“Does it smell fishy in here?” My mum asked.
We all stopped what we were doing and sniffed the air.
We were on holiday in Great Yarmouth where it had been raining almost solidly for 48 hours. I love hearing rain on the roof of a caravan but even I was getting a bit fed up. As it turned out, the wet weather was a blessing because it led us to the fantastic Time and Tide Museum.
What is it?
My running buddy suggested a visit after I sent her a text recounting yet another soggy trip to the beach. That night I made the most of the free wifi while at the disco (Mark was dancing with Freya) and looked it up. I don’t mind telling you, I was excited about going the following day (and not just because the pitter patter on the roof was sending me a little crazy).
The website said:
Discover Great Yarmouth’s fascinating history, its rich maritime and fishing heritage and some of the colourful characters who made their living from the sea.
Wander through a Victorian ‘Row’ and see inside a fisherman’s home. Experience the heady atmosphere of a 1950s quayside, take the wheel of a coastal Drifter and hear gripping tales of wreck and rescue on the high seas. Follow Great Yarmouth’s transformation from a sandbank to the present day, through times of boom and bust and war and peace.
Relax in the spacious courtyard beneath a spectacular canopy of sails, surrounded by historic fishing boats.
Lively hands-on displays, games, puzzles, free audio guides, film shows and children’s activities bring the great story of Great Yarmouth vividly to life.
Pleasing three generations is never easy, although my parents are fairly relaxed, but from this description it seemed like there was something for everyone.
The reason my mum’s sensitive nose was twitching after we arrived is because the museum is housed in a converted Victorian herring curing works (it closed in the late 1980s) so the fishy smell is probably ingrained in the fabric of the building.
After a lovely welcome, we followed the signs to the recreated Victorian “Row”, which is a very impressive introduction to what the museum has to offer.
Here you can peek into the tiny homes and shops and imagine what it must have been like to live in such close quarters. It’s fascinating stuff.
Heading back outside and across the courtyard there was time for my dad to admire some of the boats that are currently being restored and for Captain Freya to have a quick play before we entered the next part of the museum.
Now we stepped into the heart of Yarmouth’s maritime history, with lots of fun and interactive exhibits teaching us about the past. It is in this section that you can take the helm of a drifter, fish for all sorts of undersea creatures and do some nautical stencilling among many other things.
There are also various works of art to admire “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”. Find out more here.
Parts of the building have been left almost as they were so there’s a chance to see what a hard life it must have been for the herring workers, especially in 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”.
But the museum is not just about fishing. Upstairs is a fascinating range of exhibits including from the Gorleston Hoard – a collection of Bronze Age weapons and axes which were found in 1952. There’s also a section about Yarmouth during war time and, of course, the town’s transformation into a booming seaside resort (aided by the arrival of the railway in 1844 which opened it up for mass tourism).
While we were visiting there was also a touring exhibition, Titanic: Honour and Glory (until September 24), about the most famous ocean liner in the world. It includes an exploration of some of the local links, which I found interesting.
One of the bits both Freya and I loved the most was the memorabilia section, which includes television, music and toys. Freya became rather attached to an old fashioned rotary dial telephone (which we had when we first got a home phone) and was having some lovely imaginary conversations with all sorts of people.
Once you’ve finished exploring there’s a shop and also a lovely cafe, where we stopped for a snack.
What did we think?
Everyone loved it. This well-set out museum is a lot of fun and kept us entertained all morning. We will definitely be heading back again (even without the rain) when Freya is older – although there was plenty for her to enjoy at three, even if she didn’t understand it all.
Adult – £5.70.
Concession – £5.40.
Child (four-18) – £4.55.
There are also family packages and a twilight deal.
You can find full information and opening times here.
There’s a car park (next to a play area) just across the road from the museum.
Norfolk Museums Service has produced a little promotional video, which you might find interesting.