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Letter: Richard Parr December 15, 2017

The Guildhall in King Street.
The Guildhall in King Street.

I recently attended the excellent illustrated talk by Earl Spencer (brother of Diana, Princess of Wales) about the “great escape” of Charles II, following his defeat at the Battle of Worcester.

Before the talk began and the audience were taking their seats in the historic 15th century Guildhall of St George on King Street, I was rather bemused by an incident occurring in the row of seats behind me.

I heard a man call to volunteer steward John Loveless in the nearby aisle: “I say, my good man, could you please take this?” At which point he handed Mr Loveless the arm of his red chair which had literally come away in his hand.

While on the surface, this was quite an amusing incident, it does, I feel, reflect a much more serious problem concerning this Grade I Listed theatre where Shakespeare himself was once reputed to have trod the boards.

The future of this iconic building, owned by the National Trust and leased to the borough council, is currently under review and public consultation continues regarding its future role. I understand the building is currently operated as a hiring venue offering a programme of theatre, dance, music, lectures and film.

While the broken chair is one of many seats which are now in rather a poor state of repair and rather uncomfortable for their occupants, the overall condition of this most treasured building is an increasing cause for great concern.

It was saved for the town in the late 1940s by Alexander Penrose and Ruth, Lady Fermoy (grandmother of Diana, Princess of Wales), founder of the renowned King’s Lynn Festival.

The first King’s Lynn Festival of Music and the Arts was staged in 1951 to celebrate the building’s reopening. The opening was performed by Queen Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and one of its most enthusiastic supporters until her death at the great age of 101.

In his opening remarks before he began his talk, Earl Spencer spoke briefly of his close links with Lynn where he was born and spent his childhood years living at Park House, on the Sandringham Estate, with his three sisters, including, Diana.

He spoke of the Silfield private day school on Gayton Road in Gaywood (now closed) where he and Diana were educated for some years.

It is so sad that this iconic building, once so lovingly restored and which has been the setting for so many memorable theatrical performances by some of the biggest names in classical peforming arts, as well as numerous talented amateur performers, should now have fallen into such a sorry state of repair that seat arm rests come away in the occupant’s hand. Need I say more?


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