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Tales from the tombstones

Tales from the tombstonesA brave sailor killed by a notorious pirate, an orphan minstrel who busked across Canada, and men who created landmark buildings in the Great Yarmouth area are among the hundreds of people buried in the town’s churchyard.

And a special guided walk this month will bring their fascinating stories to life again.

They include David Bartleman, the master of a ship crewed by 10 men and boys whose gravestone says he “nobly defended himself” against the 100-man cutter of pirate John Fall in January 1781.

Bartleman “fairly beat him off” but was wounded in a second attack which left mate Daniel MacAuley “expiring with the loss of blood”. And, despite bringing his shattered ship home to Great Yarmouth “with more than the honours of a conqueror”, Bartleman also died from his wounds aged 25, days later.

Other tales from the tombstones during the special walk on Friday October 28th include:
• George Gilbert, a circus act horseman who was behind the creation of the Hippodrome Circus. He also served his community as a councillor, and – with no children of his own – gave boots to poor youngsters. When he died in 1915 aged 58 the town came to a standstill for his funeral.
• Thomas Sutton - a superintendent of works who died at the top of Great Yarmouth’s Nelson’s monument in 1819 – from a heart attack, not, as some stories reported at the time, jumping from the top after seeing Britannia was facing the wrong way.
• James Beeching – a Great Yarmouth boatbuilder who designed the first self-righting lifeboat after winning a competition in 1851 for a £100 prize following a lifeboat tragedy off Northumberland. He died aged 70, seven years later.
• George “Concrete” Cockrill - a borough surveyor, regarded as one of the makers of modern Great Yarmouth, whose legacy includes Gorleston Pavilion and seafront, and the Great Yarmouth art school. Born 1849 and died aged 74 just two years after retiring.
• James Sharman - a sailor who was pressganged into the navy aged 14, served with Lord Nelson and was later keeper custodian at his monument. He died in 1867 aged 82. Charles Dickens’ character Peggotty in David Copperfield is said to be based on him.
• William Joseph Carter - orphaned at the age of seven and sent to Canada by Barnados. He taught farming until his farmstead was destroyed by fire, when he busked with fiddle and whistle – his only remaining possessions - to earn a living, allegedly walking across Canada four times. He died aged 83 in 1958 and was brought home to Great Yarmouth to be buried next to his mother.

The Graveyard Walk, led by local guide Len Vincent, is a special autumn event in the series of heritage walks.

It starts at the Fisherman’s Hospital Gates, Great Yarmouth Market Place and finishing with refreshments inside the Minster after 1½-2 hours. Tickets £6.50 adults, £4 children, under-7s free.

For more details or to book, call Great Yarmouth Tourist Information Centre on 01493 846346 or log onto