Cultural heritage in Greater Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth is perhaps best known as a traditional seaside resort, however it is also one of the most important historic ports on the east coast of England, built between the North Sea and the Broads, with a unique built cultural heritage, complemented by an outstanding and varied collections of artefacts, documents and paintings. Greater Yarmouth is home to a stunning collection of historic gems such as windmills, churches and Roman ruins.
The town has a rich maritime, trade, industrial and tourism history and has developed from a 10th century fishing hamlet to a modern seaside town, also focused over the past 50 years on the energy industry in particular serving the off-shore oil, gas and wind energy sector. The UK's very first offshore windfarm was built just off Great Yarmouth.
Throughout time local people have continually used the sea and its environment in different ways to meet changing social and cultural needs.
Greater Yarmouth has a distinctive cultural heritage story, dating from as far back as the Bronze and Iron ages. Bronze 'hordes' have been found at both Caister-on-Sea and in Gorleston-on-Sea and iron coat fasteners found in Caister. The Domesday book records Yarmouth as having 70 Burgesses, the largest parish church in England was built here in 1101 and a Royal Charter was granted to the town in 1208, resulting in the town wall being built.
The area's naval and seafaring history is well documented, with ships being supplied for many major battles throughout history, and Admiral Lord Nelson embarking from or returning here on numerous occasions, notably after the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
The first hotel to service the burgeoning holiday trade was built in 1759, when visitors came to the seaside to bathe in the salt sea water, believed to have healing powers. The area fast became a seaside resort, propelled forward by the building of three railway stations. Numerous attractions and theatres to entertain the tourists were built along the seafront, many of which remain to this day, highlighting the town's retro seaside heritage.
Herrings, (referred to locally as Silver Darlings) were a major food source and industry for many years, although their fishing and smoking to produce kipppers ceased large scale production in 1965 when the oil and gas industry took its place.
Until WWII, when Great Yarmouth was on the receiving end of the first Zeppelin raid in England, the town had the finest example of a medieval street plan retained from the 16th and 17th centuries and even today still has a number of unique Rows. The South Quay area contains some of the finest medieval and post-medieval buildings of their type, several are now important museums. Almost every village in the area has a medieval church, many are flint-knapped, have a thatched roof or traditional Norfolk round towers and some are open to the public throughout the year, whereas others are only open during Heritage Open Days.
Given it's position since the 18th century as a prominent seaside resort, Great Yarmouth has a long tradition of blending seaside entertainment with circus. From Punch & Judy, to cabaret, comedy to circus, performance on the streets and in the town's numerous circus spaces and theatres has been part and parcel of life in Great Yarmouth since the Victorian tourism boom.
SeaChange Art's Circus and Street Art programme is a natural progression of Great Yarmouth’s rich performance heritage, celebrated each year with the Out There Festival of Circus and Street Arts.