Archaeological artifacts show what life was like in Victorian Great Yarmouth

A treasure trove of bottles and jars.
A treasure trove of bottles and jars. Photo: Anthony Carroll
Victorian artifacts unearthed at Beaconsfield Recreation Ground give a glimpse of what Great Yarmouth was like.

Artifacts found at Beaconsfield Recreation Ground have given us a glimpse of what Great Yarmouth was like in the Victorian era. Beaconsfield is a town and civil parish in the English county of Buckinghamshire. The town is located 38 km northwest of London. The Recreation Ground was also created in the 1890s.

There are 18 acres of sand dunes reclaimed in the 1890s. These dunes were fenced and leveled by dumping household waste, including food waste, street sweepings and other garbage. A layer of grass was then laid on top and the recreation area was created in two parts. The southern end was created in 1890 and the northern end in 1895.

Tim Licence, Professor of Medieval History at University of East Anglia, a renowned archaeologist who knows the deep history of this part of Great Yarmouth, spent several weeks at the dig site with his team. Sifting through layers of soil, he uncovered a treasure trove of artifacts including bottles and jars.

The finds include bottles of ginger beer, lemonade, shellfish remains and a measured half-liter cup from a pub. Some of the bottles belonged to H Lawrence, a Yarmouth firm that operated from 1860 to 1970.

Dr. Licence said: “We are looking for the origins of the throwaway society. We know Yarmouth’s rubbish was being buried here in the 1980s and that’s when waste packaging begins. All the plastic and stuff we have nowadays begins with glass and ceramics in the 1890s.”

Professor Licence says the items, which date back more than 100 years, help shed new light on the history of the area and its inhabitants. “Through our painstaking excavation process, we were able to piece together a picture of Great Yarmouth more than a century ago and gain insights into people’s way of life. The artefacts we discovered provide a glimpse into daily life and what people ate and drank.”

Briefly from The Victorian era of Great Britain is recognized as the rise of the British industrial revolution and the peak of the British Empire.

The political and diplomatic history of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland between 1814 and 1919 saw a series of important events and changes. In 1832, the Reform Act was passed, which created many innovations. Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom in 1837. The longest reigning monarch in British history after Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria’s 64-year reign witnessed the great changes of the 19th century. (Victoria is often regarded as the greatest and most beloved British monarch.)

The term “Victorian era” is usually used to refer to the reign of Queen Victoria between 1837 and 1901, but according to many historians, the Reform Movement of 1832 was the real beginning of this era. Important historical transformations such as labor exploitation, workers’ rights, formal education institutions, and the abolition of slavery, which came to the fore with the industrial revolution, emerged during this period.

The team’s findings have already generated great interest among archaeologists and historians who want to learn more about this fascinating slice of social history.

A select group of artifacts showing the types of everyday objects that were discarded in the 1890s are now on display in a year-long international exhibition at the House of European History museum in Brussels. The exhibition is partly inspired by Professor Licence’s BBC documentary The Secret Life of Landfill.

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