Making history in King’s Lynn

I do like Kings Lynn. A small port town in Norfolk on the River Great Ouse – big in history with a long maritime tradition. The core of the old town hugs along one side of the river as it opens out into the Wash. Here, cobbled streets, grand houses and converted warehouses slowly release memories of trading families & merchants, adventurers & seafarers, fishing fleets & river ferries. Focus here and ignore the tangle of modern shopping and faceless homes that surround it.


In the 13th century Kings Lynn was one of England’s foremost ports, trading as it did with the Hanseatic League, a group of cities in Germany. They came with fish, furs, timber, wax & pitch and returned home from Lynn with wool, cloth & salt. In its hey day, vessels moored up in stacks along the river. The Purfleet provided access into the middle of town and was a safe harbour for vessels of all nationalities. The Custom House dominates the quay side, standing out as it does from converted warehouses, storerooms and offices.

This guy is Captain George Vancouver, a famous local seafarer.

Lynn’s top dog merchants built their grand houses and warehouses on King Street with land running down to the river where the water was deeper so large ships could moor at their private quays.

Merchants showed off their wealth in the form of doorways, door knockers, window frames and warehouses.

Of course, such wealth manifested itself in civic projects as well – the Holy Trinity Guildhall was rebuilt in the 1470s and extended over the years.

The first of the two towers of St Margaret’s Church was erected about 1400 to enhance the church and act as an important seamark for ships entering the Wash. On its face a Moon Clock displays the phases of the moon to aid mariners in determining the state of the tides.

There are two market squares in Kings Lynn, both with charters dating from the time of King John to hold markets. They are, rather unimaginatively, called Saturday Market Place and this one – Tuesday Market Place

Old warehouses await redevelopment.

They may have been completed by the time you visit!

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