This week’s object is a print of the King’s Lynn Custom House. It was created during the 17th century by architect, author and artist Henry Bell. Henry Bell was born in King’s Lynn in 1647 and baptised in St Margaret’s Church.
The son of a wealthy merchant, he was well educated. From the age of six he attended the Free School in Saturday Market place where he was taught by his uncle Edward. He was a promising student and went on to study at Cambridge before embarking on his Grand Tour of Europe. It is likely Henry was inspired by the buildings he saw during his travels and would use them as inspiration in his own architectural designs.
A contemporary of Sir Christopher Wren, Henry helped shape the King’s Lynn we know today. He is responsible for some of the most recognisable buildings around the town including the Duke’s Head and the building we now know as the Custom House.
The Custom House was commissioned by John Turner, who was Henry’s patron. It is built from honey coloured Ketton stone.
The print show us that originally the ground floor had a solid wall to the east but was open on the other three sides. Elaborate, figurative carvings decorate the arches and above the main door stands a life sized statue of monarch Charles II.
The Custom House opened as a merchants’ exchange in 1685 and was used as the town’s Custom House from 1718.
Today the Custom House is one of Lynn’s most iconic buildings standing proud for over 300 years. Henry died in 1711 but the fantastic buildings he designed stand as a testament to his talent.