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MARKET TOWNS OF NORFOLK (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Great Yarmouth in 1843

YARMOUTH, or GREAT YARMOUTH a seaport, parliamentary borough, and municipal borough, in the county of Norfolk, and hundred of East Flegg, 124 miles N.E. from London, by the road. Great Yarmouth is situated near the confluence of the rivers Yare, Waveney, and Bure, which form a lake called the Braydon Water to the north-west of Yarmouth. The greater part of the town is on the east bank of the Yare, but it extends also along the east bank of the Bure. The hamlet of South Town, sometimes called Little Yarmouth, on the west bank of the Yare, should be considered as a part of Yarmouth, being connected with it by a bridge, and included in the boundary of the municipal borough. A new bridge has just been commenced (November, l843). The town is extending beyond the limits of the old walls, to the north towards Caistor, and to the south towards Nelson’s monument, and still more to the east of the walls, between the old town and the sea. The village of Gorlestone, to the south, near the mouth of the river, is now connected with South Town.

The town of Yarmouth, within the boundary of the the old walls, consists of three principal lines of streets, nearly parallel with the river, and of about 150 narrow lanes, called rows, which form the communications between the streets. The rows are extremely narrow, the greater part of them being not more than from five to eight feet wide, and impassable for ordinary wheel-carriages ; the greater part of the traffic of the town is therefore carried on in ‘Yarmouth carts,’ which are peculiarly constructed, with low wheels, and adapted to the width of the rows : they are drawn by one horse, and look like sledges, but are well suited for conveying heavy goods. Some of the rows have enlarged, particularly one near the middle of the town, to which the name of Regent Street has been given. The principal streets are wide, and the houses are mostly well built, but the most substantial and handsome houses are situated along the quays. The provision-market is spacious ; an open space near the town-hall is used for the corn-market. There are two market-days, Wednesday and Saturday. The chief sales of corn are on Saturday. East of the town, next the sea, are a great number of houses, many of them large and some handsome, which are occupied in spring and summer by visitors who resort to Yarmouth as a bathing-place, certainly the best on the coast of Norfolk. The town beyond the walls consists chiefly of houses of the poorer classes, intermixed with warehouses, and is not paved, and only partly lighted with oil-lamps, but the town within the walls is well paved, and lighted with gas. South Town consists for the most part of good houses, but is only imperfectly paved and lighted,, and Gorlestone is neither paved nor lighted.

The river Yare, falling into the sea about two miles and a half south from Yarmouth, and the Bure, extending to the north from Braydon Water, form a kind of peninsula between the rivers and the German Ocean. near the centre of which the town of Yarmouth stands. The peninsula is low and formed wholly of sand. It is probable that at no very remote period Braydon Water was an open bay of the sea. The harbour is in the river Yare. There are two piers, South Pier and North Pier. South Pier is the larger ; it is about a quarter of a mile long, well constructed, and improved by Sir J. Rennie. There is a bar at the entrance of the river ; but vessels drawing twelve feet water, or about 200 tons burthen, can pass it at high water, and sail up to the town. The quay, taken in its whole extent, is one of the finest in the kingdom ; it is in some parts 150 yards wide, and there is a beautiful promenade planted with trees along the centre. Opposite the southern part of Yarmouth, a jetty, supported on piles, extends about 450 feet into the sea ; it is 24 feet wide, and in fine weather affords a pleasant promenade.

The town-hall, a handsome building, with a portico supported by Tuscan columns, stands on the quay. There is a large custom-house, a gaol, a house of correction, a work-house, a neat theatre, a ball and concert-room, and two bath-houses. The oldest church is that of St. Nicholas ; it is a handsome cruciform building, of pointed architecture, with turrets at the west end and a tower and spire in the centre. It is one of the largest parish churches in the kingdom, with three wide aisles and a chancel which includes the whole width. It has a celebrated organ. It was founded in the beginning of the twelfth century as a chapel to the church of the Holy Trinity at Norwich, which had then a cell at Yarmouth. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the dean and chapter of Norwich, and of the net annual value of £430. St. George’s church was built in 1716, under authority of an act of parliament. The living is a curacy, and was in the gift of the corporation of Yarmouth, but they have recently sold the presentation, which is valued at £200 a year. St. Peter’s, which was erected under the commission for building new churches, is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the incumbent of St. Nicholas, and is of the net annual value of £160. There is a small church in South Town, called St. Mary’s church. The Wesleyan Methodists, Baptists, and other classes of dissenters have places of public worship. About one-third of the way from the town towards the mouth of the river is the Nelson column, which was erected in 1817 : it is a fluted pillar 140 feet high, surmounted by a statue of Britannia. Not far from the column are barracks, which were built at an expense of £120,000. The building was used as a hospital after the battle of Waterloo : it is now unoccupied.

The chief business of Yarmouth is in fishing for herrings and mackerel, and in the curing and exportation of them. There are manufactures of crape and silk goods, which are said to employ about 500 persons, chiefly women. Ship-building, rope-making, and other trades connected with the port, are carried on. The importance and prosperity however of Yarmouth arise from its commerce as a sea-port. It is the chief port for the exports and imports of Norfolk, Suffolk, and part of Essex. Perhaps not more than one-tenth of its shipping is employed in the fishing trade. It has also an extensive inland trade by the rivers Yare, Waveney, and Bure. The Yare is navigable to Norwich, the Waveney to Bungay, and the Bure to Aylsham. There is an annual fair on the Friday and Saturday in Easter week, but it is only for toys and gingerbread

According to the Education Returns, there were, in 1833, 5 infant schools, with 167 children ; 33 daily schools with 1,077 males and females ; 1 boarding-school, with 25 females; 1 day and Sunday-school, attended by 100 males and 40 females daily, and by 80 males and 50 females on Sundays ; and 7 Sunday-schools, one of which was supported by the established church, and the others by different classes of dissenters.

On the 31st December, 1842, the number of sailing vessels registered at Yarmouth was 332 under 50 tons (total burthen 10,195 tons), and 328 above 50 tons (total burthen 36,567 tons) ; and there were four steam-vessels under 50 tons and three above 50 tons. The number of sailing-vessels that entered and cleared coastwise from 31 Dec. 1841 to 31 Dec. 1842, was 2,347 (total burthen 176,784 tons) inwards, and 1,495 (total burthen 77,891 tons) outwards. The number of steam-vessels that entered and cleared was 205 inwards, and 201 outwards, the total burthen inwards as well as outwards being about 28,400 tons. During the same period there entered and cleared for foreign ports 150 vessels (total burthen 14,127 tons) inwards, and 117 (total burthen 10,492 tons) outwards Besides which there were five vessels inwards and three outwards from and to the colonies. The net amount of customs’-duty received in 1839 was £54,541, 19 shillings, 10 pence ; ,in 1840, the net amount received was £46,731, 11 shillings, 5 pence.

Previous to the Municipal Reform Act the corporation of Yarmouth consisted of a mayor, recorder, high steward sub-steward, 17 aldermen (besides the mayor), and 36 common councilmen. The first charter, which was granted in 1108 by King John, was confirmed and extended by other charters of Henry III, Edward II, Richard II, Henry VII, Elizabeth, James I, and Anne, which last, granted in 1702, was the governing charter. By the Municipal Corporations Act the borough is divided into six wards, with 12 aldermen and 36 councillors. The borough of Great Yarmouth, which includes the hamlet of South Town, comprises an area of 1,270 acres. In 1841 there were 5,183 houses inhabited, 164 uninhabited, and 61 building. The number of inhabitants was 24,086, of whom 10,557 were males and 13,529 females. In this number were included 49 persons in the Children’s Hospital, 6 in the Royal Hospital, 223 in the workhouse, and 37 in the house of correction and borough gaol ; but 173 mariners were not included. The population in 1801 was 14,845 ; in 1811 it was 17,977 ; in 1821 it was 18,040 ; in 1831 it was 21,115.

The parliamentary borough of Yarmouth returns two members to the House of Commons, as it did before the Reform Act, but the limits are now extended so as to include the parish of Gorlestone ; the population of the parliamentary borough in 1841 was 27,550. The number of parliamentary electors on the register in 1835-6 was 1,719 ; in 1840 the number was 1,904, of whom 742 were £10 householders, and 1,162 were freemen or were otherwise qualified to vote.

In the session of 1842 an Act was passed for making a railway from Yarmouth to Norwich. It is to be a single line, and it is intended to adopt the electric telegraph on it. By this Act so much of the Eastern Counties Railway as lies between Norwich and Yarmouth is superseded It has been projected to extend the line to Cambridge, but an Act has not yet been passed.

From Domesday Book it appears that Yarmouth was a royal demesne, to which belonged 70 burgesses. Henry III granted a charter, with permission to fortify the town with a wall and moat. The wall had ten gates, and was strengthened with sixteen towers. The place must have been populous in ancient times, since no less than 7,000 persons died there of the plague in 1348. In 1588, on the alarm of the Spanish Armada, a fortress with four towers, whence beacons might be displayed, was erected in the middle of the town. In 1621 platforms were constructed towards the sea, on which cannon were mounted.

As the navigation off the coast is dangerous, two floating lights are kept in Yarmouth Roads.