Cromer Women

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North Norfolk

This English region has been selected for the research based on its long history of fishing and the living example of families with seven or eight generations of fishermen. Evidence of the branches of families spread along the coast can be found in the tombstones in old churchyards with carved sailing fishing boats[1].These towns have built a community based on the trust that was created when fishermen used to move from vessel to vessel or when moving to a different fishing station along the coast doing different types of fishing or by joining a different resident fleet to facilitate boat launching. However, with the evolution of rules and regulations set by the EU, fishing has become harder and fishermen nowadays are not encouraging the activity in future generations. The social life of the community has changed as well. Older fisherman in the region affirm that “families no longer socialize together like they used to and fishermen, themselves, gather less on the beach or cliff-top just to chat. Even step-dancing, which once entertained the community in local pubs, was only carried on in recent years by one fisherman”[1]p.14. The lack of fishermen has also led to changes in the type of boats; technology has made possible a one-man skiff. All these changes indicate a reduced interaction between fishermen and families, ultimately affecting the community’s solidarity. The fishing museum in Cromer exhibits the fishermen’s clothes. Twenty years ago fishermen used to wear hand-knit Guernsey sweaters and these are still used on special occasions, like the funeral of a fellow fishermen, demonstrating that fishing has given a sense of tradition to this community.

Figures indicate that in the region in 1875 there were 120 fishermen, in 1913 there were only 25 boats in Cromer and currently there are about a dozen boats and few fishing families in the North Norfolk region participate in activities such as long-lining, herring-catching, whelking, trawling, bait-digging, shrimping and cockling. Crab boats have also enjoyed the benefits of technological changes, reaching crab grounds of up to 40 miles out, and the GPS navigation facilitates not only the boat’s route but also the positioning of the crabs pots.[1]

Another technological change was the motor power that allowed crab boats to remove bilge water using the engine powered water pump. This made fishing more effective and less time consuming.

Many fish species have declined and the most common activity in the region is netting and lining, potting for lobsters and crabs, however the need for new grounds for wind farms is also reducing the fishing area for the remaining fishermen.


Cromer is a coastal town located in North Norfolk, England with about 7,800 inhabitants. For the last three decades Cromer has been a fishing town. As with Wells, the town is famous for the taste of its crabs with a high meat content. However, there are only about 12 boats left which take lobster, herring and cod depending on the season.

There is evidence that in the 70’s the community of fishermen in Cromer had a strong sense of solidarity and when boats were late running “it was customary for a knot of concerned fishermen to look out for it from the cliff top of the beach”.[1]p.15

Social changes associated with new work opportunities and young men’s aspirations to have jobs that offer a regular income, more sociable working hours and career qualifications, have influenced the decline in interest of men wishing to go fishing. “The trend to move out has occurred as fishermen have become better off and more opportunities have opened up”.[1]p.14

The wives of fishermen are often part of the family firm. Their roles involve taking over the paperwork and running the business (e.g.: the fish shop). In Cromer there is a large scale locally produced crab and lobster processing company, this has reactivated the industry in the region employing local people and new comers.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Weatherhead, F; (2011), North Norfolk Fishermen, The history press. Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Arguile R (2013); Well Next the Sea A little History, Poppyland Publishing, Cromer.
Warren, Martin (1994); Cromer the Chronicle of a Watering Place; Poppyland Publishing, Cromer.