Southey once humorously said "how much more accurate, and perhaps a thousand years hence, more valuable, a book it would be, were I to write the History of Wine Street below the Pump, the street wherein I was born, recording the revolutions of every house. It almost startles me to see how the events of private life, et quorum pars maxima, &c. equal or undo novel and comedy; and the conclusion to each tale - the mors omnibus est communis - makes me more serious than the sight of my own grey hairs. Oh ! there would be matter for moralizing in such a history, beyond all that history offers." [Southey's Life, vol.iii, p.32]
Long before meeting with this passage it had been in the mind of the Author that an Old Town like Yarmouth afforded materials from which an amusing and interesting book might compiled.
By identifying such ancient houses as remain, and the sites of others which have long since disappeared, with their former owners, it seemed to him that an opportunity would be afforded of noticing most of the inhabitants who, for any cause whatever, ought to be had in remembrance.
There is nothing more interesting to a family than a knowledge of their lineage. If this be a weakness it is an amiable one; and has prevailed in all countries and among all communities. The author has therefore determined to write such a history as Southey suggested.
In speaking of those who are gone he hopes to observe the maxim (derived from the law of Solon) De mortuis nil nisi bonum, as far as is consistent with historical accuracy, and he says to his readers, in the words of the old Rhymster -
"Rede me right and be not wrothe;
For I say nothing but the trothe."
Every place memorable in Local history will be mentioned; and the incidents adduced will illustrate, collaterally, historical events, and reveal many curious customs and usages observed in social life in times now passed away for ever.
Quotations from the Diary of Dean Davis, printed for the members of the Camden Society, and from the manuscript journals of Ives, (the father of antiquary) and Sylas Neville, will throw much light upon the domestic manners and political opinions prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The rapid rise, fall and succession of families will not be without a moral. Many of these, once numerous, rich, and powerful, have become utterly extinct, for
"Tis the curse
Of great estates to want those pledges, which
The poor are happy in. - They, in a cottage,
With joy behold the models of their youth:
And as their root decays, those budding branches
Sprout out and flourish, to renew their age." - Beaumont
We are thus called upon to remember
Big with deep warnings of the proper tenure,
By which we hold the earth."
It is proposed to take the reader up and down the Rows of Yarmouth; to walk with him through the Streets and Plains of the Old Town within the Walls; to perambulate the Roads which intersect the New Town without the Walls; and to extend our survey through the hamlet of Southtown, Cobham Island, and the Town of Gorleston; all being within the Municipal Borough.
Such a work the Author is aware, can possess but little interest for the general reader; and yet, as Sir William Temple remarks, "Relations of matters-of-fact have a value from their substance as much as from their form; and the variety of events is seldom without entertainment or instruction, how indifferently soever the tale is told."
The Signs of Public Houses, are to a certain extent, Signs of the Times - that is - they indicate the popular feeling which prevailed when they were displayed. They were put up to distinguish the House at a distance, and of making it known to those who could not read; and these constituted, during the middle ages, a vast majority of the people. They were the advertisements of the day.
Before the Reformation these signs had frequently an ecclesiastical or a religious tendency; and some of these have come down to our times. Others were taken from the conizance, badge or crest of some powerful or popular noble. Subsequently the public were attracted by the name of some famous admiral or successful general, whilst the members of different trades were invited by peculiar and appropriate symbols.
Frequently the sign was suspended from the arm of a post, reaching a considerable way over the street, Hanging Signs ; or was erected on a lofty pole placed opposite the House.
It is intended in the present work to notice every ancient sign within the old walls of Great Yarmouth, adding such remarks as each may call forth.
Some Taverns here have been in existence for centuries, and have retained their ancient names; but the great majority of public houses have their signs repeatedly changed, very many have been "silenced," as the phrase was when a license was withdrawn; and in numberless instances the license has been "transferred" from house to house.
Swindonhas given no account whatever of the Religious Houses which flourished in Yarmouth during the middle ages. The several Orders of Friars, as was their custom, divided the town among them; the Dominicans or Black Friars taking the south, the Franciscans or Grey Friars the central part, and the Carmelites or Whit Friars the north end; whilst the Augustines held Gorleston and Southtown with a cell in Yarmouth.
This omission has to some extent been supplied by the Author, in his appendix to Manship's History, p. 402. It is not intended to repeat what may there be found, but in noticing the sites of these monastic buildings, some further particulars will be given.
Genealogy and Heraldry were altogether neglected by Swindon, and have been but slightly touched upon by other writers. The attention of the Editor has therefore been directed to these subjects, which he hopes will not be without interest to the many families connected with Yarmouth. He is fully sensible, with Kennett, that there are many who despise studies of the kind he has mentioned; but it must be admitted that such researches tend to the understanding of the state of former ages, their municipal government, the rise and succession of doctrines and opinions, the tenures of property, the maxims of policy, the rites of religion, and indeed the nature of mankind. [Kennett's Preface to his Parochial Antiquities]
It is singular that untill 1722, when Swindon prepared the map which after his death was engraved and published by Mr Mostyn John Amstrong, the Surveyor for the County of Norfolk (in 1779), there was no plan of this large, populous, and important Borough.
In the Hutch was preserved " A Plott of Sand and Waters, in vellom, before Yermouth was built." This curious map (probably a very old copy) is still in existence. Not so "A new platt of the towne" which was in the Hutch when Manship compiled his "Sumary Reporte of all such Writings as doo belonge unto the saide towne, remayninge in the Vestry" in 1612, and which it is much to be regretted has disappeared.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth a curious bird's eye view of the town was made, which is still preserved in the Cottonian Collection in the Library of the British Museum. [A copy was published in the notes to Manship's History, p, 287.]
In 1724 Corbridge published his "West Prospect" of Yarmouth presenting an amusing panarama of the town, as it then appeared, surrounded by views of public buildings and some of the principal private houses; and below is a small plan of the town.
Buck, in 1741, published his "South-West Prospect," which is very similar to Corbridge's, but on a smaller scale. The original drawing by Buck was offered for sale in 1867, and was purchased by the late Town clerk, and is now in the Record Room.
After the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act in 1835, Manning published a map which included the buildings outside the walls which had been erected since the time of Swindon; and this map marks the wards into which the town had by the above act been divided.
In 1867 Mr John Laing (who had previously been Town Surveyor) published a new map of the town showing all the alterations and additions up to that time.
This is principally compiled from a general survey of the town made by him, upon a large scale, by order of the Local Board of Health.
The Town Council also employed Mr Alfred William Morant when Town Surveyor, under the instructions of Charles Cory, Esq., Town Clerk, to make a map of every piece of ground from which they derived any revenue, identifying it with the Rent Roll.
The Charity Trustees have also had a map prepared by Mr Morant of all their houses and lands, whether in Great Yarmouth, Thrigby, or Irland.
The difficulty of identifying old houses is greatly increased by reason of the rows not having been numbered until 1804. Previous to that time each was usually distinguished by the name of some inhabitant living in or at either end of it, whose family and habitation are now alike forgotton; and the name of the row was frequently changed, thus rendering identification still more difficult. [This is exemplified by the eccentric circular of Richard Sutton, "Accountant and Teacher," enumerating six names which distinguished the Row, No 136, where he resided in house No 7.] There are no means of knowing which was Dame Aveline's Row, or Pater Noster Row, except that the latter was somewhere on the South quay; but the names of some, such as Conge Row, have remained to this day. The hoses themselves, strange to say were not numbered until some time after the establishment of the Local Board of Health, and this most useful innovation was not accomplished without opposition.
It has often been a matter of regret to the Author that this work had not been commenced at an earlier date, before the removal of those memories would have extended back to the last century, and who could have given, from personal knowledge, information of occurrences now forgotten.
This feeling has operated as an additional inducement on him to do all in his power to rescue what he could from the jaws of "all devouring Time."
The Author aspires to no greater merit than having made a further collection of matters which have, to use the language of Manship, previously laid "dispersedly;" and he can only address his readers in the language of Martial -
"Sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt mala plura,
Quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Avite liber."
["Things good, things bad, things middling when you look
You'll find to constitute, my friends, this book."
He hopes that it may not be said of him as it was of another Author.]
He is fully aware of the many deficiences which may be observed in a work which, under no circumstances, can be made thoroughly complete.
Derived of those
"Teaches of wisdom! Who could once beguile
His saddest hours, and lighten every toil," - Rosoe
and residing at a distance from any great library, and with but little leisure at his command, the Author craves the indulgence of his readers.
Some defects also may be attributed to that weariness which is ever attendant upon increasing years, often accompanied by unlooked for troubles; but his motto has ever been
Labor ipse voluptas,
the truth of which he has amply found whilst engaged on his work.
It only remains for him to thank those personal friends who have kindly rendered him much valuable assistance, and to whom at the close of his labors he hopes to have an opportunity of more fully expressing his obligations.
22nd March, 1870.