Visit our historic Rows
Until the 19th century, building was only permitted within the Medieval town walls. The limited space dictated that houses were built as closely together as possible, which led to the development of The Rows.
Unique to Great Yarmouth, the Rows were a network of 145 very narrow streets which ran parallel to each other.
They were so narrow that a special 'Troll Cart' was developed to transport goods along them. There's a pub named after this unusually shaped cart, and you can see the real thing at the Time and Tide Museum.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) said of them: "A Row is a long,narrow lane or alley quite straight, or as nearly as maybe, with houses on each side, both of which you can sometimes touch at once with the finger tips of each hand, by stretching out your arms to their full extent."
The Rows took up most of the land inside the town walls. At first both rich and poor people lived there together. The wealthier people gradually moved out and their houses were divided up into smaller properties. This left a fantastic range of architecture. Grand merchant houses stood next to tiny dwellings which were built back-to-back with the houses in the next row.
The number of rows changed as some were blocked up and new ones created. The Rows were all given names derived from local characters or prominent buildings. 'Kitty Witches' which ran from King Street to Middlegate Street, was the narrowest row at just 27 inches (68.5cm) wide in some parts. Some rows had more than three names. In 1804 it was decided to make things easier and give each row a number.
Today you can visit real Row houses at Great Yarmouth Row Houses where Row 111 and The Old Merchants House show two different ideas of what life was like when the Rows were inhabited. Alternatively, an increadibly realistic Row with inhabitants throughout the ages has been recreated at Time and Tide. Broad Row and Market Row are also well worth a look, both run from the Market Place to Hall Quay and today are packed with shops.
Few people now live in The Rows, however, a lot of evidence of this unique way of life survives. Row numbers are still painted on walls at the ends of passageways as you walk around Great Yarmouth and if you happen to see Ernie at the Great Yarmouth Potteries, he might be persuaded to recount some Yarmouth folk lore about life in the Rows.