Updated March 2016
The David Howkins “Museum of Memories”
A privately owned and funded museum, all profits go to charity.
39-40 King Street, Great Yarmouth NR30 2PN
Telephone 01493 852637
Opening Easter Monday 28th March until September,
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10am to 4pm.
Admission £3 Children £1 (5-12)
(Accompanied children under 5 FREE.)
Private visits can be
arranged at other times, please ring 01493 659382.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome!
A warm welcome awaits you at THE MUSEUM OF MEMORIES.
500 yards south of Yarmouth market, just beyond St. Georges.
Step back in time and enter our 102-year-old building, with its magnificent Art Nouveau Stained Glass Window and Grand Staircase, and now housing a fascinating and unique collection of items from times gone by, a host of memories. A century ago, King Street was a very important street in Great Yarmouth. Our premises were architect-designed and purpose-built for the Great Yarmouth Gas Company in 1912, and are described by National Heritage as “a rare surviving building type” - “one of the very earliest surviving gas showrooms”. At that time in history, Health and Safety rules didn’t prevent customers from going upstairs, but for a long time, we had to operate purely on the ground floor, and our unique collection was a little overcrowded.
“Really good, will be lovely to see upstairs.”
”Can’t wait for the first floor to be opened.”
Now, we have opened up the first floor, and for those who are able to climb the grand staircase, there are many delights, including the Toy Room, the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, and the world-famous Stamp Room. We hope to install a lift eventually, but for the moment, we have a slideshow for those who are unable to use the stairs.
THOUSANDS OF ITEMS ON DISPLAY including…
800 YEARS OF ROYAL COMMEMORATIVE ITEMS
“Every time I visit, I see something else I missed!”
“Wonderful idea for future generations”
“Lots of memories – thank you!”
The amazing YARMOUTH NEEDLEWORK TAPESTRIES depict 800 years of Yarmouth history, working approximately ONE MILLION stitches into the 19 pictures based on original paintings by 60 local volunteers, who gave up four thousand hours of voluntary time in honour of the Queen's visit in August 1985.
“I wish I could produce such work!”
“A beautiful display of ingenious work”
In 2015, we had a party to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the queen’s visit, and many of the visitors were involved in the original project.
DOLLS’ HOUSES and MINIATURES
“Most interesting and nostalgic. Will come again”
TOYS and DOLLS FROM THE PAST
“Fantastic, brought back memories of times gone by.”
TEDDY BEARS’ PICNIC
“Most interesting view of my childhood”
“Very enjoyable afternoon!”
“Very interesting, well worth the visit.”
“Wonderful and nostalgic, will be back again and again.”
GENUINE ORIGINAL POSTCARDS FOR SALE
GREAT YARMOUTH SOUVENIRS OF DAYS GONE BY
“An amazing collection”
… and don’t forget GEORGE THE GORILLA!
Albert Schafer, 1937
In the STAMP ROOM, you can see Albert Schafer’s collection of furnishings from a Victorian Parlour, completely encrusted in thousands of international postage stamps, producing many colours and textures, and ranging from Victorian Penny Blacks to those commemorating the coronation of George VI in 1937.
There is a Broadwood square piano made around 1833 (covered in stamps outside and inside) and even pictures and maps made purely from stamps, including Albert’s versions of paintings by famous artists.
Schafer was a circus clown, and Val Howkins’ background was also in the circus where, among other things, she was a tightrope walker.
Right-click this leaflet to save it on your computer.
See our reviews at Trip Advisor.
VAL’S ARTICLE IN THE DAILY MAIL
THE TRUE STORY OF THE ELEPHANT MAN
as told by Valerie Howkins, Grand-daughter of his manager
Amy Rayner was Val’s paternal grandmother, and she is pictured by the steps of the family’s travelling caravan. In 1896, she married Tom Norman, who was born in 1860, as Thomas Noakes. He started his working life as a butcher in Sussex and at the age of 17, moved to London, but decided that “Tom Norman” sounded a better name. He became a showman of human oddities, known as much for his patter as his exhibits. He was called the 'Silver King', and wore this huge silver watch chain...
In 1884, Tom briefly took over the management of Joseph Merrick, “THE ELEPHANT MAN” for a few weeks, and helped him to earn a considerable amount of money by exhibiting him. Tom is not to be confused with the unsavoury and entirely fictional character “Bytes” portrayed by Freddie Jones in the well-known 1980 film, appearing in two quite separate parts of Joseph’s life. People have been led to believe that Tom exploited Joseph, and the recent play featured another fictional character “Ross” which perpetuates that image, but in reality Joseph and Tom were close friends, and between them, they concocted the whole idea of a man who was “turning into an elephant”. Interestingly though, Joseph was convinced that his disability was caused by an elephant that frightened his mother during pregnancy!
Frederick Treve (depicted as a hero in the film) far from rescuing Joseph, subjected him to humiliating inspections in medical lectures, which he found worse than being in the freak show. He said “Can’t I just go back to Mr Norman?” but he wasn’t allowed to. Joseph was a Christian, and when he died, Frederick Treve stripped the flesh from Joseph’s body, and the soft tissue was given a burial, but Treve displayed the skeleton in public without permission, so Merrick was deprived of a Christian burial. Now that they have a 3D computer model, the actual skeleton is stored out of sight. Tom died in Croydon in 1930, but we can offer the true story, as told by his Grand-daughter. His son, Arthur Van Norman became a well-known circus clown, and we hope to have a display soon about Arthur’s life and work.
Val Howkins has lived in Great Yarmouth since 1951, and set up the museum in memory of her son David, who died at a young age. In the display cases, you will see many small items which are interesting in themselves, but part of the enjoyment of your visit is that Val could tell you a story about each of them. To display all that extra information would require ten times the space, so we are gradually finding other ways to provide a more complete picture for our visitors.
Here is a selection of the comments kindly written in our book by visitors, in addition to those shown above. If you have missed the opportunity, you can still email us by clicking on the link near the top of this page. Initially, we only had a narrow column for comments, so there were lots of single superlatives like…
“Interesting & well-put-together exhibition.”
“Well done Valerie and all concerned.”
“So very lovely”
“Many thanks for a beautiful day”
“A super idea, amazingly excited”
“Very interesting afternoon.”
“Really enjoyed looking around.”
“You have all done a wonderful job.”
“Lots of lovely items to see!”
“What a collection! Well done!”
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