Research reveals more about historic parts of King’s Lynn

The South Gate in King's Lynn.
The South Gate in King's Lynn.

Research has shed light on three historic sites in Lynn and has led to a new understanding of what these parts of the town were like and how they were used.

The research, which has been carried out by Historic England as part of Lynn’s Heritage Action Zone scheme, has revealed more about Common Staithe Quay car park, Chapel Street car park and the Southgates area.

This work will inform the types of new developments that are possible within Lynn’s historic centre.

Lynn, which this month celebrates its first anniversary as a Heritage Action Zone, was one of the first places in England to be awarded the status.

Among the findings are that by the 16th century Common Staithe Quay car park was a public quay which led to an open space surrounded by warehouses.

This layout remains recognisable today, and where the warehouses once stood, three buildings were erected: the Corn Exchange, a grand Georgian house, and an island of Georgian and Victorian buildings.

It is believed that the area of Chapel Street car park was occupied from the late 13th century and by the 16th century it was densely developed with timber-framed, and possibly stone, buildings.

Many were houses and others were shops where merchants and traders could take advantage of passing trade on the busy route between Tuesday Market Place and St Nicholas Chapel.

The 580-year-old South Gate has, ever since it was built, been the main entrance to Lynn.

But its surroundings have changed significantly. Gone is the river which flowed in front of it, the nearby shipyards and timberyards, and the inn from which stage coaches left for London.

The buildings there now once housed a 1920s classical-style bus depot and a 1950s Ford garage. And there is a medieval bridge under the road that goes under the South Gate.

Alistair Beales, cabinet member for corporate projects and assets said: “Sensitive and appropriate development that fits in with the town’s significant maritime and merchant history is crucial to the future economy of the town.

“This first stage of work has given us a much greater understanding of our town.

“I am really looking forward to the next stage of this project which will look at the types of development that might be possible and feasible.”

John Neale, planning director for Historic England in the East of England said: “This work gives us vital information that will help us lay the foundations for what comes next for Lynn in development and regeneration.

“Through the Heritage Action Zone we’re all working together to make the most of the town’s rich history to create a vibrant place for local residents and business owners to live, and for tourists to visit.”

The new insights into the medieval town are the result of Historic England going out on site and carefully piecing together new and existing research from the Norfolk Historic Environment Record and the King’s Lynn Archive.

Members of the public can find out more about the research at talks at the town hall, which are free to attend.

These will be held on Tuesday, May 22 on the topic of Common Staithe Quay car park, Tuesday, June 5 on Chapel Streetcar park and Tuesday, June 12 on the Southgates.

To book your place, email laura.wiffen@west-norfolk.gov.uk.

The next steps for the Heritage Action Zone include an Urban Archaeological Database which is being created.

Information from the database will then be put into the Historic Environment Record to understand more about the rich historic environment.

Anyone who has researched Lynn’s archaeology, historic buildings, areas or parks should contact the team via alice@alicecattermole.co.uk.