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Visiting the Fisherman's Hospital, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England: elegant, 18th century Market Square property

Updated on February 26, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Old Fishermen's Retirement Homes, Great Yarmouth
Old Fishermen's Retirement Homes, Great Yarmouth | Source
 Laurits Tuxen: The North Sea in a storm.
Laurits Tuxen: The North Sea in a storm. | Source
HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester | Source
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk | Source

'Decayed'? Over 60? Approved for marriage by a committee?

This building, known as the Fisherman's Hospital — essentially retirement homes — faces the Market Square in Great Yarmouth, in England's county of Norfolk, where for many years the fishing industry was very important (1).

It was founded in 1702 by the Corporation of Great Yarmouth. The original intention was for almshouses to provide for what were known as 'decayed' fishermen aged over 60!

In the early years, some quaint regulations were in force for retired fishermen in residence. If single, and wishing to marry, a retiree had to propose his bride-to-be to the governing committee! After 9PM, no resident could leave the premises; indeed, this was strictly impossible because the gate was locked and one person only was in possession of the key!

Aligned with Classical-style pediment, a prominent, hexagonal cupola has a statue of the Apostle Peter, to whom the words were spoken: 'I will make you fishers of men' (Matthew 4.19). Other features include Dutch-style gabling and a low, tiled roof, with several, small dormer windows.

The Fisherman's Hospital is now divided into individual units. Repeated restoration programs have been undergone, notably in 1929/30 and in the mid-1980s, the latter as a result of both public and private sponsorship, after which HRH The Duke of Gloucester formally re-opened the building on May 19, 1987.

The entrance gates of the Fisherman's Hospital are sometimes the venue from which guided walks around the Downtown of Great Yarmouth are commenced.

Today, in England, anyone wanting to start a senior home or rest facility for retired people is likely to be confronted by an array of regulators, bureaucrats and officials who — seemingly, if not in theory — will seek to dictate how such a charitable venture may or may not be undertaken. I wonder sometimes whether this in fact marks progress from the days of the inception of the Fisherman's Hospital, Great Yarmouth?

But at least getting married does not require proposing one's bride for the approval of a committee!

February 26, 2013


(1) Great Yarmouth's Time and Tide museum traces the history of the local fishing industry, especially the herring fleets.

Also worth seeing

Other visitor attractions in Great Yarmouth include: St Nicholas's Church; the Anna Sewell House; the Britannia Monument, the Town Hall dating from 1882, the 14th century Tollhouse; the North-West Tower; and others.

Burgh Castle (distance: approx. 6.8 kilometres), these ruins date from Roman times.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Great Yarmouth is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. The town is 265 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 4 years ago

      Elisa Zanetti: Norfolk is indeed a very interesting part of England. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Interesting. I admit I didn't know much about Northfolk but know I do!