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Key dates in Great Yarmouth's history

900

The sandbank on which Yarmouth is built had emerged from the sea by this time. An early tradition suggests that the first settlement was created by fishermen for the duration of the fishing season only: this was probably located at Fuller's Hill.

1086

The Domesday Book recorded that Yarmouth was a small but flourishing royal borough with a church, 70 burgesses and 24 fishermen belonging to the neighbouring manor of Gorleston - a total population of perhaps 400 people.

1119

Yarmouth church (St Nicholas) was completed on its present site.

1198

The first archive reference to the 'Rows'. These developed in the 13th and 14th centuries and were a unique form of town development - a 'gridiron' of narrow parallel passages with houses which had only one room up and down. Extra rooms were added at the back when more space was needed. Special narrow carts (known as 'troll carts') were used to carry goods along the passages. The Rows were almost totally destroyed during the Second World War.

1208

King John granted the borough its first charter including right of toll (that is, of holding a market). It also promised that Yarmouth: “shall be a free borough forever.”

1261

King Henry III granted the town leave to have a prison and build a town wall and ditch. Much of the wall survives, as does the gaol (beneath the Tolhouse, the late 13th century 'town hall').

1278

The Hospital of St Mary the Virgin was founded on the east side of the Market Place. After the Dissolution the site passed to Yarmouth Corporation who used it as a workhouse, a grammar school and for other purposes.

1297

An outbreak of violence between men of Yarmouth and men of the Cinque Ports. The Cinque Ports ships attacked the Yarmouth ships in the English fleet: at least 17 and perhaps as many as 37 ships were lost.

1334

The lay subsidy (taxation) rolls for this year show that Yarmouth raised more money than any other town apart from York, Bristol and Newcastle. The town's wealth was based entirely on the herring fishery, the mainstay of Yarmouth from its beginnings until well into the 20th century.

1340

Yarmouth ships did outstanding service at the Battle of Sluys against the French. The English fleet was led by Admiral John Perbroune of Yarmouth.

1349

The Black Death hit Yarmouth very severely.

c1378

John Fastolf born in Yarmouth. He fought many battles against the French, including Agincourt in 1415. He built Caister Castle in 1443. Fastolf died in 1459 and was buried at St Benet's Abbey.

1417

The first bridge was built over the river, replacing a ferry.

1551

Yarmouth Grammar School founded.

1559

Building work began on the harbour. The original mouth of the river had silted up in the early 14th century and since 1346 six attempts had been made to secure a satisfactory harbour.

1570

Permission was granted for 30 refugee families from the Netherlands to settle at Yarmouth.

c1570-1640

During a period of prosperity, the town was almost completely rebuilt and it survived in this form until the Second World War.

1578

Severe plague struck the town.

1588

The threat of the Spanish Armada saw Yarmouth defended against invasion. The walls were strengthened and earthworks built behind them.

1640s

Yarmouth supported Parliament against King Charles I in the Civil War. John Carter, a Yarmouth bailiff, was living in the house on the Quay now known as the Elizabethan House Museum. He persuaded Yarmouth Corporation to melt down its civic plate to raise money for the Parliamentarian forces. In 1648 the Parliamentary leaders - including Oliver Cromwell - are supposed to have met at Carter's house and decided that the king must be tried and executed.

1642

Congregational church founded in Middlegate Street.

1646

11 people were tried for devilish practices by Yarmouth Sessions court after the so-called Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins had been invited to the town to seek out witches. Five women were found guilty and hanged.

1649

Miles Corbett, MP for Yarmouth, was one of those who sat on the Commission that tried King Charles I and signed the warrant for the King's execution.

1654

Children's Hospital founded.

1660

The restoration of the monarchy. All those who had signed King Charles' death warrant were condemned to death. Miles Corbett fled to Holland but in 1662 he was captured, brought back to England and hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in London.

1662

The Cinque Ports stopped sending representatives to Yarmouth to share in governing the town during the autumn herring fishing season. They had been coming every year since the 11th century.

1665

Severe plague in Yarmouth.

1670

The First Haven Act set up Port and Haven Commissioners, who could impose dues on all cargoes except fish and use the money to maintain the harbour.

1681

Southtown became part of the borough of Great Yarmouth.

1684

Yarmouth's first mayor appointed under a charter of King Charles II.

1692

The Quaker Meeting House opened in what is now Howard Street.

1702

Fishermen's Hospital built.

1714

Work began on St George's Chapel. It closed for worship in 1959 and is now a theatre.

1720

John Andrews, known as 'the greatest herring merchant in Europe', built his new house, now 20 South Quay. It became the Customs House in 1802 and the Port Authority Office in 1985.

1724

Daniel Defoe published A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, which includes a description of Yarmouth. Defoe's most famous book, Robinson Crusoe, begins with a storm off Yarmouth.

1759

Sea Baths opened near the beach. Yarmouth began to assume its modern role as a seaside resort from this time and the town began to spread from the river towards the sea.

1778

The theatre on Theatre Plain opened.

1792

Rioting broke out in the town over the price of corn. The authorities suppressed the riot without calling in the army and as a result the Mayor, Edmund Lacon, was knighted.

1796

The radical orator John Thelwall gave a talk in Yarmouth. Sailors tried to seize him and more than 40 people were hurt in the scuffle.

1797

The British fleet defeated the Dutch navy off the coast of Holland at the Battle of Camperdown. The victorious fleet sailed into Yarmouth bringing back seven Dutch ships as prizes. Wounded men from both sides were taken to Yarmouth Barracks. Several died of their wounds, including the Dutch Captain Gysbert Jan van Rysoart: they are buried in St Nicholas' church.

1800

Horatio Nelson was granted the freedom of Great Yarmouth.

1800-11

The Naval Hospital was built. It was later used as a barracks and has since been converted into flats.

1801

In March the British Fleet gathered in Yarmouth Roads. Nelson joined the Fleet at Yarmouth and sailed to the Baltic, winning the Battle of Copenhagen on 1 April.

1806

Naval Arsenal built in Southtown.

1807

HMS Snipe was wrecked within 50 yards of the shore at Yarmouth, with the loss of 67 lives. Captain William Manby witnessed the tragedy and developed his rocket life-saving apparatus as a result. When the Elizabeth was wrecked within 150 yards of the shore a year later, the apparatus was used and all lives were saved.

1812-23

The artist John Sell Cotman lived and worked in Yarmouth. The house where he lived is now 83-84 Southtown Road.

1814-19

Nelson Monument built on South Denes. The designer was William Wilkins and the superintendent of works Thomas Sutton, the town surveyor. In 1819 Sutton climbed the stairs of the monument but was taken ill and died there.

1820

Anna Sewell was born in the house in Yarmouth now named after her. She wrote Black Beauty in 1877 when living in Norwich. Anna's mother Mary Sewell wrote best-selling moral ballads, the most famous being Mother's Last Words.

1828

David Service, the Scottish 'Shoemaker Poet', died in Yarmouth, where he worked as a cobbler. He was also a great drinker - one of his poems is a tour of Yarmouth public houses with a description of each.

1834

The Turnpike Act was passed to build a road across the marshes – this is now known as the Acle Straight.

1835

Gorleston became part of the borough of Great Yarmouth under the Municipal Reform Act.

1838

New Yarmouth Workhouse built. It later became the Northgate Hospital.

1839

Yarmouth Hospital built on Deneside. A new hospital on the same site was built in 1888. The site was sold when the James Paget Hospital opened in 1982.

1843

Sarah Martin, the Yarmouth prison visitor, died. She taught the prisoners in the Tolhouse to read and write, and taught the women how to make clothes. She also raised money for a fund to provide for prisoners on their release from gaol. She is buried in Caister churchyard.

1844

The Yarmouth-Norwich railway was opened.

1845

The Yarmouth Suspension Bridge disaster: about 80 people were drowned, mainly children. They had crowded onto the bridge to see a circus clown go down the river in a barrel pulled by geese. The tombstone of George Beloe (aged nine) in St Nicholas' churchyard depicts the bridge collapsing.

1847

A disputed Parliamentary election led to an inquiry. A year later all the freemen of Yarmouth were deprived of their right to vote because of the gross bribery that had taken place in several elections.

1849

Charles Dickens visited Yarmouth, staying at the Royal Hotel and also at the Feathers Inn in Gorleston. A large part of his book David Copperfield is set in Yarmouth.

1851

A strike by sailors in Yarmouth over wages led to a riot on the Quay on 22 February. Soldiers were called in from Norwich and several people were injured. By 15 March the strike ended in a victory for the sailors.

1853

Wellington Pier was built and the seafront begins to take on its present appearance.

1857

Britannia Pier was built.

1858

The Shipwrecked Sailors Home opened: in its first 25 years nearly 4,000 sailors stayed there. It is now the Maritime Museum for East Anglia.

1863

20 Yarmouth ships were wrecked and 145 men drowned in one December gale.

1866

St George's Park laid out.

1872-75

C J Palmer published The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth with Gorleston and Southtown in three volumes.

1878-92

Town Hall built: the architect was John B Pearce. The west part of the building soon began to subside and had to be underpinned with iron cylinders filled with concrete.

1887

Gorleston lighthouse built.

1890

Runham Vauxhall was brought into the borough and the whole borough was assigned to the county of Norfolk.

1902

First electric trams in Yarmouth.

1903

The Hippodrome was opened - one of only two purpose-built circus buildings in England.

1903

The Winter Gardens were brought to Yarmouth from Torquay

1912

The East Anglian School, catering for blind and deaf children, opened at Gorleston.

1913

A record year for the herring industry – 1,163 boats used the port and more than 1,200 million fish were caught.

1914-18

The First World War. Yarmouth suffered Zeppelin and air raids and was also bombarded by German ships. A plaque on a house in St Peter's Plain records that it was the first house in Britain hit by Zeppelin raids. The War Memorial in St George's Park lists the names of 1,472 Yarmouth men killed in action.

1924

Mrs Leach became Yarmouth's first woman mayor.

1933

Trams in Yarmouth replaced by buses.

1938

St Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic church is built in Gorleston: the only church designed by the sculptor Eric Gill.

1939-45

The Second World War. Yarmouth suffered severely from bombing and the church was gutted by fire after bombing in 1942.

1950s

The fish finger was invented at the Bird's Eye factory in Yarmouth.

1953

Yarmouth Town beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup, their only victory over Football League opponents so far.

1957-60

St Nicholas church rebuilt: the architect was Stephen Dykes Bower.

1959-60

Tolhouse reconstructed after war damage.

1978-81

The James Paget Hospital at Gorleston was built.

1981

The Marina Leisure Centre opened on the seafront.

1985

The Breydon High Bridge opened, with the longest lifting section of any bridge in Britain.

1997

Cora Batley became the first female Freeman of Yarmouth.

2009

The Great Yarmouth Outer Harbour opened.