Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, September 29, 2017
Once again, the King’s Lynn Heritage Day exceeded expectations and a massive thank you is due to all the organisers and volunteers who made it possible.
Each year something new comes up and it was a delight to visit the Islamic Centre, Lath House, Andrew Schumann’s studio and the tower at the Pilots Office as well as listening to the excellent rockabilly band in Tuesday Market Place with their wonderful saxophonist.
It was also an excuse to check out some of the pubs and clubs that took part.
The newly-renamed Ferry Lane Social Club attracted a good crowd with its photographic exhibition and it seemed a shame not to stay for lunch.
The beer festival at the Hanse House provided a welcome break for many, and it was good to see the Live and Let Live promoting their brand of living heritage, showcasing one of the very few traditional street corner locals left in town.
Perhaps the interest shown in these places could be developed into some type of pub trail or Town of Ale event.
Soon they should be joined by the refurbished Wenn’s Hotel, and we were allowed a peek inside to see the progress of the renovations. For a long time, this property had been in decline and it has cast something of a cloud over Saturday Market Place. In a few months that should change and we will have a shining new bar which will help to revitalise a part of town that seems to have been struggling in recent years.
However, I have heard that it is possible the name will change. It wouldn’t be the first time. It was known as ‘The Restaurant’ from 1872 until 1961, when a new licence was issued and it became Wenns Hotel.
Wenn is the name of the family in charge over a 100 years ago. James Wenn was born in 1836 in Downham the son of a waterman and an Ironmonger by trade; though by 1871 he was in Lynn, living with his sister and her family and was the licensee of ‘The Restaurant’. 20 years later he was still in charge, but had married Lizzie, moved along the High Street where he also had an ironmongers. Lizzie was nine years younger than James. She had married George in 1859 and had run a grocer’s shop in her home town of Lincoln.
However, Lizzie was widowed in 1866, and after living in the south of the city, she appears again in Lynn, apparently married to James.
When James died, she took on The Restaurant and ran it until her retirement in 1909, which coincided with the death of her son Frank, when it appears that she moved back to Lincoln to live with her daughter in law who was working as a milk seller.
Frank left behind numerous debts, which Lizzie probably helped to sort out, and by the time of her death in 1915, at the age of 74, she left a sum of £2398, many times the amount of her late husband, evidence for her ability as a businesswoman. James and Lizzie are buried in the Hardwick cemetery and thanks to Steph and Ian from the Friends of Hardwick Cemetery for allowing me to use their research.
I feel that it was a fine choice to name the building after James and particular Lizzie, who did so well in a man’s world. Perhaps some acknowledgement could appear in the refurbished premises?