The Great Yarmouth Potteries incorporates a museum dedicated to the fishing industry, but it looks to be closing soon, reports Mick Harrod.
Above: Ernie Childs with his painting of early Yarmouth drifters.
The whole building was a herring curing works, turning out kippers and bloaters since the 16th century, and strangely enough you can still get a whiff of the smoky smell, even though it was last used for smoking in 1965.
Proprietor Ernie Childs and his wife, Karen, are about to retire after being there for 35 years and the premises are on the market. Ernie won’t stop doing things, though, and intends to carry on painting and writing about Yarmouth’s historical past and the fishing industry. Not many people know so much about Yarmouth fishing and the port’s past as he does. He is an accomplished artist, although he says he has never had an art lesson in his life, and he teaches art to many students.
Ernie has always been a beachcomber, and much of the interior of the potteries and museum have been renovated with shipwreck timbers he has dragged home – including the building of his adjoining three bedroomed home, which was converted from old stables and is built into the 700-year-old town wall.
In addition to the museum being a visitor attraction, his pottery features many maritime subjects. He has made limited edition tankards representing a multitude of fishing subjects, as well as most of the local lifeboat stations. Probably close to a thousand different designs.
One of the most popular designs was his Prunier Trophy set, which comprised two tankards with pictures of the winning skippers of each year and a copy of the actual trophy. A slightly different set was made for Scottish buyers, with the winning Scottish skippers portrayed.
Ernie said he was pleased and honoured to have handcrafted all those fishing and maritime souvenirs, which have been distributed all around the world. He is crafting his last batch of collectable tankards to commemorate the independent Hemsby Lifeboat’s 40th anniversary.
They have a monumental task to remove all their stock and equipment and find somewhere to keep it. Karen said it will be nice to have time to concentrate on the grandchildren, and Ernie is looking forward to just painting for relaxation.
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