Along the seashore at Great Yarmouth there was originally a fishing community and there were very few buildings east of the Town Wall until the early 19th century. Building on this land, called the Denes, was severely restricted until 1810. Restrictions were relaxed in 1835, as visiting the seaside increased in popularity, at first among the better-off, who came for taking the waters, bathing in salt water and breathing the ozone. The seafront began to be developed and the Marine Parade was first constructed in 1857. With the coming of the railways and the passing of the 1871 Bank Holiday Act, trips to the seaside ceased to be the preserve of the gentry and middle classes and thousands of working people began to enjoy seaside visits. Building along the seafront and in the network of new roads to the west of it, grew apace. In 1877, the Marine Parade was widened by 60 feet. At the junction of Regent Road and the Marine Parade, the New Beach Hotel, (formerly the Queen’s Hotel), was built in 1880.
At the north end of the Marine Parade stands the Hollywood Cinema, whichoccupies the former Aquarium building. The original Aquarium was built on the site
of one of the town’sgun batteries and was opened in 1876. Itboasted 18 large tanks plus ponds, which housed a variety of fish, alligatorsand seals. There was a reading room, aroller skating rink on the roof and an open-air theatre. The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII)visited and, in 1881, attended a concert here, but the complex went bankruptlater that year. In 1883, the new Royal Aquarium, (acquiring the prefix“Royal”, reflecting the Prince’s interest) was built. It was constructed in gault brick with a terracottafaçade, and opened as a theatre, with some aquaria retained. There was a GrandHall, where touring variety shows were staged, a restaurant and a Minor Hallfor smaller performances. From 1954,resident summer shows were held in the main hall and the smaller hall becamethe Little Theatre, where in the late 20th century, repertory companiesperformed plays. In 1970, it became acinema, the Royalty, and is now, in 2013, the Hollywood Cinema.
Thefirst purpose-built pier to be constructed in Great Yarmouth, was theWellington Pier in 1853. This proved to be a popular success, and in 1858,another, the Britannia Pier, aligned with Regent Road, was opened. The onlybuildings allowed on it were bathing, reading and refreshment rooms, (no shops)plus a tollhouse and a lighthouse. It was constructed in timber, but in 1867the pier was cut in two during a gale by a schooner, and after repair, anotherschooner sliced through it in 1878. Itwas demolished in 1900 and the new Britannia Pier, constructed in timber andsteel, was opened in 1902. It was 810feet long, with a grand pavilion seating 1,200 people at the eastern end. Shops were now allowed. In 1909, fire destroyed the pavilion,followed by another in 1914, probably started by the Suffragettes, andfurther fires in 1932 and 1954 destroyed not only the pavilion again, but theballroom as well. The current pavilion was built in 1958. Big name shows have performed on the piersince 1950.
The Empire Picture Playhouse opened in 1911 and remained a cinema until1991. It became a bingo hall and then atheme bar. It was built on the site ofAnsell’s Buildings; the first to be used as a seaside lodging house in the townin the early 19th century. Lodginghouses then began to appear along the seafront. The Empire is currentlyunoccupied (2013).
Alongside the Empire aretwo small arcades, at right angles to the sea front, one bearing the date 1902,the other 1904. The Empire itself is architecturally imposing for anarrow-fronted cinéariety of such an early date. The terracotta façe is framedby giant fluted and cabled, coupled Ionic columns rising from pedestals withtall blockings over; the centre is taller with a shallow, segmentally archedrecess above the entrance, containing a triple-arched balcony. Cornice andblocking over. The brick flank walls are blind-arcaded. The auditorium hasraked stalls and a single balcony and barrel-vaulted ceiling. The circle endsvery close to the proscenium arch, and extends back towards the front of thebuilding, occupying about two thirds of the length and forming an elongatedhorseshoe. The sides of the balcony will take a single line of seats -strangely these are not angled. It is clear that the high proscenium arch wasoriginally flanked by Corinthian columns of which only the caps remain. Thereis a fly tower, with the grid and two fly rails still in position. Although nowdisused, this was once a fine auditorium with excellent plasterwork on thebalcony fronts in the form of a series of cartouches supported by cherubsencircled with laurel wreaths. There are dressing rooms and a band room underthe stage.
Thechurch, which was opened in 1858, was built for the Beach and Harbour Mission,which served the needs of the beachmen and their families. Its architect wasJ.W. Hakewill. The pews were reserved for the fishing families. St. John’s was built of flint, stone andbrick, in the Early English style. Thereare six nave arcades with low round columns. The capitals are decorated with stiff leaf, seaweed and shelldesigns. The church has been enlargedand altered at various times, and is at present (2013) closed and awaitingrestoration.
Setslightly back from Marine Parade is George Gilbert’s Hippodrome Circus, whichwas opened in 1903. George Gilbert, and his wife, Jennie O’Brien, performed a bare-back equestriancircus act all over the world. When they came to Great Yarmouth in 1898, asmall wooden circus building was constructed for the show. George Gilbert replaced this building withthe present one, which is constructed of concrete, with a terracotta façade byR. S. Cockrill, and Art Nouveau features. The stables of the old Bath Hotel were demolished to improve the view ofthe new building from the promenade. The building incorporates a sinking circusring, one of only three remaining in the world, which fills with 60,000 gallonsof water to provide a spectacular aquatic show as part of the circusperformance. Much of the originalequipment is still in use today, with circus shows including water spectacularsperformed for the summer and Christmas seasons.
TheJetty was originally constructed in 1560 for landing fish and for loading andunloading cargo. The river outlet to the sea continually silted up and theJetty, which had a crane at the east end, provided a reliable means of loadingand unloading boats. It was rebuilt in1701 and was damaged in 1767 and in 1791. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Naval Fleet frequently assembledin Yarmouth Roads, because ships would be too vulnerable to siege or attack inthe harbour. Officers, men and storeswere loaded from the Jetty as ships were replenished before sailing. In 1801,Nelson sailed from the Jetty with the Fleet to the Battle of Copenhagen. After the Battle, prisoners and the woundedwere landed at the Jetty. Nelson thenlanded there to visit the wounded at the Hospital for the Sick and Wounded ofthe Army and Navy, which was then roughly where Sainsbury’s is today (2013).The Jetty was rebuilt in 1809 at the cost of £5,000, a considerable sum inthose days,emphasising itsimportance to the town. (The town triedto recover the sum from the Royal Navy, citing damage during the wars). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries,when Great Yarmouth became a seaside destination, the Jetty became popular forpromenading; trippers boarded steamers from it, and fishermen continued to landtheir catches there. During the SecondWorld War, there was a gun emplacement at the east end and part of the Jettywas demolished for fear of invasion. In 1961, the timber structure was reinforced with metal,and gradually the Jetty fell into disrepair. The Council was not prepared to fund the repair of this importantexample of the town’s heritage at a cost of £350,000 and spent some £90,000 ondemolishing it in 2011. A plaque marks the site.
has twin towers, a terracotta façade and windmill sails.
It was originally built as the Gem Theatre and isone of Britain's earliest surviving Cine Variety buildings. The Theatre wasdesigned by Arthur S.Hewitt, who also designed the EmpireTheatre in the town the same year. The Windmill was builtfor C.B. Cochran and opened on the 4th of July 1908 with the odd proviso that men and women had to sit on opposite sides ofthe auditorium. The Theatre was built asa Cine Variety Theatre and in the early decades of the 20th Century wasproviding the number two variety bills in Great Yarmouth, and later, in 1948, when it was renamed theWindmill Theatre, it was regularly used for summer shows, a policy whichcontinued into the 1960s. Theatre use did continue into the early 1980s but eventuallythe building went over to use as a children's play area, and later became knownas the Odditorium which was an exhibition of weird and wonderful things similarto 'Ripley's Believe it or Not' exhibitions, although there was now a Cinema inthe upper part of the building.
Currently the Theatre is in use as an AmusementArcade and miniature Golf Course, and although the building is Grade II* Listedmuch of its internal decoration is hidden by false walls and hangings.
wasoriginally constructed in Torquay in 1878-81. It was purchased by Great Yarmouth Corporation for a bargain price of£1,300 and re-erected on its current site in 1903. It is a glass structure,iron-framed with timber window surrounds and traditional lattice girders. It was long-used as a roller skatingrink. In 1966, it became the Biergarten,and then a night club. It is currentlyclosed (2013) and awaiting restoration.
the first purpose-built pier, was constructed in 1853. The Duke of Wellington had died in 1852 andit was decided to build the pier in his memory. Seaside piers
were at first landing stages for steamers and boat trips, but soonbecame popular for promenading and entertainment. The pier was 700 feet longand had a small building at the east end. Military bands and concert parties provided entertainment. It was considerably altered in 1900, when theGreat Yarmouth Corporation bought it, and in 1903, the pavilion by J. W.Cockrill, was added. Variety shows were staged there throughout the 20thcentury and, in the 1960’s and 70’s, top-name stars performed there in thesummer season.
was built in 1863 and provided both assembly rooms and a reading room.It was used as the Officers’ Mess for the Prince of Wales Own NorfolkArtillery. The Prince of Wales (laterEdward VII) was their Colonel and often visited the officers there.
was built as a seaside lodge for the Cuddon family of Suffolk. The Cuddon’s were friends of the Prince ofWales, who stayed there eight times.
It was built c1862-5 and its architect was A.W. Morant.
AfterNelson’s death, the town went into mourning. An appeal was launched throughoutNorfolk so that a monument could be erected in his memory. The foundation stone was laid on 15th August 1815. The monumentis 144 feet high, (a little shorter than the one in Trafalgar Square, but wasbuilt some 30 years earlier). The columnis in the style of the Greek Doric order with caryatides and Britannia holdinga trident and a laurel wreath. Thefigures were originally in Coade stone, but were replaced, first by concretereplicas and then by glass fibre. The monument was restored in 1984.