The History of King’s Lynn in 100 Objects: No42

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This silver badge on display at Lynn Museum dates from 1744. It was the emblem for one of the town officials, known as ‘Beadles’ for the Guardians of the Poor. They assisted with the system in place at that time for helping the poor of the Borough. There were two beadles in King’s Lynn and the badge shows a robed figure and the official staff they carried as well as the arms of the town. The much polished badge is one of a pair and inside one are written the names Sizer and Grieves, two of the town officials over the years.

William Blake, in one of his poems from the book Songs of Innocence of 1789, mentions beadles in his description of a ceremony in London when six thousand orphans sing in St Paul’s cathedral supervised by their beadles: “The children walking two and two, in red and blue and green, Grey headed beadles walk’d before, with wands as white as snow.”

In the 18th century, when our beadle badge was new, King’s Lynn was providing a workhouse to help care for those who couldn’t look after themselves. The St James workhouse stood on St James Road in the town and incorporated the medieval chapel of St James. The workhouse continued there until a disastrous collapse of the central tower in August 1854. A new workhouse was then built on Exton’s Road.

The King’s Lynn badge is on show in the main gallery of Lynn Museum and you can find out more about workhouses in the brand new displays at our sister museum near Dereham, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.