Louis Tussaud's House of Wax, Great Yarmouth
Barely hanging on to the most easterly tip of England, Great Yarmouth is the seaside town that time forgot. Within minutes of our arrival we discover this temporal isolation permeates the town's whole being.
At the core of Great Yarmouth’s time warp sits Louis Tussauds House of Wax. Its terrible likenesses have been widely mocked via viral emails and national radio.
It was the last day of our visit when we stumbled upon the grand old house, painted bright blue and white, with a small ticket booth out front and faded lettering spelling out 'House of Wax'. Disclaimers and warnings proclaim 'These waxworks are best enjoyed as snapshots in time’ and 'No Photography' - evidence its owners were stung by the email mocking their museum.
Buying tickets and stepping inside we immediately realise the wax works are just as bad as the stories had led us to believe, however it's the whole atmosphere, the entirety of the museum that makes it so fascinating.
Due to a lack of investment or more likely a lack of will, Louis Tussauds is a time capsule of the 1970s and early 80s. Jim Davidson stands proudly at the front of a display of television personalities featuring amongst others Dirty Den and Angie, Sam Fox and the cast of Dynasty. There's a whole gallery of military figures with Churchill and Hitler headlining. Modern day is represented by a lost looking Victoria and David Beckham, but they are probably just the old Morecombe and Wise figures melted down and given new hairstyles.
Those celebrities that are still famous are presented in their 80s outfits. Margaret Thatcher sits at the centre of the world leaders display, Kylie and Jason Donovan are frozen as fresh faced Neighbours newlyweds, and Gary Lineker is still just a boring footballer.
I suspect this lack of renewal is no accident. If England hadn't become so enchanted by Sudoko, circular teabags and the Greek Islands then Great Yarmouth would still be the king of seaside resorts and the Radio One road show would be permanently anchored on the beachfront.
Still reeling from the effects of this £3 time machine we make our way downstairs. Where there is a bizarre interlude provided by The Hall of Funny Mirrors, which provide a surprising delight as our minds become attuned to being entertained in another era.
Next is a harrowing hall of murderers and torture best left to the imagination, indeed we’re beginning to lose the plot when we hit the jackpot. We enter a large dusty shed filled with the smell of rust and gently rotting wood. A sign above encourages us to enjoy the delights of the old style amusements. This is the reward for perseverance -- overlooked by many visitors – a shed filled with forgotten arcade and amusement machines.
There are more mechanical shootem ups, rifle ranges and more 2p drop down machines than you could shake a cotton candy at. The sight of so many retro graphics sends us into a frenzy of coin wastage and photography.
We’ve seen plenty of arcade machines, but some of these must date from the 1960’s. Early Sega machines with mechanised planes and light bulb explosions sit next to a mechanical rifle range, whilst countless one arm bandits and bingo machines line the walls.
Once we find ourselves wondering how much they'd want for their automatic change machine we decide it's time to leave and stumble out into the light, our pockets lighter and our brains fizzing with images of Peter Sutcliffe taking tea with Hitler and Samantha Fox.
So look beyond the easy to mock waxworks, of course they are hilarious. However Louis Tussauds have a real goldmine on their hands with the amusement arcade. If the whole place where bubble wrapped and displayed in the Barbican there’d be a queue around the block.
Update, Jan 2008: From the Daily Telegraph, Waxworks from 'worst' museum up for auction.
Louis Tussaud's photos
Ben's Louis Tussaud's photos.
How to get there
Louis Tussaud's House of Wax, 18 Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30 2AF.
Regent Road runs from the end of the pier up towards the main shopping area. Louis Tussaud's is about half way up on the right hand side.
1 Mar-30 Apr, daily, 1100-1600
1 May-31 Aug, daily, 1030-1830
1 Sep-31 Oct, daily, 1100-1600.