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St Nicholas Church Great Yarmouth.jpg

Parish History

Great Yarmouth St Nicholas is an ancient parish in the Diocese of Norwich.

St Nicholas' Church and Priory was founded by Herbert de Losinga (Bishop of Norwich) in 1101 as a penance for an act of simony. It is the largest parish church England and arguably the oldest building in Great Yarmouth. The church now houses a free heritage exhibition showing its role in the history of Yarmouth.

During the Medieval period the church was at its most magnificent with stained glass, tapestries, painted and gilded walls, frescos,19 guild chapels, various relics of the saints and ornate furnishings. At this time Great Yarmouth was the fourth richest town in England. The interior was destroyed at the Reformation and the Priory dissolved.

In 1649 the church was divided into three parts as the Puritans, who were now in the ascendancy, demanded use of the building as their church. The arches were bricked up (two feet thickness) on the north side of the nave, the eastern side of the transepts and the eastern side of the tower. The three portions of the church were used by the Anglican Church (south aisle), the Puritans led by Rev. Bridge (the chancel, which they fitted up as a church house) and the Presbyterians (the north aisle). A new door to the chancel destroyed the altar tomb of Thomas Crowmer (Bailiff of Yarmouth 1470-97). The mutilation of this tomb was contrary to the Act of Parliament of 1644, which allowed the demolition of monuments of idolatry and superstition, but not monuments to dead people, unless they were deemed to be saints. The windows in the east end were filled up with bricks. The north aisle was used by the local militia as a drill hall when the weather was wet. All the three denominations held their services simultaneously. The alterations to the church were paid out of a rate levied on the townspeople. At the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 the Puritans were ejected from the church. The bricked up arches put up by the Independents and the Presbyterians were not taken down until the restoration of 1859-64 when the church became undivided for the first time in about 200 years.

The church gradually declined, the fabric deteriorated and the chancel collapsed. It was the Victorians who mounted several large and expensive restoration schemes and by 1905 the church had been completely renovated.

In 1942 the church was completely gutted during a German air raid leaving only the Norman tower and the walls standing.

With the aid of a War Damage Commission grant and fund raising by local people and businesses the church was rebuilt (architect - Stephen Dykes Bower).

The Church was reconsecrated in 1961 by the Bishop of Norwich. Additional information and pictures are available at Norfolk Churches.


Civil Registration

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is Free BMD.

Church records

Contributor: Include here information for parish registers, Bishop’s Transcripts, non conformist and other types of church records, such as parish chest records. Add the contact information for the office holding the original records. Add links to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection

Images of the parish register for this parish are available on Record Search
Norfolk Record Office reference PD 28/1-44, 55, 59, 63-110, 136-156

England Vital Records Index (FamilySearch Historical Records) known issue The data in Indexing Project Batch number C01755-8 System Origin England EASy Source film number 1526328 has an incorrect place data entry field For Eardon Northumberland in respect of Baptisms for St Nicholas Great Yarmouth.

Baptisms 1769-1833 Burials 1769-1806

This known issue awaits correction when the parish is re-indexed by the FamilySearch Indexing partner project for Norfolk Parishes.

Cemetery Records

  • Mounumental Inscriptions for St. Nicholas churchyard is held by the Great Yarmouth Library and this includes many headstones that have since been cleared away. There is one microfilm of this cemetery done in 1845 by Dawson Turner available through the Family History Library, it is film # 1441046 Item # 4.
  • The Market Gates Cemetery was used mainly by NonConformaists. The copy of the burial register covering 1828-1864 is on microfilm at the Norfolk Record Office.
  • Cemeteries were established after 1856 and the burial registers for those cemeteries in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Caister-On-Sea are on fiche at the Norfolk Record Office down to 1987 with the original registers located in the Great Yarmouth Town Hall.

Census records


Census records from 1841 to 1911 are available online. For access, see England Census Records and Indexes Online. Census records from 1841 to 1891 are also available on film through a Family History Center or at the Family History Library. The first film number is 438872.

Poor Law Unions


Norfolk Poor Law Unions

Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Norfolk Probate Jurisdictions Parishes G through H

Maps and Gazetteers

Maps are a visual look at the locations in England. Gazetteers contain brief summaries about a place.

England Jurisdictions 1851

Web sites

Great Yarmouth Borough Council 


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