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from Domesday Book, but no doubt they were traders by sea. The Anglo-
Saxon Kings kept this burgh or borough in their own hands, and the
traders were called burgesses. Domesday Book makes no mention of
villains, borderers, servi, &c., whence it may be inferred that the bur-
gesses were always freemen.

According to Domesday Book (10G8), Edward the Confessor held Yar-
mouth, which then contained seventy burgesses, who were traders or
merchants. It was then valued with two parts of the sac of three
hundreds at £1 8 by tate, and the EarFs part was £9 by tate. The King's
parts in 1086 were £17 15s. 4d. blancs, and the Earl's parts £10 blancs.
The Sheriff had £4 and one hawk in the time of King Edward for a fine.
The burgesses gave £4 gratis, and in friendship.

The part of the town first built was at the north end, near a place since
called Fuller's Hill, so named, according to the tradition of one Fuller, a
builder thereof, from which period the houses were continued in a northerly
direction, for the greater convenience of being near the north haven,
where trade was carried on. And this seems to account for the Church being
built so far to the north of the town, that being then the most populous
part. About the year 1100 the north haven began to be stopped up with
sands and rendered useless, and the inhabitants removed to places near
the south channel of the river, which became the principal haven. Thus


the northern parts were deserted, and the town increased gradually to the
southward along the south channel of the river.

The Kings of England, after the Conquest, granted this burgh of Yar-
mouth to some Earl, who always deputed a Reeve or Portreve to collect
the customs, determine controversies, and administer justice to the bur-
gesses, according to the custom of ancient burghs. But these Roves,
from the nature of their office, had but limited prerogatives in compari-
son with the officers appointed immediately by the King. The first of
these that we meet with is in the ninth year of Henry I. Avhen on account
of the increase of the inhabitants, that King appointed a Provost to
govern the town. The office, and probably the residence of this magis-
trate, was in or near the Conge, which at that time was the principal place
of trade, and so continued as long as Grub's Haven, northward, was
navigable to the sea. And the quay opposite to the Conge, sometimes
called the King's Conge, was denominated the Lord's Conge, which title
it first acquired when the burgh was under the Earl, and retained it for
many centuries after.

Henry I. thus took the town under his protection for the purpose of
terminating the frequent disputes between its inhabitants and the Barons
of the Cinque Ports, who for a long time despatched bailiffs here to
superintend and regulate the business transacted during tlie grand mart,
or free fair, held yearly foi- the sale of herrings. The Barons of the
Cinque Ports appear to have exercised this prerogative long after the
period when the town was first constituted a burgh, their bailiffs having
been admitted into Court to hear and determine causes in conjunction with
the magistrates. In 1208, King John by a charter granted at Marl-
borough, made the town a free borough and granted it many privileges,
on condition of the inhabitants paying to him and his heirs a yearly fee
farm-rent of £55 in lieu of all the customs arising from the port, and
this sum is still paid to the Crown by the Corporation. After the receipt
of tliis charter, the burgesses made considerable commercial progress and
formed themselves into Guilds, or a sort of trade unions, for the protec-
tion of trade, or rather of some monopoly or other. In the succeeding
reign of Henry III., the long subsisting disputes between the burgesses
and the inhabitants on the west side of the river in Gorleston broke out
at intervals Avith such violence as to call for royal interference. The King-
instituted an enquiry into the pretensions of both parties, and a verdict
was returned " that the Haven of Yarmouth appertaineth of right to the
bur^-esses, and that all wares, and merchandises ought to be unladen and
sold in the borough," and not at Gorleston, which was a fishing station
before the town of Yarmouth arose from the waves.

The situation of Yarmouth being as it were the key or grand entrance


into the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, it was necessary tliat something-
should be done to provide for its security. Accordingly wo find that in
the year 12G0, in consequence of a petition of the burgesses, King Henry
III. granted them leave to build a wall and make a moat round the town.
It does not appear, howev^er, that the walls were then begun, or if begun,
they were not finished for lUO years after.

When finished the walls were 2240 yards in length, and had sixteen
towers and ten gates. A castle having four watch-towers, and upon
which a fire beacon was placed in 1588, Avas also built in the centre of
the town. In the same year a mound called South Mount, was thrown
up and crowned with heavy ordnance. The castle having been
demolished in 1G21, and the changes introduced into the system of warfare
rendering further defences necessary, strong parapets were constructed in
front of the town and cannon planted in them facing the sea. The circuit
of fortifications thus completed was tAvo miles and a-lialf.

Though many inquisitions had been taken by royal authority for settling
the disputes between the inhabitants and the Barons of the Ciiujue Ports,
there was an open rupture in the 25th of Edward I., when according to
llollingshead, " The King passing into Flanders to assist the Earl thereof
against the King of France, had no sooner landed than the men of the
ports, through an old grudge, long pending, fell together upon the sea
Avith so much fury, that notwithstanding the King's commands to the con-
trary, tAventy-five ships of Yarmouth Avere burnt. ^' In this desperate en-
counter many lives were lost, and goods to the value of £15,o5G were
destroyed ; but we are told by the historian of Yarmouth, Manship,
" That a grievous requital was not long after made by the men of this
burgh against the portsmen.'^ These disagreements continued for a long
time, and fill up the annals of the toAvn, but such contentions are of no
interest noAV, We shall pass over these, and notice some events more to
the credit of the inhabitants.

In 1291, in the reign of EdAvard L, the French attempted to invade
England Avith a fleet of 400 ships, assisted by the treachery of Tuberville,
but the plot miscarried, and the men of Yarmouth, putting to sea a fleet
of armed ships, captured and burnt Cherburgh in Normandy, Avhile a fleet
from the Cinque Ports I'avaged the Avhole coast of France Avithin twenty
miles of Dieppe. For this and other services rendered by the burgesses,
EdAvard I. granted them tAvo more charters, one in 1298 for acquitting
them of toUage and other taxes, and the other in 1309 for regulating their
trade and commerce.

. Though the town never obtained the honour to Avhicli it long aspired of
being reckoned one of the Cinque Ports, it was a very important naval
station at an early period. At the commencement of the reign of Edward


III., it had eighty ships with forecastles and forty without. In 1337 the
Yarmouth fleet consisted of twenty men of war, and conveyed the King's
plenipotentiaries to the Court of Hainault, and on its return took two
Flemish ships, laden with men, money, and provisions for Scotland. In
1342, the King, Edward III., embarked on board this fleet on his expedi-
tion to Brittany, but while he lay entrenched before Venues, Prince Louis
of Spain dispersed the fleet and thus drove the King, Edward 111., to
great straits for want of provisions. For the memorable siege of Calais in
1346 the principal seaports were ordered to supply a certain number of
ships of war to carry out the objects of the King's ambition or lust of
conquest. The North Sea fleet consisted on that occasion of 240 sail, out
of which number Yarmouth supplied forty-three, containing 1075 sailors.
John Perebourn, a burgess of the town, was the admiral, to which rank
he had been elevated in 1340, when he defeated the French fleet off Sluys,
in Holland, after a desperate engagement in which the French lost 230
ships and 30,000 men. In that fatal battle was used that diabolical pre-
paration, (.h-eeli fire, composed of sulphur, bitumen, and naphtha, com-
bustible under water, and burning with such intense heat as to consume
metals. Consequently if it fell on a warrior it penetrated his armour and
peeled the flesh from his bones with exquisite torture.

During the Civil Wars between Charles I. and Parliament, Yarmouth
declared for the latter, on the 9th of July, 1642, and the town was conse-
quently put in a state of defence. The houses and workshops adjoining
the walls were taken down, the gates rampired and locked, and the east
leaf of the bridge drawn up every night. In 1645, additional fortifications
were made, and breastworks and platforms erected at the seaside. In
1648, the burgesses raised 600 foot and fifty horse soldiers for the Parlia-
ment. Oliver Cromwell was a frequent visitor to the town, and lodged
with his friend and counsellor, John Carter, in his house on the South Quay.
John Carter was one of the baiiifl's of Yarmouth when the town declared
for the Parliament, whom Cromwell often visited, and whose son married
Mary Ireton, daughter of the famous General. JMoreover, according to
tradition, the final consultation was held hero as to what should be done
with Charles I. Accoi'ding to the narrative, " A meeting of the principal
officers of the army was held in this house. They chose to be abovestairs
for the privacy of their conference ; they strictly commanded that no
person should come near the room, except a man appointed to attend j
their dinnei", which was ordered at four o'clock, was put off from time to
time till past eleven at night ; they then came down to a very short
repast, and immediately set off post, many for London and some for the
quarters of the army." We may easily imagine what passed in that
gloomy conclave of military Puritans, prompted by dire revenge. Ful^


details o£ all the proceedings in this ovcntfnl period are given in our
historical narrative.

> During the long war between this country and France^ Yarmouth
became a grand station for part of the British navy, and its relative conse-
quence may be seen by an Act framed in 1797, requiring 1 7,948 men to
be raised in the seaports, according to the tonnage of each place. The
quota for London Avas 5,725 ; Liverpool, 1,711 ; Newcastle, 1,240; Hull,
731 ; Smiderland, GG9 ; Bristol, GG6 ; Whitby, 573; and Yarmouth, 506.
Yannouth Roads afford a. safe anchorage for a numerous fleet exactly
opposite the town, and consequently the Roads are a great rendezvous for
all vessels sailing in the North Sea.

Since the reign of Edward I. till lately, the town sent two burgesses to
Parliament. Until the passing of the Reform Act in 1832, the freemen
were the only electors. About 800 of these freemen were disfranchised
for non-residence, and the remainder (about 1100) experienced the same
fate in 1848, under the powers of a special Act of Parliament. The
number of electors was, however, greatly increased under the Reform Act
of 1832, and continued to increase till 1867, when the town was dis-
franchised by the new Reform Act on account of the bribery that had
prevailed at elections.

The burgesses at various periods from 1208 to 1702 received twenty-
five charters, some confirmatory of former privileges, and others conveying
additional immunities. The last, granted by Queen Anne, March 11, 1702,
settled the work of government, and constituted the burgesses one bodv
politic and corporate, by the style of " The Mayor, Aldermen, Burgesses,
and Commonalty of the Borough of Great Yarmouth." In the Municipal
Reform Act of 1 835, the borough is included in section 1 of Schedule A,
among those boroughs the parlianientary boundaries of which arc to be
taken for municipal purposes till altered by Parliament. Under this Act
it is governed by a Mayor, twelve Aldermen, and thirty-six Councillors.

The Water Works were formed in 1855, at a cost of £80,000, raised in
£10 shares by a company of shareholders under an Act of Parliament
obtained in 1853. The water is obtained from Orraesby ''Broad," about
eight miles north from Yarmouth, and is very soft, being supplied from
springs and rain. Two steam engines pump the water from the Broad into
the filter beds, and after filtration force it up to the reservoir at Caistor,
whence it flows by gravitation to all parts of the town of Yarmouth. '^Fhe
filter beds are composed of layers of sand and gravel so disposed that the
finest sand is qw the surfiice of the coarsest gravel at the bottom. The
filters being frequently cleansed, the water is always pure and wholesome.

The Gas Works on the South Denes were erected in 1 824 by Mr. G. H.
Palmer, who afterwai-ds sold them to a company of shareholders, Since


a rapidly-increasing population. In 1863 the company expended £30,000
and had a working capital of £5000^ when a new Act of Parliament was
obtained giving power to raise an additional capital of £00,000 and to
extend the works so as to make the necessary j^rovision for lighting the
town and neighhonrhood.


The parish of Clr eat Yarmouth contains about 1510 acres of land and
36,000 inhabitants. Population in 1801, 16,573; in 1811, 19,691; in
1821, 22,000; in 1831, 24,115; in 1841, 28,038; in 1851, 30,879 souls,
of whom 13,628 were males and 1 7,231 females. Since then the popula-
tion has greatly increased. In 1851 the town contained 6,886 houses
inhabited and 311 empty, and eighty in course of erection. Of late years
many new streets have been built at the south end of the town. The
large increase in the number of houses as compared with the population is
owing to the absence of a great number of seamen from the port.

In the year 1096, Herbert, Bishop of Norwich, founded the largest
parish church in England at Yarmouth. It was dedicated to St. Nicholas,
supposed to be the patron of fishermen. The founder made the church
a priory, as a cell subservient to Norwich. Three parish chaplains and
one deacon usually officiated in it, and it appears that the prior was
obliged to provide them, for in the 34tli of Henry VI. the town received
a fine of the prior, for '^ want of a parish chaplain and a dean, 20s., and
unless they be provided before St. Michael next ensuing the aforesaid
prior shall incur the penalty of eight mai'ks.^' This church is said to
iiavo been completed in 1119 ; but all that can be seen of that date is a
portion of the central tower below the bell chamber, the lower part of the
tower having been cut away and cased to form the piers of the tower
arches in the decorated period. Succeeding bishops and priors made
additions and alterations; fishermen brought their offerings to help on the
work; the bachelors of the toAvn began an aisle in 1338, but were stayed
by the plague. The rood loft was erected by Roger de Haddesco, prior of
St. Olaves, in 1370, and ornamented with curious devices at his own cost.
Formerly sixteen chapels or oratories were attached to it, and it contains
a fine organ by Jordan, built in 1733. Extensive restorations were made
in 1848, and are still in progress. It contains an old font of Purbeck
marble, a copy of Rueben's " Elevation of the Cross,^^ monuments to the
England, Fuller, Hall, and other families. The register commences in 1558.
The structure consists of three aisles ; the middle remarkably the least
both in height and breadth, but extending further towards the east than
the other two. The breadth of the three aisles together is 108 feet.


In the cast end of the middle aisle stands the communion table, where
formerly stood before the Eeforniation the great or liigh altar, and over it
a. loft or perch called the rood loft, which supported a large crucifix.

The chancel is remarkable for its side aisles and large dimensions ; and
when we view the interior from the end of the nave, we find the fine
effect of the early English arches, heightened by amplitude of space.
And while pacing slowly hither and thither, we .may read passages of
history in the varied architecture, Norman, transitional, perpendicular, and
decorated. We may look in vain for brasses, for they were torn up by
order of the Corporation more than three hundred years ago, and cnst
into weights for the use of the traders; as Weaver says, "an inhuman,
deformidable act, by which the honourable memory of many virtuous and
noble persons deceased is extinguished."

Little of the original structure of this venerable pile remains, except
tlie tower, in the upper part of which several windows were discovered
and re-opened. So numerous were the chapels to the church, that in the
reign of Edward III. it was thought necessary for divine service to erect
a, new edifice at the west end, which was called the " new work," and
intended as an additional aisle or chapel to the church ; but it was never
completed, in consequence of the great plague of 1349, whereby most of
the inhabitants died. Since 1845, the whole of the interior of the edifice
has been restored and beautified, so as to make it like a new church.

There are several district churches and chapels of ease; that of St.
George was built in 1716, under the authority of an Act of Parliament;
that of St. Peter in 1835, at a cost of £12,000, by Scoles ; that of St.
John in 1857, chiefly for seamen. Chapels have been built here for the
Roman Catholics, for the Jews, the Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists,
General and Particular Baptists, Independents, Society of Friends, and
Unitarians. Adjoining the parish chm^chyard there is a cemetery of
twelve acres. There is also a Roman Catholic burial ground.


The present town extends considerably beyond the old walls, on the
north towards Caistor, on the south towards the mouth of the haven. The
principal streets are well-built, and are crossed at right angles by 145
nan-ow lanes called rows. Many of the houses, both in the old and new
parts of the town, are lofty, and there are terraces fronting the sea. The
streets are well paved, lighted with gas, and drained under the Public
Health Act. The houses are supplied with water, laid on by a company
incorporated in 1853. The principal public buildings are the Town Hall,
built in 1710 ; the Tolhouse ; the Custom House, on the Quay; the Royal


Hospital, founded in 1838 ; the Fisliermen's Hospital, built in 1702 ; the
Workhouse/built in 1838; and the Borough Gaol.

Yar}nouth is rather behind in the number of schools considering the
large population. The old Grammar School was originally estabhshed by
the Corporation after the Reformation. The new Grammar School was
recently opened by the Prince of Wales. The Charity Schools, for cloth-
ing and educating one hundred boys and fifty girls, are supported chiefly
by voluntary contributions, and were founded in 1713; but the present
schoolrooms on Theatre Plain were built in 1723. The Prioiy National
School occupies part of the old Priory near the churchyard of St. Nicholas,
and was opened in 1851. Nonconformists, who are numerous here, have
several schools, wherein some hundreds of children receive elementary

The new Grammar School is a very fine building in the Gothic style,
freely treated to meet the requirements of the case, the house having a
domestic character, while greater architectural emphasis is given to the
school itself. The wall material is of red brick, with occasional bands of
black bricks and stone dressings. TJie group is well broken up and forms
an effective outline. The school occupies the western portion of the block
of buildings, and has a large four-light traceried window in the north front,
with a corresponding window of a plainer character to the south. The
west side has four two-light windows, with heads carved up to the main
roof, forming small gables. The bell turret is about seventy feet in
height, and has a broach spire covered with slates and lead, surmounted
by an ornamental finial with lightning conductor. The principal entrance
is by a doorway under the turret leading to a spacious lobby about thirty feet
by sixteen feet. Opposite the front entrance is the doorway opening to
the play-ground ; on the left is a, corridor leading to the house ; on the
right are the entrances to the large school, and at either ends are stair-
cases leading to the class-rooms. The school-room — sixty-four feet by
twenty-six feet — is lofty and well lighted, haviug an open timbered roof
stained and varnished.


The Market-place comprises about three acres, and the market, which is
held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is well supplied with provisions. What
with the large area, the gi'eat gathering there on Saturdays of town folk
and T'ustic folk, their words and ways, the market presents a highly
animated scene. Tlie long rows of stalls stretch out further than any one
can see, and we may pass from the display of fish, flesh, and fowl at one
end, through peas and potatoes, cakes, and strawberries, to baskets,
bedsteads, boxes, boots, frippery, old iron and new hardware, old chairs,


tables^ and old books. There sits a busy knife grinder, whirling oi¥ a
hissing stream of sparks amid an admiring group. There the dealer in
literature disperses odd volumes to rural shelves_, and announces that he
is ready to buy as well as to sell. In another place we see what becomes
of some of the rushes that groAV in East Norfolk, for here are hassocks,
cushions, matting, and horse collars all made of rushes. Some of the
stalls arc roofed, but most are uncovered, and near each there is a small
sentry box, in which the women can sit sheltered from sun and rain while
selling their poultry, butter, or vegetables. The lover of floral beauty
will soon jDcrmit his eye to rest on the produce of the market garden,
where it may revel in a perfect sea of lusciousness — asparagus, seakale,
peas (marrowfats and blues), beans (kidneys, dwarfs, and Windsors), salads
and cresses, radishes in radiating and globular bunches, cabbages and
cauliflowers, cucumbers and all the pumpkin tribe, fruits in shining heaps
of cherries, glistening currants, strawberries and raspberries on wooden

If we tin'n from the people to look at the Market Place, we see on the
west side tall houses and handsome shops, with numerous bay windows
above, and among them an old-fashioned oriel ; a long line, broken only
by the narrow entrances of the rows. Some of these rows or alleys,
which traverse the town from end to end, are so narrow that you can
easily touch both sides at once by stretching out your hands while walking
through. The eastern side of the Market Place makes less show. Here
. stands the old Fishmarket, and a little further on there is the Fishermen's
Hospital, a low quadrangular building, with its curious gables and dormers
terminating in finials, showing us what the architect of 1 702 regarded us
an appropriate style.


There are several very ancient houses in the town, one of which,
on the Quay, in 1596 was the residence of a granddaughter of Oliver
Cromwell, and is now the property and residence of C. J. Palmer,
Esq., F.S.A., a well-known antiquary and author, from whom it re-
ceives all the care which so interesting a memorial of the past deserves.
In the drawing-room, which is elaborately ornamented with rich carved
work, a meeting of the principal officers of the Parliamentary army is
said to have been held iov the purpose of deciding the fete of Charles I.
The room is a singularly-beautiful specimen of the genius and handiwork
available three hundred years ago.

The North and South Quays are more than a mile in length, and are
the finest in England, and have some resemblance to the Boomtjes at
Rotterdam, presenting scenes of land trafiic and water traffic, lading and


imladiug of vessels, the moving to and fro of vehicles, the double row of
elms, the lines of ships on one side and the lines of old houses on the
othei'. Among the latter are some that give us demonstration of the

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 70)