Kings Lynn is a small river side port with a rich maritime history, dating back to the 12 century. It is situated on the banks of the Great Ouse, which flows into the Wash - one of the largest estuaries in Britain. The town was originally known as Bishop's Lynn, until Henry VIII changed it during the Dissolution of the Monasteries - though most of its citizens have always preferred just plain 'Lynn'.
The local fisherfolk have earned a living from the North sea in this area for over a 1000 years, and there is still a small fishing fleet that operates from the quay to this day.
During medieval times the European Hanseatic Merchant's League chose Lynn as a base of operations and the town has long since been a busy centre for trade and commerce. How successful these rich merchants were can be seen from their grand houses, guildhalls, markets and old Corn Exchange, which made Lynn one of the most handsomest towns in England. The late Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, believed the walk from the bottom of Nelson Street, up Queen Street and King Street to St Nicholas Chapel, to be one of the finest in Europe.
In addition to its historic buildings, splendid waterfront and handsome parks, the town has an extensive pedestrianised shopping area containing a modern shopping centre and many streets of traditional shops, with ample parking facilities. There is also a good choice of restaurants, café's and bars, plus many traditional and historic pubs. The Town's historic markets are still held in the 'Tuesday Market Place' and 'Saturday Market Place' on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Custom House, Purfleet Quay, King's Lynn PE30 1HP - Tel: 01553 763044
The Guildhall Auditorium is accommodated in the large 15th century Guildhall of St George. Since its construction in 1406 it has fulfilled several roles. In Shakespeare's day it was a theatre in which the Bard himself is rumoured to have played. Later it became a warehouse, but now it is a theatre again and the HQ of the annual King's Lynn Festival. The centre provides a changing programme of exhibitions, events, workshops and other projects.
Opening times: The medieval Guildhall is open to the public for viewing 10am to 2pm Tuesday to Friday. Free Entry
Location: 29 King Street, King's Lynn, PE30 1HA - Tel: 01553 779095 Website
During the 14th century Lynn was ranked as England's 3rd most important port and by the 18th century it was prospering on the export of corn. The Corn Exchange was built in 1854, dominating the 'Tuesday Market Place', the town's main public square. The exchange building became badly run down by the mid 1990s, when a project began to fully restore and enlarge the premises into a modern theatre. Today the exchange hosts a variety of programs, including concerts, comedy, ballet, children's shows and opera.
Opening times: Coffee House and Box Office: Mon to Sat, 10am to 4pm
Location: Tuesday Market Place, King's Lynn, PE30 1JW - Tel: 01553 764864 Website
Facilities: Toilets, coffee shop.
The elegant, honey coloured stone, Customs House, situated alongside Purfleet Quay, was constructed in 1683 by George Vancouver, the son of the Deputy Collector of Customs. Today the building hosts the town's tourist information centre, plus a facinating exhibition, with hands-on computer displays, that retell the story of the local merchants, customs men and smugglers, including Lynn's famous mariners; Vancouver and Nelson.
Opening times: Mon to Sat, 10am to 3.30pm/4.30pm, Sun 12pm to 3.30pm/4.30pm
Admission Charge to exhibition
Location: Purfleet Quay, Kings Lynn, PE30 1HP - Tel: 01553 763044
An interesting and fun, family friendly, exhibition with displays, models and interactive workstations that tell the story of the local Fenlands and Wash, including King's Lynn rich maritime heritage and its links with Hanseatic traders. Located nearby is a two-storey Hanseatic warehouse (not open to the public), once used by the Hanseatic League of Baltic merchants.
Opening times: every day 9am to 5pm. Free Entry
Location: Marriott's Warehouse, South Quay, King's Lynn, PE30 5DT - Tel 01553 818500
Facilities: Exhibition area, cafe, shop, conference facilities.
The most attractive of Lynn's two guildhalls is the one in Saturday Market Place. Its magnificent frontage is a chequer-board of dark split flint and pale stone, a traditional East Anglian design of the period. The original hall, the centrepiece, was built for the Guild of the Holy Trinity in 1423; the Assembly Rooms were added in 1766, and finally the Town Hall in 1895.
The Lynn Regalia rooms, located in the Undercroft, reflect the town's medieval opulence. The centrepiece is King John's Cup, a large gilt and enamel loving cup that probably dates from about a century after John's death. However, pride of place goes to the civic records, kept there since 1307.
Next door to the Guildhall is the yellow-brick 18th-century gaol also open to the public, where visitors can see the 200 year old cells and hear true stories of Lynn's highwaymen, smugglers and other notorious criminals.
Opening times: 13 April - 29 October, Wed to Sat 10am - 4pm. Admission Charge
Location: Saturday Market Place, King's Lynn PE30 5DQ - Tel: 01553 774297
A delightful little museum that retells the story of West Norfolk. The museum's key exhibit is a life size replica of "Seahenge", an amazing 4,000 year old Bronze Age timber circle, found on a beach near Holme-next-the-Sea. The cut-marks left by the bronze axes of the people who crafted this ancient monument are still visible. Other exhibits include the skeleton of an Anglo Saxon warrior, Egyptian Shabti figures and a collection of Iceni period gold coins found concealed inside a cow bone. Various family activity days are also hosted throughout the season.
Opening times: Tues to Sat 10am to 5pm Admission Charge - Free entry from October to March
Location: Lynn Museum, Market Street, King's Lynn PE30 1NL. Website
Facilities: Shop, toilets, wheelchair access.
Discover Lynn's rich fishing heritage by visiting Lynn's only surviving fisherfolk yard, with authentic fishermen's cottages, a restored Victorian smokehouse and a traditional fishing smack (boat). Guided tours operate on Wednesdays from May to September.
Opening times: Tues to Sat, 10am to 4pm Admission Charge
Location: North Street, King's Lynn, PE30 1QW - Tel: 01553 770479 Website
Facilities: Tearoom, shop, toilets.
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