The Percy Trett Photographic Archive

A view of life in Great Yarmouth from the 1860s to the 1980s

By Time and Tide Museum

Percy Trett (1976-12-23) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Percy Trett 1926-2012

Percy George Wyand Trett was a skilled mechanic and owned a garage in Great Yarmouth from just after the Second World War until he retired in 2010 aged 84, at the time the country’s oldest MOT tester. Percy was a long-established naturalist, wildfowler, local historian and magistrate. He wrote a nature column in the Eastern Daily Press for over 25 years and had known, Arthur Patterson, Philip Rumbelow and Ted Ellis.

During the late 1960's, he began to take an interest in the town's history and started to photograph almost every road and street in the area where he lived. During the 1970's and into the early 1980's, this expanded into the rows, the riverside and into Gorleston and the surrounding villages. His large collection of photographs of the town were donated to Time and Tide Museum by his family in 2013. This collection contained over 5,000 images of the town, including images collected by Percy, some dating back to the 1860's.

Yarmouth from the Tower (1897/1920) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

The following collection of historic images of Great Yarmouth sheds lights on a few stories about life in Great Yarmouth over the 120 years the Percy Trett archive covers. It acts as a celebration of Great Yarmouth divided into sections covering a variety of content in the archive including; work, leisure, community life and architecture.

Chimney Sweep G.Perrin of Row 45 (1890/1930) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Work

Many of the images from the Percy Trett photographic archive depict Great Yarmouth at work. The manufacturing industry, retail, services and tourism are all well represented as well of course as the fishing industry.

Scottish Fisher Girls (1900/1920) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

The fisher girls stood on the quayside, often in cold miserable conditions to gut, salt and pack fish into barrels. They were a familiar sight until the 1960’s when the herring industry declined.

Lacon's Brewery Archway (1971-05-20) by Percy TrettTime and Tide Museum

Many products have been stamped ‘Made in Great Yarmouth’, however, few more iconic than Lacons beer. The entrance to their brewery is featured here and was photographed by Percy Trett in 1971, 3 years after the brewery closed. However, this tale has a happy ending. Lacons were re-launched in 2013 and are once again a thriving brewery, manufacturing award winning beer. In March 2020 in response to the closure of public houses caused by the coronavirus outbreak Lacon’s gave away 20,000 pints of beer to the people of Great Yarmouth in 4 pint cartons.

Palmer's Store (1971-05-06) by Percy TrettTime and Tide Museum

Palmer’s became victim of a nationwide pattern of declining High Street sales & closed their doors for the final time in March 2020, ending 183 years of trading.

Fire at Clarke's Mill (1928-06) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Great Yarmouth fire service have been kept busy over the years judging by the images captured in this archive. The Britannia Pier caught fire no fewer than four times in under 50 years (1909, 1914, 1932 and 1954). In the same period there were also major fires at Clarke's Flour Mill (1905 and 1928), Arnold's Department store (1919), Jewsons Timber Yard (1928) and bombing raids during two World Wars that severely damaged among other buildings The Tolhouse and St Nicholas Church.

Fire on Regent Road (1970/1980) by Percy TrettTime and Tide Museum

A fire at the Billiard Hall on Regent Road in February 1973. Percy Trett was out walking and spotted smoke coming from the Billiard Hall and was able to take a series of images.

Dancing in Pier Gardens (1930/1939) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Leisure

For many, Great Yarmouth represents entertainment and having fun. Some of the best images in the Trett archive capture this side of the town. The beach, seafront and amusements are well represented, so too are the many images of Yarmouth's, shops, restaurants and public houses.  

Central Beach (1895) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

We continue to flock to the beach in huge numbers every summer to relax and for a dip in the sea. Great Yarmouth has been used to such an influx of visitors since it was linked to the main railway network in 1844 with an estimated 80,000 people visiting every summer by rail alone. Steam paddle ships brought further crowds of visitors up the coast line from London.

Bathing Machines on the Beach (1901-09-05) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

This strange wheeled contraption is a bathing machine. Victorian moral codes dictated anybody wishing to go for dip in the sea, should protect their modesty by changing inside and be wheeled into the sea.

Entrance to Pleasure Beach (1950/1959) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Like any typical seaside resort Great Yarmouth has it's fair share of amusements including two piers, numerous video arcades and opportunities all along the seafront to engage in games and fun. However no trip to Great Yarmouth could be complete without a visit to the Pleasure Beach captured here in the 1950s. It had opened in 1909 consisting at first of a scenic railway and has evolved and grown over the years into a large visitor attraction.

Christmas Day Swimmers (1894-12-25) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Community: The sense of Great Yarmouth as a community is evident throughout so many of the images in this archive, like this of Christmas day swimmers shortly before they take the plunge in 1894. Depictions of people and events and examples of political and religious life are featured on the following pages.

Suffragettes Canvasing in Market Place (1908) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Image of Suffragettes canvassing in Great Yarmouth Market Place, flying the violet, white and green tricolour adopted as a symbol of the movement in 1908. More direct action was taken in 1914 when a fire at the Britannia Pier was blamed on the The Women's Social and Political Union, they were also accused of starting a fire in a timber yard the year before. After the fire at the pier Suffragette literature was found declaring 'We can show no mercy until women are enfranchised'. The Suffragettes partially achieved their aims in 1918 with 8.4 million married women were enfranchised, but did not secure equal voting rights to men until 1928.

Mourning the Death of Queen Victoria (1901) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Events: Queen Victoria's incredible reign which started in 1837 finally came to an end with her death in January 1901. Here we see a crowd of people mourning her death in Great Yarmouth Market Place.

Sarah Martin Window (1900/1942) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Religion

This is the Sarah Martin window from St Nicholas Church in Great Yarmouth. It was installed in 1852, but was destroyed when St Nicholas Church took a direct hit during a bombing raid in 1942. Sarah Martin was a poor dressmaker from Caister. She began visiting the Tolhouse gaol in 1818 and was shocked to see the squalid conditions. Inspired by her religious beliefs she started leading services for the prisoners, taught them practical skills and even helped find them work upon their release. Her charity was not limited to those in the Tolhouse gaol. She also taught poor children in Yarmouth workhouse and provided lessons to poor factory girls at St Nicholas Church. Following her death in 1843 a subscription was raised in order to pay for this window to be installed at St Nicholas Church. 

The Tolhouse (1890/1910) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Buildings and Architecture

A stroll around the streets of Great Yarmouth provides endless opportunity to view examples of the towns past prosperity and wealth. The archive clearly documents many of the towns important buildings, but it also documents the changing landscape of Great Yarmouth including a record of the famous Rows before they incurred such great damage during the Second World War. 

Photograph (1941-04) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

The proximity of Great Yarmouth to continental Europe made it a target during both World Wars. The town suffered attacks by Zeppelin during World War 1 and more extensive damage during World War 2.

Nelson's Monument (1880/1910) by UnknownTime and Tide Museum

Landmarks: It is in Great Yarmouth Horatio Nelson is reputed to have said 'I am a Norfolk man and glory in being so'. The column is topped by a statue of Britannia, but does not look out to sea as one might expect a monument for a sailor to do. Instead it is across Nelson's County of Norfolk that Britannia looks towards Nelson's birthplace of Burnham Thorpe.

Blackfriars Tower (1972-03-30) by Percy TrettTime and Tide Museum

Great Yarmouth Town Walls were finally completed in 1391 after having been granted permission to build them by King Henry III in 1261. Many sections survive today including Blackfriars Tower captured here by Percy Trett in March 1972. The image shows the second stage of demolition work to clear the walls of derelict buildings including J.W Balls grocer’s on the right hand side. The built environment continues to evolve and change, but the tower remains in the same place it has stood for over 600 years.

Credits: Story

Time and Tide Museum
Great Yarmouth

Norfolk Museums Service
Norfolk County Council

Wayne Kett, Curator

Text for Percy Trett biography written by Peter Allard.

With thanks to Percy Trett for assembling this fantastic archive and his family for their kind donation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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