Great Yarmouth was one of Europe’s principal industrial fishing ports of the late nineteenth century, and also one of the most prosperous of the English seaside resorts that benefited from the opening of main line railways. The town was laid out in the middle ages and large parts of the town walls survive.
Great Yarmouth is exceptionally rich in monuments of its development as a resort. Housing and hotels were developed in the mid-nineteenth century by the Victoria Building Society, established in 1841. The Wellington Arch, which survives, marks the entrance to their estate. The development of the resort in the late nineteenth century was largely due to the initiative of J. W. Nightingale, a London entrepreneur who opened the 125-bedroom Queen’s Hotel (now the New Beach Hotel) in 1880-5. In 1902 he constructed a new 79 m long Britannia Pier. He also bought the Aquarium (now the Hollywood cinema) which had opened in 1895.
In 1897 George Barron opened the Jubilee Exhibition, named after the sixtieth anniversary of the accession of Queen Victoria. It included rifle ranges, the fortune-tellers’ booths, and slot machines, which were his speciality. After a fire in 1901 he acquired adjacent properties and built the Paradium, an amusement arcade, now known as Barrons. After another fire, the Goode Brothers replaced their dancing academy with the terracotta-clad Goode’s Hotel (now Caesar’s Palace) and two arcades of small shops in 1902-4. The resort also has two early purpose-built cinemas, the former ‘Gem’ of 1908, and the ‘Empire’ of 1911, both clad in terracotta.
The growth of Great Yarmouth also owed something to the town council, which electrified the tram system in 1906, and built a new Wellington Pier, replacing that constructed by the Victoria Building Society, in 1903.