Turnstone: Lessons from history on railways and councils

Book Review''A six car DMU leaves Hunstanton for King's Lynn on 3rd May 1969'The Lynn &  Hunstanton Railway and the West Norfolk Branch ENGANL00120110714162433

Book Review''A six car DMU leaves Hunstanton for King's Lynn on 3rd May 1969'The Lynn & Hunstanton Railway and the West Norfolk Branch ENGANL00120110714162433

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For anyone with even the slightest interest in local history, the Looking Back feature in the Lynn News regularly throws up some really fascinating stories that were making the news in days gone by.

Two weeks ago, for example, we were reminded that 50 years ago some of us were predicting with considerable accuracy what was about to happen to the rail network in north west Norfolk.

Railwayman Mr J L Juby was reported as having advised Lynn Town Council not to deal with the threatened closure of the Lynn to Dereham line in isolation, because he foresaw the withdrawal of the Lynn to Wisbech-March line and the Lynn to Hunstanton line, which would leave just the line to Ely, Cambridge and London.

Mr Juby urged the council to make the strongest protests they could to the appropriate bodies. If Lynn council did make the strong protests advocated by Mr Juby, these failed to save any of the three threatened lines from closure.

It would appear therefore, that localism (even if the word had not been coined in those days) counted for as much then as it does now!

This brings me to a letter from Richard Bird which appeared in the Lynn News on the same day.

Under the heading: Localism goes into a bunker, Mr Bird drew attention to the number of decisions affecting Hunstanton that are taken by West Norfolk councillors (some of them living as far away as Upwell) without proper consultation with local inhabitants, or even the organisations representing them, such as the town council, civic society and chamber of trade.

Perhaps there is another lesson to be learned from history in the fact that prior to local government reorganisation 40 years ago, King’s Lynn, in common with Downham Market and Hunstanton, had its own council, which ceased to exist when West Norfolk District Council came into being in 1974.

If all three towns had each had a town council after reorganisation in 1974, there would have been no valid reason for King’s Lynn to be given prominence in the title when, in 1981, the council changed its name (and its character) by declaring itself to be the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.

This has led to a widely held belief that King’s Lynn should have a disproportionate amount of money spent on its facilities with the other two towns and many villages, which come in all shapes and sizes, expected to be grateful for the crumbs falling from Lynn’s table.

Perhaps when canvassing starts in earnest for the forthcoming national and local elections, candidates will find themselves echoing the words of Richard Bird, which within the last four years have helped to get him elected on to Norfolk County Council, West Norfolk Council and Hunstanton Town Council.