Monument is a pillar of strength for tourism in Yarmouth
PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 January 2016
Archant © 2007
Great Yarmouth's Nelson's Monument could make a towering contribution to the town's reinvention as a cultural and heritage hub, experts have concluded.
The 144ft tall tribute to England’s greatest naval hero stands in the industrial South Denes but the area around it could be improved and it could be made easier to get to.
A cultural conference held in the town last year has reported on its findings, informed by the experiences of similar seaside town’s like Blackpool where much has been achieved against a backdrop of deprivation.
The report also said Yarmouth was the only town in the country with two sites of special scientific interest at Breydon Water and North Denes which needed promoting.
Elsewhere it noted it was important to identify a cultural hub, regenerate the Rows, involve schools more, and recruit residents as the best ambassadors for the town.
The open spaces of the Yarmouth denes close to the harbour’s mouth were selected to host the pillar in 1814.
The foundation stone was laid in 1817 - in the centre of an officers’ race course.
It took almost two years to build at a cost of £7000 plus £3000 to strengthen the sandy foundations.
There was also a keepers cottage, later a beer house, which was demolished in the 1920s.
The first custodian of the Grade 1 listed monument was former Able Seaman James Sharman, a member of the crew of the Victory from Norfolk and one of those who carried Nelson below decks after he was shot.
A £1m refurbishment was completed in 2005 in time for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Britannia stands atop a globe holding an olive branch in her outstretched right hand, a trident in her left and looking inland - said to be towards Nelson’s birthplace. There are 217 steps to the top.
But some heritage assets like the Empire theatre and the Winter Gardens were not being made the best of and needed tackling.
Hugh Sturzaker chairman of the Great Yarmouth Borough Cultural Heritage Partnership, said in the report: “The conference was a sell-out and was successful in attracting some excellent speakers who came with great ideas of experience elsewhere.
“We also had the opportunity of hearing about many exciting projects which have taken place in Great Yarmouth in recent years and many others which are planned.
“Throughout there was great enthusiasm and passion for developing cultural heritage in the borough and it is hoped that these will be carried through into action.”
Figures presented to delegates showed that by encouraging 10pc of visitors and 20pc of local people to visit a heritage site or cultural activity it would bring in over £22m to the local economy each year.
It is estimated that a third of that money would go to the venues with two thirds spent in restaurants, shops or on travel.
The conference also heard from John Knell who is producing a strategy for arts and culture for the local authority.
He noted the poor approach from the railway station to the town centre, the poor state of many of the buildings and the large number of empty shops.
However he went on to recognise the “fantastic” heritage assets like South Quay, the Minster, the town walls, Nelson’s Monument, the Roman fort at Burgh Castle, the many fine churches, libraries, theatres and the Broads.
The number of festivals including Out There, the Maritime Festival and the Arts Festival were also applauded for adding to the cultural character of the town alongside the wealth of public gardens and fantastic sandy beaches.
One speaker said that culture promoted well-being and brought people together and needed to be supported and encouraged.
Investment in King Street, headlined by a transformed St George’s Theatre, was praised helping to nurture the burgeoning cultural quarter.
It was also being bolstered by a £1.6m development at the Drill House, the headquarters of Seachange Arts.
However a lack of evening entertainment was also flagged up as a problem when it came to “building the scene.”
The conference is set to become an annual event.