This plan or picture map of Great Yarmouth is from the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). According to the Norfolk Record Office (pdf),

It shows the town’s defences at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Its depiction of the town’s layout is not wholly accurate (the streets, for example, were laid out in a grid-like pattern), but the marketplace and St Nicholas’s Church are easily identifiable.

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(click on image to enlarge) This image is taken from the British Library site which gives c.1585 as the date and refers only to "proposed harbour works". Source: British Library.

Daniel Defoe gave a description of Great Yarmouth in his A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain (1724-27) but does not seem to mention No.2 so maybe these had disappeared by then (?).

  • What are people with the large 'wheel' doing (blue number 1)?

  • What are the structures (blue numbers 2)?

Note: In case anyone is curious, the ship with the flag with black and white horizontal stripes would appear to be from the Belgian commune of Waimes

  • (2) might be related to salt or some variation of Garum production. Another possibility is it being tannery (as is still done in Fez) or simply lavoir related. Had they been vertical they could also have been dovecotes. Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 16:45
  • I suspect that the workers by the Southgate are digging a shallow water well. The wheel could help evacuate earth and then retrieve the digger. Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 16:47
  • Your hunch about them being fish traps might also be correct. Anecdotally, I'd go fishing crab and shrimps in man-made basins as a child during summers. Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 16:50
  • Could number 1 possibly be a trebuchet?
    – lukkea
    Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 20:23
  • The 2's are both at navigational pinch points and look like defensive fortifications to me. They are not there now tho: google.com/maps/place/Great+Yarmouth,+UK/…
    – AllInOne
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


There is a bigger version of this map here: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/unvbrit/g/zoomify82848.html

No.1 is a wheel with a crank on it and the two men appear to be holding a cable so perhaps it's used to pull boats down that canal.

No.2 is almost certainly some kind of sea defence. It doesn't have guns on it so could be like a sea wall, designed to protect the entrance of the estuary from erosion. The stand alone one on the river is possibly a wall to protect ships at anchor near Little Yarmouth. The black could indicate infill of rocks or dirt.

What's also interesting is the crane near the bridge. I guess this has a practical purpose but it appears that it's being used here to entertain people with a person being hoisted into the air while others run around the base.

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