Yarmouth Archaeology


Taken from

Before the Walls.

by Paul Rultledge

Medieval Yarmouth

Medieval Yarmouth seems to have had Fullers Hill at its centre, as le Howe is found in documents in 1291 and howe means hill. Clay floors found on Fullers Hill suggest also that the rengia (range) or regata, rengiatum (that which is ranged), early name for the later Yarmouth Rows, were started before the twelfth century, and that St Benets Church was at the centre of Yarmouth and that Herbert Lozinga most likely built St Nicholas Church on the site of St Benets. There are some that believe St Benets Church was about a half mile further north, near the present St Pauls Church, could there have been two St Benets ? the fisherman of Yarmouth, who were at loggerheads with the Bishop of Norwich, built their own church outside the living area of Yarmouth near to the then Denes and shorline, this northern church is said to have been small.

The North Quay area near the present Haven House, at map ref: b', gave up pottery and because of its sloping river shore, George Rye established that a medieval settlement exsisted there. Howard Street had a twelfth century house built on it and as it was a cul-de-sac this points towards Howard Street being Yarmouths southern boundary. Early deeds mention property in the Conge and Fullers Hill area at the time of Henry II and there is also mention of  a building with a width of 80ft at each end running in a east-west direction, as all the Yarmouth Rows did. The building ran a via forensi most western point towards monasterium which signified the church and priory at the easterly point, this points towards a via forensi' being the future Middlegate route and a road by the now market place running towards the church and priory. The dwellings therefore were taking the same shape as the later well known  rows of Yarmouth, and ran from the river to the Den (Denes).

In 1198 five rengiates were the subject of a lawsuit and early in the next century some of the rengiates began to sub-devide laterally. Middlegate was used throughout Yarmouth for the streets and later in 1290 were known as Magnum (Great) Middlegate and Parvam (Little) Middlegate. Later, in 1331, Little Middlegate was called Blyndemdelgate which began as an open plain near the church and came to an abrupt end mid-way rthrough the town.Great Middlegate commenced at South Forland ( the medieval name for Hall Quay) and continued to Friars Lane at the southern end of the town, this later was called Gaol Street. Northgate at this time should not be confused with the later Northgate named after the walls were built, the origonal Northgate  was later called the Conge. or St Georges Street.

In 1261 Henry II granted permission to build walls to enclose Yarmouth on three sides, the fourth being protected by the river. In 1286 there were at least 150 rows running from east to west and in 1285 worked commenced to enclose these rows within the Great Yarmouth walls. In 1285 the Greyfriars were granted a licence to extend their site over an adjoining rengiate, rows were then mentioned in 1286 as passages.

Trades within medieval towns is commonplace and at Yarmouth Herring curing seems to have been concentrated within one quarter of the town in the 13th century. Two separate deeds in the 13th century show property known as being in the street of the fish houses, one of the deeds relates to property clearly on land taken up from the river extending from the saltwork (salina), that was Robert de Bykeston's against the new hospital, the saltwork must have been the original river shore, now lying one block inland.

The market place was a hive of business and sold hides, fish, meat and poultry as mentioned in 1280 and 1290, St Mary's Hospital was founded at i' on the map in 1270. The prosperity of the town flourished untill the Blach Death in 1349 when two thirds of the population of Yarmouth perished. It took centuries to re-establish its prosperity.

Taken from, Before the Walls by by Paul Rultledge

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