NORFOLK Museums Service
Inside The Tolhouse

A History of The Tolhouse

At first sight, The Tolhouse seems strangely out of place, like a relic of a bygone age stranded amongst the modern streets, houses and offices of Great Yarmouth. When it was built about 800 years ago, it must have looked a grand place, with its sturdy stone walls, finely carved doorway and arched windows. Then it was the home of a rich merchant whose livelihood no doubt depended on the nearby quayside.

The TolhouseBefore long, however, the house passed into the hands of the Yarmouth town officials. So began its long association with the law, as the courtroom for various different types of courts, the town gaol with the notorious dungeon known as ‘the hold’, and a police station.

The Tolhouse has certainly had a turbulent history. Over the years it has been home to pirates, robbers and murderers as well as countless common crooks. It has been attacked by rebels and rioters and gutted by enemy bombs. Since the 1880s, the building has housed a museum. Today it tells the story of the building and of crime and punishment in Great Yarmouth through the ages.