“ Address: 34 Marine Parade / Great Yarmouth / Norfolk NR30 2EN / Tel: +44 (0)1493 331148 „
When my Uni buddies and I first visited the seaside town of Great Yarmouth back in the February of 2010, we decided to visit Yesterday's World, a museum dedicated to the past and specifically the Victorian era. For some reason we've been captivated by the place ever since and vowed to go back. So what better time to revisit Yesterday's World than at the start of October during my Birthday weekend? Well perhaps during the summer when it was warm and sunny, yes, but otherwise, the start of October seemed like a good idea!
FINDING YESTERDAY'S WORLD...
...Is surprisingly easy as long as you know how to make it to the seafront. If you're taking your own transport to the town, you'll need to follow the signs to the beach from the A12/A47. Yesterday's World does not have its own car park so you'll need to find somewhere to leave your vehicle and walk to the attraction; the nearest car park seems to be at the train station which is roughly a fifteen to twenty minute walk away. The number 3 First bus is in operation during the summer months although I didn't see one running at all throughout our day in Great Yarmouth which was unusual for a Saturday, regardless of the time of year.
We decided to be eco-friendly (and cheap) and walk from the train station towards the centre. From there, as long as you see the Marina Centre along the Golden Mile, you should be able to spot Yesterday's World across the road. I have to say that even from the first time we visited, I thought that the outside of the building wasn't as distinctive as it could have been: the signs for Yesterday's World seemed to blend in with the string of amusement arcades along that stretch of road and it wasn't until we entered the place that we really got a sense of Victoriana...apart from the statue of a period dressed paper boy outside the museum. He was a talking statue when we first visited Yesterday's World but standing out in the cold must have meant that he got laryngitis or something as he just stood with his mouth agape the last time we visited...
ENTERING AND PAYING UP
Although on both occasions we decided to wander around the gift shops before going inside the museum (girls and their shopping, huh?) I'll resist the urge to talk about their Christmas display for the moment and concentrate on the actual attraction. Upon arriving at Yesterday's World, on your left you'll see both the tea room and the first gift shop and on the right you'll spot the paying desk and temporary Christmas gift shop (if you're visiting during the Autumn months, of course). I liked the fact that straight away all of the members of staff were dressed in pinafores and smart suits; the outfits alone set the tone for the attraction.
On both occasions, I was impressed by the warmth and politeness of the lady on the admission desk: the first time we visited, as we'd never been to Yesterday's World before, we were given a couple of maps and a verbal set of directions as to how to get to each section of the museum. Although the signs dotted around the museum are perhaps a little vague, it's not like it would be impossible for you to find your way around the attraction, even for somebody as directionally challenged as me! It was good that the lady on the desk the second tine round also asked whether we'd visited the museum before so that question seems to be standard practise at Yesterday's World.
At the train station that morning, my buddy found some vouchers for Yesterday's World in which two adults would get in for the price of one. Brilliant as from experience, I do think that the attraction is a little expensive considering what's actually on offer and how long it takes to complete. If you do decide to visit Yesterday's World anytime soon, you can expect to pay the following prices:
Adult ~ £6.50
Child ~ £5
Under 4's ~ free
Special Needs ~ £5
Senior citizens ~ £5.50
Family ticket (two adults and two children) ~ £21 (plus £3.50 for each extra child).
Whilst the gift shops and tea rooms are free to enter, meaning that even non-visiting customers can go in for something to eat or browse for souvenirs, there was opportunity to purchase an annual season ticket. I know we didn't visit during peak times but very little had changed by the looks of things between the February and October of last year and I would speculate that the attraction wasn't host to anything wildly different during the busy summer months either.
Since my last visit in October, it seems as if the standard prices have decreased by 50p and Yesterday's World has stopped producing season tickets. In light of how little had changed in the months between our visits, the season ticket always seemed a bit of a flawed idea to me anyway so I'm not surprised that they have scraped them, at least for the time being.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO AT YESTERDAY'S WORLD?
Upon entering the double doors, you're greeted by a rather eclectic mix of Victorian mementos including a picture of Queen Victoria herself and a taxidermied brown bear! There wasn't any information explaining the rather odd mix of themes but as you head up the stairs, you're greeted by a multitude of rather cheap looking replicas of the Royal Family's prized jewels. Yesterday's World does seem to be rather Royalist in its approach; later on in the museum, there's the opportunity to browse many artefacts from the current Queen's long reign and also to stand alongside cardboard cut outs of Queenie, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the Queen Mother to see how tall you are in comparison! The latter sight was in a rather odd place within the museum, namely a corridor, but it was another harmless piece of fun that the museum is proud to exhibit.
However, the first real attraction at Yesterday's World is a smartly decorated film room with CGI Queen Victoria! I think this was the part of the museum we wanted to go back for: Queen Vicky's face on the computer screen is mentally leathery and her commentary on all things Victoriana, such as her family's history and important inventions from the time, quite comical. I don't think any of it was meant to be that humorous (and indeed nobody else on either visit found it altogether funny) but I do applaud Yesterday's World for daring to make the once Queen of England so stroppy! We were amused.
Another thing that Yesterday's World deserves credit for is coming up with an interactive display for all age groups to enjoy; kids will enjoy watching CGI Queen Vicky (and pressing the screen selection buttons no doubt!) whilst parents will be able to sit back on the rather uncomfortable wooden benches for story time. The four different movie segments last roughly five to ten minutes each and although they displayed some very handy postcard pictures from the years gone by, they did get a little monotonous in places to the point where we decided on both occasions to go and explore elsewhere. I would say that the films are aimed at the primary school age group and Queen Victoria doesn't use language that even younger children wouldn't be able to understand. The displays surrounding the benches in the movie room were pretty neat though and you felt as if you were in good 'company' with a selection of dummies resembling Royal Family members from the past. Each Royal had a short biography beside them and whilst grownups may think the information was a bit sparse, it would just about be the right amount for youngsters to grasp and possibly remember.
Out of the door and past the next royal display we came to three scenes from classic books of the past: 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley, 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' by Robert Lewis Stevenson and 'The Time Machine' by H. G Wells. Besides the beloved CGI Queen Vicky, the three novel scenes were my favourite part of Yesterday's World; there is something really corny about them (I think they're all meant to be intimidating rather than hysterical) but I think the museum did a great job with making the displays look relatively good and involving both the written word, lighting and sound effects to create a very different kind of display. Perhaps the reason why I personally remembered that part distinctly was because of how it stood out against some of the less original parts of the attraction: although there's a Victorian theme running throughout the museum, you do sometimes get the feeling that different displays have been thrown together a bit but the novel scenes - although short - were some of the finest the attraction had to offer.
The Victorian street is the part which I'd deem as the most uninventive portion of the museum. Although I am a great fan of those sorts of displays, it's not like it hasn't been done before elsewhere or on a grander scale, such as at the Black Country Museum in Dudley. However, I have to say that Yesterday's World is host to one of the best Victorian street scenes I've ever had the pleasure of visiting; there is a fair amount to see and do, with my personal favourite being the chance to walk onto the platform and browse around the train station. There are plenty of shops to step inside, such as a coffin makers and pharmacist, and such displays combine a short piece of literature with a video display. All of the videos are presented by the illegitimate lovechild of Rasputin and a rat who dons the appropriate attire for each shop. I have to say that the guy who presented the videos spoilt the shop scenes for me: he came across as quite creepy and his voice was quite irritating so he didn't sustain our attention for very long on either visit. I'm sure what he had to say was very interesting but we just read the info available and left.
Visitors also have the choice of using some Victorian inspired machines, such as the types for buying mints and sweeties, but the only one I've ever used is the fortune teller stand. Basically, if you give this creepy looking gypsy doll 20p, she'll magically print you a card that reads your palm...without ever having looked at your hand! It's silly fun like that I enjoy most of all and one of Yesterday's World's crowning glories would be described as good fun too: the carousel!
Included in the price of your admissions fee is the chance to ride on the Victorian fairground ride. If you visit and decide you'd like more than just the one go, expect to pay a further pound for the privilege. I think that the carousel is a great and unique feature of Yesterday's World: although not all of the horses are presumably in working order now as a lot of the steps to get on and off have been removed, many of them are still ok. We didn't have to wait to go on the ride at all on either visit: on both occasions, the dude at the next stop came out and he is mainly there to supervise, making sure that the carousel is working correctly and to make sure that all of the visitors are safe. If you have small children or have visions of falling off one of the horses yourself, there are separate carriages on the ride and I think it's great that Yesterday's World offers that choice for both more mobile visitors and those that unfortunately aren't.
However, even better than the carousel ride has to be the sweet shop straight opposite! In spite of traditional sweet shops coming back into fashion just recently, it's nice to browse Yesterday World's store as they sell their own branded sweets, gingerbread and fudge to name but a few items. Of the 100 foodstuffs available, I don't think any of them are made on the premises but I'd fully recommend giving the mint chocolate fudge a try as well as the chocolate raisins and coconut macaroons but beware of the candy sticks! I bought a bag for a £1 and they aren't that nice or certainly not how I remember them as a child. In fact, they are festering on my desk as you read (unless you're reading in October 2011 and in which case I might have thrown them away by then).
After the sweet shop, you've pretty much concluded the museum part of Yesterday's World. Overall, I'd say it takes about an hour and a half to complete, especially if you stop and watch all of the Queen Vicky vids and read every patch of info on offer. I remember thinking the first time we visited that the museum could do with more written information in some parts, particularly along the Victorian street itself, away from the shops. On a second visit however, I enjoyed the relaxed pace of the museum and enjoyed absorbing the many visual displays on offer and didn't feel that the attraction needed more literature.
ONTO THE TEA ROOM AND GIFT SHOPS!
After the glory of the sweet shop, it's time to walk back through the gift shop for some more nostalgic fun! I was quite shocked to see a million Gollywogs items; I thought they'd been banned a couple of years ago but apparently not. I think gift shop one is a brilliant place to buy prezzies; on both occasions I have found suitable gifts and I think they're all very reasonably priced. I paid 79p each for a couple of pretty postcards and £7.99 for some poppy tablemats for my Mum. If you don't fancy going inside the museum but do fancy trying some of Yesterday World's sweeties, there are many varieties available in the gift shop, including the regular pear drops and liquorish.
The second gift shop either offers much the same as the first or a Christmas display. Although some of the Christmas decorations weren't that competitively priced or original, there's still a lot of different things on offer. I was almost tempted to buy a £40 USB powered juke box from this shop - which the lady assured me would have been a very popular thing to buy - but after a lot of internet searching, the same thing can be purchased on Amazon for about a tenner less. I suppose the juke box wasn't ever so expensive considering the type of shop I would have been purchasing it from but at the same time, it's important to be aware of just how much Yesterday's World may overcharge on items such as that.
Before I made the decision not to buy, my friend and I were talking to the sales assistant about the juke box such as whether the USB stick was included and whether you could shuffle the tracks or not. I wasn't expecting her to be a technology genius but she really didn't have that much of a clue about the product at all which wasn't very helpful for me, a potential buyer. Of course, many of the gifts you can buy at Yesterday's World aren't dependant on technology but if the museum is going to sell items such as the jukebox, it would be nice if the staff could be a little more knowledgeable. From what was said, the second shop had been selling the juke box for two years so you would hope that somebody would know a little more about it...
Although we've never stopped at the tea room, I have to say that the many cakes on offer looked lovely. If you're thinking of stopping for a bite to eat at Yesterday's World, there are many different bakery products to choose from, including pre-packed muffins and biscuits and homemade type millionaire's shortbread. Apparently, Yesterday's World is famous for its cream teas but I can't vouch for that as I don't like hot drinks or scones. The cafe wasn't very busy either time we visited so if you wanted a seat and a drink somewhere, I'd recommend trying there. Regrettably, I'm not too aware of prices but I can't help but feel that it may be a tad more expensive than your average cafe in accordance to the rest of the attraction's prices.
DISABILITY ACCESS AND OTHER FACILITIES
Throughout Yesterday's World, there seemed to be very good access for anybody in a wheelchair. There's a new and sturdy looking lift which will take you up to the top floor and back down again as well as ramps throughout the attraction to make getting about a little bit easier. To get a disability discount, make sure you take with you your orange or blue badges, Certificate of Entitlement for Disability Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Mobility Allowance, Exemption from liability to pay vehicle excise duty form or your proof of War Pensioner's mobility supplement.
The only three sets of toilets for males, females and disabled people in Yesterday's World are located on the ground floor. With their Victorian theme still intact, I'm pleased to say that the lady's were clean on both visits and it was nice to have a look at the old fashioned posters whilst I was washing my hands.
OVERALL: WOULD I GO BACK TO YESTERDAY'S WORLD ANYTIME SOON?
In spite of the fact that I visited Yesterday's World twice within seven months, I do think that in the future I'd like to return, especially if they add to the displays. So it's a little bit on the expensive side for essentially an hour's entertainment (not including the shops which we spent aggggges in) but I think the museum did a great job of capturing a sense of Victoriana. A lot of the mannequins on display are hardly convincing but they're not bad enough to put the former wax museum in Great Yarmouth to shame and all of the figures are at least a bit recognisable. Yesterday's World is the kind of place you go once, enjoy and want to go back to just for a bit of fun: it's not an overtly serious historical place to visit but Yesterday's World does include some wonderful, traditional displays which are always a joy to see. I get the feeling that it's more of a place for the young and those with kids though unless you're from the Victorian era yourself and are fed up with spending Saturday afternoons trying to decipher what the pudding a Sky remote is!
Overall, I would go back to Yesterday's World, even if it is for one more laugh at CGI Queen Vicky and to hear the extraordinary sounds of 'Frankenstein' himself once again.
Address: 34 Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30 2EN
Telephone number: 01493 3311 48
Fax: 01493 330700
Opening times (2011s for the sake of estimation):
19th March - 31st March ~ 10am - 4pm
1st April - 31st August ~ 10am - 5pm
1st September - 31st October ~ 10 am - 4pm
(Please note: review previously posted 'on the other side' by myself, MizzMolko. Thanks!)