Monday, 9 January 2017

Time And Tide...

On the last day of our holiday we were determined to get out and do something interesting. So we drove to Yarmouth and visited the wonderful Time And Tide Museum.
This is located within one of the old curing houses, where the herring were brought to be cured. The Museum tells the story of Yarmouth - but cleverly maintains the original features of the building, so you can look up and see 1000s of herring curing on racks up in the roof space [these are replicas- hung there by teams of volunteer Boy Scouts] and occasionally you come across a brine tank, or stack of crans [the baskets in which the catch was brought ashore] 
Many of the rooms are still redolent with the smell of fish - which adds to the atmosphere. This is a genuine smell- the industry only stopped in the 70s - unlike the fake 'old' smell you find at Yorvik and other museums. 
There is far too much for one post - it was the sort of place where you found something new round every corner. 
As well as the permanent display about the history of the town and the fishing industry, there are temporary exhibitions- currently one about the 1950s. But you begin by entering the Yarmouth Rows. Until the 19th century, building was only permitted within the mediaeval town walls. The limited space dictated that houses were built as closely together as possible, which led to the development of The Rows. Unique to Great Yarmouth, these were a network of 145 very narrow  parallel streets. Charles Dickens said of them: "A Row is a long, narrow lane or alley quite straight, or as nearly as maybe, with houses on each side, both of which you can sometimes touch at once with the finger tips of each hand, by stretching out your arms to their full extent." The Rows were all given names derived from local characters or prominent buildings. 'Kitty Witches' running from King Street to Middlegate Street, was the narrowest row at just 27 inches wide in some parts. Sadly many were destroyed in WW2, or in the postwar clearances - but here in the Museum is a wonderful reconstruction.
Shops and homes nestle together - and you can see a mother rocking the crib, an old seaman on a bench, his net hung by the fire to be mended, a chemist's shop and much more. I loved the goods on display in the chemists - maybe the celery pills might help my knee? Not so sure about the 'occasional pills for ladies' [for period pains I suppose] made of steel, penny-royal and bitter apple.

After the Rows, we went across the courtyard, where there were some boats moored [and a play one for the children to clamber over] into the area which focussed on the fishermen and the herring.

It was a hard life, out in all weathers working long hours in the wet and cold, to bring home the food. The whole process of curing used techniques learned from the Dutch [initial treatment of the fish on board when they were caught] and the Scots [smoking the herring once they were brought ashore] Many folk from both these nations brought their skills to Yarmouth, and signs of their influence remain in the town.

The use of life size models - such as the man standing in the brining tank - gave you a clear idea of what it was like. The displays were set out with clear information panels, and there were optional audio guides [adult or child] explaining everything.
The Scottish girls were renowned for their speed and efficiency at gutting the fish, but whilst waiting for the boats to return, they could often be seen sitting round the town chatting and knitting.
"Whan dey wir nae herring in, dan wid sit on da swills an knit"
I was surprised to discover that much of the herring brought in at Yarmouth was destined for export - the best quality fish destined for Italy. They were very carefully packed in their boxes, head to tail. In 1888 the Italian Consulate actually prepared a document about this, stating that "The Italians are an artistic people, and like things not only to be good, but to look pretty" 
Herring boxes were stencilled with the names of the company, and the lids carefully nailed down on the fish - 40 in each box.  The logo of the museum shows that space efficient head to tail packing pattern. 
 I felt overcome with the urge to do some craft - but couldn't decide whether I wanted to knit a Scottish Hap [as per Kate Davies' fabulous designs] or embroider some little fishes! I was amused by the person who complained on the Museum Website comments page, that some of the rooms smelled [what did she expect in a curing works?]
There were other rooms to see and lots more to learn - but I shall save that for another day. This is a great museum and worth visiting [and there is a convenient car park right opposite. Allow yourself at least an hour on your ticket]


  1. Soon as I saw your post title I knew where you had been. Isn't it brillliant. I loved looking in the windows. (We went a few years back on our free tourism passport thing we used to get because of using brochures on the campsite)

  2. It looks so brilliant!! I love museums about every day life in the past!x

  3. Thank you for the tour of the museum!


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