The historic port town or Yarmouth, one of the smallest towns in the UK, sits at the mouth of the River Yar and contains some of the oldest architecture on the Isle of Wight, including a 16th century castle.
In the 1950s, Ward Lock’s guide to the Isle of Wight, described Yarmouth town like this:
Formerly known as “Eremue” (in Domesday Book “Ermud”), Yarmouth was the headquarters of King John for several days in 1206, while his fleet was collecting at Portsmouth, and he was there again in 1214 on his way to Poitou. The town received it’s first charter from Baldwin de Redvers as long ago as 1135, and this was confirmed by Edward III in 1335. Other charters were granted in 1280, 1440, 1465 and 1560.
Yarmouth was one of the “rotten boroughs” disfranchised by the Reform Act of 1832. From the year 1304 it sent two representatives to Parliament – elected sometimes by as many as nine voters, at others by two. For many years Yarmouth was the seat of the Governor or Captain of the Island. It was “near Worsley’s Tower in Freshwater Isle, a little beyond Yarmouth Haven” that Charles I and his attendants waited on the dreary shore for an hour, before being placed on board the small sailing vessel which conveyed them across the Solent to the king’s temporary prison in Hurst Castle. In later years his son, the “Merry Monarch” was twice in Yarmouth as the guest of the then Captain of the Wight, Sir Robert Holmes. Yarmouth has also twice experienced the felicity of being burnt by the French, once, as described by Froissart, in 1377, and again in 1545. The Castle, a portion of which still stands on the eastern side of the harbour, was erected by Henry VIII to prevent further attentions of the kind.
The quaint little Town Hall bears an inscription recording that it was rebuilt in 1763. The silver mace was presented by Charles II. Yarmouth’s coat of arms consists of a three-masted vessel with furled sails.
Apart from the Castle (1547) in Yarmouth, there is also the old Railway Station (open 1888-1953), the School (1855), the Pier (1876), and the large, impressive Mill house (1794) – now private accommodation. Besides these, in the heart of the town, lie the Town Hall (1763) and St. James’s Church (founded in 1614, its predecessors having been destroyed by French attacks). In the latter can be found a statue of Yarmouth’s most famous inhabitant – the swashbuckling figure of Admiral Sir Robert Holmes, who, as Governor of the Island, moved to Yarmouth in 1668, creating a handsome new home for himself next to the Castle, where he three times entertained King Charles II. That building is the original (and still clearly identifiable) part of today’s historic George Hotel.
St. James’ Church
St. James’ Church sits at the heart of the charming seaside town of Yarmouth.
The present church of St. James was begun in 1614 and consecrated in 1626.
In 1832-33 considerable improvements were made to the interior of the Church. At the back of the church there is a handbook detailing the history and previous Rectors of the parish.
Photo by Visit Isle of Wight
Yarmouth Town Hall was built in 1763 and the building has always been a market place, although the original arches have now been filled in by windows.