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Great Yarmouth, often known to locals simply as Yarmouth, is an English coastal town in the county of Norfolk. It is situated at the mouth of the River Yare, some 30km east of the city of Norwich and 18 km north of the Suffolk town of Lowestoft.
Great Yarmouth has been a seaside resort since 1760, and is the gateway from the Norfolk Broads to the sea. For hundreds of years it has been a fishing port dependent on the herring fishery, and today it services the offshore oil rigs. The town has a popular beach and two promenades popular with locals and tourists.
The town itself is actually on a thin spit of land sandwiched between the North Sea and River Yare. It is home to the historic rows and the main tourist sector on the seafront. The area is linked to Gorleston, Cobholm and Southtown by Haven Bridge and to the A47, A149 and A12 by the Breydon Bridge.
The unparished urban area that makes up the town of Great Yarmouth has an area of 26.54 kmē and according to the Office for National Statistics 2002 had a population of 47,288. It is the main town in the larger Borough of Great Yarmouth. The ONS identify a Great Yarmouth Urban Area, which has a population of 66,788, including the sub-areas of Caister-on-Sea (8,756) and Great Yarmouth (58,032). The wider borough of Great Yarmouth has a population of around 92,500.
Yarmouth (Gernemwa, Yernemuth) lies near the site of the Roman camp of Gariannonum at the mouth of the River Yare, the convenience of its situation having attracted many fishermen from the Cinque Ports, a permanent settlement was made, and the town numbered 70 burgesses before the Norman Conquest. Henry I placed it under the rule of a reeve.
The charter of King John (1208), which gave his burgesses of Yarmouth general liberties according to the customs of Oxford, a gild merchant and weekly hustings, was amplified by several later charters asserting the rights of the borough against Little Yarmouth and Gorleston. In 1552 Elizabeth granted a charter of admiralty jurisdiction, afterwards confirmed and extended by James I. In 1668 Charles II incorporated Little Yarmouth in the borough by a charter which with one brief exception remained in force until 1703, when Anne replaced the two bailiffs by a mayor.
A grammar school was founded in 1551, when the great hall of the old hospital, founded in the reign of Edward I by Thomas Fastolfe, was appropriated to its use. It was closed from 1757 to 1860, was re-established by the charity trustees, and settled in new buildings in 1872.
From 1808 to 1814 the Admiralty in London could communicate with its naval ships in the port of Great Yarmouth by means of a shutter telegraph chain.
The town was the site of a drowning tragedy on 2 May 1845 when a suspension bridge crowded with children collapsed under the weight killing 79 people. They had gathered to watch a clown in a barrel being pulled by geese down the river. As he passed under the bridge the weight shifted, causing the chains on the south side to snap, tipping over the bridge deck.
During World War I Great Yarmouth became the site of the first aerial bombardment in the UK, in a bomb attack by Zeppelin L3 on 19 January 1915. It was also bombarded by the German Navy on 24 April 1916.
The town suffered from bombing during World War II, but much is left of the old town, including the original over 2000 metre long protective mediaeval wall, of which about two-thirds has survived. Of the 18 towers, 11 are left. On the South Quay, there is a 17th century Merchant's House, as well as Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings. Behind South Quay, there is a maze of alleys and lanes known as "The Rows". Originally there were 145 rows. Despite war damage, several have remained.