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Discover retro seaside heritage in Great Yarmouth

Everyone loves to discover something that little bit different when they're exploring, and part of the fun is finding out that people from 200 years ago weren't really all that different from us, even if they did have some rather odd beachwear fashions. Greater Yarmouth celebrates it's cultural heritage with an unusual retro, rather kitsch but very cool seaside vibe, adding a suprising element of fun to the heritage mix. Head to Great Yarmouth's Victorian and Edwardian seafront for unique heritage fun by the sea.

In loving memory of The Showman's Daughter - Behind the scenes

Visitors can ride the oldest operational wooden rollercoaster in the country, one of less than 10 in the world to be ridden every time by an on-board 'brakeman' who controls the speed of the train, at the Pleasure Beach at the southern-most end of the seafront. The beautifully painted Scenic Railway was built in 1928 and moved to the park in 1932 having been bought at the Paris Colonial Exposition by the then owner. Pop-pickers will be interested to know that Madness recorded much of the video for their song 'House of Fun' at the amusement park in 1982.

Just next door, Merrivale Model Village is another cultural heritage icon, where the seafront's oldest tea room, built in 1903 and featuring a stunning copper cupola, continues to serve refreshments to this day. Opened in 1961, the model village features all sorts of minature scenes, with beautiful landscaping and an 'N' gauge model railway.Generations of families have enjoyed the gardens and the cool mini-models posing in all sorts of scenes. On your way to the tea room, buy a bag of old pennies in the gift shop and enjoyMerrivale's unique old penny arcade, housing a fabulous range of vintage slot machines dating from the 1920s to 1960s. Put your old-time penny in the slot and crank the handle, ping the lever or shoot the ball. You can have hours of fun with the ingenious mechanics and amusing games trying to work out how the machine operates.

At the other end of the seafront near Britannia Pier, children's fun park Joyland opened in 1949 and has been owned and operated by the Cole family ever since. Engineering entrepreneur Horace Cole designed the world famous Snails and the now unique Tyrolean Tubs and built them at the family engineering works, H Cole & Co, on Steam Mill Lane in Great Yarmouth. The snails have developed an almost cult following, and whilst there have been minor alterations to the track layout of the Snails and Tubs, the rides basically remain as Horace intended them and have been ridden by generations of families over the years.

The seafront has two piers, Wellington Pier, originally built in 1853 and The Britannia Pier, which opened in 1858. Both have had fraught histories involving fires, anti-invasion measures during the wars and complete rebuilds, but are fully operational today. Britannia Pier is a truly retro seaside pier with fairground games along the wooden boards, a traditional theatre with showbar and a fun fairground right at the end. Wellington Pier has a large amusement arcade and as you get onto the wooden boards of the pier, a large, airy ten-pin bowling centre with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the beach and the sea.

 

Hippodrome
Possibly the epitome of seaside kitsch, the Hippodrome Circus is a building of outstanding importance, designed by R. S. Cockrill and built in 1903 by George Gilman. There are only two purpose-built permanent circuses still in full working order in Britain and perhaps only three or four pre-1950 circuses in the world. This is a true Hippodrome, with incredible acoustics and a traditional sawdust ring which is flooded for water spectacles as part of most performances, thanks to some ingenious Victorian engineering.

The Grade II* Listed building also still has its original stables and outbuildings which Peter Jay has filled with an amazing collection of circus memorabillia. Animals haven't been part of the circus show for many years, however the building has seen some amazing performers over time: Lloyd George held political rallies here, Lily Langtry sang, Little Titch clowned, Max Miller joked and Houdini escaped.

Today, fantastic circus performances featuring international artistes take place at Easter, summer, halloween and Christmas.

Did you know?

The witchfinder general, Matthew Hopkins, came to Great Yarmouth in 1645 and five women were hanged for witchcraft, having first been jailed in The Tolhouse, now Britain's oldest gaol.

A number of alleged witches escaped the death sentence in Great Yarmouth, only to flee to Salem in the USA ... which turned out not to be their best choice of holiday destination.

Read more...

Heritage attractions open today

Elizabethan House

Elizabethan House Museum

Great Yarmouth

Explore four centuries of history under one roof. Stroll around the period rooms in this Tudor merchants house with a free audio tour and try on Tudor costumes.

Merrivale Model Village

Merrivale Model Village

Great Yarmouth

One of Great Yarmouth's best loved family attractions, is set in over an acre of award winning landscaped gardens with streams, waterfalls, lake with Koi Carp, garden railway & picnic area. New for 2016 - the Merrivale Eye!

Merrivale Model Village Illuminations

Merrivale Model Village Illuminations

Great Yarmouth

One of Great Yarmouth's best loved family attractions illuminated by night, set in over an acre of award-winning landscaped gardens with streams, waterfalls and lake with Koi Carp.

Caister Castle Car Collection

Caister Castle Car Collection

Great Yarmouth

Caister Castle Car collection near Caister Great Yarmouth, probably the largest private collection of motor vehicles in Great Britain

Time and Tide - Museum of Great Yarmouth

Time and Tide - Museum of Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth

Time & Tide in Great Yarmouth is set in one of the UK's best preserved Victorian Herring curing works, and tells the story of the area from its ice age origins to the present day. Experience the heady atmosphere of a 1950's fish wharf.

Thursford Collection

Thursford Collection

Fakenham

Thursford Collection is open during the summer as a working museum of mechanical organs, Wurlitzer shows, silent movies, old fashioned fairground carousels, static displays of fairground & road engines & all kinds of related memorabilia.

Norfolk & Nelson Museum

Nelson Museum

Great Yarmouth

The Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth offers you the chance to find out more about local hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, and the times in which he lived.

Caister Roman Site

Caister Roman Fort

Caister-on-Sea

Caister Fort: Partial excavated remains of a Roman 'Saxon Shore' fort, including wall and ditch sections and building foundations. Built around AD 200 for a unit of the Roman army and navy and occupied until the end of the 4th century.

Tolhouse Museum & Gaol

The Tolhouse Gaol

Great Yarmouth

Visit one of the UK's oldest gaols, dating back to the 12th century. See the original cells and discover the fate of the thieves, smugglers, witches, pirates and murderers who were confined here.

Burgh Castle

Burgh Castle

Great Yarmouth

Burgh Castle Fort: Imposing stone walls, with added towers for catapults, of a Roman 3rd century 'Saxon Shore' fort. Panoramic views over Breydon Water, which the fourth wall collapsed into a long time ago.

Great Yarmouth Row Houses

Great Yarmouth Row Houses

Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth Row Houses: Experience the sights and sounds of yesterday's Great Yarmouth. Visit these unique and vividly presented houses, one set in 1870 and the other in 1942, just before the incendiary bombing.

Horsey Windpump (Windmill)

Horsey Windpump

Great Yarmouth

An early 20th century wind powered drainage mill standing on the edge of Horsey Mere - part of the Broads an internationally important wetland.

Wellington Pier Gardens

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