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Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009
Great Yarmouth's history on film
A nostalgic Yarmouth street scene
Great Yarmouth in days gone by is being relived in a DVD

Great Yarmouth has been captured on DVD, showing the development of its fishing and tourist industries.

Yarmouth In Days Gone By, collated by the East Anglian Film Archive, depicts footage going back to the 19th Century.

"Some of the oldest film we have in our entire archive is from Great Yarmouth," said Andrew Gray from the East Anglian Film Archive.

Footage includes a steam paddle tug trawler leaving Yarmouth harbour back in 1896.

Fishing heritage

Much of the film footage collated for the DVD shows life in Yarmouth around the time of its thriving herring industry.

Many fishing ladies were shipped down from Scotland to work in the Yarmouth fishing ports, where they gutted herring for a living.

Andrew said: "I don't know how anybody could have done their job with the smell and just gutting fish every second of the day."

"But they came down, they did it and went back with a few pennies in their pocket. They were always ready to come back the next season," he added.

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The fishing girls worked tirelessly in very harsh conditions.

Ashley said: "There used to be rows and rows of them lined up taking the fish, gutting them, sticking it away and singing. They used to gut one every second."

"They used to cut their hands and fingers regularly, so they were constantly wearing bandages.

"To heal their wounds, they used to put them in barrels of salt - you had to be pretty tough to put up with that on a day to day basis."

The fishing industry, which started in the resort during the Middle Ages, was the heart and soul of Yarmouth.

"The herring industry gave the docks a whole kind of an engine. There was a lot of life and muscle," said Ashley.

"All the girls used to sing, there was a man ringing a bell to tell people to come to auction, boys were always running around by the quay and buckets were being thrown across from the ships.

"It eventually all had to disappear."

Changing tastes and over-fishing meant that Yarmouth had to eventually wave goodbye to part of its heritage.

Herring meant big business in Yarmouth
Catching herring meant big business in Great Yarmouth

Andrew said: "It left a huge void when the industry left. I think it's something that people miss, but it declined because people's tastes changed."

"Refrigerators and freezers became common place in the middle of the 20th Century and people wanted a wider choice. There was also a lot of over-fishing and it left its mark - suddenly it was gone.

"In the 1950s the herring had a bit of resurgence, but by the mid 1960s, the industry had almost vanished."

A town's diversification

As the fishing industry declined, Great Yarmouth had to ensure it benefitted from its seaside location to draw in money from another source.

"We assume that Yarmouth has declined as a holiday destination in 2009, but I read a statistic in January that said it's still one of the most popular holiday destinations in the UK," said Andrew.

"I think because the herring industry went, people assumed that everything else went, but that's very untrue," he added.

The East Anglian Film Archive has rediscovered footage taken from premier attractions at Great Yarmouth.

Yarmouth beach in the 1920s
Great Yarmouth beach was a haven of activity in the 1920s

"We have some lovely holiday footage from the 1950s that's got Tommy Cooper and Ruby Murray going around the ice skating rink. For a lot of people, I think it will bring back a lot of memories," said Andrew.

A lot of the greats spent time in Great Yarmouth performing during the holiday season.

Ashley said: "I still understand the Britannia Theatre is attracting all these famous people even in 2009. It's fascinating to look back and see how many stars did come to Yarmouth in the past."

"During the holiday peak, we have some film with Great Yarmouth railway station during the 1950s and the crowds are packed through.

"There's a sign stating 'Can people please queue in the goods yard', because there were so many people coming over to the resort from the midlands."

A reminiscing success

The DVD of Yarmouth released by the East Anglian Film Archive has seen insatiable demand.

The Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth
The Britannia Pier has hosted many big names through the years

Andrew said: "Everything about this production has been a surprise. The first is that there was enough film to do it, but the second has been the response. It's become our best selling production ever."

"It's really struck a chord with people in Yarmouth. I think because Yarmouth is going through a lot of change in 2009, people are looking back and seeing what it all used to be like. There's just incredible demand," he added.



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