Great Yarmouth is one of the few English towns where a relatively large percentage of the medieval town wall is still standing. In 1261 Henry III granted permission for the people of Great Yarmouth to enclose their town with a wall and moat. The wall was built to defend the town and it retained some defensive function until 1781 when it was superseded by gun batteries built between the town and sea.
The wall took a long period to build,the greater part of the work taking place between 1330 and 1390. When completed the wall was 2014 metres long and 6.9 metres high, it had 18 towers and ten gate built into its length. Two Thirds of this ancient monument remains today.
The cost of building was at first met by levying tolls on all ships entering the harbour. Thepeople of the town were the labour force, every one of the beholder to do a certain number of days work on the wall each year.
As there is no natural building stone in the region the wall and towers are constructed from field flints,beach pebbles and random stones brought into the harbour as ballast. There is alsoan early use of brick.
In 1545the Duke of Norfolk of Norfolk inspected the defences as the command of Henry VIII, who was waging war against France found them dilapidated, he ordered them rebuilt and the moat cleared of rubbish.By 1558 Thomas Nash the Elizabethan dramatist described Yarmouth ns “Flinty ring of 15 towers which sent out thunder whenever a Spaniard dare come near”.
During the Spanish Armada Queen Elizabeth Was so convinced of the importance of a fortified Yarmouth that she compelled Norwich,Norfolk and Suffolk to pay large sums towards the repair of the wall whilst dispatched supplies of gunpowder and arms.
Contact Name: Darren Barker
Biographical info: Principal Conservation Officer for Great Yarmouth Borough Council and Project Director Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust
Future Plan: The Borough Council and Preservation Trust are working in partnership to secure funding for a major works programme to repair and conserve the mediaeval town wall and to undertake research and interpretation