Sunday, 30 July 2017

Great Yarmouth Heritage Walk

We recently went along to a Great Yarmouth Heritage Walk to hear all about the Glorious Memories of Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile.

This guided walk commenced at Wellington Pier and took us on a 1.5hr walk, taking in the sights as we made our way down to Britannia Pier. 

Our guide, Len (a very informative character who definitely kept us on our toes as he lead us along the walk) met us at the entrance of Wellington Pier, equipped with his notes and old photos and postcards which we could use to compare the sights from today and yesteryear.

Taking place regularly from April to October, Heritage Guided Walks, led by an official Great Yarmouth heritage guide, are one of the most interesting ways of discovering more about the area. and is very reasonably priced at £4 per adult and £1.50 per child (under 7's go free!) There are several other walks available (11 in total I believe) throughout the town and borough, details of these can be found here.

As we followed Len, he told us snippets of information about the town and seafront. He would stop at places of interest and chronicle the history of particular buildings or famous habitants. 

We encompassed the Winter Gardens, once a beautiful and thriving social arena, today it is a sorry sight crying out for restoration. 

Across the road, the grand Carlton Hotel, built by Charles John Palmer, a local man and previous Mayor of the town. His business was also responsible to the building of many of Great Yarmouth seafronts iconic buildings - The Assembly Halls and Wellington Pier being part of this.

As we made our way along to front we heard the theatrical history of the Windmill and what transformations the building had gone through over the years. Chris and I shared memories of our childhood at the Windmill when it housed "Wally's Windmill" a fantastic multi level play area.

Now the building houses a crazy golf, but many of its original beautiful features can still be seen.

We detoured from the immediate Marine Parade and along to The Hippodrome Circus. We love this place and always try to catch the seasonal shows. 

We spent some time here hearing about the original circus owner, George Gilbert and his passion for the production. Built in 1903 the Hippodrome Circus once overlooked the beach, however nowadays an amusement arcade has been squeezed in front where the gardens once sat.

We rejoined the seafront on the next road and crossed back to the beach side, here we heard about the old skating ring where the Marina Centre now stands and stood back to take a look at what was originally Goode's Hotel, a very grade red brick building which drew the crowds to visit the healing powers of the sea!

Nowadays the building houses another amusement arcade and upstairs a bar (which I believe is now closed?
Time for a walk up the Jetty, the original wooden jetty was pulled down in 2012 as it was deemed too costly to repair, instead a concrete walkway now stands in its place, a poor monument to the landing place of Lord Nelson following battle in 1801.

Whilst we were on the jetty Len told us tales of some of the maritime history of the town: the navy, the sea merchants, sea disasters and some of our local sea life - squint off into the distance and you can make out Scroby Sands with its seal inhabitants.
We continued our final stretch to Britannia Pier, which we strolled along taking in the views. 

Along on the walk with us were two holiday makers, they expressed their surprise at how neither of the piers actually reach the water. This is a fairly recent change, I recall working on the pier 20 years ago and the sea was certainly under the pier then, so far up that the theatre sat above the sea.

As we reached the theatre, we were told how the previous theatre destroyed by fire in 1958. Len told us how he had been part of the building firm that put up the theatre that stands here today, it is in fact the fourth theatre that has stood on the pier.

Here we finished our walk. Chris and I had thoroughly enjoyed it, the girls had started of well but began to get restless in the last 20 minutes. Chris actually admitted later that he had not been looking forward to it at all and had considered trying to get out of it but was so glad he had gone and he is now looking into dates to book onto our next Heritage Walk - the Quayside and Seaside at Gorleston-on-sea! He can't wait!

I would highly recommend the walks to people who are interested in delving into the towns history. 
The Greater Yarmouth area has some fantastic history and architecture to admire, and some colourful stories of local characters to go with it. It did prove to be a real eye opener though into how the town has changed over the years.

Make sure you check out the website for details about the Heritage Walks and to find out what else is available in Great Yarmouth or find them on Facebook.

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