Great Yarmouth's shy town wall
Once again in the summer sunshine we set
out on another local adventure. We were led
by one of our members, Janet Edwards, a
volunteer Heritage Town Guide in Great
Yarmouth. She admitted to feeling a little
nervous at the start, possibly imagining that
her friends and colleagues of the Local
History Group would be more critical than
the average group of sightseers. No need!
Much of what we saw was new to most of us, and Janet guided us through the tour briskly, confidently and with great clarity.
There is no way that one can try to tell you all the detail of what we saw and heard. You must take one of the three regular tours: will get you started.
We started outside the Fisherman’s Hospital and found out why it was pretty good to be a 60+ retired fisherman during the 1700’s but rather less good to be his widow. We saw the first stand-alone statue ever to be erected in Great Yarmouth and noticed another of St Peter in the Cupola on the roof. Do you know why he is there?
En route to the wall we saw
the home of the writer of
Black Beauty and another of a
doctor who had a passing
interest in body-snatching
(that’s another tour). We
observed the Minster, the
largest parish church in
England, and heard the first
hint of the devastating
plagues that have ravaged Great Yarmouth. Our first brush with the wall was at a crossroads where a simple plaque marked the site of the North Gate, which had been pulled down many years ago. Just a few yards further on was an enormous flintstone wall as high as a house. This was the beginning of an almost continuous structure, including eleven towers, that extends along the seaward side of the town centre for well over a mile. Sadly, the great gates are all gone. But the wall’s very presence reminds you of what an important place Great Yarmouth has always been. Henry III gave the town permission to build a wall in 1261, for defence and to control trade. It was strengthened in the 1500s when Spain threatened to invade.
Then we stopped briefly in
the Sainsbury car park! In
Leicester they discovered the
body of Richard III beneath a
car park - beneath where we
park our cars and push our
shopping trolleys rest
hundreds of victims buried in
what are known as plague pits.
Yarmouth’s is one of the longest medieval walls in England, perhaps the second longest, competing with York and Chester. Their walls differ from Yarmouth’s: you can walk along the top and they are featured parts of the landscape. Yarmouth’s wall is tucked away amongst the buildings – a shy, almost secret wall. But that proved to be one of the joys of the tour – the feeling of discovery as it popped up in most unexpected places. One is beneath Market Gates, where we got really close to the wall’s top and where it seems to have a new role as guardian of the public toilet.
Another is where it forms the imposing
boundary of a play area. Did the children
playing on the grass realise that they
were performing cartwheels on a potential
battleground? Then there is that house
built high up, right on top of one of the
towers. How, or maybe why, on earth? An