Great Yarmouth Maritime Collections
The collection is of regional significance with the emphasis being on Yarmouth, Norfolk and the North Sea. A broad range of maritime subjects are covered; fishing, fish curing, shipwreck and lifesaving, merchant trade, shipbuilding and supporting maritime trades such as sailmaking. Other subjects represented are seaside holidays, offshore exploration and Nelson.
The collection is dominated by fishing equipment such as nets, blocks and lanterns mainly from herring drifters and baskets for unloading the fish at the quay. Herring fishing is most strongly represented, from the influence of the Scots fishermen and vessels, through to the heyday of the early 20th century when the fishing grounds off Great Yarmouth were the most productive in the world and the port was the most important in the country, to the subsequent decline of the industry in the 1960s. Shellfish, eel catching and whaling are also featured.
There are boxes and stencils and other curing equipment from curing firms which operated in Great Yarmouth. Lifesaving and rescue is represented by equipment from early lifeboats together with nationally significant models and fine art relating to Captain Manby, the local inventor of the lifesaving apparatus.
There is a fine collection of marine art with works depicting vessels and beach and quay scenes by such artists as William Joy, Joseph Nash, Rowland Fisher, members of the Norwich School and nineteenth century Italian marine artists. The art collection includes a number of Pierhead Paintings (naïve ship portraits influenced by the Mediterranean tradition) by Tom Swan and others.
A significant selection of ship models is present, made by enthusiasts, many accurate representations of boats that fished from Great Yarmouth, as well as shipwrights’ full and half models.
There is a large collection of tools used in a variety of maritime trades; ship and boatbuilding, net mending, basket making, sail and rope making and coopering.
The navigation collections include a pair of celestial and terrestrial globes, and on-board equipment such as compasses, sextants and sea-charts. Sailor’s crafts such as inscribed ostrich eggs, knotwork and wool pictures and personal possessions and documents relating to merchant sea captains such as the Press family are also included.
The Maritime Heritage East archive includes a comprehensive maritime library with volumes covering topics including fishing, ship building and lifesaving, together with books on topics as diverse as smuggling, light houses and admirals.
There are also thousands of original and copy photographs of Yarmouth and Lowestoft registered vessels and other subjects such as life on board, shipwrecks and Scots fisher girls and over 500 shipbuilding plans including general arrangements, sections, lines, stability curves and engines, from local firms such as Fellows and Crabtree.
The archive also holds letters and papers from other local companies, oral history recordings and a database of YH (Yarmouth) registered vessels. Thousands of information files and newspaper cuttings on various topics from fishermen’s poems and maritime arts and crafts, to tall ships and flags and signals, provide a valuable and regionally significant resource.