Great Yarmouth – the end of the beginning

Great Yarmouth was bright and hot and crowded when we called. You can probably tell that from the heat haze in the featured image.

It was also short of parking and so our visit to the Wellington Pier was not extensive. In fact we stopped where we could get a photograph and moved on. We’ll have time to do it later, when we return to East Anglia, but after several days of walking I had to admit defeat.

Of course, as I get older I really ought to stop saying things like we will have time to do things later, as there’s a growing chance that one day I will be spectacularly wrong and find that I don’t have any time.


The pier itself is supposedly the seventh built in the UK, and was named after the Duke of Wellington, who died in 1852, the year before the pier opened.  It was successful at first but suffered financially after the neighbouring Britannia Pier opened. In 1899 the corporation of Great Yarmouth took on the running of the pier and, in 1903 added Winter Gardens to the pier complex.

The Winter Gardens, originally erected in Torquay in 1878, were not a success in Torquay and the owner went bankrupt. In 1903 Great Yarmouth bought the building and transported it by sea to the position it now occupies. Since then, despite looking fragile, it has survived storms, air raids and bombardment by German battleships.

It even survived a period of ownership by the comedian Jim Davidson. He’s not my favourite comedian but you can’t fault him for putting his money where his mouth is and supporting the traditional end of pier holiday shows.

Back at the Britannia Pier, the parking is easier. I was surprised to see some of the big names that work the pier. (In some cases I was surprised they were still alive).

Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth

Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth

Where the Wellington Pier is elegant and Edwardian, the Britannia is obviously a modern pier and it’s open for business. There were, I swear, more people on the pier than there were on the beach.


I wasn’t very keen on some of the boards, which seemed a bit soft in places, and the size of some of the gaps was a worry. It looks like it would be easy to put a stick in a gap that size. It probably wouldn’t but it was a bit of a worry. Of course, as soon as you start looking down at where you put the stick, you start to see right down to the sand and the vertigo starts…

It can be a long walk to the end when you’re worried about falling through. It was nice to walk along a properly used pier, where the only gulls were making use of the fun fair rather than using the place as a roost.


Gulls on Britannia Pier

The end of the pier seems a bit abrupt, with a selection of rusting ironwork at the end.

It’s had an interesting history – opened in 1858, shortened by a ship in 1859 and by a storm in 1868 before being demolished in 1899. Reopened in 1901, fire damaged 1909 and again in 1914 (allegedly by Suffragettes, who were more violent than their current image suggests). Another fire in 1932, breaching by Royal Engineers in 1940 and a further fire in 1954 completes the list of misadventure so far.

All in all it was a good, traditional pier and you can have a look at the donkeys (very traditional) and Scroby Sands Wind Farm (less so).

They actually have a Scroby Sands exhibition on the seafront (Julia looked round it and used a telescope to watch the seals that were basking in the sun). I sat outside with an ice cream.


In 1922 the steamer SS Hopelyn was driven onto the sands and wrecked. Such things happen. Heroic acts also happen, and on this particular occasion heroism was well to the fore when the Gorleston lifeboat, powered only by oars, took part in a lengthy rescue. It took 30 hours in all, involved several vessels and resulted in the rescue of 23 crew, the Captain and the ship’s cat. You can read about it here, and about Coxswain  William Fleming here. He served with the RNLI for 49 years and helped to save 1,188 lives.

And that is the end (at last) of the first part of the reports of the pier visits.


13 thoughts on “Great Yarmouth – the end of the beginning

  1. Repro Arts

    Always parking near Repro Arts on the seafront and it’s free. You could have included Nelson’s column built to mark Nelson gaining freedom of Great Yarmouth.

  2. Andrew Petcher

    Good post. Last week I went to Southwold and enjoyed the pier, but not the parking.
    I get tired of Suffragette stories, they were terrorists. We should rather be celebrating the Chartists.

    1. quercuscommunity

      I got very excited a few months ago when I thought I’d found a Chartist in my family tree. Unfortunately it seems just to be a man with the right name, and right locality, but the wrong age. Pah!

  3. tootlepedal

    “Of course, as I get older I really ought to stop saying things like we will have time to do things later, as there’s a growing chance that one day I will be spectacularly wrong and find that I don’t have any time.” – very pertinent thoughts. Let carpe diem be your motto.

  4. Laurie Graves

    England has a wealth of piers, that’s for sure. I’m not aware of how many Maine has, but that may be because I live inland. One of my favorite pictures in this post is of the wind turbines. They might not be traditional, but with climate change hitting us across the side of our heads—metaphorically speaking, of course—they are a most welcome sight.

    1. quercuscommunity

      I can’t find any mention of piers in Maine, but at least you have Hummingbirds. Wind turbines are good. If you don’t like wind turbines you shouldn’t use electricity in my opinion. 🙂

      1. Laurie Graves

        We do have a few piers—the one in Old Orchard Beach comes to mind. But I don’t think we have as many as you do. Yes, yes, yes to wind turbines! And you are so right about not using electricity if you don’t like electricity. In Maine, it is heart-breaking how many prominent so-called environmentalists have skunked wind turbines. “Not in my backyard!” they all shriek. Sigh.

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