Yarmouth was a town consisting of two major sections, Great and Little Yarmouth. The founder of Yarmouth is believed to be a man named Cedric, who was a Saxon leader, but people still doubt this to this very day. One of the main reasons for the foundation of Yarmouth is the Herring, a fish that was very healthy to eat, and especially important to the lower classes because it was cheap and readily available. Fishing was a very important part of their society. The seal of the town of Yarmouth has everything to do with fishing, including a Herring boat and a picture of St. Nicholas. Yarmouth consists of several rivers, which was important for its economy. All of the rivers flow into a big estuary, which then flowed into the ocean. Two main features of Yarmouth, were its port and marketplace. Another major function of this town is silting, which developed from a huge sandbank formed over a long period of time. The sandbank became strong enough to become a place for the salting and smoking of Herring, and a great dock for boats. This attracted many fisherman from all over the continent, including the Clique Port fishermen. After awhile silting became very useless and migration began to occur towards the south part of the town.
In the royal domain, Yarmouth was known as a borough, in which they had to pay “every third penny” of revenues to the Earl. Yarmouth was a very small town compared to others in the region. According to the Doomsday survey, it had at least seventy burgesses by ten sixty six. Yarmouth was known as a frontier town due to its lack of role of administration in the area. In addition, the king never set up anything financially significant in Yarmouth.
There was one church in Yarmouth, St. Nicholas’s Church, which was dedicated to St. Benedict. It was founded by the Bishop of Norwich. The Church became a major attraction to townspeople. Another marketplace was built shortly after the church. Due to the migration and construction, the town wall was expanded around the Church. Another significant building, St. Mary’s Hospital was soon built, and covered up a large portion of the East Side of the town.
For centuries , government was a huge problem for Yarmouth, resulting in many changes of power. The town started out with a Reeve, which was an official appointed by the King. Shortly thereafter, the king granted the town their first self-administration. A royal charter was granted, which included conditions such as: “free borough”,and “the right to choose your executive officer of your local government”.
The town was divided into four main sections, therefore, four bailiffs were appointed who were elected annually. Despite these changes, government became conflicted, resulting in violence, and formation of a town council to assist the bailiffs. In response to the conflict, officers responsible for the borough treasury, also know as the “pyx”, were created. Balance of power soon shifted from democracy to oligarchy, and bailiffs were downsized. A second council was created featuring a Chamberlain, whose main responsibility was finances, and a water bailiff, who collected the bills.
Originally the meeting place for the administration was the Toll house. It was too small and a second “common hall” was built to replace it. The borough court presided each Monday to deal with pleas, but soon extra days were added for special occasions. One day a year was set out for Leers to present various suggestion to help the town, including annual fairs.
Conflicts emerged between the Yarmouth and Clique ports administrations . The conflicts were caused in part because the King granted Clique the ability to administer justice in cases involving their own townsmen. In Twelve Seventy Seven, king Edward the First had a plan to compromise power between the groups by making a shared jurisdiction. This attempt failed, as well as many different interventions during the reign of Kind Edward. In addition, a deadly fight broke out between the two towns, resulting in many lost ships. The fairs had to be regulated, hoping to supervise the sales of goods during this time. Soon new conflicts prevailed as Clique complained to the King about new regulations, and that Yarmouth had control over the fishing areas. Problems with France pressed the communities to set aside some of the conflict for a short period of time, but soon that problem was resolved.
Yarmouth, then had yet another problem. The inhabitants that lived by the harbor area were avoiding payments and were getting very disrespectful to the King’s rules. In response to the disobedience, the King annexed the area of loading and unloading cargoes, and taxed the town for jurisdiction. Parliament unsuccessfully tried to take away the annexation. This Medieval town spent many years trying to make a better authority, in which many charters were signed and many failed. Eventually, cargoes were allowed to be boarded back on the harbor area, but with strict rules.
Yarmouth consisted of three main streets: Northgate, Southgate, and Middlegate. Yarmouth was famous for its architectural rows, which were very narrow. Rows were named after many wealthy. As soon as rows were built, Yarmouth’s populations expanded, consisting of over five thousand people. Unlike streets, they were very slim passages, separating rows of peoples homes. Despite their small size, these rows managed to last throughout the Medieval times. The only reason they were destroyed was because of the Second World War.
Two architectural problems in Yarmouth were the cost of a harbor facility, because the people wanted it to be so big with boat docks all around, stores, and many more things. The second problem was construction: a very large wall surrounding the city for protection, including a wall and ditch at the opening of the town. Both propositions were very costly. The only way to raise money for these expenses was for the King to tax the town. Corruption soon followed as the townspeople were complaining of paying too much money, however the workers did not even begin to start to work. As a matter of fact, no work had begun on the walls of the city until about Twelve Eighty Five. That delay of construction brought a great threat of invasion from their rival France, and the King soon ordered for a faster paced work, but it took too long and the walls of defense were just too big to finish in a short amount of time. The walls were built poorly, and soon crumbled into pieces. Therefore the king made a new tax on the people and construction of the town’s defense began once again.
The safe harbor was also a huge problem. Due to too much silting, water was too shallow for boats to dock in, and therefore a new harbor had to be built in replace of it. Soon a new and bigger haven was built, with the expenses paid off from the money made from the sale of Herring in the town. Soon the King of England wanted yet another haven to be built in Yarmouth, which resulted in angry townsmen being taxed again, but this haven was built very well and lasted throughout the Medieval period.
Back then, with the advantage of the sea that Yarmouth had, it became a very popular site for shipbuilding, etc. Merchants came in this town trying to purchase boats, but the townsmen could have the right to all the fish that the brought had brought in. Yarmouth conflicted its economy trying to purchase Herring while they were still at sea, in an attempt to discourage out- of – towners from making deals. Parliament did its best to stop that, but it still went on.
Also, Yarmouth became an important maritime base, due to its defensive port. It became a great resource of ships to provide for other areas, carrying over forty ships, which was fifteen bigger then the next biggest town. But supplying ships for other people was unpopular in Yarmouth because of the fear of them being damaged at war, and a lot of times the boats required supplies to be brought with them, and the King was not ready to pay for any of that.
Another problem for Yarmouth was they were being accused of Piracy. An investigation was held and they found out at least thirty of Yarmouth’s ships had been involved in piratic activities.
In the later years of the middle ages, Yarmouth was in decline. Due to piracy, their ships being damaged, problems with silting, and the Black Death wiping out a large part of its population. Also, they became a rival with another town in England, Norwich. Norwich controlled the trade the exports of wool. Yarmouth fought for many years to get that back. When they finally did, they didn’t even care about it because they were profiting so much from smuggling goods and the exportation of cloth.
Yarmouth was surely a medieval town with problems, corruption, and a lot of ups and downs. It profited the most amount of money on Herring and became feared for its advantages of the sea. They had many problems with construction and was severely set back with the Black Death Plague. Yarmouth was surely a famous medieval town, but it surely wasn’t powerful and strong enough to be called one of the best!