The hidden history inside the Yarmouth Hutch

The Yarmouth Hutch contains archive material from the borough's civic history. Photo: George Ryan

The Yarmouth Hutch contains archive material from the borough's civic history. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

A researcher has shone fresh light on a town's identity and history.

The Yarmouth Hutch contains archive material from the borough's civic history. Photo: George Ryan

The Yarmouth Hutch contains archive material from the borough's civic history. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

Inside an anonymous yet imposing looking trunk displayed in Great Yarmouth Town Hall are documents that help build up a civic history dating to the fourteenth century.

Durham University history professor Andy Wood took interest in the collection and recently published a paper in the Past and Present journal called Tales From The 'Yarmouth Hutch'.

'This article tries to capture some of the ways in which an archive sustained certain stories and how it frustrated others,' he said.

The Hutch contains a detailed sense of Yarmouth's past that reached back to the fourteenth century and features legal papers, charters and maps.


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Mr Wood said that the hutch's contents helped Yarmouth's governors when it came to disputes about their powers, as they had documentary evidence to point to if they were ever questioned.

From the archive material came two seminal histories of Yarmouth, the first from Thomas Damet written between 1594-9 and then by Henry Manship in 1619.

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Mr Damet's story had three themes: Yarmouth's struggle with the sea, its legal conflicts, and its financial relationship with the Crown.

He told the story of a loyal, hard-working people struggling foreign navies, violent rebels, difficult neighbours and a harsh environment.

Mr Manship's work appreciated the documents in the context the time and, as Mr Wood explained: 'Manship envisaged a role for the hutch not only in the successful defence of the town's rights, but also in the maintenance of a distinctly urban political culture.'

The man himself is described in Mr Wood's essay as 'a disputatious man, caught up in the factional struggles amongst the governors of early Stuart Yarmouth.'

He reputedly despised Thomas Damet, who he called a 'dunce' and a 'sheep'. However once this insult circulated Mr Manship was expelled from the common council.

His summary of the contents of the trunk was part of his attempts to regain favour with the ruling circles.

Mr Wood said that Mr Manship would have been pleased to find that his 1619 history of Yarmouth cast Damet's work in the shadow.

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