The reviled medieval monarch King John who, despite his bad reputation, brought prosperity to Lynn has been immortalised in the town centre.
A six foot bronze statue of the sovereign was unveiled by borough mayor David Whitby this morning (Wednesday, October 12), marking a significant date in the ruler’s history.
It is said that on October 12 1216 King John’s treasure, including crown jewels, gold and money, was lost in the Wash as he travelled north from Lynn towards Lincoln only days before his death.
The statue, which is now a focal point on New Conduit Street, cost around £22,000 to complete and was financed using funding from the Stories of Lynn project at the town hall.
At the ceremony Elizabeth Nockolds, West Norfolk Council’s cabinet member for culture, heritage and health, said: “We are all very proud of our heritage and our past stories of Lynn, and so the borough council promote and celebrate it wherever we can to encourage more people to visit Lynn and enjoy themselves.
“During his reign, Bishop’s Lynn, as it was known then, was one of the top four English towns. This morning we are commemorating the fact that King John last visited the town 800 years ago and on that day he had a feast not too far from here. He enjoyed himself with many friends but sadly he died a few days after at Newark.”
Moments before the life-sized bust was presented to the public, borough mayor David Whitby said: “During my year in office, I am sure unveiling this statue will be the most historical, significant act I do as mayor of the borough. This work of art will be something which visitors to the town will talk about for many years to come.”
Writer and entertainer Gareth Calway performed his rap The Ballad of Bad King John to the crowds, who were encouraged to join in, and who heard of both the good and bad sides of the ruler, who enjoyed support in Lynn in the 1200s.
Excerpts of the ballad can be read on the right-hand side of the page.
Sculptor Alan Beattie Herriot, who spent months working on the project, said: “The point of it is that people get to know that King John came to King’s Lynn and improved the prosperity of the town by granting it a charter.”
He added that he is now working on the project which will see a statue of Hunstanton’s founder Henry Le Strange be installed in the town.
The bust is set to be part of a £1.3 million regeneration of the resort – £1 million of which was secured through Heritage Lottery funding.