THE VENETIAN WATERWAYS AND BOATING LAKE
The Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake have been an integral part of Great Yarmouth’s seafront landscape since their construction in the 1920s. Situated at the northern end of Marine Parade, the Boating Lake was first opened in 1926, followed by the Venetian Waterways in 1928 – designed by S. P. Thompson and built as part of a relief work scheme for the local unemployed after the First World War.
When complete, the “Waterways” (as they came to be known) covered an area of 4.3 hectares and contained a concrete winding water course for gondolas, paths through rock gardens, a series of ornamental bridges and several thatched shelters. Their design was commended at the Royal Horticultural Society’s International Exhibition in 1928 – where it was described as being particularly ‘bold’ – and they quickly became popular with locals and tourists alike.
The park enjoyed continued success from its opening until the 1960s, when a national decline in coastal tourism led to dwindling visitor numbers and the park’s maintenance consequently suffered. The ornate gardens were laid to grass, and the site was closed to the public in 2011.
Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust, in partnership with the Borough Council, submitted a successful funding bid in August 2016. The bid involved the repair and restoration of the entire park, a comprehensive training programme in horticulture and traditional building skills for long-term unemployed, youth and local residents, as well as a legacy of community activity.
Restoration work began in June 2018 and involved repairs to the ornamental bridges, the Waterways and Boating Lake, the landscaping of the site in accordance to original designs, and the renovation of the café on the Boating Lake Island. The Waterways were officially opened in August 2019.
The project was funded through a £1.7 million National Lottery grant awarded through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund, plus further support from the Borough Council, New Anglia LEP and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake are Grade II listed on the Historic Parks and Gardens Register, in recognition of their national uniqueness and historic interest.
To watch Shaun Lawson’s fantastic aerial footage of the Waterways Project, please click here.
Since re-opening, the Waterways project has been recognised by several awards. In July 2019, the project was awarded both the Green Flag Award and Green Heritage Site Accreditation. In the 2019 BALI (British Association of Landscape Industries) National Landscape Awards, the Waterways won the Principal Award in the Large Regeneration Scheme category, in addition to a Special Award for Best Community Involvement.