New book solves mystery of where Yarmouth’s 7,000 plague dead were buried

Impression of Great Yarmouth's south wall circa 16th century, approaching the town from the South De

Impression of Great Yarmouth's south wall circa 16th century, approaching the town from the South Denes, and entering through South Gate. Originally, and during times of invasion, there were no buildings outside the town wall, except for Lazar houses, intended to hospitalise and keep infected people out of the enclosed town. - Credit: Archant

Ever wondered why Great Yarmouth's famous rows were built?

Great Yarmouth circa 15th ~ 16th century. An impression viewed approximately 1 mile from Yarmouth on

Great Yarmouth circa 15th ~ 16th century. An impression viewed approximately 1 mile from Yarmouth on the Old Norwich Road, now Caister Road. - Credit: Archant

Or where the 7,000 people who died in a 14th century plague were buried?

A Great Yarmouth man has uncovered the answers to some of the town's historic mysteries in a new book.

Paul Patterson, 65, has recently published the second volume of 'The Great Wall of Yarmouth'. The first volume, published last year, investigated the town's old wall and towers.

'When I finished after years of surveying the old town wall and recreating the gates, I had uncovered more than I expected about the town,' Mr Patterson said. 'A lot of the big questions about the town were answered.'

In the month of April, 1349, Great Yarmouth witnessed the first signs of the plague. Illustration sh

In the month of April, 1349, Great Yarmouth witnessed the first signs of the plague. Illustration shows a Yarmouth Row dwelling, with the occupants suffering from the plague visited by the town’s Friars. - Credit: Archant


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One question is how Yarmouth ended up with its famous rows.

Mr Patterson explained his interpretation.

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In 1324, King Henry III gave permission to the town's bailiffs to build a wall. They collected money from merchants to do the work, but one year later the wall had not been started and the king reclaimed the money.

The question is, Mr Patterson asked, what was Yarmouth doing?

Paul Patterson, 65, is the independent community representative of the Great Yarmouth Preservation T

Paul Patterson, 65, is the independent community representative of the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust. - Credit: Archant

'Why did they defy the king and for the next 24 years not do anything?'

The author said that the bailiffs had 'shot themselves in the foot'.

'They didn't know where to build the wall. Because it was an island, the wall could not be built around the town,' he said.

At the time, Yarmouth was a fishing village with its population spread all over the island.

Mr Patterson has speculated that the only structurally sound place to build the wall was down the centre of the island, because the foundations had to be ten feet deep.

'This meant the town had to be completely re-organised,' he said.

Houses both inside and outside the planned walls had to be demolished.

By 1348, most of the wall had been built - the only incomplete section was between St Nicholas Church and the river. However, in 1349, a plague killed three-quarters of the population.

Another question is what happened to the 7,000 people who died in the plague.

Mr Patterson said that the only place the plague pit could be is 'near St Nicholas' Church'.

The book, which details the author's versions of the answers to Great Yarmouth's secrets, is available at W.H. Smith and Cobholm Miniatures on Broad Row, as well as the City Bookshop and Jarrolds in Norwich.

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