The Yarmouth Archaeological Map

Lecture by Ken Hamilton, Norfolk Landscape Archaeology

Ken Hamilton is an archaeological planning officer for Norfolk and gave a fascinating talk about Great Yarmouth which is, in some ways, the mirror image of Kings Lynn.

Map of Great Yarmouth 1797  by Faden The town of Great Yarmouth was founded between 900 and 1000AD and was once one of the most important towns in England. In 1334 the tax revenue for the town was the 5th largest in the kingdom and it had a population of about 5,000. The town walls are very well preserved and some 70% of them are still viewable. Despite this, very little excavation has taken place within the walls.

Great Yarmouth was a riverside town until the middle of the 19th century (when development increased, and stretched from the town walls to the sea front). It was a centre for the herring trade and in medieval times almost a quarter of the city was open ground which was used for the annual great herring fair which lasted just two weeks.

Photograph of The Rows The layout of Great Yarmouth differed from most English towns: Its houses did not face onto the main thoroughfares but onto a series of very narrow lanes called 'The Rows'. These were at right angles to the main streets. The Rows were largely demolished by the Ministry of Works after the Second World War as part of the slum clearance program (although the blame for losing this part of our heritage was mainly placed on German bombing).

Constructing the Great Yarmouth Archaeological Map took two years. It would have been too expensive to use conventional excavation to explore the archaeology of the town so an alternative approach was needed. The group decided that they might be able to gather sufficient archaeological information by drilling a series of bore-holes, which would measure the depth of archaeological stratigraphy at a number of points in the town. This type of exploration had never been attempted in an urban area before.

Drill set up in Gt Yarmouth In total some 144 bore-holes where drilled in the town. By careful planning, they were able to drill in selected positions throughout the town, with each bore-hole no more than 50m from a neighbour. Each borehole yielded a number of one-metre cores and these were carefully extracted and examined in the project office. Drilling continued down to the marine deposits, which were normally no more than 5m below the ground surface.

When the survey was complete, the stratigraphy between the bore-holes was interpolated and a series of maps constructed. The model was tested by another series of 30 bore-holes to determine the accuracy to the calculated results. The project team was very pleased that the calculated results were accurate to within 0.5m of actual stratigraphy of the test bore-holes.

Although the results have yet to be formally published it is likely that this technique could be constructively used in other parts of the UK as it can yield results that can be used for town planning within a modest budget.

More information about this project can be found Project Website and also the Norfolk Museums Site

Lecture Programme

The program of lectures for the next season can now be found under the 'Lectures' tab above.

Kettlewell Lane

Socially distanced visit and picnic

A successful picnic/guided visit to Kettlewell Lane and Littleport Street occurred on the first Sunday in October. But, at present no further events are organised.

WNKLAS In The News

The society has been in the local Newspapers recently in coverage of the conference to celebrate our 50year anniversary and also the presentation to John Smallwood one of the founders.

Press Article


King John's Treasure

The society's investigation of a local farm contributed to a programme made for US television as part of the Expedition Unknown series. This systematic survey of an area that was a likely route for the Royal Treasure was also the subject of a recent lecture evening.

More Information

The TV Programmes