Record Details

NHER Number:4298
Type of record:Building
Name:The Tolhouse


The Tolhouse is one of the oldest buildings in Great Yarmouth, and may date back to the mid 12th century. Originally built as a fortified merchant's house with a first floor hall, the building has been used as a prison, a town hall and a museum. The building was badly damaged by a bomb in 1941, and was restored in 1960.


  • No image caption available  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TG 5249 0725
Map Sheet:TG50NW

Full description

June 1953. Listed, Grade I.
Listing Description excerpt:
"A merchant's fortified house. Begun c.1150 and altered c1250. Hired to the Borough in the 14th century and purchased by them in 1552. Used for a variety of civic functions: prison (1261-1875), town hall (to 1882), police station, court house and toll office. Restored in 1883, when the rear wing was demolished, bombed April 1941 and restored 1960-1. Used as a museum and library from the 1880s. Fortified first-floor hall house illustrating early adaptation of military architecture to domestic purpose. Flint with some ashlar and ashlar dressings. Plain tiled roof. The north gable wall has been rebuilt 20th century, and the south gable wall largely rebuilt.
EXTERIOR: the east front is of two storeys. Three-window range in all. To the left is a four-light transomed casement of 1960 copying one inserted in 1622. To its right is a flat buttress with a statue of Justice on the top and a cartouche with Yarmouth's coat of arms (three Royal lions dimidiated with herring tails) and the name of the Mayor in 1781, William Fisher. Right again is a forebuilding added c.1250 in front of a blocked arch of c.1150. The forebuilding has a staircase rising to the entrance door of the first-floor hall. It has a pointed arched grille opened in 1883 and a corbel table of trefoiled machicolations beneath a pair of arched unglazed cinquefoiled windows. The main hall is lit through two two-light Geometric windows with encircled quatrefoils. They are of 1883 replacing two wide transomed casements. To the extreme right is an added 14th- or 15th-century bay lit through two slit vents and a 20th-century two-light leaded casement.
INTERIOR: the first-floor hall is entered through a pointed arched doorway with two orders of colonnettes with dog-tooth decoration in the jambs. The hall has a further doorway leading to the former south-west wing and two window embrasures. Crown-post roof of 1960. The basement is divided into two rooms. The north room has four detention cells protected by an iron screen of circular-section verticals. Four oak cell doors with heavy gate latches. The cells are oak-lined and each has an air vent in its barrel vault. The cells were proposed in 1796 and erected soon after. The added north bay has the remains of a winder staircase..."
Information from (S1).
Please consult the National Heritage List for England (S1) for the current listing details.
S. Spooner (NLA) 2 December 2005. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 11 March 2022.

Early 13th century building, possibly built around an earlier core, originally domestic.
Much altered 1619 to 1622 and part demolished, perhaps earlier.
Cells etc about 1800.
Gutted 1941 and restored.
Now a museum.
See report (S2).
E. Rose (NAU) 4 November 1982.

January 1997. Descheduled.
Descheduled but remains protected as a Listed Building.
Information from (S3).
H. Mellor (HES), 4 July 2018.

The prison mentioned above as being closed in 1875 in fact stood on the adjacent site and was demolished in 1905 to construct the Tolhouse Library, itself destroyed in 1940.
See (S4).
E. Rose (NLA), 31 October 2006.

Monument Types

  • HOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MUSEUM (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PRISON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TOWN HALL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1979. Jug in Hole. 23 November.
---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF14840.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TG 50 NW 45.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 502-503; Pl 11.
---Publication: Eccleston, A. W.. 1959. The Rise Of Great Yarmouth.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2008. Trapdoor to a grisly history. 12 September.
---Publication: Palmer, C. J. 1872-1875. The Perlustrations of Great Yarmouth, with Gorleston and Southtown. Vol II pp 240-266.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. Norfolk's dark past.. 26 October.
---Photograph: The Tolhouse, Gt Yarmouth. Print.
---Article in Serial: Carter, A. and Rutledge, P. 1980. The Tolhouse, Yarmouth. The Archaeological Journal. Vol 137 pp 304-306.
---Article in Serial: 1950. [unknown]. Supplement to Archaeological Journal. pp 47-8, 99. vol CV, pp 47-8,99.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Yarmouth (Great).
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Photograph: CCB 2A and 3.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2017. One of Great Yarmouth's best known museums is encased in a scaffolding shroud. 4 December.
<S1>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1245560.
<S2>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 1982. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S3>Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF14840.
<S4>Article in Serial: Allard, P.. 2006. J W Cockerill.. Yarmouth Archaeology. p 35. p 35 ff.

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