Part of East Anglian coastlands: green = land below 10 metres

The communities of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft are situated on a narrow coastal strip of sand and clay about 10 metres above sea level at the junction of the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk (see left hand sketch map). To the west the two towns back on to the fresh water wetlands of the rivers Bure, Yare and Waveney. Currently, the ancient divisions of land known as the hundreds of Blything, Lothing and Lothingland are in the county of Suffolk. Yarmouth and Flegg belong to Norfolk.

In Roman times the area now occupied by Yarmouth was the mouth of a large estuary several miles wide, which was subseqently infilled naturally by river silt and blown sand. A settlement equated with present day Yarmouth was first recorded in Domesday as Gernemutha. It contained 24 fisherfolk and was part of the king's manor of Gorleston, in the hundred of Lothingland. Another part refered to as Gernemwa, was also held by the king. Gernemwa was occupied by 70 burgesses and situated in East Flegg Hundred. Here there was a church dedicated to St Benedict. A third part of Domesday Yarmouth was held by Earl Ralph of Norwich. Altogether, Yarmouth was clearly a site of considerable enterprise. The king's two portions were worth £17 6s 4d and the earl's third was worth £10.

Hundreds were the pre-Norman divisions of the Saxon/Viking regal system of taxation, and the above entries tell us that by 1066 the new land that had arisen from the sea between Flegg and Lothingland had been divided between the three administrations of Flegg, Lothingland and Norwich. It is likely that Domesday Yarmouth gained its wealth from a sea fishery. Lowestoft, by comparison was a less prosperous agricultural community with only one entry in Domesday. It was also a part of Gorleston (known as a berewick).

Yarmouth and Lowestoft subsequently became independent communities and developed the fisheries of the North Sea into industrial enterprises, often in sharp rivalry, until about about a generation ago when European legislation to share this resouce, together with overfishing, brought about the economic collapse of this local economy. The two towns, together with the port of Grimsby about a hundred miles to the north, which also built its wealth on North Sea fish, shared a strong maritime history and are now having to adjust their local economies to life after fish. In this respect, they are all examples of the unsustainable economies which could not match their use of an abundant natural resource to the ecological facts of its production. They are also examples of how principles of sustainable development are being applied to launch new economic enterprises.