellows
and Mr. William Booth in 1811, who in turn leased the
property to the trustees of the school. The lease allowed
for the construction of a school room, buildings and
premises: to be used for the purpose of teaching poor
children reading writing and arithmetic and for the
residence of the Master for the time being subject to such
rules and regulations as shall from time to time be made
by the majority of the members at any general or annual
meeting of a certain voluntary society in Great
Yarmouth...called The Society for Lancasterian Education
of Great Yarmouth and its vicinity. x This deed allowed
the trustees to raise a mortgage against the property and
that, if the Society failed, they could then sell the buildings
and dispose of the proceeds as they thought best. xi A
new deed between the Borough Council and Mr. Samuel
Robinson and his heirs (who was a trustee of the school)
was produced in 1837. Interestingly, the lease was made
to an individual trustee rather than to the trustees as a

Another deed was created in 1855, which transferred the

property to a new set of trustees and it was stipulated that
the school would be managed by a committee made up of
12 subscribers to the school. The deeds were also
amended to say that the school be used for: the education
of children of the poorer classes of the Parish. xii When
built, the school could accommodate up to 334 pupils,
although the average attendance over its lifetime was 237
pupils. As a way of raising the profile of the British
School, a sermon was preached at the Old Meeting
House on Sunday evening, 9th July 1815, by J, M.
Beynon. xiii Grants were received from the British and Plan of the School in 1905
Foreign Schools Society (BFSS) between 1818 and 1820, Source: The National Archives
and again in 1864. xiv The school was enlarged in 1861
and again in 1869. xv

What was the BFSS and what was the Lancasterian System?

The British and Foreign Schools Society (BFSS) was established in 1808 as the Society for
Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor and, in 1814, it was renamed
as the British and Foreign School Society for the Education of the Labouring and Manufacturing
Classes of Society of Every Religious Persuasion. xvi Its aim was to encourage the development
of schools that provided education based upon the principles expounded by Joseph Lancaster in
his book, Improvements in Education as it respects the industrious classes of the Community,
published in 1803.
Joseph Lancaster was a Quaker, who had set up a day school in Southwark in 1798. Lancaster
argued for education to be based upon a monitorial system, which included the use of both
rewards and punishments along with mutual and self-instruction, and that religious education
would be taught on a non-denominational basis rather than that based upon a particular religious
doctrine. xvii By 1816, there were 275 ‘British’ Schools, by 1851 there were 514 and, in 1861,
there were 1,131 (compared to 743 Roman Catholic schools and 445 Wesleyan schools). Whilst,
what were called ‘National Schools’, numbered 19,549, the average British School had roughly
twice as many pupils. xviii National Schools came under the auspices of the National Society,
which was founded in 1811 as the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the
Principles of the Established Church. It was the aim of this society to provide a school in every
parish within England and Wales. xix The National Society still exists and was renamed as the
Church of England Education Office in 2016. With the enactment of the 1870 Education Act, the
BFSS moved away from the provision of schools to the creation of teacher training colleges. This
saw a gradual transfer of their schools to, at first, local school boards and then to Local Education
Authorities, which had taken on the responsibilities of the school boards after the passing of the
1902 Education Act. xx The BFSS still exists today, and provides funding for schools overseas.

Two questions that were of importance to decision makers; firstly what was to be taught and,
secondly, how it was to be taught. Education was shaped by class distinction and what was
taught to different classes differed as well as the quality of teaching. In the early 19th century it is
thought that only a third of the population could read and write. It was felt that the working class
should be able to read but not to write. It was also believed that the ‘labouring classes’ should be
able to read the Bible, but that being taught how to write and to do arithmetic would lead to people
having ambitions beyond their social standing. Practical work experience was more highly
thought of for the ‘labouring classes’ than that of literacy. xxi

When it was developed, the Monitorial System was thought to be the most economic way of
teaching and was based upon rote learning. Later in the 19th century, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate
of Education was critical of such teaching as it was felt that discipline could not be maintained.
This system was largely developed by Dr. Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, who devised their
ideas independently of each other. The Lancasterian System was a form of ‘mutual instruction’ in
which the abler pupils assisted the teacher by transferring on the information they had learned to
other pupils. Lancaster maintained that the classroom would ideally be a parallelogram with the
length of the room being twice its width, and that the windows were to be six feet from the floor. It
was suggested that the floor slightly sloping from the teacher's desk to the upper end of the room.
The teacher's desk would be in the middle of a platform that would be two to three feet high. The
pupils’ desks would be fixed to the floor and occupy the middle of the room, and there would be a
passageway on both sides of the block of desks. The pupils were to be classified according to
their ability in both reading and arithmetic. Lancaster maintained that the changing of roles taken
by the pupils should take place regularly as this would aid discipline. In addition to this, a code of
command and exact movements enhanced discipline. Also, the giving of prizes, medals and
badges of merit were to be given ceremonially to encourage the process of learning. Lancaster
stated the objective of his system was to produce a ‘Christian Education’ and to train children in
the practice of such moral habits as are conducive to the welfare of society. xxii

Bell's ‘Madras System’ was based upon his observations of the Military Male Orphan Asylum,
Egmore, near Madras, where, after observing children in a native school, seated on the ground
and writing in the sand, he set a boy, John Frisken, to teach the alphabet on the same principle.
Bell was to extend and elaborate the system. Bell believed that: there is a faculty, inherent in the
mind, of conveying and receiving mutual instruction. The school was arranged in classes made
up of about 36 pupils who had similar reading ability. Progress in reading, writing and religious
knowledge was recorded in a register. Discipline was maintained by keeping a 'black book' and
periodically the entries would be read to the entire school, and the faults explained in moral terms.
Bell recommended that each classroom was to be built in a rectangle, with windows five feet from
the floor and that the pupils’ desks were placed against walls. The teacher's desk was to be
raised. xxiii

The ‘Three Rs’ and Beyond

What was taught at the School? Speaking at the meeting that set up the School’s Old Boys’ Club
in 1906, Mr. Alpe, who was the headmaster at that time, remarked that: When appointed
headmaster be had strict orders to conduct the school on the lines of the British and Foreign
School Society. The Bible was to be read but not expounded, no creed was to be taught; the
school was to be absolutely non-denominational. That had earned out to the letter, and believed
it had been one of the greatest contributors to the School’s success. xxiv

A former pupil, Mr. John Buckle, reminisced that: he appreciated the education received at the
British school...(and that) the hand-writing taught in the school….had a style which could not be
mistaken....The boys of the school had not been taught Latin and French in years gone by but
they were well grounded in the ‘three Rs’, and received good commercial education that proved a
blessing to them. xxv

As stated, teaching was not just restricted to the ‘three Rs’, and subjects taught included French,
Latin and bookkeeping. As reported in the Norfolk News: under the judicious management of Mr.
D. Tomkins….so successful has he been in the present mode of instruction, that in the short
space of nine months...his pupils were found to have progressed, and on Thursday, the 29th day
of June, were publicly examined at the school room, before a respectable and intelligent
assembly, at which the Mayor, Philip Pullyn, Esq., presided; whose expression of approbation, as
well that of the entire company, was such as afforded, not only encouragement to the master, but
satisfaction to those gentlemen and friends who have interested themselves the school's
prosperity. xxvi

After an inspection by a school inspector in 1889, it was stated that: the discipline was good and
the boys answered well and intelligently in their class subjects and the general results of the
examination in the elementary subjects are decidedly creditable. xxvii In addition to the ‘ordinary
subjects’, the pupils were taught French, Latin and bookkeeping and the headmaster, Mr. A. Alpe,
was congratulated in obtaining such a good report from the HM Inspector. xxviii

A report in the Yarmouth Independent stated that: in the recent Civil Service examination (a
Yarmouth British School pupil) secured the distinction of being placed sixth among over 600
candidates, and that: eleven boys of the British School have been presented for this Civil Service
Open Examination, all of whom have passed. Besides obtaining the honour of the very high
position already stated, the school secured 9th, 16th, 18th and 32nd places in the list, and in the
limited competitions its representatives have been very successful, and that the: H.M. Inspector
reported the boys were taught in a thoroughly efficient manner. xxix Also taught were a number of
science subjects, including pure mathematics, inorganic chemistry and physiography. xxx

Proposed Closure and Transfer to the Local Education Authority

However, despite the school’s good academic record, it was proposed that, due to the poor state
of the school’s premises, the school should close and the pupils transferred to the Nelson School
in St. Peter’s Road. This was opposed by the parents of the pupils attending the school xxxi and
the school remained open. Negotiations were then opened with the Borough Council to transfer
the school from the control of the BFSS to the Local Education Authority. The school, after
protracted discussions and with approval from the government’s Board of Education, was
transferred to the control of the Borough Council. In 1906, the school was renamed the Daniel
Tompkins’ School xxxii and the school would be a Boys Junior School for the standard years 1 and
2, and that the Nelson School would become an Upper Standard School. xxxiii

The school’s building came under increasing criticism with an inspector in 1909 calling the
classroom as being: gloomy, unventilated and overheated. In 1912, after an inspection, it was felt
that it was no longer possible for the Board of Education to recognise it as a public elementary
school as from 30th April 1914. xxxiv However, the closure date was extended by the Board of
Education to 31st December 1914 to allow for the construction of a new school in the Newtown

Attendance at the Daniel Tomkins’ School 1906 to 1915
Number on Registers Average Attendance
Year Boys Girls Mixed Total Boys Girls Mixed Total
1906 299 299 285 285
1907 266 266 246 246
1908 237 237 216 216
1909 240 240 221 221
1910 258 258 232 232
1911 266 266 236 236
1912 274 274 236 236
1913 270 270 240 240
1914 246 246 214 214
1915 215 215 187 187
Source: Board of Education Returns - National Archives

Accommodation of the Public Elementary Schools in Great Yarmouth (1908)

School Name of School Boys Girls Mixed Senior Junior Infants Total
No. Mixed Mixed

1 Daniel Tomkins’ 280 - - - - - 280

2 Church Road 327 327 - - - 314 968
3 Cobholm Island 292 300 - - - 321* 913
3A Edward Worlledge - - - 420 280 120 820
5 Hospital 315 227 - - - - 542
6 Nelson 425 360 - - - - 785
7 Northgate 327 321 - - - 425 1073
8 Runham Vauxhall - - 159 - - 51 210
9 St. George’s - 188 - - - 393 584
10 St. James’ 160 159 - - - 175 494
11 St. John’s - 120 - - - 111 231
12 St. Mary’s - - 168 - - 82 250
13 St. Nicholas’ 388 195 - - 132 125 840
14 St. Peter’s - - 379 - - 134 513
15 Stradbroke Road 289 380 - - - 332 1001
Source: Schedule to Board of Education Letter (1908) in the National Archives * includes temporary iron room

area of Great Yarmouth. Despite approval from the Local Government Board for the raising of a
loan to build this new school, it proved impossible to obtain it because of the First World War, so
the continued recognition of the Daniel Tompkins’ School as a public elementary school was
granted for the duration of the war. xxxv The school was finally closed on 31st March 1924 and
the remaining pupils assigned to nearby schools.

During the 1920s, the buildings continued to be held for various meetings and events, such as
cookery demonstrations and by the local Sea Cadets.

Curtis, Mavis, Education in a Nineteenth-Century Oxfordshire Village, The Local Historian: Journal
of the British Association for Local History, August 2011, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp 192-202
Op. Cit.
Yarmouth Independent, Saturday 12th April 1924
Yarmouth Independent, Saturday 10th March 1906
Yarmouth Independent, Saturday 12th April 1924
Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 22nd February 1812
Extract of Deeds received by the Charity Commission, National Archives, British School: 1855-1907
Op. Cit.
Preston, John, The Picture of Yarmouth, page 162, 1819
Extract of Deeds received by the Charity Commission, National Archives, British School: 1855-1907
Op. Cit.
Op. Cit.
Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 1st July 1815
List of British Schools in 1897 held in the BFSS archives, now kept at Brunel University
George Nall’s Penny Yarmouth Guide 1871, Printer: George Nall, 182 King Street, Great Yarmouth,
BFSS website
Aldrich, Richard, The British and Foreign School Society, Past and Present, History of Education
Researcher, No. 91, May 2013, pp 5-12
Op. Cit.
Gillard, Derek, Education in England: a History, 2018,
Aldrich, Richard, The British and Foreign School Society, Past and Present, History of Education
Researcher, No. 91, May 2013, pp 5-12
Curtis, Mavis, Education in a Nineteenth-Century Oxfordshire Village, The Local Historian: Journal
of the British Association for Local History, August 2011, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp 192-202
Op. Cit.
Yarmouth Independent, 10th March 1906
Op Cit.
Norfolk News, 26th August 1848
Yarmouth Mercury, 26th August 1889
Op. Cit.

Yarmouth Independent, 28th September 1901
Yarmouth Independent, 13th October 1877
Norwich Mercury, 19th April 1905
Yarmouth Independent, 9th June 1906
Yarmouth Independent, 7th July 1906
Letter from the Board of Education to Great Yarmouth County Borough Council dated 22nd October
1912, National Archives.
Letters from the Board of Education to Great Yarmouth Borough Council dated 24th February 1914
and 24th December 1914 and letter from Council’s Education Committee dated 3rd December
1914, National Archives.

The Great Yarmouth Pigeon Flying Club
Paul P. Davies

The Society receives various requests via the website for information. One such request came
from Canada and concerned a badge with the town crest and wings on either side of it. It was
suggested that it may be connected with a flying club. Local enquiries produced no information
and, in particular, it appeared that there had not been a flying club in Great Yarmouth. Colin
Tooke consulted the Norfolk historian Neil Storey, who identified the item as the insignia of Great
Yarmouth Pigeon Flying Club, which presumably raced homing pigeons.

Great Yarmouth Pigeon Flying Club badge Reg’d 21445

The homing pigeon is a variety of domestic pigeon derived from the rock pigeon bred for its ability
to find its way home over extremely long distances. The wild rock pigeon has an innate homing
ability, meaning that it will generally return to its nest, it is believed, using magnetoreception
(detecting a magnetic field to find direction, altitude or location).

Pigeon racing is the sport of releasing specially trained racing pigeons, which then return to their
homes over a carefully measured distance. The time it takes the birds to cover the specified
distance is measured and their rate of travel is calculated and compared with all the other pigeons
in the race to determine which bird returned at the highest speed.

The Romans used pigeons to convey messages throughout the empire, for example Olympic
games results for betting syndicates, and ships warning their home port of their imminent arrival.
Homing pigeons continued to be important before the development of electronic communications,
such as the telegraph and the telephone.

Pigeons were used in 1150 in Baghdad and also later by Genghis Khan. By 1167, a regular
service between Baghdad and Syria had been established. The Republic of Genoa equipped
their system of watchtowers in the Mediterranean Sea with pigeon posts. Tipu Sultan of Mysore
(1750–1799) also sent messages on pigeons and they then returned to his headquarters. The
Reuters News Agency began as a pigeon service (using 45 birds) carrying closing stock prices
between Belgium and Germany. Also, the use of homing pigeons by the financier Nathan
Rothschild to gain advance news of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo is thought to have
led to a fortune being made in the bond market of the day. In the 1800s, there was an official
pigeon postal service throughout France and this was expanded between capitals so that a postal
service by carrier pigeon between London and Paris was advertised in 1870.

Pigeon racing became a sport of the masses in the early 1900s. The advent of the railway
allowed the pigeons to be sent to distant release points quickly. Also, the creation of timing
clocks brought accuracy to the sport. However, the sport has experienced a downturn in
popularity in recent years. Pigeon racing requires a specific breed of pigeon bred for the sport,
the Racing Homer. Competing pigeons are specially trained and conditioned for races that vary
in distance from approximately 100 kilometres (62 miles) to 1,000 kilometres (620 miles). Racing
pigeons, with their homing ability, were able to carry messages, especially in the armed services,
the so-called pigeon-post.

Further enquires yielded very little information about the Great Yarmouth club. There is no record
of it at the Norfolk Record Office nor at the Norfolk Heritage Centre at the Millennium Library in
Norwich. A trawl through the Norfolk newspapers over several years from 1880 to 1930 found
only five items concerning the club, which are detailed below.
In 1901, The Great Yarmouth Pigeon Flying Club organised a
race from Chelmsford to Great Yarmouth, a distance of 80 miles.
The competing birds were sent by rail at six o’clock in the
morning and were liberated by the stationmaster at 10.45am.
The winning bird was timed home at 12.55pm with a speed of
1,173 yards per minute (approximately 40 mph). The second
bird arrived home at 1.15pm. The owner of the first bird, Mr. T.
W. Clements, received a silver cup of three guineas value. The
winning bird could be viewed at the owner’s home, the East and
West Flegg public house, 28 Northgate Street.1

In June 1904, a court case reported that J. J. Chamberlain, a shoemaker of Row 23, was
summoned for stealing a pigeon valued at 15 shillings, the property of William Fiddy. Fiddy was
a photographer and kept homing pigeons and was a member of the Great Yarmouth Pigeon
Flying Club. Among his birds was a blue chequered cock marked R. D. F. 2,070. Fiddy had let
out his pigeons for a fly. All of them except this particular bird returned and he offered a reward of
one shilling for any information. It was stated that Chamberlain’s premises were constructed for
the purpose of catching not only his own pigeons, but others as well. His practice was to entice
stray pigeons to his premises. If no one claimed them they were sold to a game-dealer at
sixpence each. The Flying Club regarded the case as one of great importance to the club and
also those interested in homing pigeons and an example should be made of Chamberlain. The
Chairman of the club, George Annis of 19 Northgate Street, said that he knew Chamberlain’s
premises. He had a garret on the roof. In the roof he had a hole about two feet by six feet and on
two sides of the garret he had a glass window and spy holes so that he could watch the pigeons
arriving. There was also a net on a platform on which Chamberlain put hemp seed and maize to
attract the birds, which was not the usual way to catch an owner’s birds. A witness, Alfred Ceiley,
said that he had a loft in the same row and that he had several times complained about
Chamberlain catching his pigeons and that he had caught over 20 of his birds over the last six
months. The magistrates felt that this was a bad case and that there was not the slightest doubt
that Chamberlain had made his loft in such a way simply to trap other people’s birds and for
making money by selling them. Chamberlain was fined one pound with 28s 6d costs.2

In December 1904, it was reported that there was a fair attendance at the annual smoking concert
and prize distribution under the auspices of the Great Yarmouth Pigeon Flying Club held at 42
North Howard Street under the presidency of Mr. G. Annis, a stationer. The Chairman, on
distributing the prizes, spoke of the very successful season the club had experienced and the
good results obtained in flying their pigeons.3

In August 1907, the Great Yarmouth Pigeon Flying Club held a young bird race from
Bournemouth, a distance of 207 miles. Mr. George Annis won the challenge cup and medal as
his pigeons took first and second place. Mr. Cecily’s pigeon was third, Mr. Gibbs’ was fourth and
another bird of Mr. Annis was fifth.4

In October 1907, at the East Anglican Federation meeting at Norwich, Mr. G. Annis was placed
fifth in the Marennes race with a speed of 685 yards per minute (23 mph). Marennes is 486 miles
from Great Yarmouth. This was the first occasion on which any
member of the club had accomplished this distance with their birds.5

If any person can positively identify the badge, the Society would be
grateful for any information.

Norwich Mercury 13th April 1901
Norfolk News 4th June 1904
3 A stamp for the Great
Norfolk Chronicle 17th December 1904
4 Barrier Pigeongram Service
Yarmouth Independent 31st August 1907
Norfolk Chronicle 5th October 1907 established in 1897

Pictures from the Archive and Pictures also sent to the Society Website
Paul P. Davies

Presentation of the bell of the trawler, Kirkley, to the Great Yarmouth Archaeological Society
on 21st January 1977. On the stage the divers who brought up the bell: David Nichols, Paul
Henry Carter and Brian King
Left to right: Jean Milligan, David Bullock, Ted Goate, Jean King, George Rye, Percy Trett,
Kathleen Bell, Barbara Cornford, Ken Milligan, A. W. Ecclestone and Charles Lewis
The bell is rung at the start of the society meetings

Shrapnel damage on a lamp post on

Young archaeologists at Greenwich c1976 Hamilton Road 1992

Young Archaeologists at
North Elmham Cathedral

Right and below:

The Victorian
greenhouse at the
Royal Naval Hospital.
The Society failed in
its strong objection to
its removal and it was
George Rye in the

The young
first meeting at
Walking the
Roman site with
Colin Grey c1975

Andrew Fakes
Charles J. Palmer’s
grave in 1999.
The crosses have
been broken twice
and repaired by the

Colin Tooke
excavates the
cellars under
Howard Street

The cannon from outside

Southtown Armoury being
renovated by society
members John Audley and
Russell Smith. It has since
been moved to South Quay

Negatives found in a Junk Shop by David Spencer and sent to the Society

Haven Bridge, Great Yarmouth

Trinity House boat Argus with Southtown Road Revolving Tower

in the background

Punch and Judy on

Great Yarmouth beach

From the collection of Mr Paul Bourgeois. The photographer was probably his
great grandfather. He spent a holiday in Great Yarmouth c1903 and appears to
have stayed at the Star Hotel.

Jetty, Great Yarmouth 1903

Central beach Great Yarmouth with the mast of the

Lloyd’s signal station on the left c1903

Gorleston tram shed and Feathers Plain

Britannia Pier Great Yarmouth 1903

Town Hall
and Hall

Pier Hotel Gorleston 1903

Star Hotel Great Yarmouth with a Star Hotel hand-cart and coach outside 1903

Wellington Pier Great Yarmouth being rebuilt with a Wellington Pier Great Yarmouth being rebuilt
cleared area on the left to receive the Winter Gardens 1903

Left and below:

Hall Quay
and the convict
ship Success

Gorleston Pier 1903


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