My Britain: Great Yarmouth

Anna Walker 8 June 2022

With its bustling Pleasure Beach and the sophisticated Winter Garden, Great Yarmouth has something to offer everyone seeking a seaside escape

Perhaps Norfolk's most famous seaside resort, Great Yarmouth has been welcoming seekers of sun and fun since the 1800s, when the opening of the railway and its two piers marked it out as an ideal holiday spot for Victorians seeking the fresh sea air. 

Today, it's the Pleasure Beach, Sealife Centre, Hippodrome Circus, Winter Garden and warm community spirit that tempts visitors back every summer. Not to mention its 15 miles of sandy beaches, variety of eateries and traditional seaside accommodation. 

Great Yarmouth has so inspired its visitors over the years that it's appeared in a number of literary works, perhaps most famously as the setting for Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. And for those sick of the seascape, the town borders with the Norfolk Broads. A national park since 1988, the Broads are known for their wide open skies, rolling hills and plethora of wildlife, including common harbour and grey seals. 

We spoke to two lifelong residents of Great Yarmouth, who are also fundamental players in the town's tourism industry, for an insight into what makes the seaside spot so beloved by locals and visitors alike. 

Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones is Director of Business Development at the Pleasure Beach

Aaron Jones, Director of Business Development at the Pleasure Beach

Aaron Jones

I was born in the James Paget Hospital and have many fond childhood memories living in the Great Yarmouth area. The thing I love the most about Great Yarmouth is the beach and the sea. I love walking my dogs on the beach, with the sun beaming down on the sea. It’s very peaceful. I hold a great deal of pride being from Great Yarmouth, as the town has an enormous amount of history and my family's roots here go all the way back to the 1950s. The spirit of Great Yarmouth, especially during the spring, summer and autumn, is a very vibrant one with smiling faces covered in ice cream and sugar from the those round things with the hole in the middle.

"The spirit of Great Yarmouth is a very vibrant one with smiling faces covered in ice cream"

I think people’s preconceptions of Great Yarmouth are mostly really good because they’ve got lovely childhood memories of coming on holiday here. On the other hand, I have heard some people with the view that Yarmouth is a run-down, somewhat deprived area of East Anglia's coastline. It frustrates me when people have that view, as the town has improved so much, especially in the last few years.

I think with the considerable amount of funds being invested in the area, it’ll continue to improve and surprise many people who perhaps previously held an unfavourable opinion of the town. By people coming here and seeing what we have to offer now, I believe we would overturn many of those more negative preconceptions.

Log flume at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach

The Pleasure Beach is a family-run business based at the south end of Great Yarmouth’s golden mile seafront. It’s a special part of the town as it holds so many happy memories for families over the generations. You see grandparents bringing their grandchildren to us, and years prior to that day, their grandparents would’ve brought them along as children. 

It’s a special place with lots of traditional fairground rides, but we also believe that it’s very important for us to keep bringing some newer rides in, to keep the place looking fresh and cater to all audiences. Everyone knows how special the Scenic Railway is and this year marks the 90-year anniversary of the ride being in the location it still sits in today. 

Scenic railway ride at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach

My favourite spot in Great Yarmouth is the area of sandy beach directly opposite Barnard Bridge. My grandparents lived in the house on the corner facing the sea, and I spent a lot of time on that area of the beach as a kid. It’s a special place for me.

Jack Jay

Jack Jay is the ringmaster and director of the Hippodrome Circus building

Jack Jay, ringmaster and director of Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth

Jack Jay

I was born in Great Yarmouth and have always proudly called it my home. Our family business has been in the entertainment scene here for over 100 years, with many iconic venues across the town, including the Hippodrome. I have such a passion for continuing that legacy. Great Yarmouth is a place of uninhibited expression, where fun is very much encouraged. It has an amazing history and one which is always evolving and growing.

I think there are preconceptions around places like Great Yarmouth. The British seaside has been through a tough time since its last peak in the Eighties. The idea that these are somehow bleak or depressing places to live is laughable to me. We have one of the best sea fronts and beaches in the country and are surrounded by spots of natural beauty.

Hippodrome exterior, Great Yarmouth

I have new neighbours from our nearest city, Norwich, who have just moved and are immediately loving coastal life. I live right on the historic riverside, which is amazing. Taking my dog Olly out for long walks on the beach is something that never gets old. But I would unsurprisingly have to say that the historic Hippodrome Circus is my favourite place, not just in Great Yarmouth, but on Earth. It's so special to me and to our town—it's a place that sparks so much local pride and quite rightly has national and international acclaim. It's crazy to think that Britain's last circus building, and one of only three in the world with an original sinking ring feature, is on a back street of this small seaside town.

"Performers from all across the globe come together for a short period to create absolute magic"

Being the ringmaster and producer of The Hippodrome Circus has given me the chance to spread so much joy. To be able to entertain and bring together multiple generations at the very same time is something that is getting extremely rare these days. It's also incredible to be able to meet performers from all across the globe, who come together for a short period to create absolute magic.

Hippodrome, Great Yarmouth

Circuses and seasides have shared DNA. Both are British institutions (not many people know that the circus was invented in Great Britain) and have found ways to evolve and thrive across many different eras and generations. Most importantly they're designed for fun! The seaside is a space to be enjoyed in its many forms, from relaxing dune-swept strolls to exhilarating roller coasters or jaw-dropping circus stunts!

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