Charles Dickens, who we last met holed up in the Great White Horse Hotel in Ipswich, rears his much-travelled head again in Great Yarmouth. He visited the town in 1848, and one of his most famous works, David Copperfield, which came out the following year, includes scenes featuring Great Yarmouth. A particularly dramatic scene has the villainous character Steerforth losing his life in a shipwreck. David’s nursemaid, Peggotty, lived in the town in a home smelling strongly of fish due to the fact that her brother dealt in lobsters, crabs and crawfish, and a heap of these creatures in the outhouse was charmingly described as “in a state of wonderful conglomeration with one another”. In fact, it was the huge herring shoals in the North Sea which mainly contributed to the prosperity of the Port of Yarmouth. In medieval times the Free Herring Fair was held every year, lasting for 40 days from Michaelmas and attracting merchants from all over Western Europe and Scandinavia.
Great Yarmouth is to the north of the mouth of the River Yare, which bends round to the south, hemmed in by a narrow spit of land. Today’s Great Yarmouth is Norfolk’s largest town as well as being the most popular seaside resort in East Anglia. Visitors are drawn not only by the extensive sandy beaches with their two piers, but also by the proximity of the Norfolk Broads just inland. There are still signs of the old Yarmouth, including sections of the medieval town walls and merchant’s houses on the quaysides. There is a museum of local history in the 13th-century Tollhouse, a museum of 19th century home life in the Elizabethan House and the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life. Another landmark, the 44m high Nelson’s Monument, is topped by a statue of Britannia.
Map of the area.