Time and Tide, the Museum of Great Yarmouth Life, occupies the premises of the former Tower Fish Curing Works. The works closed in 1988 and in the following year it was first suggested that the building would be an appropriate location for a museum to tell the story of Great Yarmouth and its herring industry. The aroma of herring still lingers in the museum´s buildings, providing a unique experience.
The site was purchased in 1988 and £4.7 million was spent in converting the former curing works into a museum and installing the displays. After two years of work on the project it opened in July 2004.
Brief history of the site
The Tower Curing Works is a symbol to the local community of the one-time importance of the herring industry and the employment it provided. It dates from the period of fast growth in the herring fishing industry during the nineteenth century.
Used primarily for non-mechanised fish processing, this complex of industrial buildings has been designated a Scheduled Monument. Containing important industrial archaeology, its an almost unique survival of a curing operation once commonplace in the town.
The buildings emotively illustrate the way the curing process was carried out and the large scale of fish processing at this site. The external wall surfaces bear the evidence of now demolished buildings and the various blocked and altered openings contribute to the special character and ambience of the site. There is much documentary information on the building and its changing form.
The herring industry
Herring had always featured in the stable diet of countries bordering the North Sea and Baltic and was a cheap alternative to meat. Pickled (salted) herrings were regularly exported to the Baltic countries from the medieval period onwards. The curing process itself is usually credited to the Dutchman William Beukels in 1386, gutting the fish before packing in barrels between layers of salt.
The British took over leadership of the industry from the Dutch in the 18th century. By the 1860´s pickled herrings were being sent regularly to the Mediterranean. Most of the exports from the Tower Curing Works went to Italy. Two types of cured herring were produced. Bloaters are ungutted and gently smoked fish that are less oily than kippers, which have been gutted and smoked in the traditional way.
Herring stocks collapsed in the 1950’s and 1960’s due to over fishing resulting in the disposal of the fishing fleets and considerable local unemployment. “Lydia Eva”, the last remaining steam drifter designed for herring fishing, is currently undergoing restoration in Lowestoft, Suffolk.