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Gorleston, which is still a popular seaside resort, lies one mile south of Great Yarmouth. Originally it was part of Suffolk, but then became annexed to Yarmouth under the 1832 Parliamentary reform Act. Like Yarmouth it was an important herring port before the decline in the fishing industry and hundreds of drifters used to unload their catches at its wharfs. There is an old saying: 'Gorleston was Gorleston ere Yarmouth begun/ And will be Gorleston when Yarmouth is gone.'

River Yare at Gorleston

Henry Sutton

The novelist Henry Sutton named his 1995 novel after the town. It is the story of Percy Lanchester, a pensioner, who is struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife. Percy's life is turned upside down when he meets a notorious widow named Queenie.

Sutton (1963 - ) grew up at nearby Hopton - so he knew the location very well. He worked as a journalist for many years in London before becoming a full-time novelist. Sutton now teaches on the Creative Writing course at the University of East Anglia.

Gorleston also provides the setting for another novel - namely The History of Us by Philip Leslie which tells the story of a close-knit group of friends  growing up in the town. The book features many locations including the now demolished Links Hotel. The book was shortlisted for the 2009 East Anglian Book Awards.

In 1857 Edward FitzGerald came to Gorleston with his new wife Lucy Barton in search of a house. While they were here they received a visit from George Borrow who was living in Yarmouth at the time. Borrow had lent FitzGerald a copy of The Romany Rye. FitzGerald's marriage lasted barely a year and soon after he became friendly with a Lowestoft fisherman called Joseph 'Posh' Fletcher. The two men bought a herring lugger named the Meum et Teum but the venture soon collapsed due to Fletcher's alcoholism and FitzGerald's lack of business acumen. FitzGerald is best remembered for his free translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

Charles Dickens stayed at The Feathers Inn in Gorleston in 1849. The surrounding countryside and the town of Great Yarmouth provided the setting for his semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield.

Gorleston lies at the mouth of the River Yare - close to where it enters the North Sea. If you stand at the South Pier lighthouse you can watch the grey-green waters merge with the salt water. This place always puts me in mind of A.C. Swinburne's poem The Garden of Proserpine which, although not inspired by the location, nevertheless seems apt:

From too much love of living,
  From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
  Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
  Winds somewhere safe to sea.
More Gorleston photographs




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