diamond geezer

 Monday, February 15, 2016

Day out: King's Lynn

And if the Mart's not on? King's Lynn still has plenty to offer, but perhaps wait for non-Arctic weather.

»» The River Great Ouse
King's Lynn owes its existence to the fourth-longest river in the UK. Now more important for drainage than for navigation, the man-made channel of the Great Ouse carves drably across the Fens, and still has a couple of miles to go when it passes the town's quay. Don't expect to see the sea, just a flat horizon, and the odd angler slouched over the wall above a deep grey tidal river. The longest strip of quayside runs between two watery inlets, the Purfleet and the Millfleet, and features a string of heritage buildings. These include a 16th century college and a Tudor warehouse, the latter naturally now a cafe/restaurant. Set back from the river, the most distinctive building is the Custom House, a squat and turrety merchants exchange which now doubles up as the town's Tourist Information Office. It's a good one too, and best visited early in your trip, plus upstairs there's an extra exhibition upstairs for a quid.

»» West Lynn Ferry
A small proportion of the population of King's Lynn live on the west bank of the Ouse, not the east. With the nearest road crossing a mile to the south, a ferry service has plied across the river for several centuries and still runs regularly today. The latest incarnation is a low-loading boat with space for over a dozen passengers, accessed from a steep staircase at the end of a long narrow passageway called Ferry Lane. A crossing takes two minutes, plus time for manoeuvring and embarking and alighting, and is operated by a jolly team of driver and cast-off-er-cum-clippie. At one pound single and one pound fifty return it's also a bargain, scudding over the tidal water past the occasional seagull and buoy. Whilst the vast majority of passengers are West Lynn residents commuting or shopping, the management didn't seem too surprised when I spent only fifteen minutes on the opposite shore (there's not much to see, apart from the main town looking back) before returning on the next timetabled trip.

»» The Old Town
King's Lynn has managed to hang on to some of its medieval town, most particularly in the area around the town hall. This overlooks the Saturday Market Place, as opposed to the Tuesday Market Place, although I saw no evidence of any stall-based trading here at the weekend. A twist of narrow streets winds past some achingly attractive terraced residences, and also Hanse House, the only surviving Hanseatic League warehouse in the country. Above all this looms King's Lynn Minster, formerly St Margaret's Church, whose interior isn't quite as impressive as the exterior suggests. But do pause by the main door to check out marks in the wall showing the high water level in this part of town, with January 1978 here scarier even that the great North Sea inundation of January 1953.

»» Lynn Museum
Housed in a disused church beside the bus station, what might have been a minor museum has been greatly boosted by a Bronze Age treasure in the opening gallery. The Holme Timber Circle was built by prehistoric man on a saltmarsh up the coast, specifically in 2049BC because timber-dating is pretty damned good these days, and subsequently buried by the sea. Rediscovered on a beach in 1998, courtesy of gradual erosion, the ring of several dozen wooden posts was swiftly nicknamed Seahenge. A decision had to be made whether to leave it exposed to rot or whisk it away for preservation. The latter course prevailed, using the same technology that saved the Mary Rose, and the timbers now reside in a moisture-free semicircle inside the former chancel. Here too is the upturned tree trunk excavated from the centre of the ring, whose original function remains uncertain, but what a find! Elsewhere, the usual local museum fare, well presented. Entrance is free from October to March, and costs £3 in spring and summer.

»» True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum
The other main museum in town is more of an independent effort. Based around the only surviving fishermen's cottages in Lynn, a group of volunteers have assembled a miniature time capsule remembering multifarious aspects of the town's life. They focus particularly on Northend, the less well-off part of town, where the fishwives and herring smokeries once were. The two restored cottages are both one-up one-down, with no cooking facilities other than a fire, no running water, and the most ridiculously steep stairs I've attempted in some time. The 1881 census shows nine or ten sleeping in each, putting our current 'housing crisis' into sharp perspective. One current exhibition at the True's Yard features a multitude of photos of royalty visiting King's Lynn, which they seem to do rather a lot given that Sandringham is just up the road. Meanwhile visitors to the museum are reminded in every single room that photography is not allowed, and by golly the buzzer on the front door is loud, and I dearly hope the tearoom has better custom in the summer.

»» St Nicholas' Chapel
One thing a thriving medieval town needed a lot of was churches, but St Nicholas' Chapel proved one too many. It was built as an overflow for St Margaret's so that the residents of Northend didn't have so far to walk on a Sunday, indeed it's the largest 'chapel-of-ease' ever built in this county. Alas modern congregations are considerably smaller, so the number of parishioners dwindled away to unsustainable levels and in 1992 all regular services ceased. Thankfully the Churches Conservation Trust stepped in to maintain the building, which is splendid, and still open for eight hours a week (on Tuesdays and Saturdays) should you wish to look inside. The 15th century roof is a magnificent wooden structure decorated with 22 carved angels, the stained glass window above the high altar has been recently (colourfully) restored, and the name Robinson Cruso appears on the floor tiles by the font several times. Come after dark and the building is fully illuminated, part of a town-wide Lumière art project which kicks off at Easter each year.

and also...
»» The town is unduly fond of its most famous son, George Vancouver, a naval explorer who charted the Pacific coast of North America in the late 18th century. You can probably guess which Canadian inlet and island he charted and 'discovered'. I'm less certain he'd be honoured by having King's Lynn's modern shopping quarter named after him.
»» The town's middle classes used to promenade in The Walks, now restored as part of a public park, where you'll also find Red Mount Chapel, a stopping point on pilgrimages to Walsingham. Across the road in an ornamental garden, only the tower of the town's Franciscan friary still stands.
»» Before you come, check out this page on the town's tourist website where you can download various guides and walking trails - these come highly recommended.
»» It's been a tough few weeks economically for the town. A couple of weeks back the Arts Centre in St George's Guildhall held its last event, a victim of insufficient income, closing off access to the largest surviving medieval guildhall in Britain. Almost simultaneously the Caithness Crystal factory on the outskirts of town held a closing down sale of business assets and stock and promptly folded. Hopes are now being pinned on a new visitor attraction due to open at Easter, Stories of Lynn, in the medieval Town Hall complex. They'd really like to see you here. Add Lynn to your list.

My King's Lynn gallery
There are 40 photos altogether [slideshow]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards