King’s Lynn

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King’s Lynn /ˌkɪŋz ˈlɪn/ is a sea port and market town in the ceremonial county of Norfolk in the East of England. It is situated 97 miles (156 km) north of London and 44 miles (71 km) west of Norwich. The population of the town is 42,800.

The etymology of King’s Lynn is uncertain. The name Lynn is said to be derived from the body of water near the town (the Great Ouse river as it prepares to enter The Wash – the bay formerly proposed as a World Heritage Site): the Celtic word Llyn, means a lake; but the name is plausibly of Anglo-Saxon origin, from the word Lean, implying a tenure in fee or farm.  The fine Church of St Peter is in the nearby village of Walpole St Peter.

The town has two theatres, museums and other cultural and sporting venues. There are three secondary schools and one college. The service sector, information and communication technologies and creative industries, provide limited employment for the population of King’s Lynn and the surrounding area.

For a time it was named Len Episcopi (Bishop’s Lynn) while under the jurisdiction, both temporal and spiritual, of the Bishop of Norwich; but during the reign of Henry VIII of England it was surrendered to the crown, and it then assumed the name of Lenne Regis, or King’s Lynn.

In the Domesday Book, it is known as Lun, and Lenn; and is described as the property of the Bishop of Elmham, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The town is and has been for generations generally known by its inhabitants and local people simply as Lynn. The city of Lynn, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, was named in 1637 in honour of its first official minister of religion, Samuel Whiting, who arrived at the new settlement from Lynn, Norfolk.

Lynn originated as a settlement on a constricted site to the south of the mouth of the River Great Ouse. Development began in the early 10th century, but was not recorded until the early 11th century.

In 1101, Bishop Herbert de Losinga of Thetford began the first mediaeval town between two rivers, the Purfleet to the north and Mill Fleet to the south, by commissioning St Margaret’s Church and authorising a market. In the same year, the Bishop granted the people of Lynn the right to hold a market on Saturday.

Trade built up along the waterways that stretched inland from Lynn, and the town expanded between these two rivers.

During the 14th century, King’s Lynn ranked as the third most important port in England, behind Southampton and London. It was considered as important to England during the Middle Ages as Liverpool was during the Industrial Revolution. Sea trade with Europe was dominated by the Hanseatic League of ports; the transatlantic trade and the rise of England’s western ports would not begin until the 17th century. The Trinity Guildhall was rebuilt in 1421 after a fire. It is debated whether the Guildhall of St George is the largest and oldest in England. In order to defend the town, walls and gatehouses were established, including the erection of the South Gate and East Gate.

In the first decade of the 16th century, Thoresby College was built by Thomas Thoresby to house priests of the Guild of The Holy Trinity in King’s Lynn. The guild was incorporated in 1453 on the petition of its alderman, chaplain, four brethren and four sisters. The guildsmen were then licensed to found a chantry of chaplains to celebrate at the altar of Holy Trinity in Wisbech church and to grant to the chaplains lands in mortmain. In 1524 King’s Lynn was given a mayor and corporation. In 1537 the king took control of the town from the bishop. From then on it was called King’s Lynn. However in the 16th century the town’s two annual fairs were reduced to one. In 1534 a grammar school was founded. But in 1538 Henry VIII closed the Benedictine priory and the three friaries.

During the 16th century a piped water supply was created, although many could not afford to be connected: elm pipes carried water under the streets. Like all towns at that time King’s Lynn suffered from outbreaks of plague: there were severe outbreaks in 1516, 1587, 1597, 1636 and 1665. But the 1665 outbreak proved to be the last. Fire was another hazard and in 1572 thatched roofs were banned to reduce the risk of fire. In 1642 came civil war between king and parliament. At first King’s Lynn supported parliament, but in August 1643, after a change in government, the town changed sides. Parliament lost no time in sending an army to capture the town. King’s Lynn was besieged for three weeks before it surrendered.

In 1683, the architect Henry Bell, who was once mayor of King’s Lynn, built the Custom House. Bell also built the Duke’s Head Inn, the North Runcton Church, and Stanhoe Hall. Bell’s artistic inspiration was the result of travelling Europe as a young man.

The town retains two former warehouses of the Hanseatic League, in use between the 15th and 17th centuries. They are the only remaining buildings of the Hanseatic League in England.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the town’s main export was grain. The town was no longer a major international port, although some iron and timber were still imported. Like other East Coast ports, King’s Lynn suffered from the discovery of the Americas, which benefited ports on the West Coast of England. It was also affected by the growth of London which attracted the town’s trade.

In the late 17th century, imports of wine from Spain, Portugal and France into King’s Lynn boomed, and there was still an important coastal trade: at that time it was much cheaper to transport goods by water than by road, and thus many goods were shipped around the coast from one port to another. Large quantities of coal arrived in King’s Lynn from North East England.

In the mid 17th century the fens were drained and turned into farmland. Vast amounts of farm produce were sent from King’s Lynn to the growing market in London. King’s Lynn was also still an important fishing port. Greenland Fishery House in Bridge Street was built in 1605. By the late 17th century shipbuilding had become an important industry in King’s Lynn. A glass making industry also began in the late 17th century.

In the early 18th century Daniel Defoe said King’s Lynn was: ‘Beautiful, well built and well situated’. In the 18th century shipbuilding continued to thrive. So did associated industries such as sail making and rope making. Glass making continued to prosper. Brewing was another important industry. The first bank in King’s Lynn opened in 1784.

On 28 September 1708, a seven year old boy, Michael Hammond and his 11 year old sister Ann Hammond were convicted of theft of a loaf of bread in King’s Lynn. They were sentenced to death by hanging, a sentence which was carried out publicly near the South Gates of the town to make an example of them. At the time of the hangings, Sir Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was Member of Parliament for King’s Lynn.

By the late 17th century, the town had begun to decline, and it was only rescued by the late arrival of railway services in 1847. These services were mainly provided by the Great Eastern Railway – subsequently London and North Eastern Railway. Trains ran from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton, Dereham and Cambridge. The town was also served by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, which had offices in the town at Austin Street, and an important station at South Lynn (now dismantled) which was also its operational control centre until this was relocated to Melton Constable. The M&GN lines were later closed to passengers in February 1959.

The town’s amenities continued to improve into the 20th century. A museum opened in 1904, and a public library in 1905. The first cinema in King’s Lynn, the Majestic Cinema, was officially opened on 23 May 1928; (this year is commemorated in the stained glass window at the front of the building) and the town council began regeneration of the town in the 1930s.

During World War I, Lynn was one of the first towns in Great Britain to be bombed from the air. On the night of 19 January 1915, the town was bombed by naval zeppelin L4 commanded by Kapitain Lieutenant Magnus von Platen-Hallermund. Eleven bombs in all were dropped, both incendiary and high explosive, doing extensive damage, killing two people in Bentinck Street and injuring several others.

When World War II began, it was assumed that King’s Lynn would be safe from bombing, and many evacuees were sent there from London. However King’s Lynn was not completely safe and suffered several air raids.

In 1962 King’s Lynn became an overflow town for London, and the town’s population increased. New estates were built at the Woottons and Gaywood. In the 1960s the town centre was redeveloped and many old buildings were destroyed. Lynnsport, a sports centre, opened in 1982. The corn exchange was converted to a theatre in 1996.

The brewing industry had died out by the 1950s but new industries came to King’s Lynn: food canning in the 1930s and soup making in the 1950s. In the 1960s the council tried to attract new industries by building a new industrial estate at Hardwick. The new industries included light engineering, clothes and chemicals. Fishing remains an important industry.

In 1987, the town became the first in the UK to install town centre CCTV, though Bournemouth had previously used CCTV in non-central locations. The single crime most frequently prosecuted as a result of this comprehensive system is men urinating in public on their way home at night from pubs.

Since 2004, plans have been under way to regenerate the entire town. King’s Lynn has undergone a multi-million pound regeneration scheme.

In 2005, the Vancouver Shopping Centre, (now since renamed the Vancouver quarter) originally built in the 1960s, was refurbished as part of the scheme, with a life expectancy of only 25 years according to the construction firm, and an extension is planned. A new award winning £6 million multi-storey car park was built.

To the south of town, a large area of brownfield land is being transformed into a housing estate locally known as Balamory after the colourful children’s programme, and there were ambitions to build another housing estate alongside the River Nar but these were vehemently opposed by local opinion and the economic situation has seen this ambition stopped. There is also a business park, parkland, a school, shops and a new relief road in a £300 million+ scheme.

In 2006, King’s Lynn became the United Kingdom’s first member of The Hanse (Die Hanse), a network of towns and cities across Europe which historically belonged to the Hanseatic League. Originally this was a highly influential mediaeval trading association of merchant towns around the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, which contributed to the development of King’s Lynn.

The Borough Council commissioned a report by DTZ and accepted by the Borough Council published in 2008 which describes King’s Lynn as a town with a workforce as being of “low value” and having a “low skills base”. The town was further described as having a “poor lifestyle offer”. The quality of services and amenities was described as “unattractive to higher value inward investors and professional employees with higher disposable incomes”. Average earnings are well below regional and national levels, and a large number of jobs that do exist in tourism, leisure and hotels are both subject to seasonal fluctuations and are poorly paid. Education and workforce qualifications are described also as being below the national average. The borough ranks 150 out of 354 in terms of deprivation.

In 2009, a proposal was submitted for the Campbell’s Meadow factory site to be redeveloped to include a 5-hectare (12-acre) employment and business park, this plan had been rejected in favour of Sainsbury, but in June 2011 Tesco was given permission to build their store. On 8 June 2010, Tesco unveiled its regeneration plans for the site that would cost £32 million, and might create 900 jobs overall.

Tesco also pledged £4 million of improvements in other areas of the town. It planned to spend £1.6 million widening the Hardwick Road but the Sainsbury bid was preferred by the Council as it offered more benefits to the town. Although now both stores will be constructed and as off August 2011 Tesco has started the redevelopment of the Campbell’s site by slowly removing the current buildings which are full of asbestos for the construction of the new Tesco store which will be built behind the current Tesco Hardwick and will have twice the floor space it is due to open late 2012, as of the beginning of September no building work had been started on the new Sainsburys.

Sainsbury’s has also had its £40 million plans for a new superstore opposite Tesco on the Pinguin Foods site, which is estimated to create 300 jobs and secure the future of Pinguin Foods in King’s Lynn proposed and accepted by the town. Pinguin Foods is releasing 12 acres (49,000 m2) of its 44-acre (180,000 m2) site, to accommodate the proposed store. Mortson Assets and Sainsbury’s plan to create a new link road between Scania Way and Queen Elizabeth Way to improve access, allowing the industrial estate to expand and attract new employers. Sainsbury’s will also keep their store open in the town centre. Sainsbury’s has pledged £1.75 million for highways improvements and a further £7 million to invest in the Pinguin Foods factory.

At 8.00am on the morning of Sunday 15 January 2012 the landmark, but by then derelict, Campbell’s tower was demolished by competition winner Sarah Griffiths, whose father had died following a tragic accident at the factory 17 years previously. Mick Locke, 52, was fatally scalded by a blast of steam in 1995. An estimated three thousand people turned out to witness the tower’s final moments. It was Campbell’s first UK factory when it opened in the 1950s, employing hundreds of local workers. At its peak in the early 1990s, it employed more than 700 workers.

Historically part of the county of Norfolk, King’s Lynn was made a county borough in 1883. The Borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk was formed by the amalgamation of the Borough of King’s Lynn, the Downham Market Urban District, the Hunstanton Urban District, the Docking Rural District, the Downham Rural District, the Freebridge Lynn Rural District, and the Marshland Rural District.

The shield in the coat of arms of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk is the arms of the ancient Borough of King’s Lynn, which was recorded at the College of Arms in 1563. The shield shows the legend of Margaret of Antioch, who has been portrayed on the Seals of King’s Lynn since the 13th century, and to whom the Parish Church is dedicated. The per chevron division and the addition of a bordure serve to make the shield distinct from its predecessor while retaining its medieval simplicity. The bordure also suggests the wider boundaries of the new authority, and the new shield is composed of seven parts to symbolise the seven authorities which were amalgamated. The gull depicted on the crest is a maritime reference. It appeared as a supporter in some representations of the arms, but officially it stands on a bollard in order to make it distinctive. It is supported with a crown or coronet like the King’s Lynn supporter, and the lion in the crest of Downham Market Urban District Council coat of arms. The coronet refers to the Borough’s royal connections. The cross held by the gull is an extension of the two in the shield, and the cross in the coat of arms of Freebridge Lynn Rural District.The supporters are based on the crest of the Hunstanton Urban District Council. The lion is a variation of the lions, or leopards, in the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom and its fish tail suggests the borough’s links with the sea. The fish–lion is also the centre feature in the borough’s badge, but here it is surrounded by a garland of oakleaves as a reference to the rural nature of much of the district. Oakleaves are also a feature of the coronet in the crest of the former Downham Market Urban District Council.

King’s Lynn is twinned with Emmerich am Rhein, Germany; Jičín/Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic; and Sandringham, Australia.

King’s Lynn is the northernmost settlement on the River Great Ouse, situated 97 miles (156 km) north of London and 44 miles (71 km) west of Norwich. The town lies about 5 miles (8 km) south of the Wash, an estuary on the northwest margin of East Anglia and 12 miles (19 km) from the mouth of the Wash, an area subject to dangerous tides and shifting sandbanks. King’s Lynn has an area of 11 square miles (28 km2).

The Great Ouse at Lynn is about 200 metres (220 yd) wide and is the outfall for much of the drainage system of the Fens. The much smaller Gaywood River also flows through the town, joining the Great Ouse at the southern end of South Quay close to the town centre.

A small part, known as West Lynn, is on the west bank, and linked to the town centre by one of the oldest ferries in the country. Other districts of King’s Lynn include the town centre, North Lynn, South Lynn, and Gaywood.

The town has several public parks, the largest one being the Walks, a historic 17 hectare urban park in the centre of King’s Lynn. The Walks is the only surviving town walk in Norfolk from the 18th century. The Heritage Lottery Fund donated £4.3 million towards restoration on the park, including the addition of modern amenities. The Walks is also the location of the Red Mount, a Grade II-listed 15th century chapel. In 1998, the Walks was designated by English Heritage as a Grade II National historic park. The Walks as a whole had a different and earlier origin, in that it was at first conceived not as a municipal park, as one understands the term today, but as a single promenade for the citizens away from the smell, grime and bustle of the town centre. Harding’s Pits is another public park and lies to the south of the town. It is an attractive informal area of open space with large public sculptures erected to reflect the history of the town. Harding’s Pits is managed by local volunteers under a management company and has so far successfully fought off the Borough Council’s attempts to turn it into an attenuation drain.

As of 2007, King’s Lynn has a population of 42,800. According to Norfolk’s 2007 census, King’s Lynn, together with West Norfolk, has a population of 143,500, with an average population density of 1.00 persons per hectare.

King’s Lynn has always been a centre for the fishing and seafood industry (especially inshore prawns, shrimps and cockles). There have also been glass-making and small-scale engineering works (many fairground and steam engines were built here), and today, it is still the location for much agricultural-related industry including food processing. There are a number of chemical factories and the town retains a role as an import centre. It is a regional centre for what is still a sparsely populated part of England.

King’s Lynn was the fastest growing port in Great Britain in 2008. The figures from the Department for Transport show that trade in the King’s Lynn increased by 33 per cent.

In 2008, the German Palm Group began to erect one of the world’s largest paper machines. The machine was constructed by Voith Paper. With a web speed of up to 2000 m/min and a web width of 10.63m, it can produce 400.000 per year of newsprint paper. The production is based on 100% recycled paper. The start-up was on 21 August 2009.

The Port of King’s Lynn has facilities for dry bulk cargo such as cereals and liquid bulk products such as petroleum products for Pace Petroleum. It also handles timber imported from Scandinavia and the Baltics, and has large handling sheds for steel imports.

King’s Lynn is the primary retail centre in West Norfolk, as well as being the principal centre for people living outside the border of West Norfolk. The town centre is dominated by budget shops reflecting the spending power of much of the population. The town centre fulfils a leisure role with entertainment centres, bars and restaurants, and has a range of service functions. There are around 5,300 retailing jobs.

The town centre has 73,000 square metres of retail floorspace in 347 shops, which is greater than the comparable centres of Bury St Edmunds and Boston. However, whilst the percentage of floorspace in comparison shopping and that occupied by multiple retailers is above the national average, King’s Lynn offers limited range of choice.

Tourism in King’s Lynn is a minor industry and attracts a relatively tiny amount of tourists each year.

A £7 million programme to redevelop King’s Lynn’s Town Centre’s infrastructure has recently been completed.

King’s Lynn railway station is the only rail line providing rail transportation to King’s Lynn, and is the terminus of the Fen Line. The station provides connections to Ely, Cambridge and London King’s Cross. It is the only remaining station of several the town once hosted. South Lynn railway station closed to passengers in 1959, and the railway line to the Hunstanton railway station was closed in 1969.

West Norfolk Council are considering reopening the railway route between the King’s Lynn railway station and the Hunstanton railway station. The possibility of reinstating the line was proposed at a meeting of the council’s Regeneration and Environment Panel on 29 October 2008. The re-opening of the route was last discussed in the 1990s. The environmental case for reviving the line and relieving road congestion in and around Hunstanton is considered to be even stronger.

In 1951 to complement the Festival of Britain, Lady Fermoy organised the King’s Lynn Festival of the Arts. She was a close friend and lady-in-waiting to the Queen – later to become Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother – who agreed to become the festival’s patron, and in July 1951 officially opened the restored St George’s Guildhall. The Queen Mother was an enthusiastic and active supporter who remained the festival’s patron until her death in March 2002.

The King’s Lynn Literature Festivals are held during a single weekend in March (fiction) and September (poetry) each year, usually in the town hall.

There is a small museum of the former life of the North End fishermen at True’s Yard. It includes cottages and a former smokehouse.

Festival Too is held on Tuesday Market Place every summer.

The Majestic Cinema, located in the town centre, is the town’s only cinema.

King’s Lynn’s main venue for concerts, stand-up comedy shows and other live events is the Corn Exchange, located on Tuesday Market Place. With many smaller venues such as Bar Red and the Wenns supporting the vibrant local music scene as well as many unsigned acts from other parts of the country.

During the 16th century, King’s Lynn’s Tuesday Market Place hosted two important trade fairs which attracted visitors from as far as Italy and Germany. As the importance of trade fairs declined, the Mart’s nature changed to become a funfair, and was reduced to a single annual event that takes place on 14 February (Valentine’s Day), and lasts an average of 14 days.

The Mart is also a memorial to the work of Frederick Savage, a man who worked in partnership with the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain to develop new attractions.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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