Our son Patrick is on holiday from school, so we decided to take a day off from work and visit Great Yarmouth. I have always been a bit negative about Great Yarmouth, my memories being mainly made up of the depressing building which formerly housed the Great Yarmouth County Court (now closed), and the seaside Pleasure Beach and amusement complex, which is not really my thing.
However I had heard that there was another side to Great Yarmouth so we decided to hunt it out. Following guidance given from helpful leaflets on the railway station we made our way to the historic South Quay where we found the charming Elizabethan House Museum, owned by the National Trust. It is apparently famous as the place where the execution of King Charles 1 was plotted, but leaving that aside, it is the most delightful place and despite being a museum has a very homely feel to it. In fact it is the sort of house I would love to live in, and over lunch (in a very nice local bistro) we worked out what we would do in the various rooms, were it ours.
After lunch we strolled further down and found two delightful houses maintained by English Heritage called the Row Houses. They are where those working in the herring industry used to stay, for example the ‘girls’ who came down from Scotland to clean the fish before processing. The houses were nice if a bit empty of furniture. Looking out of the window it was good to see a gang of kids playing in the street, probably exactly the same as the kids who lived in the museum houses.
The last place we went to was the truly extraordinary Great Yarmouth Pottery. This building, built largely of old scraps from ships, and with a fresh water well in the main room, was once a herring smokehouse and after about 70 years you can still smell the fish. However the building is now a museum and working pottery, filled with the genius of Ernie Childs the potter and artist. You see not only the place where he works together with work in progress (and get a lesson on how they create their mugs) but also an amazing collection of artifacts of marine and fishing life, plus you can watch a short film on the history of the herring industry, while sitting on benches made from the herring girls trunks. Upstairs there is a small cafe (with toilets wallpapered with out of date nautical charts) and large shop where there is a wonderful selection of mugs, ornaments, china clocks, pottery crab dishes, and all sorts of other items, all made by Ernie in his kiln. We bought three mugs to remember it by.
So back to the grindstone tomorrow, but it has been good taking a day out, and I will think differently of Great Yarmouth in future.