A brief history

This charming merchant’s house, on the quayside in Great Yarmouth, was built around 1596 by Benjamin Cowper.

Home to merchants and prominent locals, over the years the building has seen several changes to its physical shape. Evidence of the developments made by its wealthy inhabitants can be seen throughout the building. Wood panelled rooms, richly decorated ceilings and the imposing stairway all help to tell the story of the Elizabethan House.

The house is famous for its connections with Oliver Cromwell who is said to have frequently visited his friend, John Carter, a prominent Yarmouth merchant who purchased the house from Benjamin Cowper in 1635. 

The premises became a regular meeting place for Parliamentarians during the Civil War and it is here, allegedly, in November 1648 that the fate of Charles I was decided.

From 1667 some 14 different families lived in the house. In 1870, it was bought by the Aldred family and remained in their possession until the eldest daughter Mary Aldred bequeathed it to the National Trust.  Her sister Blanche remained a tenant until her death in 1949. Norfolk Museums Service now manage the Elizabethan House for the National Trust.  

The house contains fascinating collections from Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. You can get hands on with the Elizabethan past in the bedroom (complete with replica costumes for you to try on) and find out about life ‘upstairs and downstairs’ for its Victorian inhabitants.

If you visit on one of our special event days, you may be lucky enough to see the range in the kitchen being fired up and have a chance to look at food created to period recipes; or talk to one of the costumed characters who can be found roaming the house!