collections

THOUSANDS OF ITEMS ON DISPLAY.

Take a look at our amazing collections. 

800 years of Royal Commemorative items. 
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.
Dolls’ houses and miniatures. Toys and dolls from the past.

Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

Genuine original postcards for sale. 
Great Yarmouth souvenirs of days gone by.
… 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.
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 faily’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…
Valerie’s article in The Daily Mail
 
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.