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Discover the country's second most complete Medieval town wall

Great Yarmouth town has one of the best preserved and most complete Medieval town walls in England, dating from 28 September 1261 when King Henry III granted Yarmouth the right to enclose the town with a wall and a ditch to protect them from pirates and ensure taxes could be collected. As a Scheduled Ancient Monument, large sections of these walls and eleven towers still survive today.

Great Yarmouth town wall
In the 13th century, town walls were important, not only as protection against enemy raids but because they showed that a town was wealthy and powerful.

Building a wall was a mammoth undertaking. It took the people of Yarmouth twenty-five years just to raise the money that was needed. Work started on the wall in 1276 and a great amount of labour was required. Every resident had to work on the wall for a number of days each year, although wealthy people could pay others to do the work for them. Most inhabitants knew that they would not live to see it finished - it took 111 years to complete the wall.

The walls and towers were built of local flints and pebbles found lying on beaches and in the immediate neighbourhood due to a shortage of building stone in the area. Great Yarmouth is built on a sandbank and so it was difficult to find suitable materials with which to build a wall. All the towers except for one (King Henry's tower) were round. This was so that they could save stone which would have been needed for the corners.

The South East Tower was particularly fine for repelling pirates as it protruded out and gave the inhabitants a better vanatage point for defending themselves.

The walls ran for just over a mile and completely enclosed three sides of the town. The River Yare protected the west side.

In the mid 1300s, the walls almost became the town's death sentence. People lived in crammed rows of houses, alleyways known to this day as 'The Rows', inside the perimeter. Poor living conditions meant diseases such as 'the Black deal' thrived and spread like wildfire through Yarmouth's close-knit community, wiping out two-thirds of its population.

The town walls were last prepared for action at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and were described by the 17th Century poet Thomas Nash as "a flinty ring of 15 towers which sent out thunder whenever a Spaniard dared to come near".

Much of the Grade II listed wall still stands today, sometimes haphazardly interspersed with modern day buildings and intrinsically part of Great Yarmouth life wherever it stands. Some of the most impressive parts of the wall can be seen opposite the Time and Tide Museum and along Blackfriars Road.

Find out more about the Medieval Town Wall on a guided heritage walk. Running from May to October, you can join the walk at the Fisherman's Hospital at the northern end of the Market Place.

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Guided Heritage Walks in Great Yarmouth

Medieval Town Wall

Medieval Town Wall

Sun 25 Jun 2017

Great Yarmouth's Medieval wall is the second most complete in the country. Walk it with our trained heritage tour guide and find out why and how it was built.

Original images of Suspension Bridge Disaster

Circus, Clowns & Catastrophe

Tue 27 Jun 2017

In this holiday walk led by one of our trained heritage guides, visit the places associated with the Great Yarmouth's suspension bridge disaster and find out how, where and why it happened.

The Rows

Gory Stories on a Wicked Walk - Guided Walk

Tue 27 Jun 2017

Great Yarmouth has its fair share of unpleasant and murderous stories to tell, join one of our trained heritage tour guides on this wicked walk and hear all of the gory details!

Entrance to the Rows

Rows, Fishwives and Red Herrings - Guided Walk

Sun 2 Jul 2017

The Great Yarmouth Rows are full of strange and sometimes macabre tales. Our trained tour guides will tell you stories of the wealthy merchants that lived at one end and of the bars and brothels that had their place at the other!

Graveyard at Great Yarmouth Minster

Spectacular Spectres

Tue 4 Jul 2017

Great Yarmouth has a rich history that spans over a thousand years, with many great characters with fascinating stories. These famous townsfolk may be long gone, but what if some chose to stay?

Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile

Glorious Memories of the Golden Mile

Sun 9 Jul 2017

Our new seafront walk is set between Great Yarmouth’s two piers and tells the story of over 250 years as a famous and favoured seaside resort.

Bandstand & Beach at Gorleston-on-Sea

Quayside & Seaside at Gorleston-on-Sea

Tue 11 Jul 2017

Great Yarmouth's sister town of Gorleston-on-Sea has a fascinating heritage all its own. Learn about the demise of its elegant and turreted Victorian hotel, how the pier came to be, where the lido was and a great deal more.

The Rows

Gory Stories on a Wicked Walk - Guided Walk

Sun 16 Jul 2017

Great Yarmouth has its fair share of unpleasant and murderous stories to tell, join one of our trained heritage tour guides on this wicked walk and hear all of the gory details!

Medieval Town Wall

Medieval Town Wall

Tue 18 Jul 2017

Great Yarmouth's Medieval wall is the second most complete in the country. Walk it with our trained heritage tour guide and find out why and how it was built.

Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile

Glorious Memories of the Golden Mile

Sun 23 Jul 2017

Our new seafront walk is set between Great Yarmouth’s two piers and tells the story of over 250 years as a famous and favoured seaside resort.

Entrance to the Rows

Rows, Fishwives and Red Herrings - Guided Walk

Tue 25 Jul 2017

The Great Yarmouth Rows are full of strange and sometimes macabre tales. Our trained tour guides will tell you stories of the wealthy merchants that lived at one end and of the bars and brothels that had their place at the other!

Graveyard at Great Yarmouth Minster

Spectacular Spectres

Thu 27 Jul 2017

Great Yarmouth has a rich history that spans over a thousand years, with many great characters with fascinating stories. These famous townsfolk may be long gone, but what if some chose to stay?

Medieval Town Wall

Medieval Town Wall

Sun 30 Jul 2017

Great Yarmouth's Medieval wall is the second most complete in the country. Walk it with our trained heritage tour guide and find out why and how it was built.

Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile

Glorious Memories of the Golden Mile

Tue 1 Aug 2017

Our new seafront walk is set between Great Yarmouth’s two piers and tells the story of over 250 years as a famous and favoured seaside resort.

The Rows

Gory Stories on a Wicked Walk - Guided Walk

Sun 6 Aug 2017

Great Yarmouth has its fair share of unpleasant and murderous stories to tell, join one of our trained heritage tour guides on this wicked walk and hear all of the gory details!

Medieval Town Wall

Medieval Town Wall

Tue 8 Aug 2017

Great Yarmouth's Medieval wall is the second most complete in the country. Walk it with our trained heritage tour guide and find out why and how it was built.

Belton Village Sign

The Last Train from Belton

Thu 10 Aug 2017

Why not join us for this special guided walk around the beautiful village of Belton.

Bandstand & Beach at Gorleston-on-Sea

Quayside & Seaside at Gorleston-on-Sea

Sun 13 Aug 2017

Great Yarmouth's sister town of Gorleston-on-Sea has a fascinating heritage all its own. Learn about the demise of its elegant and turreted Victorian hotel, how the pier came to be, where the lido was and a great deal more.

Graveyard at Great Yarmouth Minster

Spectacular Spectres

Tue 15 Aug 2017

Great Yarmouth has a rich history that spans over a thousand years, with many great characters with fascinating stories. These famous townsfolk may be long gone, but what if some chose to stay?

Burgh Castle

Roman Revelations at a Fascinating Fort

Thu 17 Aug 2017

Join our trained heritage tour guide and enjoy a pleasant stroll around Burgh Castle and see the best preserved walls of a Roman fort.

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