Preserving Great Yarmouth’s beautiful historical places for the benefit of all!
On a map, Great Yarmouth resembles a sort of appendix hanging from the rounded belly of the east Norfolk coastline. It is a long, narrow place sandwiched between the North Sea and the harbour. It’s where rivers Yare and Bure meet before they pour out into the sea.
The town is part of the Norfolk Broads National Park. A vast expanse of tidal water called Breydon Water sits right behind the entrance to the town. The seafront faces east with a broad sandy beach about two miles long with low dunes at either end. The main approach to Yarmouth is across seven miles of wonderful marshlands. Fields are spotted with old windmills, herds of piebald ponies and grazing black cattle. From across the grassland, as you approach, you can see the spikey spires of the 14th-century Minster reaching up above a low huddle of very old buildings. The journey across those marshes by car or train is haunting and hints at the magical place that lies ahead, ready to be explored.
They paved paradise (and put up a parking lot)
The reality today however is shockingly grim- and I say this as someone who is entranced by the town. The first dwellings you meet are not buildings at all but rows and rows of static caravans crammed behind a high fence into a Holiday Park. Then tattered hoardings screened off derelict land and used car lots. A very large Asda supermarket and the first of Great Yarmouth’s multitude of car parks completely obliterate the view of Breydon Water. An interesting Victorian brewery was fairly recently demolished, replaced by a monstrous Poundland store and an Aldi (again, each with a car park).
Rows of Georgian houses must have been demolished to make way for the main road through the town. It thoughtlessly cuts off the beautiful Minster and accompanying graveyard from the market place which it once overlooked. To make matters worse, another massive supermarket with a further huge car park has been permitted, slap-bang next to the tranquil churchyard.
Should you prefer the usual hustle and bustle of a busy harbour to the seaside (which I normally do) it’s only a very short distance across the narrow town. Through the streets of modest houses and lock-ups, you come upon the grandly named Historic South Quay. Described by Daniel Defoe as “the finest quay in England if not in Europe” and lined with handsome “little palaces”. In reality, South Quay turns out to be a virtual motorway with heavily loaded lorries and cars. But where is the harbour and where are the ships? Due to rising sea levels, a solid concrete retaining wall about four feet high has been built. It runs along the edge of the quay, blocking off any sight of the water or boats.