8 facts about glorious Gorleston

Gorleston seafront (photo: Jamie Honeywood)

Gorleston seafront (photo: Jamie Honeywood) - Credit: Archant

It was once known as Little Yarmouth but it’s now Norfolk’s fifth biggest town, with a history as long as its beautiful (eighth best in Britain) beach

Gorleston seafront (photo: Jamie Honeywood)

Gorleston seafront (photo: Jamie Honeywood) - Credit: Archant

1. Best beach

It boasts three miles of golden sand, framed by a three-tier promenade and cliff gardens. Plus a new water-tastic splash pad for children with fountains and tipping buckets and ocean-themed play area, and sailing, boating, and bowling. There is a bandstand, pitch and putt, cafes, shops, seaside fun and a river, all part of the joys of Gorleston's glorious beach. It's so good that TripAdvisor named it the 8th best beach in Britain - and the only Norfolk entry in the top 10.

Holidaymakers and families enjoying Gorleston beach (photo: Denise Bradley)

Holidaymakers and families enjoying Gorleston beach (photo: Denise Bradley) - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

2. Little Yarmouth

Gorleston is what made Yarmouth great. At least, Yarmouth became known as Great Yarmouth to distinguish it from Gorleston, or Little Yarmouth. And Gorleston, or Gorleston-on-Sea, to give it its full name, is also great - the only places bigger in Norfolk are Norwich, Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Thetford. Until the 19th century Gorleston was actually in Suffolk - but saw the light and joined Norfolk.

St Andrew's Church, Gorleston (photo: James Bass)

St Andrew's Church, Gorleston (photo: James Bass) - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

3. The gull stones

One explanation for the name Gorleston is that it comes from an ancient Druid stone circle known as the "gull stones." Or perhaps they should be called the gullible stones as the story is believed to have been invented by a man called WE Randall, who edited the short-lived Gorleston and Southtown Magazine in 1831 - and also forged various supposedly historic documents.

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However, it's a good story, which suggests Druids once gathered at Gorleston to watch the midsummer sun rise out of the sea and illuminate a circle of 10 huge stones, each 10 feet high. The Gull Stones, Gorleston's answer to Stonehenge, were said to have remained standing in a field called Great Stone Close until 1768, when they were pulled down and used to make a harbour pier. Nearby were two more fields called Further Stone Close and Middle Stone Close. A road called Middlestone Close still exists, beside the A47 and a painting of the Gull Stones is said to have been shown at a meeting of the Yarmouth branch of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society in 1888.

Lily Pits, Gorleston (photo: Nick Butcher)

Lily Pits, Gorleston (photo: Nick Butcher) - Credit: Nick Butcher

4. Ghostly Gorleston

At midnight a phantom horse-drawn vehicle is said to thunder along the main road out towards Beccles, before plunging into a deep pond, once known as the Lily Pit, and disappearing beneath the water. Some say this is a mail coach which careered off the road. The pond itself is much older, and perhaps linked to the castle of an ancient chieftain. It attracts other ghosts and tragedies too, including that of a farm boy and his sweetheart. As he eloped with his master's daughter, she fell into the pond and drowned and he, devastated, hanged himself nearby.

The Gorleston Palace cinema (photo: Denise Bradley)

The Gorleston Palace cinema (photo: Denise Bradley) - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

5. Godly Gorleston

The Catholic church on Lowestoft Road is the only church ever designed by sculptor Eric Gill. It celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.

In the medieval parish church, treasures include an 800-year-old brass memorial to a knight. A magnificent hand-painted book was created for St Andrew's church, Gorleston, in around 1310.

The Gorleston Psalter, a collection of the psalms from the Bible, written in Latin and richly illustrated, was later used in Norwich Cathedral and eventually bequeathed from a private collection and can be seen in the British Library. In addition to whole-page richly beautiful illustrations around the initial letter of a psalm, it also includes smaller cartoon-like paintings including one showing a fox carrying away a goose in its mouth, with the goose protesting 'queck' in a speech bubble.

Pavilion Theatre, Gorleston (photo: Jamie Honeywood)

Pavilion Theatre, Gorleston (photo: Jamie Honeywood) - Credit: Archant

6. James Paget

Gorleston's hospital is named after one of the most gifted doctors, surgeons and scientists of his time. James Paget was born in Yarmouth in 1814 and went on to identify and develop treatments for several conditions now named after him, including the bone condition Paget's Disease, a form of breast cancer now called Paget's disease of the nipple, a recurring abscess known as Paget's abscess, and a form of deep vein thrombosis called Paget-Schroetter. He also first identified and described carpal tunnel syndrome.

He was apprenticed to a local doctor, and spent his spare time studying, drawing and writing about the wild plants growing around Yarmouth and Gorleston. As he continued his medical studies in London he won prizes for his brilliance, but was so poor he had to earn extra money by writing for medical journals, and preparing the catalogues of medical museums.

He eventually became a surgeon and renowned lecturer, and was surgeon to Queen Victoria for 41 years. He is remembered as a founder of the scientific study of the causes and effects of diseases, pioneering the use of the microscope to study tumours.

He also supported the idea of women becoming doctors and was made a baronet in 1871. He opened Great Yarmouth Hospital in 1886 and, almost 100 years later, the new hospital in Gorleston was named after him.

7. Pavilion and Pertwee

Exactly 100 years ago proposals were invited for buildings and landscaping to transform Gorleston from fishing village (it once had the largest herring fleet in the world) to seaside resort. The Pavilion was one of the results, an imposing Italian-style building which began staging band concerts in 1920.

In the mid 50s, it launched, and very nearly ended, the career of Dad's Army actor Bill Pertwee. He arrived as a comedian, with many props, but little material - and no idea five changes of show were needed during the summer programme. Joe Collins - the agent father of Joan and Jackie - presented concert party style shows at the Pavilion in the 1950s and it ran music hall and summer shows through to the 1980s, when it was saved from closure by enthusiasts and now stages a wide range of amateur and professional shows all year round. This month's shows include the final evening of the 28-week run of the Summer Laughter Show on October 9. There are also tribute bands, plus the Gorleston Theatre Company present 9-5 The Musical, and The Pavilion Players put on murder mystery Murder by Mattress.

8. Star of film and literature

Gorleston's sweeping beach, and the Pier Hotel, are a key location in Danny Boyle's new film, Yesterday, which imagines the Beatles did not exist.

Novelist Henry Sutton, who teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia, set his first novel in Gorleston - and named it after the town too. Gorleston, published in 1995, was called 'comic and poignant in equal measure' by The Independent.