Great Yarmouth is the nearest bit of seaside to where I grew up but I only ever went twice: once for the circus and once for a regional cross country race.  It rained on both occasions.   My parents had every intention of taking me to see the Herring Fleet which used to sail out of Great Yarmouth but something always got in the way and we missed the last boats.  So this Summer I thought I was due another trip and, on a day that threatened rain, we headed for Time and Tide which promised to tell us the history of the town dubbed the ‘fishiest in all England’ by Charles Dickens.

Time and Tide Smokehouse with cardboard fish.
Bloaters in the Smokehouse

Up until the early nineteenth century, if you wanted to build in Great Yarmouth you were only allowed to do so inside the medieval walls, the result was 140 narrow alleyways, known as Rows, with rich and poor living cheek by jowl.  These remained intact until the Second World War when bombing destroyed most of them, with Great Yarmouth being the most bombed coastal town in the UK.  One of the Rows is recreated in the museum.

Across a courtyard adorned with a fine shrimping boat you enter a series of rooms alive with the rich smell of smoked fish and the sounds of the crowded fish wharf.  Great Yarmouth was once home to Europe’s largest herring fleet.   In one fourteen week period from September to November 1913, 1,000 boats with 10 fishermen a piece landed 900 million herring.  In addition 5,000 fishergirls, mostly itinerant workers from Scotland, came to process the fish ready for smoking.  Once landed the fish were smoked to produce bloaters and red herring and then packed in boxes to be transported all over the world.

2 boys playing Ludus Calculcoram
Ludus Calculcoram

Great Yarmouth isn’t just narrow alleys and fish.  The earliest evidence of human habitation in North West Europe (700,000 years ago) was discovered nearby.  The archaeology galleries display the 111 Bronze Age objects unearthed in nearby Gorleston along with fine gold arm rings found in Caister-on-Sea.  Yarmouth itself was the site of a Roman Fort and among the displays is reproduction of the Roman Board game Ludus Calculorum, which the Junior CW’s spent the better part of an hour playing and had it been for sale in the shop we would not have left without a set!   Sun and sand are what many people think of when Great Yarmouth is mentioned.  It has a fine sandy beach adorned with two piers and backed by what is known locally as the Golden Mile, all this is explored in Tide and Tide.

Seaside fun at Time and Tide
Seaside fun

Other things that I didn’t know about Great Yarmouth before I went to Time and Tide include:  Queen Victoria’s mourning crepe was made by Grouts in Great Yarmouth, the company later diversified into making crepe bandages for the NHS before closing down in 1996.  The fish finger was invented in Great Yarmouth.  Final new fact ….. On 19 January 1915 a Zeppelin L3 dropped bombs on Great Yarmouth, the first aerial bombardment ever seen in the UK.

We ate our lunch at the Silver Darlings café located at the front of Time and Tide.  The food and coffee were excellent, you don’t need to visit the museum to go to the café, so if you’re in Great Yarmouth and looking for a tasty lunch or even just a decent cup of coffee it’s well worth seeking out.

Blackfriars Road, Great Yarmouth, NR30 3BX.
Summer Opening – open daily 10am – 4.30pm
Winter Opening: Monday – Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday, Sunday 12noon-4pm

Adult £5.50
Concession £5.40
Young person (4-18) £4.55
Family (1 adult + all children) £14.55
Family (2 adults + all children) £19.40
Twilight (1 hour before closing) £2.00



  1. July 6, 2015 / 5:23 pm

    This brings back memories – Great Yarmouth wasn’t our local beach (Hunstanton had that honour) but was close enough for a weekend trip and on a rainy day we visited the museum.

    • July 6, 2015 / 5:25 pm

      Great Yarmouth is very close to where I grew up, Hunstanton is lovely too

  2. July 7, 2015 / 2:08 pm

    What an amazing museum. Great Yarmouth is probably one of our nearest seaside towns too and we visited a lot as kids but I had no idea of the history. I’ll look on it with fresh eyes now.


  3. July 14, 2015 / 5:07 pm

    Home of the fish finger indeed – well I never!
    What a fascinating history to read, I haven’t been to Great Yarmouth yet, it’s on my bucket list and I’ll get there one day so thank you for the tips – I just hope it doesn’t rain on my day!

  4. May 26, 2016 / 11:47 am

    What a brilliant place to visit. Herring are very important in Holland too and still eaten and celebrated here… I love the photo of the smokehouse! I’ve seen one of these here too. And who can beat a bit of seaside fun – love those head shots!!! TY for linking up to #FamilyFun ?

  5. May 26, 2016 / 3:00 pm

    This is so interesting. I’d love to visit Great Yarmouth, not only do I adore seaside towns but also history…sounds like it is abundant in the town. The fish finger fact is truly inspired…living up to it’s Dicken’s dubbed fishyness! Thank you for sharing with #FamilyFun

  6. August 30, 2016 / 11:11 am

    Love the facts about Great Yarmouth – never knew about the fish fingers! I’ve visited Oulton Broad nearby a few times but not spent much time in GY itself. Really liked that your boys loved the Roman board game! #citytripping

    • August 30, 2016 / 11:14 am

      Hidden gem! Great Yarmouth so much nicer than I was expecting

  7. August 30, 2016 / 6:29 pm

    I love the maritime history of coastal towns, the herring girls, the drifters, the hustle and bustle that once existed. Must have smelt but what a buzz.

  8. August 31, 2016 / 3:47 am

    For a moment I thought the boys were playing Chinese chess! Pretty sad to read about how the town was mostly destroyed during the war… #CityTripping

  9. September 2, 2016 / 6:26 pm

    I never knew there was so much to discover in Great Yarmouth – home of the fish finger? Well well. And that photo board could only be English! The museum does sound fascinating, so much detail about one place and all the factors which shaped it. I have read a bit about the WWI bombardments of the coastal ports but for some reason, I hadn’t realised Great Yarmouth was so badly affected. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • September 2, 2016 / 6:27 pm

      My Mother has recently walked the walls at Great Yarmouth and recommends it as an outing

  10. July 28, 2021 / 11:47 am

    I loved this post, Catherine. I’ve never visited Great Yarmouth and I’ve always wanted to – isn’t it in Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’?

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