Great Yarmouth historians
Great Yarmouth has been exceptionally well-served by its historians.
Most of them had access to the borough archives, including some records that have since been lost.
Damet was a prominent Yarmouth citizen. He acted as bailiff and was also a Member of Parliament in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
He wrote A Book of the Foundation and Antiquity of Great Yarmouth. The manuscript was written during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) but was not printed until 1847, when C J Palmer published it with notes and an appendix.
It was not known who had written the manuscript at that time. Palmer tentatively accepted Blomefield's opinion that it was by Henry Manship senior, father of the Manship referred to below.
However, Paul Rutledge has since proved that Damet was the author.
Damet may also be responsible for the Hutch Map, a 16th century coloured map which purports to show the Yare estuary as it was about 1000 AD.
Manship was town clerk from 1579 to 1585 and a member of the Corporation until 1604.
He made a list of the borough records which were kept in a chest known as the Hutch - the chest can still be seen in Great Yarmouth Town Hall.
Manship's History of Great Yarmouth was finished in 1619 and the Corporation gave Manship £50 for his work.
However, the book was not printed until 1854, when C J Palmer published it with explanatory notes and an appendix.
Swinden was born in 1716 and worked in Great Yarmouth as a bookseller, schoolmaster and land surveyor.
He spent 20 years preparing his book History and Antiquities of the Ancient Burgh of Great Yarmouth.
In 1770, the Corporation voted that £50 be paid to him once he had finished the book and had given them 10 copies, which they would keep in the Hutch.
The book was first published in parts and when Swinden died in 1772, the final part was still at the press. The work was seen through to completion by John Ives.
Swinden's book is mainly a transcription of records relating to Great Yarmouth.
It includes complete transcripts of the borough charters and also has full English translations of the early charters which are written in Latin.
Francis Blomefield and Charles Parkin
Blomefield was born in 1705 and was rector of Fersfield. The first part of his great work Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk was published in 1736.
Blomefield died in 1752 with his work unfinished. The Yarmouth section of the history was written by the Rev Charles Parkin and published in 1776.
Preston was comptroller of customs at Great Yarmouth and in 1819 published his book Picture of Yarmouth.
This was originally intended as a series of sketches of the public buildings in the town, with explanatory notes.
However, Preston expanded the book before it was printed into a history of the public institutions and a topographical account of the borough.
As might be expected, the book is very detailed in its description of the Customs House and related matters.
It includes Preston's drawings of buildings and a map of Great Yarmouth also by him.
Charles John Palmer
Palmer was born in 1805 and practised as an attorney in Great Yarmouth from 1827. He was responsible for four major publications:
- The first publication of Damet's book in 1847.
- The first publication of Manship's book in 1854.
- The History of Great Yarmouth, designed as a continuation to Manship's History, published in 1856. This includes a summary of the borough charters and lists together with brief biographies of Corporation officers. The index to this volume also covers his edition of Manship.
- The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth with Gorleston and Southtown, published in three volumes between 1872 and 1875. Perlustration means making a detailed survey, and the work is arranged in the form of a tour around the streets of Yarmouth. The book is more than 900 pages long and contains a huge amount of historical and genealogical information. It has detailed subject and name indexes at the end of the third volume.
A A C Hedges
None of the books so far mentioned is easy reading. The need for a brief history of the borough was met in 1959 when the borough council published Hedges' Yarmouth is an Antient Town.
The title of the book is a quotation from a description of Yarmouth by Daniel Defoe.
It was issued to coincide with the 750th anniversary of the grant of a royal charter to the town in 1208.
The book covers the history of Great Yarmouth in 60 pages, with illustrations and a short bibliography.
Paul Rutledge became the first full-time borough archivist in 1961.
His Guide to the Great Yarmouth Borough Records was published in 1972: it was one of the first guides to the records of a borough to be printed.
He also produced a very detailed list of the Borough Court rolls and has written many articles on aspects of the history of Great Yarmouth.
Frank Meeres became Yarmouth borough archivist in 1996 and held the position until 2004.
He is the author of A History of Great Yarmouth (Phillimore, 2007).
Unlike most other histories of the town, this book encompasses the Greater Yarmouth area, including the surrounding villages and Gorleston.