The Potteries museum in Great Yarmouth preparing for its final firing

Owners Karen and Ernie Childs at work at the Great Yarmouth Pottery which they are closing as they r

Owners Karen and Ernie Childs at work at the Great Yarmouth Pottery which they are closing as they retire. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

One of Norfolk's quirkiest and best-loved museums is being dismantled in the new year as its owners retire.

Owner Ernie Childs hard at work at the Great Yarmouth Pottery which is closing as Ernie and his wife

Owner Ernie Childs hard at work at the Great Yarmouth Pottery which is closing as Ernie and his wife Karen retire. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Karen and Ernie Childs have been spinning yarns and turning pots from their curious workplace warren at the Potteries in Great Yarmouth for decades.

Steeped in herring heritage the Grade II* listed building in Blackfriars Road, hugging the Medieval town wall, will close its doors on December 20.

For the artisan couple it will mark the reluctant end of era.

Retirement means stripping back the unique attraction and studio to the way it was in 1981 when they took it over - a 16th century herring curing works made from wrecks and ships' timbers and empty since 1965.

Finding new homes for the seafaring hoard of fog horns, lamps, wheels, bells, fossils and anchors among many other treasures wont be easy.

And leaving the building which is as much personal as public representing a lifetime's passion will be a huge wrench.

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Ernie, 69, said he was 'pleased and honoured' to have moulded handfuls of clay into shiny souvenirs that have been shipped all over the world taking the Great Yarmouth name with them.

'I love my town and I love my building,' he said. 'I would like someone to come along and not destroy it. I figure if I take the stuff out and take me and Karen out they will have a clean sheet.

'I have to turn another corner and I will be doing books and all sorts of things. I have an enormous amount of stories that were told to me in my shadowy little cottage in the Rows and I want to get them down.'

Over the years thousands of tankards and trinkets have been produced by his kilns, most of the decorative scenes painted in large, vibrant oils with churning seas so real and rough you can almost hear the waves crashing.

The final firing will be for Hemsby lifeboat, a special order marking the independent service's 40th anniversary, Ernie having commemorated every milestone since its 10th.

The couple first set up in the South East Tower next door in 1979 but moved to the fish factory which still bears a smoky odour a few years later.

It meant room to expand, fewer breakages on the stairs, and a new chapter for the building which had been in the same family for five generations and never been anything else.

Bronze reliefs designed by Ernie are set in stone in towns at home and abroad of which he is justly proud.

'It is about what you leave behind,' he said. 'We have made some brilliant things and it is nice for us to think our stuff is still on show.'

Karen, 66, said it had all been great fun but that she was ready to slow down and spend more time with their nine grandchildren.

The building has been on the market for three years.

The Potteries is open on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, and will be decked out ready to host its popular Christmas cuppas from December 10.

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