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Peggotty's Port (Great Yarmouth) page 2


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The sea front or Marine Drive is one of the finest in England. There are two piers and a jetty, and delightful beach gardens, where military bands play every day. The south end of the drive opens upon the spacious South Denes, where are Nelson's Monument and the race-course. Among other places of interest are the Royal Aquarium (now a theatre), the Town Hall, the remains of the Grey Friars' Cloister, the Sailor's Home (which contains a small museum), and the Duke's Head and Star Hotels. Both the hotels date from Elizabethan times, and the latter is said to have been occupied by the regicide Bradshaw. It contains a finely panelled chamber, known as the Nelson room, decorated with some good carving and ceiling work.

Over its fireplace are the arms of the Company of Merchant Adventurers.

Daniel Defoe, who visited Yarmouth at the beginning of the eighteenth century, was quite enthusiastic when he came to write of its " magnificent buildings and merchants' houses, which look like little palaces rather than the dwelling- houses of private men." " The greatest defect of this beautiful town," he wrote, "seems to be that, though it is very rich and increasing in wealth and trade, and consequently in people, there is not room to enlarge the town by building, which would be certainly done much more than it is, but that the river on the land side prescribes them, except at the north end without the gate; and even there the land is not very agreeable. But had they had a larger space within the gates there would before now have been many spacious streets of noble fine buildings erected, as we see is done in some other thriving towns in England." Nearly two hundred years have elapsed since these words were written, and during that time Yarmouth has conquered the difficulties of its awkward situation. Again Defoe says: " It is also a very well governed town, and I have nowhere in England observed the Sabbath day so exactly kept, or the breach so continually punished, as in this place, which I name to their honour. Among all these regularities it is no wonder if we do not find abundance of revelling, or that there is little encouragement to assemblies, plays, and gaming meetings; and yet I do not see that the ladies here come behind any of the neighbouring counties either in beauty, breeding, or behaviour; to which may be added, too, not at all to their disadvantage, that they generally go beyond them in fortunes."

I wonder what Defoe would say if he could see Yarmouth to-day, with its race meetings, theatres, daily concerts in the open air, and the " revelling " of thousands on its beach!

To my mind Yarmouth is a place to be visited in early spring or late autumn rather than in summer, for then the thousands of pleasure-seekers who throng its streets and sea front in the holiday season are absent, and you may better appreciate the breeziness of the Drive and tawny sand-dunes, and the continental features of the long, tree-planted quay. Then, while rambling through the beachmen's quarter, you may be able to reconstruct the Yarmouth that Dickens knew, and even gain some idea of what the town was like when Miles Corbet lived in that house in the market-place known as the "Weavers' Arms."

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Pictures for Peggotty's Port (Great Yarmouth) page 2

Row 99
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The Quay Yarmouth
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