Book looks at Great Yarmouth’s 19th century forgotten entertainment acts

The book cover.

The book cover.

It is a resort that sees large crowds of people enjoy the summer weather, its sandy beach and a wide range of attractions and amusements every year.

Playbill for Thurton's Odd Folks - appeared several times from 1862 to 1885

Playbill for Thurton's Odd Folks - appeared several times from 1862 to 1885

And now a new book is casting a fresh glance at Great Yarmouth's entertainment past, including crowds gawping at General Tom Thumb.

Local historian Gareth H H Davies has written Forgotten Yarmouth Entertainments: Reflections of popular culture in a 19th seaside resort.

It looks at how the resort in the 19th century brought local, national and international entertainers and acts to the town.

The book covers international stars, such as the diminutive Charles S Stratton, known as General Tom Thumb, and entertainers such as Charles Marsh, an itinerant beach performer.

Charles Sherwood Stratton was the four year old son of a Bridgeport, Connecticut, carpenter in 1842

Charles Sherwood Stratton was the four year old son of a Bridgeport, Connecticut, carpenter in 1842 when P.T. Barnum "discovered" him and transformed him into General Tom Thumb, an eleven-year old European marvel.

Also featured is boxing star Jem Mace, 1870 world heavy weight boxing champion.

Mr Davies said: 'One of my favourite performers in the book is John Thurton Smith, a ventriloquist and mimic from Woodbridge.

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'He would have been the 19th century's equivalent of Peter Kay or Brendan O'Carroll.

'His one-man routine called, Thurton's Odd Folks, showed local characters in situations and conversations that go wrong.'

Jem Mace, prizefighter

Jem Mace, prizefighter - Credit: Archant

The book will be launched at the Great Yarmouth Author Fair which is taking place at Christchurch in King Street on Saturday, June 17 from 10am to 5pm.

Mr Davies said: 'All of us have recollections of seaside holidays and the entertainments and entertainers that amused us.

'It was no different in the 19th century, but inevitably, the performers and types of entertainment that took place over 100 years ago are no longer remembered.

'In some respects, what amuses us today also amused the Victorians, however some popular entertainment would be regarded as highly derogatory in modern times.'

Sport -- Boxing
Picture of Norwich boxing legend Jem Mace (1831-1910)
Dated -- Date not known

Sport -- Boxing Picture of Norwich boxing legend Jem Mace (1831-1910) Dated -- Date not known Photograph -- c8568 - Credit: Archant

Once launched, Forgotten Yarmouth Entertainments: Reflections of popular culture in a 19th seaside resort will be available from the Local History Information Centre, Cobholm Miniatures, Broad Row, Yarmouth and from Amazon.

Mr Davies is the author of several books including The Fall of Yarmouth Suspension Bridge: A Norfolk Disaster.

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